Charlie Hernández & The League of Shadows by Ryan Calejo: A Review & Giveaway

Those who read my blog know that I’m a big proponent of reading aloud to my kids.  I’ve been doing it since they were too tiny to talk, and I’ll continue reading aloud to them until they ask me to stop.

One of our goals with reading aloud is to expose them to more difficult works than they could read and understand on their own.  One of those that we recently read and enjoyed was Charlie Hernández & The League of Shadows by Ryan Calejo.

About Charlie Hernández & The League of Shadows

Charlie is your typical middle school boy until the unexpected happens.  His parents disappear and a fire destroys his house.  When the story opens, Charlie is staying with temporary guardian, Mrs. Wilson, and Charlie’s world is no longer ordinary.

Charlie starts manifesting a variety of ills including growing feathers, growing horns, and growing a lobster claw where his hand used to be.  Charlie tries to hide these manifestations and go about his days, but he fails miserably.  Luckily for Charlie, the school newspaper editor, Violet Rey, seeks to help Charlie and discover the truth behind the manifestations, his parents’ disappearance, and the fire.

Together, they take an incredible journey and come face to face with many of the characters in Hispanic & Latino myths, legends, and folklore that Charlie’s grandmother used to tell him.  He’s shocked to find that these mythical creatures are real, but thanks to his grandma, he’s able to not only recognize these characters but to fight them, saving his own life and Violet’s several times.

This book is for kids ages 10 to 14 in grades 5 through 9.

Our Experience with Charlie Hernández & The League of Shadows

I opted not to read this to Cuddle Bug (8.5 years old) since she scares easily.  Instead, I read this to PB & J Girl (10 years old), and when he was around, Bookworm (14 years old) listened in.  Bookworm really liked the book, as was to be expected, because he’s a big fan of mythology.  He had only previously studied Greek and Roman mythology, so this opened up a whole new world of mythology that he didn’t know about.

PB & J Girl initially felt that the book was more for boys than girls because of some of the vivid descriptions of the evil mythical creatures, and I would agree with her on that part.  I’m guessing most boys would love the gory descriptions, and maybe some girls, too, but not us.  Luckily, these parts only came up a few times.  However, once Violet Rey took an active role in the story, PB & J quickly became engrossed.

The story was suspenseful, especially as we neared the end, and we also enjoyed the humor.  When we finished the book and realized there was a sequel coming, PB & J Girl wanted to know when because she couldn’t wait to read the next book in the series.  (It’s coming out October 24, 2019.  Not that we’re waiting or anything.)

I appreciate giving my kids multicultural experiences, and this book was the perfect way to do just that.

The Giveaway

Ryan Calejo has generously agreed to give one lucky reader a copy of the book as well as a $25 VISA gift card.  To enter, simply state who you would like to give this book to.

For an additional entry, follow Ryan Calejo on Twitter or Instagram, and leave a comment here that you did so as well as the name that you used.

For an additional entry, follow Mom’s Plans on Instagram, and leave a comment here that you did so as well as the name that you used.

This giveaway, which is open to residents of the U.S. 18 years of age and older, will end on April 6, 2019 at 11:59 p.m. PST.

NOTE: I received one copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.  No other compensation was given.


Exhaustion – Blogging Through the Alphabet

I love my kids.  I’m so blessed to have them, and I wonder every day what they’ll be like in adulthood.  I remember fondly their baby and toddlerhoods, and I love watching them grow into young adults.

But right now, I also see their challenges every day.  I see their struggles, their complaints as we go to another 6 hour day of ABA or do another Barton Reading and Spelling lesson that is difficult for them.  It’s hard for all of us.

It’s exhausting.

The Physical Exhaustion

I’ve been busy plenty of times before, but never like this.  Every week, we drive some days 2 to 2.5 hours a day.  Other days, it’s just 1.5 hours.  We burn through audio books while we burn through the miles on our nearly 15 year old minivan that has 205,000 miles on it.  Our ABA center is 45 minutes away from home.  Bookworm’s school is 20 to 30 minutes away, depending on traffic.

In the evening most of the weeknights, I get home at 5 with two of the kids and then get everything done that needs to be done–cooking, dishes, laundry, cleaning, getting the kids ready to bed, and finally, working on my freelance work.  My husband stays at the ABA center with one of our children until therapy ends at 8, and then they’re home by 8:45.  Three nights a week we split shifts like this.  On Saturday and Sunday, there is more ABA therapy.

It’s exhausting, but we’re doing this because we’re committed to helping our kids in the way we feel is best.

The Emotional Exhaustion

But the physical exhaustion is nothing compared to the mental exhaustion.  Both of our kids with autism are prone to meltdowns.

One’s meltdowns are reducing and becoming less explosive thanks to ABA.  The other one cycles through periods of maybe a week or two with no meltdowns, and then explosive meltdowns that just suck the energy out of us as parents, and I assume out of the child.

At the end of the day, when this child is finally asleep and the meltdowns are over (this child tends to have several meltdowns in a day), I find myself completely drained but unable to sleep.  I just need a long time to relax, and when I wake up, I still feel a meltdown hangover–a kind of sadness and lack of energy.

Thankfully, there are fewer meltdowns now, but because we are also get used to life without them now, when they do happen, they seem even more draining than before.

Life Considerations

Having two kids on the spectrum affects everything we do.  My husband’s contract is up for renewal, and we’re not sure if it will get renewed, so as he considers new areas of the country in which to apply for jobs, we have to carefully consider the location.  Does it have an ABA facility nearby?  If it doesn’t, we don’t even consider the location because we need our children to continue with their ABA therapy and learn alternative behaviors for some of the non-functional ones they have now.

Even though the statistics are grim–85% of people with autism and with a college degree are unemployed (Market Watch)–I have hope for my children.  They are very bright, and they are getting the help they need now to learn skills to help them fit in socially.

Life Is Improving Every Day

When I get bone weary exhausted from the state of our lives right now, I remember The Truth Bomb Mom’s encouragement to look at where we are in life as temporary.

Right now, both kids have 25 hours a week of ABA therapy. . .but they won’t always.  They will graduate from therapy, and these long, exhausting days will be just memories.

Last summer, my life was miserable.  Then, I would have said, Right now, my kids are throwing daily, raging meltdowns, sometimes multiple times a day.  Life is chaos, right now.  And you know what, that version of our lives doesn’t happen any more.  Things ARE better, and every day, little by little, they improve.

Parenting children with autism or other special needs can be exhausting.  It’s not something I like to talk about often, but it’s there.  However, my husband and I continue to believe that things will get better and that brighter days, more emotionally stable days, are ahead.

I’m participating in Blogging through the Alphabet.  You can find more blogging through the alphabet posts at Mom’s Quest to Teach.

My Blogging Through the Alphabet Special Learners edition posts:

A – What Life Was Like with Two Undiagnosed Kids with Autism

B – Using the Barton Reading & Spelling Program for Dyslexia

C – Change

D – Dyslexia






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