Recommended for ages 7-11
The latest Carver Chronicle features Carlos, who keeps his grades up so his parents will reward him by letting him keep the coolest pets in his room – he’s got an ant farm, and he’s got geckos. He’s creating the greatest room in the world, a place that’s just his, until his mom announces that his cousin, Bernardo, will be coming to live with them while his mother works out some difficulties. Overnight, Carlos’ family expects Carlos to accommodate Bernardo in every way – Bernardo get Carlos’ top bunk, a spot on the soccer team (where he outshines Carlos in a big way), and dad’s affection and attention. Now, Bernardo wants to take over feeding Carlos’ geckos and his ants! Maybe if he weren’t so rude about everything, Carlos would feel better, but between Bernardo’s attitude and his mother and father making him feel like he has to give up everything in his world to Bernardo, Carlos is miserable.
I loved this book. When I was a kid, my aunt and cousin came to live with us for a few weeks while they were going through a transition. They took over my room. My cousin became the apple of my dad’s eye, and I was expected to jump through metaphorical hoops to make sure they were happy and comfortable. It’s a hard position for a young kid to be put into, and Karen English captures this perfectly in Don’t Feed the Geckos! I really felt for poor Carlos, and wanted to give his parents a talking-to. She takes the time to create a pretty unflattering portrait of Bernardo, too, and with one page, makes Bernardo a sympathetic figure that moves Carlos – and the reader – to forgive and understand where he’s coming from.
Karen English also writes the hugely popular Nikki and Deja series – and they make a brief appearance in this book! She’s a Coretta Scott King Honor Award-winner whose books give us realistic characters to connect with and stories that everyone can relate to. The Carver Chronicles is a great entry into the #WeNeedDiverseBooks canon. You can check out the first two books, Dog Days and Skateboard Party, while you’re waiting for Don’t Feed the Geckos! to come out in December.