Pilar Ramirez and the ­Escape from Zafa

Listening Library. (Pilar Ramirez Duology: Bk. 1). Mar. 2022. 712p. $50. ISBN 9780593555903.
Gr 3-7–Escaping the Dominican Republic’s murderous Trujillo regime is how Randall’s own family arrived in the United States two generations ago. His debut novel seamlessly combines that history—political and personal—with Dominican mythology for his Pilar Ramirez duology (book two publishes February 2023). Dominican American Amanda Alcántara—her Spanish audiobook experience a superb asset here—is an expert cipher channeling all the whip-smart snark of the eponymous 12-year-old Chicagoan filmmaker-in-the-making. Pilar’s intended documentary centers on Mami’s cousin Natasha’s 1957 disappearance—a tragedy no one will talk about. When older sister Lorena alerts Pilar to a sociology professor researching the Trujillo era’s missing persons, Pilar heads to his office, camera in backpack. He’s not there, but Pilar discovers a folder marked with Natasha’s name that becomes a magic portal to Zafa, an enchanted island in need of her daring.
VERDICT Alcántara deftly, undeniably boosts Randall’s empowering adventure with empathy and energy.

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