The Midnight War of Mateo Martinez
Life is confusing for Mateo Martinez. He and Johnny Ramirez don't hang out anymore, even though they used to be best friends. He and his new friend Ashwin try to act like brave, old-time knights, but it only gets them in trouble. And last night, two skunks stole Mateo's old trike.
Wait--two skunks stole his trike?
Mateo is too big for that rusty kid toy. He has a cool, shiny new bike anyway. But Mateo also has a neighborhood to protect. And he's about to begin a big, stinky quest to catch the thieves in the middle of the night!
As Mateo protects his neighborhood, he also learns a few things about growing up and letting go.
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About the Author
Robin Yardi is a children's book author and a California credentialed teacher. She lives in the hills of Santa Barbara with too many pets and just the right number of children.
"A middle grade story with a smidgen of fantasy, in which the intrepid protagonist tackles new and old friendships, his sense of belonging and letting go, and the unbelievable disappearance of his beloved trike. Mateo Martinez is a fourth grader who swears that his trike was stolen by two talking skunks. His family, younger sister Mila, and new best friend Ashwin bear with Mateo's claim and believe they are dreams, because Mateo constantly dreams of being a medieval knight. From confronting bullies at school and coping with Johnny not being his best friend anymore to strengthening his friendship with Ashwin, Mateo must embark on a quest to figure out who he is, while tracking down the stinky creatures who stole his trike. In this debut novel, Yardi draws parallels between the fantasy world of talking animals and Mateo's reality of growing up and finding himself. Throughout the book, the protagonist confronts internal battles about being Mexican American but not being able to speak Spanish as well as his views of race and ethnicity and who belongs in his neighborhood and in the occupied city of Santa Barbara. On this particular point, the author doesn't expand much. VERDICT: A fun, action-filled tale whose protagonist has a distinct and sincere young voice. Recommended for collections and libraries that serve a lower middle grade population."--School Library Journal--Journal
"Mateo Martinez, a Mexican-American fourth grader, is tired of having to keep an eye on his five-year-old sister, Mila, and is having social troubles at school: his former best friend, Johnny, has started running around with a group of boys who torment Mateo and his new friend/fellow aspiring knight, Ashwin. But these fairly ordinary concerns pale next to the inexplicable thing Mateo sees one night: two talking skunks stealing his old tricycle. Mateo's quest to reclaim the trike morphs into a knight-worthy 'righteous mission' when he learns that the skunks need it in order to defeat raccoons who invade the playground and bully them at night. Though the lead-up to the animals' battle for the playground is drawn out, readers will be tickled by details of the skunks' military culture (include several declassified documents that reveal the results of their 'Midnight War'). Picture book author Yardi (They Just Know: Animal Instincts), in her first novel, delivers an entertaining story of sibling loyalty, friendship struggles, and the sometimes vexing passage into adolescence."--Publishers Weekly--Journal
"'Nobody believed me when I said two skunks stole my old trike. But I'd seen those stinkers take it. Swear.' Fourth grade brings its share of troubles for Mateo Martinez. His former best friend, Johnny Ramirez, starts to hang out with a couple of bike-riding bullies. Mateo finds a new best friend in Ashwin, an Indian-American boy with a streak of weird in him. Both he and Ashwin spend their lunchtimes at the library, checking out books on knights and medieval warfare. Meanwhile, Mateo must behave as a big brother should with his 5-year-old sister, Mila, a headstrong girl who wants his old tricycle. One night a pair of skunks steals the desired toy. Weird. Things get even weirder when Mateo hears these skunk thieves talk during a stakeout. Yardi packs a lot into such a slim novel, and it's a testament to her skill that it never once feels like too much. Utilizing a gentle sense of humor and incisive insight, the author negotiates Mateo's developing identity with aplomb, especially his Mexican-American heritage 'Trying to speak Spanish makes me feel like I'm doing it wrong, and I hate that.' Mateo finds no easy answers, and that's OK. A magnificent novel that defines what it is to be an older brother, a friend, and, yes, even a knight."--starred, Kirkus Reviews--Journal
"Look, fourth-grader Mateo Martinez knows what he saw, okay? Two talking skunks took off on his old trike in the middle of the night, riding away with glee. Sure, it sounds weird, but regardless, he's got to convince his friend Ashwin to do recon with him and get Mateo's trike back; the two friends are, after all, bold knights and defenders of their neighborhood kingdom (in their pretend play, inspired by their favorite book about medieval weaponry). To be honest, talking skunks are probably easier to deal with than Mateo's other struggles, which include his recent estrangement from his best friend Johnny, Mateo's jealousy of his younger sister, Mila, and his insecurity in his identity as a Mexican American ('Trying to speak Spanish makes me feel like I'm doing it wrong, and I hate that. But not speaking Spanish in Santa Barbara feels wrong too, so I'd rather just not think about it'). This is an odd but satisfying little story with an endearing hero and perhaps even more endearing skunks. Yes, the skunks are real, they can talk, they're engaged in an all-out war with the local raccoons for rights to the school playground, and Mateo, Ashwin and even Mila eventually ride into battle alongside the stinkers. Of course it's silly, but Yardi deftly reins in some of the goofiness in exchange for dramatic tension and emotional heft. Snapshots of Mateo's other battles in daily life come together as a portrait of a kid teetering between a childhood he doesn't want to give up and an adolescence that's uncertain at best--he's pretty sure a showdown with a raging raccoon is likely to be an easier experience than middle school. Hand this quirky book to kids with similar suspicions about growing up."--The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books--Journal
"What stinks worse than having his parents suspect him of hiding his little sister's tricycle is knowing they will never believe the truth: a pair of skunks stole it in the night. Mateo Martinez knows what he saw, and he is determined to prove it. After a disastrous attempt to ambush the varmints ends with Mateo getting sprayed in the face, he learns something else incredible: the skunks can talk. He enlists the help of his friend Ashwin and begrudgingly lets kid sister Mila join the quest to retrieve the trike. What ensues is an imaginative backyard adventure with light touches of fantasy. The first few chapters leading up to the nighttime escapades are slowed by repetitive writing, but those who persevere will find much to like. Mateo is an admirable character striving to live by a knight's code of honor, while struggling with a lost friendship and school bullies. His gallantry, developing relationship with Mila, and antics with the neighborhood wildlife make for quite the charming tale."--Booklist--Journal