OMEGA MORALES AND THE LEGEND OF LA LECHUZA by Laeken Zea Kemp
Exciting and pulse-pounding, this spooky tale set in a loving and lively Hispanic family setting would be a fun choice for those that enjoyed Encanto.
Omega Morales’s family has lived in Noche Buena since before there WAS a Noche Buena. Her ancestors owned the land the town sits on and much of the desert land around it. But Omega’s family is different from most others in town; they are empaths, have magical gifts of one kind or another, and the ghost of a young girl lives in their attic.
Their abilities are kept secret from the regular folks of the town; some people just wouldn’t understand. However, people know they are different, or at least odd, and lately, there has been ugly talk against the family fueled by ignorance and hate. Even Omega has not been spared from the hatred and has been subjected to bullying by certain classmates. When bizarre things happen around town, including the disappearance of several pet cats, fingers point at Omega and her family.
Omega Morales and the Legend of La Lechuza is a middle-grade novel that will stir the imagination of young readers, get their pulses racing, and entertain even more mature readers. There are a lot of Spanish words and phrases sprinkled throughout the story, the meaning of which can usually be determined by context. The story is an updated version of the Mexican folktale of La Lechuza, an old woman who could shapeshift into the form of a giant owl to take revenge on those who wronged her during her lifetime. This rendition makes La Lechuza very personal to the Morales family.
Omega and her cousin, Carlitos, are constant companions; their mothers are sisters. But as members of the same magical family, they understand the struggles that each one is going through dealing with their unique gifts. Carlitos gained his abilities before Omega and is a great support to her in dealing with understanding and controlling hers. The two are fun characters with an innocent mischievousness that boys and girls will love.
Omega and her former best friend, Abby, had a falling out the previous year, soon after the death of Abby’s mother. Abby now leads her new squad of mean girl pals in making life miserable for Omega. Middle-grade students will easily relate to this change in loyalty and alliances. Abby’s grief over the loss of her mother manifests itself in her bullying and hatred, and students should be able to see this cause and effect. In fact, grief and how different people handle it is the root cause of much of what is happening in the story.
There are genuine moments of horror in the story. Mainly this occurs as the appearance of spooky things outside windows or in the night sky. But inanimate objects also talk to Omega and her family, which lightens up the creepiness. While La Lechuza is a thing of nightmares, the story builds up to a hopeful ending.
I recommend OMEGA MORALES AND THE LEGEND OF LA LECHUZA to readers of middle-grade fiction who like spooky tales, stories set in a loving and lively Hispanic family setting, or enjoyed Encanto. This book would make an excellent choice for reading aloud.
I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author or publisher through NetGalley and TBR and Beyond Book Tours.