Hicotea: A Nightlights Story by Lorena Alvarez, 64pp, RL 4

Hicotea: A Nightlights Story by Lorena Alvarez
Purchased from Barnes & Noble
You don't have to read the picture-book-sized graphic novel Nightlights to enjoy and understand the sequel, Hicotea: A Nightlights Story. But, if you do pass on the first book, you are missing out on a stunningly gorgeous, magical journey through the imagination of Alvarez and Sandy, the thoughtful, passionate, caring main character of these stories. In Hicotea, Sandy and her classmates at the Catholic girl's school she attends, are in the science lab dissecting frogs before heading out to do fieldwork in a nearby (somewhat polluted) wetland. Frustrated by her insensitive (both to the natural world and Sandy) classmates, Sandy stomps off, kicking an empty turtle shell. 
Remorseful, Sandy picks the shell up from where it lands and, peering inside, finds herself on another adventure. Falling inside the world inside the shell, Sandy finds herself inside what appears to be a museum run by the cozy-sweater-clad turtle, Hicotea. When Sandy discovers a large, blank canvas, she learns that Hicotea herself is being threatened, unable to exist in her wetlands habitat. Passing into another dimension as she falls into the blank canvas, Sandy tries to help her new friend, taking illustrated notes in her sketchbook. With Hicotea,  Alvarez has created a story that is also a parable about the effect humans have on the natural world and the consciousness required to take care of it and its inhabitants.
Alvarez's illustrations and the way she expands the the art of visual storytelling with two page spreads and circular panels draws readers into her story, much the way Sandy was sucked into Hicotea's shell. Words can't truly describe the experience of  falling into one of Alvarez's books - I hope you will take my word and purchase them!

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