The Chupacabra Ate the Candelabra by Marc Tyler Nobleman, illustrated by Ana Aranda
The Chupacabra Ate the Candelabra
illustrated by Ana Aranda
I love cryptids and, with so many Latinx students, I am always on the look out for good chupacabra books, scary or otherwise. I definitely think it's time for the goat-blood-sucking chupacabra to get the same friendly-gentle-giant-treatment that the yeti and sasquatch have gotten in picture books lately. The Chupacabra Ate the Candelabra is a tiny, first step for this creepy cryptid. The real meal here are Aranda's illustrations, with Nobleman's slim story as more of an appetizer. A delicious palette, beautiful landscapes, really cute goats, and a touch of Mexican folk art in her illustrations makes me very excited to see what Aranda does next. A fantastic interview at the superb blog pen & oink, (run by friends Ruthie Lanford and Robin Rosenthal, who me in Sergio Ruzzier's class at the School of Visual Arts) revealed that Aranda used cochineal, orange juice and Tajín (as well as watercolors and gouache) to create a final, climactic spread for this book! I definitely recommend you read the full review, especially if you don't know what cochineal or Tajín are . . .
I had no idea what to expect when I opened The Chupacabra Ate the Candelabra, but thought there might be a bit of rhyme along with some silliness. The book begins with three goats, Jayna, Bumsie and Pep, having a picnic dinner as the sun sets. Jayna, the clever one, decides to get out ahead of the threat of the chupacabra eating them by convincing Bumsie (the nervous one) and Pep (the practical one) to walk through the night with only a candelabra to light their way and scare off the beast. When they meet the fellow, he devours their candelabra and very politely asks for more, telling them it's his third favorite food. When they can't find anymore to feed him, hoping to save themselves, they ask what his second favorite food is. And, when they run out of his second favorite food (cucarachas, and who runs out of cockroaches???) they ask, with great trepidation, what his first favorite food is. I don't think I'm ruining anything by telling you that his first favorite food is cheese, goat cheese to be exact. He assures Jayna, Bumsie and Pep that, while he is always hungry and will eat anything (plates and napkins included) he would never eat his friends.
The story itself is a little loopy and doesn't seem to have much of a point, but it does go a way to making the chupacabra into the cute creature it could be. Nobleman's story largely ignores the Latinx origins of this cryptid, seemingly using the words "cucaracha" and "chimichanga" only because they rhyme with chupacabra and candelabra. although Aranda acknowledges the Latinx origins with her artwork.