Luz Sees the Light. by Claudia Davila. August 1, 2011. Kids Can Press. 95 pages. ISBN: 9781554535811
Like many tweens, Luz is mostly concerned about the comforts of her everyday life - electronics, tasty food, and rides to the mall whenever she needs them. It doesn’t occur to her that wasting electricity, gas, and other resources actually leads to problems until her mom starts buying locally grown food and limiting the amount of energy the family uses. Then Luz decides to turn an abandoned lot into a garden so that she and her neighbors can become more self-reliant and less dependent upon imports and chain stores.
Though I appreciate the story’s message, I couldn’t quite connect with Luz as a character. The environmentalist theme seemed to take over every aspect of the story in a way that felt forced, and because of this, Luz’s conversion from selfish and materialistic to earth-conscious and giving didn’t come across as authentic. At every moment, I felt the story trying to educate me, so I could never just settle in and enjoy myself. I also thought the community garden concept was a bit cliched, considering it has been done a few times before in such books as Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman and Grow by Juanita Havill, and series like Amy Hodgepodge and the Boxcar Children.
The truly appealing aspect of the book is the graphic novel format. I think the art is similar in some ways to that of Raina Telgemier or Jimmy Gownley. The figures are cartoonish and endearing, and their faces go a long way toward demonstrating personality traits the flat dialogue doesn’t really include. I’m not sure there is any particular advantage to telling this specific story in graphic format, but at least it makes the book stand out somewhat from others on the same subject.
All in all, Luz Sees the Light is not my cup of tea, but it might appeal to activist-minded kids who have enjoyed stories like Welcome to Silver Street Farm, Marty McGuire Digs Worms, and The Hop. There is also a new sequel to Luz Sees the Light called Luz Makes a Splash, which was published August 1, 2012.
I received a digital ARC of Luz Sees the Light from Kids Can Press via NetGalley.