Sal and Gabi Break the Universe (Sal & Gabi #1)

by Carlos Hernandez (Author)

Sal and Gabi Break the Universe (Sal & Gabi #1)
Reading Level: 4th − 5th Grade
Series: Sal & Gabi

Best-selling author Rick Riordan presents a brilliant sci-fi romp with Cuban influence that poses this question: What would you do if you had the power to reach through time and space and retrieve anything you want, including your mother, who is no longer living (in this universe, anyway)?

How did a raw chicken get inside Yasmany's locker?

When Sal Vidon meets Gabi Real for the first time, it isn't under the best of circumstances. Sal is in the principal's office for the third time in three days, and it's still the first week of school. Gabi, student council president and editor of the school paper, is there to support her friend Yasmany, who just picked a fight with Sal. She is determined to prove that somehow, Sal planted a raw chicken in Yasmany's locker, even though nobody saw him do it and the bloody poultry has since mysteriously disappeared.

Sal prides himself on being an excellent magician, but for this sleight of hand, he relied on a talent no one would guess . . . except maybe Gabi, whose sharp eyes never miss a trick. When Gabi learns that he's capable of conjuring things much bigger than a chicken--including his dead mother--and she takes it all in stride, Sal knows that she is someone he can work with. There's only one slight problem: their manipulation of time and space could put the entire universe at risk.

A sassy entropy sweeper, a documentary about wedgies, a principal who wears a Venetian bauta mask, and heaping platefuls of Cuban food are just some of the delights that await in his mind-blowing novel gift-wrapped in love and laughter.

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Publishers Weekly

In this charming middle grade romp, 13-year-old Sal Vidón, a type 1 diabetic and amateur magician with the inexplicable ability to open holes in the space-time continuum, adjusts to his new life at Miami's Culeco Academy of the Arts. It's not easy: the teachers are eccentric, his fellow students think he's a brujo (a bad witch), and every so often Sal brings versions of his deceased mother--"Mami Muerta"--over from other dimensions, much to his father and stepmother's consternation. Making friends with ambitious journalist Gabi Real and her unconventional family helps ease the transition. When Gabi's hospitalized baby brother takes a turn for the worse, Sal's power might just be the solution they need--unless it destroys the universe. This vibrant tale from Cuban-American Hernandez (The Assimilated Cuban's Guide to Quantum Santeria for adults) is peppered with Spanish dialogue and slang, filled with mouthwatering plates of Cuban cuisine, and highly inclusive, featuring a sprawling, memorable cast, including Gabi's collection of gender-spanning dads. A nonstop sense of wonder accompanies a genuinely heartwarming and humorous tone, and Sal and Gabi are clearly a fictional team destined for greatness. Ages 8-12. Agent: DongWon Song, Morhaim Literary. (Mar.)

Copyright 2018 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

Starred Review

Gr 4-8--Sal Vidón is attending a new school, with new bullies and new teachers who don't understand the needs of a student with Type 1 diabetes. He also causes rips in time and space by transporting objects from other universes. Sometimes he transports harmless prank items, but sometimes he goes home to find his long-dead mother cooking yucca in the kitchen. When Sal meets Gabi Reál, student body president and all-around firebrand, they begin a friendship that may break the universe--or save it. Delightfully weird, this is unlike any other book in the middle grade canon. Hernandez has managed to include conflict and excitement into his first novel for young people, without falling into the trap of unrealistic villainy. Every character is doing their best, even when that best doesn't turn out well. Readers need to be comfortable with a suspension of disbelief and accept unexplained backstories. Many elements of the story, like Sal's superpowers and Gabi's family dynamics (including a robot parent, ) are left mostly unexplained. Fans who enjoyed Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time and Rick Riordan's works will love Sal and Gabi, as will readers looking for upbeat fiction with Spanish-speaking characters. VERDICT Hernandez offers a rip-roaring and emotionally resonant sci-fi adventure. A must-have for middle school or upper elementary libraries, especially where there are science fiction and fantasy fans.--Jeri Murphy, C.F. Simmons Middle School, Aurora, IL

Copyright 2019 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

"Carlos Hernandez rips through the fabric of space and pulls out a treat to rival the greatest of Sal's dad's famous ice cream sundaes. The ingredients: humor, a dash of metaphysics, and a cast of unforgettable characters. Sal and Gabi may have broken the universe, but they won my heart!"—Gordon Korman, #1 best-selling author of Swindle and Slacker
Carlos Hernandez
Carlos Hernandez has published more than thirty works for fiction, poetry, and drama, including Sal and Gabi Break the Universe, and a book of short stories for adults entitled The Assimilated Cuban's Guide to Quantum Santeria. He is an English professor at City University of New York, and he loves to both play games and design them. He lives with his wife, Claire, in Queens, New York. Follow him on Twitter: @WriteTeachPlay.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Rick Riordan Presents
Publication date
May 05, 2020
Sal & Gabi
BISAC categories
JUV053000 - Juvenile Fiction | Science Fiction
JUV037000 - Juvenile Fiction | Fantasy & Magic
JUV013060 - Juvenile Fiction | Family | Parents
JUV011030 - Juvenile Fiction | People & Places | United States - Hispanic & Latino
Library of Congress categories
Science fiction
Space and time
Cuban Americans

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