Valentina Salazar Is Not a Monster Hunter

by Zoraida Córdova (Author)

Valentina Salazar Is Not a Monster Hunter
Reading Level: 4th – 5th Grade

It takes a special person to end up in detention on the last day of school. It takes a REALLY special person to accidentally burn down the school yard while chasing a fire-breathing chipmunk. But nothing about Valentina Salazar has ever been "normal." The Salazars are protectors, tasked with rescuing the magical creatures who sometimes wander into our world, from grumpy unicorns to chupacabras . . . to the occasional fire-breathing chipmunk.

When Val's father is killed during a rescue mission gone wrong, her mother decides it's time to retire from their life on the road. She moves the family to a boring little town in upstate New York and enrolls Val and her siblings in real school for the first time. But Val is a protector at heart and she can't give up her calling. So when a mythical egg surfaces in a viral video, Val convinces her reluctant siblings to help her find the egg before it hatches and wreaks havoc. But she has some competition: the dreaded monster hunters who'll stop at nothing to destroy the creature . . . and the Salazar family.

Kirkus Reviews

Fun and heartwarming.


Starred Review
Fans of the Narnia books or Norton Juster's The Phantom Tollbooth will delight in this microcosmic story-within-a-story, full of secrets and surprises and overflowing with introductions to a host of whimsical characters.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review

An Ecuadorian tween from a family of former monster protectors embarks on one final mission in Córdova's (The Way to Rio Luna) rewarding on-the-road fantasy. During "the worst summer of my whole eleven-and-a-half-year-old life," Valentina Salazar longs to return to the Before Times--an era before school bullies, nightly homework, busy older siblings, and most importantly, the death of her beloved father. Now settled in Missing Mountain, N.Y., after a lifetime of camping and homeschooling, Valentina searches with little luck for a case that will help her family get back to normal--and back into their 1965 Ford Falcon camper. When Valentina sees video footage of a boy showcasing an egg that belongs to a rare monster--the same rare monster that killed her father--she and her elder siblings undertake a road trip to retrieve it, encountering a double-headed scorpion and large winged cats, among other creatures. With a gutsy, lionhearted protagonist ("By the way, weirdos make the world a better place!"), an inventive cryptid menagerie, and a sensitive portrayal of grief's effect on individuals and familial dynamics as seen through young eyes, Córdova's narrative comes aglow as it unfolds, radiating warmth, humor, and a love of the fantasy genre on each and every page. Ages 8-12. Agent: Suzie Townsend, New Leaf Literary & Media. (June)

Copyright 2022 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

"Middle grade fantasy at its finest, led by a protagonist who has as much spirit and fire as the monsters she's sworn to protect." — Rena Barron, author of Maya and the Rising Dark

"An action-packed, un-put-down-able, adventure filled with fun, family, and fabulous magical creatures! You're in for a real treat!" — Sarah Beth Durst, award-winning author of Spark

"A wondrous journey, full of friendship, family, and self-discovery. It has everything I look for in a book—heart, humor, and an innovative magic system." — Alex Aster, award-winning author of the Emblem Island series

Zoraida Córdova
Zoraida Córdova is the award-winning author of the Brooklyn Brujas series, The Vicious Deep trilogy, and Star Wars: A Crash of Fate. She has contributed stories to the New York Times bestselling anthology Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View, and Toil & Trouble: 15 Tales of Women and Witchcraft. Zoraida was born in Ecuador and raised in Queens, New York.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Scholastic Press
Publication date
June 20, 2022
BISAC categories
JUV037000 - Juvenile Fiction | Fantasy & Magic
JUV001000 - Juvenile Fiction | Action & Adventure
JUV013070 - Juvenile Fiction | Family | Siblings
JUV052000 - Juvenile Fiction | Monsters
JUV011030 - Juvenile Fiction | People & Places | United States - Hispanic & Latino
JUV012070 - Juvenile Fiction | Legends, Myths, Fables | Caribbean & Latin American
Library of Congress categories

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