Cover Image: Toro

Toro

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Member Reviews

Novel culture/narrator for children, some dark points.

With elements of Ferdinand, Logan's Run and City Slickers, this is definitely a different choice for young readers. I didn't realise at first that it was intended for children, but cues were there throughout.

A simple narrative really, a bull's eye perspective. A female, a cow called Alicia dreams of running with the bulls in Pamplona (this in itself will bring up some interesting discussions with children). Her father has romanticised the high-octane annual tradition, telling Alicia and her brothers about the 'dance with the matadors' after, and "following the festival, most bulls go to a great ranch in the sky where they live out their days on an evergreen pasture...". Strong and un-cow-like, Alicia knows she could win.

Nearby on the same ranch, a bull has similar dreams, but of entering the famous rodeos in America. Diego del Toro. But how would this be possible?

Both have Disney-like friendships with smaller sidekicks (a lynx and a hog respectively), who are their best friends and who both help to move on the story and provide a little comic relief (think Timon and Pumba). There's also a darker but still stereotype-bad-guy in Don Julian Hernandez, the 'bull' in all senses, who wants to marry Alicia for her breeding but immediately makes del Toro his sworn enemy when Alicia pretends to be in love with the first bull she sees to avoid Hernandez's proposal. Very black and white. 

I did wonder how this would move to the scenes of running, bullfighting etc for the audience. The majority of this short story is taken up with Alicia and Diego meeting and 'helping' each other to realise their respective dreams, involving various deceptions on both sides. The culmination of the story does involve both the above events, but for young readers/listeners, it does not give us gore or violence that they will find upsetting. There is enough there to make it clear what can happen, but 'no bulls were killed in the making of these scenes', for your peace of mind.

A few plot holes aside, and some stereotypes (American names/personalities, the bullish Hernandez), I think children will enjoy this. It's set up for young readers - Disney sidekicks, white lies of afterlives, the dreams of those who don't fit in, madcap chases and races and fights and a very sudden love story.

There are a few light touches, a bit of Shakespeare: "Truly, I am fortune's fool,", a joke about 'mad cows', some slightly insulting but probably funny-to-kids 'aren't they dumb?' digs at the Americans without their Spanish translation book, and a reference to Chariots of Fire (though if this was meant to say they are fast runners, it surely meant the opposite?).

A little different. I'd let my 9-year-old try this. Probably best with 8-12 year olds. Be prepared for conversations about some controversial animal rights topics.

With thanks to Netgalley for providing an advance reading copy.
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When Alicia & Diego meet, they decide that they will help each other ro make their dreams reality so, with the help of their friends, they devise a plan. Things seem o be going well, at least for Alicia, when her father tells her a secret about the bull run that changes everything.

When I requested Toro from the publishers, I wasn’t sure what to think - a middle grade book about the Pamplona bull run told by animals didn’t quite match my usual reading choice. But, from the first page, it grabbed my attention & kept it throughout. Much of my enjoyment is down to the characters of Alicia & Diego, both of whom refuse to accept the limitations set upon them by others, I have no doubt that young people will enjoy Toro but, if my enjoyment is anything to go by, it will appeal to people of all ages. If you are looking for a fun story with interesting characters, a fair bit of action, and a good message, this will definitely fit the bill.
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