Books Review: Ángel, Elena, and Daniel

Sneak peek: Three easy readers to add to your heritage classroom library for free voluntary reading. 

Three short, easy-read books that I have in my classroom library for heritage speakers are Ángel, Elena, and Daniel. Each of them is authored by Bill Vanpatten. 

*This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click through to one of the product links, I’ll earn a small percentage at no extra cost to you. 

I like these readers for a heritage Spanish classroom library because they are more challenging than a typical TPRS novel, yet still not too difficult for heritage speakers that are just getting started with reading. Each book is around 40 pages long, written in the past tense, and organized into manageable chapters.

These books are not a series, so they don’t have to be read in sequential order. They make sense separate from one another, but at the very end of each one, there is a prologue of one of the other books in order to pique interest in it. So much to say, they correlate but do not build off the plot lines of the others. 
The genre of these three readers is fantasy, as each of the characters has some sort of supernatural power. Each book held my interest because you first get to know the main character as a normal/regular human. Later, the book reveals the character discovering their otherworldly abilities. The author does a good job of drawing in the reader’s sense of intrigue through the quest of the characters trying to discover the mystery of their supernatural ability.

In each of these books, the introduction has a small note saying: “This book is dedicated to all young people who struggle or have struggled to fit in. It always gets better.” I like that there is an overall positive message of self-acceptance and self-discovery in each of these readers.

Ángel by Bill Vanpatten

The main character, Diego Torres, struggles to connect with others on a deep level because when he peers into someone’s eyes he can read their mind. The only person this doesn’t work on is his mother, so he is closest to her. I love that the main character is Latino because seeing Latino representation in the books we read in class is always great for my heritage students.

This book held my attention from the very beginning, because someone who can read minds is, well, interesting. Throughout this story, Diego is on a quest of sorts to learn more about the father he never met. There is an interesting mixture of normal, mundane life interspersed with otherworldly experiences as we come to discover that Diego’s father may actually be from another world, giving Diego a link to the powers of his father’s world. 

Note: I found the content of this book to be entirely appropriate for middle schoolers or high schoolers.

Elena by Bill Vanpatten

This story begins with the main character, Elena, living at a mental health facility due to visions/encounters she has been having with the Virgin Mary. She struggles with being misunderstood because although others think she is crazy, she knows what she is experiencing is real.

There is Latino representation in this book and also LGBTQ representation as well. Elena’s brother is gay and his bid to be accepted by his father is showcased alongside Elena’s struggle to be understood by those around her. 

I think any student who has ever been misunderstood would connect with this book. There are some other relatable elements to the book that I want to warn you about, however. Elena marks her body when she has her encounters with the Virgin Mary, and this is interpreted by the doctors as self-harm. There is also mention of suicide in this story.

For these reasons, I would not recommend this one for middle school students. There are some heavy topics touched on in this book, but I found that is also part of what makes this story engaging for students. You will have to decide if that sort of content would be appropriate for your school setting. These topics take place in real life, whether we read about them and talk about them as a class in a safe environment, or try to limit our student’s exposure to certain topics altogether.

In the end, this story ends with a message of hope, love, and acceptance.

Daniel by Bill Vanpatten

This book also has great representation as the main character, Daniel, is Latino and also gay. He is afraid to confide in his grandma; not about being gay, but rather, he is afraid to tell her about the series of supernatural visions he has been having. I appreciated the book’s way of normalizing his sexual preference and not making that the primary problem or the controversial element of the story. It was just part of the character description. 

Daniel’s parents were tragically killed in a car crash when he was young, so he searches his visions to see if they find out if they can tell him more about what happened that fateful day.

Note: I found the content of this book to be entirely appropriate for middle schoolers or high schoolers.

I hope this review of these books gives you a good idea of whether or not they would be a good fit for your classroom library!

You can find my other book recommendation list here and you can learn more about the author of these three books here

If you want to know where I got the rainbow stickers to add to these books, they are these ones from Amazon.

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