Pilar Ramirez and the Escape from Zafa | Julian Randall


Pilar Ramirez and the Escape from Zafa by Julian Randall

Coming out March 1, 2022 by Henry Holt and Co.; 304 pages

Trigger Warnings: mentioning of death and loss of a loved one

About the Author: “Julian Randall is a Living Queer Black poet from Chicago. His poetry and essays are published in the New York Times Magazine, POETRY, The Atlantic, and Vibe. He is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize. Julian holds an MFA in Poetry from Ole Miss. His first book, Refuse, won the Cave Canem Poetry Prize and was a finalist for an NAACP Image Award. He was also a contributor to the #1 New York Times-bestseller Black Boy Joy. Julian has previously worked as a youth mentor, teaching writing workshops to children on house arrest. Pilar Ramirez and the Escape from Zafa is his debut children’s novel. Follow him on Twitter!” (Bio taken from publisher’s website.)

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“I was just trying to finish my movie, inform the masses, and maybe score some extra credit to start off eighth grade…but now? Everything is upside down.”

Twelve-year-old Pilar is an aspiring documentary filmmaker. She doesn’t need to look very hard to find the perfect subject for a film: her cousin Natasha who mysteriously disappeared during the Trujillo dictatorship. But finding answers takes an unexpected twist, when the file she finds with her cousin’s name on it pulls her into another world full of magic and fantastical creatures inspired by Dominican mythology that come to life on the island of Zafa. In a race against time, Pilar must figure out how to save her cousin from a magical prison before it destroys the land and neither of them can escape.

From history and mythology coming together to the blending of culture and language, this story does a great job of bringing important aspects of Pilar’s world to life and proves her to be an interesting multi-dimensional character. Though at first it may seem that Pilar isn’t interested in any world that can’t be made into a captivating film, she really steps into an extraordinary role to help her cousin when everything around her is turned upside down… literally. I really enjoyed the way Randall brought Dominican mythology to life! I was very unfamiliar with this form of mythology and culture, and I really enjoyed learning about it alongside Pilar as she navigated the odd but beautiful world of Zafa. For a magical adventure full of fantastical creatures, culture, laughs, and an empowering young female lead, check out Pilar Ramirez and the Escape from Zafa!

(Pine Reads Review would like to thank NetGalley and Henry Holt and Co. Publishing for sending us an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Any quotes are taken from an advanced copy and may be subject to change upon final publication.)

PRR Writer and Editor, Taylor Quinn