Rica Baptista: Llamas, Iguanas, and My Very Best Friend

Rica Baptista: Llamas, Iguanas, and My Very Best Friend
Co-Authors / Illustrators
Age Range
Release Date
October 25, 2022
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Rica Baptista wants—no, needs—a pet. A llama, a kinkajou, or maybe an iguana? She even has a name picked out: Frederica, her own name, after her Cape Verdean great-great-grandfather. But Rica’s parents say no almost faster than their mouths can open. The worst part is that Rica can’t tell anyone the real reason she wants a pet, because she’s not supposed to know—she overheard that her best friend, Laini, is moving away, and Rica worries about being left behind. Rica and Laini make lists of the benefits of having a pet to convince Rica’s parents, and they try all sorts of schemes to raise money to afford one, from party planning to holding a yard sale to entering a poetry contest. But in the end, it might be an act of unselfish kindness and courage that shows that Rica is ready to take on the pet of her dreams. In a rich and amusing story that will appeal to fans of Judy Moody and Ivy and Bean, a sincere and creative protagonist navigates friend and family relationships from funny to frustrating, endearing to insightful.

Editor review

1 review
What Pet is Best?
Overall rating
Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
Rica (short for Fredrica) wants a pet more than anything, but her parents have delivered to her, in writing, no less, a list of reasons why she CAN'T have a pet. She and her best friend, Laini, go over the list and try to find ways around their objections. The two biggest center around the fact that Rica doesn't keep her room clean, and that she doesn't have any money to buy or support a pet. She tries to work on both of these, despite her older cousin Serenity is constantly shooting her ideas down. Rica tries to clean up her room, and attempts to earn money by having a garage sale and looking for jobs. She even helps her aunt at her twin cousins' fifth birthday party, and finds that sometimes the job is so complicated that it's not really worth it. Her parents, who have cultural connections to Cape Verde in African and are proud of their Black heritage, are glad that Rica is trying to earn their trust, but are still against her having a pet. Rica is desperate for a pet because she overhears that Laini, her only friend, will be moving far away. She's not particular about the type of pet, and Serenity again shoots down pygmy goats, teacup pigs, and llamas. In the end, a neighbor and former teacher comes up with an several ideas that help out, including Rica entering a local poetry contest even though she is afraid of reading her work aloud.
Good Points
Rica and Laini are great friends, and active eight year olds with lots of interest. While Rica isn't super excited by her health blogger mother's choice of foods (she'll eat hummus but that doesn't mean she LIKES it), she understands that her parents are generally supportive, and tries to make them happy. The activities that the two engage in are well supervised and age appropriate. While Rica's concerns about Laini's moving away end up being unfounded, this is a real concern that many children have.

Like Butler's Kayla and King, Sheth's Nina Soni, or Lyons' Jada Jones series, Rica's story is accompanied by delightful page illustrations. The bouncy castle and the book store are particularly appealing. I'm curious to see what further adventures Rica has, and look forward to more books by Bates and Jose. I can see Rica being friends with the characters from Winston's Wednesday and Woof books (which Jose also illustrated) or Marya from Faruqi's from new Marya Khan and the Incredible Party.
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