Day: August 8, 2017

Marti’s Song for Freedom by Emma Otheguy

Marti's Song for Freedom by Emma Otheguy

Marti’s Song for Freedom by Emma Otheguy, illustrated by Beatriz Vidal (9780892393756, Amazon)

This picture book in both Spanish and English verse tells the story of José Martí. Martí spent his entire life working to end slavery in Cuba after witnessing the brutality first hand. At the time, Spain ruled Cuba and a war of independence started in 1868. Martí wrote against the Spanish government and was jailed and put to hard labor. At 17-years-old he was sent away from Cuba. He continued to fight for Cuba’s independence and settled in New York. He would travel into the Catskill Mountains to see the nature that he missed from Cuba. Martí eventually returned to Cuba and helped fight in the battles against the Spanish, dying on the battlefield before freedom was realized. His words live on: it was his words and songs that helped drive the Cubans to fight for freedom and to continue fighting.

The verse contains excerpts from Martí’s works, allowing readers to read his words directly. The verse from the author and from Martí  work beautifully together, flowing into one river of words that tell the story of Cuban freedom. The afterword and author’s notes add information to the verse, giving more dates and information on the war for freedom in Cuba and on Martí’s life. This picture book biography takes a complex subject and makes it accessible for young readers, demonstrating how a young-person’s passion can ignite a nation.

The illustrations move from Cuba to New York to the Catskills, capturing scenes of daily life, lush greenery, and battles. There is a sense of energy to all of the illustrations, that matches that of the verse as it speaks to the drive that Martí had to speak out for Cuba’s independence.

A great picture book biography that adroitly pairs English and Spanish on the page. Appropriate for ages 7-9.

Reviewed from library copy.

Professional Crocodile by Giovanna Zoboli

Professional Crocodile by Giovanna Zoboli

Professional Crocodile by Giovanna Zoboli (9781452167008, Amazon)

This detailed, wordless picture book shares the story of one professional working crocodile’s day. Crocodile is awakened from his dream of floating in a swamp by his alarm clock. He gets ready for work, uses the bathroom, brushes his teeth and selects an appropriate tie. He has jam and bread for breakfast and heads out. He window shops on his walk to work and takes the subway. He picks up flowers, the newspaper and a treat from the bakery. He finally reaches his destination, the zoo, and takes his place in the exhibits after changing out of his clothes.

This book plays up the mundane little activities in life, making them all the more important. Clearly European, this book captivates, showing small details of life and then suddenly switching into wild animals at the zoo with a satisfying ending. The illustrations are filled with little details, like other animals on the streets and subway, and humans looking just a tad nervous as they see Mr. Crocodile near them.

It is the use of human life details with the crocodile character that work so well here. That tension plays throughout the picture book, making it a look at humanity and our lives just as much as being a crocodile. There is a real appeal to the illustrations and the story line that draws the reader in and will have them leaning over the page to see more.

Great illustrations and a whimsical crocodile character make this a winner. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.