Somos como las nubes / We Are Like the Clouds by Jorge Argueta, illustrated by Alfonso Ruano (InfoSoup)
This stunning book of poetry looks at the flood of children from Central America who are making their way to the United States. 100,000 of them have walked to our country, escaping to safety and what they hope is fresh opportunities. The book opens with a few poems that show the beauty of Central America and then swiftly moves to the problems and the gangs that are in control. Then begins the long march north, the trust placed in coyotes that lead them, the dangers they face, the rough conditions and the courage it takes to head towards the unknown. The book ends with poems of Los Angeles and hope.
Written by a Salvadoran poet, this book’s poetry soars and lifts even when speaking of dark and dangerous subjects. Throughout there is a focus on hope and the distant wonder of the United States. There are poems of the journey that are aching with loss. There are poems of strong parents who carry children and others of the children alone and fearful. It is a book that captures the range of immigrants coming to the United States, particularly children from Central America whose story is shared with such poignancy on these pages.
The art by Ruano is startling and beautiful. He has surreal moments in the art that capture a little touch of playfulness at first. That moves quickly to sense of isolation at times, of being alone in a stark landscape. Towards the end, there is one painting of a child afloat in the air on a blue, cloud-like sleeping bag who is finally heading home with his parents. It is a picture of such tenderness and captures the youth and dreams of these children.
An important book that shows the plight of Central American children as they walk to the United States, this is a challenging book of poetry that demands attention. Appropriate for ages 8-12.
Reviewed from library copy.
Migrant: The Journey of a Mexican Worker by Jose Manuel Mateo, illustrated by Javier Martinez Pedro
In this bilingual book, a boy from Mexico talks about the changes in his family and his village as people leave Mexico to find work in the United States. The story begins with the boy speaking about his village and how it used to be as a farming community with small farms where he would play. But then things changed and soon the village was just women and children with all of the men gone to find work elsewhere. When his mother was unable to find work in the village and his father’s money stopped arriving, the had no choice but to leave too. The story changes to one of escape, hiding and running, one that mirrors that boy’s games as a small child, but they are no longer fun here. The family makes it safely to Los Angeles, but there are new barriers in the way with the new country.
Told in a unique vertical format that echoes the ancient codex, this book uses its format to great effect. First, it mirrors the sense of a journey across distances, across cultures. Just opening this book feel different and special and then the length of the single page captures that sense of travel and quest. The voice of the book is also exquisitely done. The boy looking back on his childhood, seeing the changes and then the contrast of his childhood with the frightening present is filled with a taut tension that never goes away.
Even as I gush about the writing, I can’t say enough about the art. Done in a single pane that continues through the entire vertical book, it shows the village, the train that allows their escape, and finally LA. The art has an ancient feel to it, filled with tiny details, many people, plants, houses, and more. It’s a tribute to the history of Mexico, the thousands of people who cross the border, and the beauty of their courage.
Unique and incredibly lovely, this book is one that won’t work in public libraries due to the format. But it’s one that is worth celebrating despite that limitation. Get this in special collections! Appropriate for ages 7-10.
Reviewed from copy received from Abrams Books.
123 Si!: An Artistic Counting Book in English and Spanish by San Antonio Museum of Art
Colores Everywhere!: Colors in English and Spanish by San Antonio Museum of Art
Hello, Circulos!: Shapes in English and Spanish by San Antonio Museum of Art
The San Antonio Museum of Art, the San Antonio Library Foundation and Trinity Press have worked together to create a new series of books for children. The first book, 123 Si!, was published in 2011 and the next two books followed in 2012. There are plans for a series of 9 books with two more titles being added in the spring of 2013.
All three books combine art from the collections at the San Antonio Museum of Art with concepts that toddlers can relate to. The result are books that are bright and colorful but that offer a wonderful depth of subject matter too. The books are fully bilingual, giving terms for numbers, colors and shapes in both English and Spanish. Fully embracing early literacy, the books offer ideas for questions on each page, giving parents cues as to what to talk about in each picture. It is done in such a way that it’s simple, easy and non-threatening. Additional information on the art is available at the end of each book.
Three very successful board books that combine bilingual content, great art and basic concepts, these books belong at any library serving a Spanish-speaking population. Appropriate for ages 1-3.
Reviewed from copies received from Trinity University Press.
The Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred by Samantha R. Vamos, illustrated by Rafael Lopez
This is a fresh, fabulous cumulative tale that is made spicier and more interesting thanks to the Spanish sprinkled liberally throughout. It is the story of a farm maiden who stirred a pot. Once she started stirring, all of the animals wanted to help with what she was cooking. The cow gave milk, the hen gave eggs and zested the lime which was picked by the donkey who was carrying the duck to the market. Eventually everyone is waiting for the treat to be finished until they started playing music and dancing. Then no one was watching or stirring the pot! Thank goodness that they returned just in time to enjoy the arroz con leche that they had all cooked together.
When I read this book to myself silently it really didn’t work, but read aloud it merrily dances along, even with my very imperfect Spanish pronunciation. For classes in our community, the blend of Spanish and English is very desirable. Happily, the Spanish here forms the real foundation of the story rather than just being extra words that are thrown in.
Lopez’s art is so vibrant and warm. The sun shines when you open the book, thanks to the use of a beautiful yellow for the majority of the background. Add to it the purple clouds tinged with red, the orange ground, and the vibrant green of the plants, and you have a book where the colors are filled with heat and spice.
A rollicking picture book that celebrates Spanish and English mixed together sweetly, just like the perfect arroz con leche. Appropriate for ages 3-5, and in language classes for older children.
Reviewed from copy received from Charlesbridge.
Check out the book trailer to get a feel for the book and the illustrations:
Gracias/Thanks by Pat Mora, illustrated by John Parra
In this bilingual book, a boy tells the readers everything he is thankful for as he goes through his day. He starts his day by being thankful for the sun that wakes him up. He is thankful for things in nature, people in his life, music and food. At the end of his day, he is thankful for his soft pajamas and the crickets in the garden. This book is thoughtful and joyous look at life and everything small and large that we have to be thankful for.
There is a thoughtfulness in Mora’s writing that shows the depth of the gratitude for each item mentioned. I particularly appreciate the fact that nothing the boy is thankful for takes money to achieve. We can all be thankful for these passing moments in our lives, making this a universal book. Parra’s illustrations done in acrylic have a timeless and rustic feel, often showing signs of wear on the paint that add to the vintage quality. The young boy is multiracial adding another layer of depth to the story.
Highly recommended, this book could be used in classrooms to lead gratitude exercises. It also makes a great conversation starter for families about what is most important, even the smallest things. At the same time, for younger children it is a wonderful quiet book about a boy’s day and its details. Appropriate for ages 3-6.
Reviewed from copy received from publisher.
Also reviewed by HappyNappyBookseller, Latin Baby Book Club, A Chair, A Fireplace and a Tea Cozy, and featured on 7-Imp.
Oh, Crumps! by Lee Bock, illustrated by Morgan Midgett
Farmer Felandro is so very tired. He has a lot to do tomorrow: milk the cows, fix the fence, mow the hay and climb the silo. And morning comes so early. As he is falling asleep, he hears the goats Maahing outside. Oh crumps! So he puts on his boots and heads out to put them in their pen. Back in bed, he goes through his list of chores for tomorrow mixing his words up, and then hears the dogs barking. On go the boots, out to the barn, gets the dogs settled, back in bed, list of chores, and another animals makes noise outside. This happens again and again, until finally it is dawn and the day has begun.
This book has a very nice mix of humor and traditional feel. Bock has created a story with a natural rhythm that will have young listeners feeling immediately at home. Yet he also has created a very nice running gag as the farmer mixes up the words on his list of chores, leading to him thinking about fixing the cow and milking the fence! Midgett’s illustrations merrily follow these words, so that we can see the farmer sitting with a bucket milking the spotted fence. Her art will project well to a group of students with its thick lines and deep colors.
Highly recommended as an addition to farming story times or as a great bedtime choice, this book comes in both English and bilingual (English/Spanish) version. Appropriate for ages 3-6.
Reviewed from ARC received from publisher.
Sopa de frijoles / Bean Soup by Jorge Argueta and Rafael Yockteng
A winner of a bilingual book, this picture book is a poem about making bean soup. Lovingly filled with great ingredients and metaphors, the poem works well. It follows a young boy through the steps of making sopa de frijoles, from sorting the beans to chopping onions to peeling garlic, and adding salt. An adult in near in the illustrations, but the boy does the work himself, adding to the joy of the book.
Without any overly-sweet taste, this book offers a poem for children that is respectful and delightful. It is distinctly a poem rather than prose chopped into stanzas. The language alone puts it into that category:
The water boils and sings.
The beans dance
The water has turned brown
the color of Mother Earth.
like the earth
after the first
That is just one of many passages that capture a sensory experience with tangible images that children can understand but that also ask children to imagine.
Highly recommended, this book would be ideal for a bilingual story time. But it is also wonderful in a single language program as well. Appropriate for ages 4-8.
Reviewed from library copy.
Also reviewed by La Bloga and Poetry for Children.