A Song of Frutas by Margarita Engle

Cover image for A Song of Frutas.

A Song of Frutas by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Sara Palacios (9781534444898)

A little girl tells of visiting her Abuelo in Cuba. When she is there, she helps him sell fruit from his small cart on the street. Together they sing the names of the fruits they have for sale, walking in beat to the song and shaking their hands like maracas. Their voices reach up the tall buildings around them and some people purchase fruit using a basket they lower down on a rope. There are other vendors on the street shouting or singing about their wares too, and that’s when Abuelo has to sing even louder to be heard. It’s most special to visit Abuelo at the new year when everyone wants to purchase 12 grapes per person to have good luck when they eat them at midnight. If only visiting Cuba was simpler and they could go more often!

Engle is an award-winning author of books for all ages of children. This picture book uses a mix of English and Spanish called Spanglish that is used both in the United States and Cuba. The songs that the girl and her grandfather sing together are done in rhyme while the rest of the picture book displays Engle’s skills with verse in a different way. Her paragraphs of free verse still play with rhythm and form, inviting readers to experience Cuba and their lively street vendors.

Palacios’ illustrations are bright and merry. They show the dynamic urban Cuban street scene that is full of colorful buildings and equally colorful people. The illustrations share that same inherent happiness as the words.

Bright and energetic, this picture book offers a glimpse of Cuba. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

Try It!: How Frieda Caplan Changed the Way We Eat by Mara Rockliff

Cover image

Try It!: How Frieda Caplan Changed the Way We Eat by Mara Rockliff, illustrated by Giselle Potter (9781534460072)

When Frieda Caplan started working at the Seventh Street produce market in Los Angeles, there were only potatoes, bananas, tomatoes and apples for sale. Caplan thought it might be work giving something new a try. So she started selling mushrooms. Soon she was known as the Mushroom Queen and had her own stall at the market. She became known as a person who would taste anything and started selling kiwis, jicama, blood oranges, Asian pears and much more. Over the years she introduced consumers to many new things, including seedless watermelons in 1962, horned melon in 1984, and fresh lychee in 2015. Caplan’s daughters now work with her in her produce stall, introducing finds of their own and offering their unique and informed view of what the next big thing might be.

Rockliff offers a dynamic look at the woman who changed how America eats fruits and vegetables. Her fearless approach to trying new things combined with a deep instinct about what will work for the market. Beautifully, the book focuses on Caplan herself but also richly shows the things that she introduced to American stores. Readers are sure to find new fruits and vegetables on the pages here, and perhaps be brave enough to try then when they make their way to supermarkets across the country.

Potter’s illustrations are richly colored and warm. They show Caplan in the 1950s when she started and then steadily move forward in time, nicely showing the time period through the clothing of the people. The fruits and vegetables are rainbow bright and nicely labeled with their name and the year that Caplan discovered them for the U.S. market.

Bright, intelligent and full of juicy details. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy provided by Simon & Schuster.

Nothing Rhymes with Orange by Adam Rex

Nothing Rhymes with Orange by Adam Rex

Nothing Rhymes with Orange by Adam Rex (9781452154435, Amazon)

All of the other fruit are having great fun creating rhymes for themselves. But Orange knows that nothing rhymes with him, so he can’t join in. He does ask if he can participate, but no one has time to answer him. Meanwhile the rhymes that the other fruit are using get forced and the kinds of fruit get more unusual. Soon other fruit that don’t have rhymes either are included and only Orange is left out. Luckily though, Apple has noticed and creates a rhyme just for Orange!

Rex has immense joyous fun creating the weirdest rhymes for fruits in this book. Readers will agree with Orange’s take as the book gets odder and odder as it continues. Adults will laugh aloud with surprise with even Nietzsche makes an appearance just to force a rhyme with lychee. The dynamic energy of the book makes it great to read aloud and will have everyone laughing along and hoping that Orange gets to play too.

The illustrations combine grocery-bag brown paper with photographs of different fruit. The fruit also have faces with big expressions and lanky limbs that make them friendly. Orange in particular is very emotive as all sorts of emotions are felt by him during the course of the book.

A great read aloud and a hilarious book, this one will have everyone rhyming! Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.

 

Review: The Parrot Tico Tango by Anna Witte

parrot tico tango

The Parrot Tico Tango by Anna Witte

Parrot Tico Tango is a naughty bird!  He has his own mango, but as he soars through the jungle, he steals fruit from other animals.  There is the sloth’s lemon, the monkey’s fig, the snake’s cherry, the frog’s grapes and more.  Eventually, it gets to be too much to carry and he crashes.  Now Tico Tango is left with nothing, not even his own mango.  But the others offered him a slice of mango in exchange for him dancing the tango.  And dance he did!

This is a colorful book that merrily teaches colors and fruits along the way.  The rhyme is jazzy and great fun to read aloud.  The text is written in a cumulative style, so each new fruit is added to the list that is repeated with each new addition.  This adds a lot of style and emphasizes the greed of Tico Tango.  While the book teaches colors, what it would work best for in a classroom is a discussion of adjectives.  Each new fruit is talked about in detailed adjectives that are used in different sentence structures.  It would make a very approachable and fun lesson.

Witte’s art is bright and bold, a winning combination of collage and paint.  The animals themselves are bright colored, especially Tico Tango who lights up each page in his own rainbow of colors.  The fruit also adds a lot of color and then it all pops against the green of jungle and the varying colors of the sky.

This is a simple book that will be enjoyed by toddlers learning their colors on one level and then by elementary students learning adjectives on another.  Appropriate for ages 2-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Barefoot Books.