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.

Review: The Market Bowl by Jim Averbeck

market bowl

The Market Bowl by Jim Averbeck

Mama Cecile taught Yoyo to make bitterleaf stew, the same stew they sold at the market.  But Yoyo thought that the entire process took too long, so she took some shortcuts herself.  Then she snuck her batch of stew along with them to the market.  Mama Cecile warned Yoyo that they must always accept a fair price for their stew, otherwise Brother Coin, the Great Spirit of the Market, would remove his blessing from their bowl.  After selling all of Mama Cecile’s stew, there was still one customer left, so Yoyo pulled out her own stew and tried to sell that.  But she rejected his small offer for her stew.  Thunder rolled and through the next days, no one came to their staff at the market.  Now it was up to Yoyo to fix what she had done.  That would take traveling to see Brother Coin in person.

Set in modern-day Cameroon, this story skillfully blends folk elements as it talks about the culture as well.  The book will make a great read aloud thanks to the ease of the language used and the natural rhythm of the storytelling.  It would also be a great candidate for storytelling for those reasons too.

Averbeck’s art has a strong modern edge to it.  He shows the gorgeous textiles that people wear.  Additionally, he uses textures and patterns to create other objects as well, such as the shanty houses and details of interior scenes.

A modern-day folk tale, this is a rich glimpse into Cameroon.  The book ends with a recipe for bitterleaf stew too!  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Charlesbridge.