The Piñata That the Farm Maiden Hung by Samantha R. Vamos, illustrated by Sebastia Serra (9781580897969)
This is a companion book to the award-winning The Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred. This second book is by the same author but a different illustrator. Here a girl sets off to do some errands while the rest of the farm gets ready for a celebration. The farm maiden creates a piñata by hand with the help of a boy, horse, goose, cat and sheep. The farmer carves figures from wood and everyone prepares for a party. Told in a cumulative folktale style, the book uses Spanish words and phrases to create a book that sings with festivities.
The writing by Vamos is skilled as she weaves together English and Spanish into rhymes and a repeating and cumulative structure. Children who don’t know Spanish will easily be able to decode the words in the text since Vamos replaces the English word on a previous page with the Spanish word. The book also includes a glossary of Spanish words as well as directions for making your own piñata. The illustrations by Serra are colorful and bright. They are filled with the action of making the piñata and every animal and person is happy while doing their work. There is a sense of anticipation throughout the book as the celebration nears.
A great bilingual choice for Spanish-language learners. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy provided by Charlesbridge.
Juana & Lucas by Juana Medina (InfoSoup)
Juana lives in Bogotá, Colombia with her family. She loves things like reading, drawing, Brussels sprouts, and Astroman. She also loves living in Bogotá and in particular having a best friend like Lucas, her dog. Still, there are some things she doesn’t like. She doesn’t like the school uniform she has to wear, doing classwork, and in particular she doesn’t like learning “the English.” When Juana complains about having to learn English and how hard it is, the adults around her encourage her to keep trying. She is also told about a special trip that her grandparents are planning to the United States and Juana will get to meet Astroman there! But in order to be allowed to go, Juana has to do better in her classes, particularly English.
Filled with lots of pictures and even some infographics, this book is particularly approachable for children. With the same humor and heart as series like Clementine, this picture book offers a glimpse into another culture as well as a smart and independent heroine. Spanish words are sprinkled throughout the text, making it just challenging enough that readers will understand how hard it is to decode a different language and yet how rewarding it is too.
The illustrations are bright and cheery. The infographics, used to label different characters with their unique characteristics are funny and nicely designed for clarity. The city of Bogotá and the people in Juana’s life are shown in bright colors with lovely humorous touches.
The first book in a new series that offers diversity, Spanish and lots of heart. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.
Mango, Abuela and Me by Meg Medina, illustrated by Angela Dominguez (InfoSoup)
Mia’s abuela has come to live with Mia and her family in the United States. She can’t speak English and Mia can’t speak Spanish, so the two of them spend time together in silence, feeding the birds and watching TV. Mia’s mother reminds her of how a classmate learned to speak English and Mia starts to work to teach her abuela the new language. They point at things and share the English and Spanish words. Mia labels items around the house with their English names. Then when Mia and her mother go to the pet store for treats for her hamster, Mia sees a parrot that she knows will remind her abuela of the home she left. Mango, the parrot, starts speaking both languages and helps Mia’s abuela connect with both her past and her granddaughter.
Medina has written this picture book with a lovely clarity of voice. The first person narrative is told from Mia’s point of view and shows the growing relationship with her grandmother, from the first shy days to the later part of the book where they are happily chatting and reading together. The book speaks to the importance of family and also to the ways that language can be learned and shared. It is particularly important that Mia learned Spanish too.
The illustrations are simple and colorful. They show the limited space that the family has, so Mia and her grandmother share a room together. The urban setting is shown with a bright friendliness that captures a vibrant community. The chronicling of the growing relationship is shown very effectively in the images.
A strong picture book that celebrates families and new language learners. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
Round Is a Tortilla: A Book of Shapes by Roseanne Greenfield Thong, illustrated by John Parra
Explore shapes with two young members of a Mexican-American family. The book begins with circles as they are seen in nests, bells, and food. Readers will also get to find squares, rectangles, triangles, ovals, and stars. Spanish words are sprinkled throughout the book and engagingly explained within the context. There is also a glossary at the end of the book to help. This is an engaging look at shapes with a charming Mexican vibe.
Done in rhyming couplets, the book has a strong lilting rhythm and reads aloud easily. The writing is strong and never suffers from the structure of the rhymes. Thong invites us into their home where we are made to feel welcome throughout the book. It is a warmly written book about shapes that has an additional dimension with the Spanish words.
Parra’s illustrations have a wonderful texture to them, often looking like traditional art and aging painted walls. They add even more warmth and character to this already rich book.
This is an enjoyable and simple look at shapes and Spanish that invites the reader to learn and to try new words. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.