“Diego’s New America” (La nueva America de Diego) by Evelyn Sanchez-Toledo is a charming picture book about Diego, a curious and intelligent boy who loves to ask questions. When the students need to do a project for an International Fair the school is producing, students are told to pick a country to present at the fair. All of Diego’s friends decide to pick countries that their families are from. One student’s family is from Austria, another’s from Greece.
“Drawn Together” by Minh Lê and Dan Santat is a truly touching, beautifully written and brilliantly illustrated picture book about bridging the gap that language and generations can cause. The story is simple; the presentation is not.
The first three pages of the story have no text, but none is needed. A boy visits his grandfather. He does not look happy to be there, but they bow politely to each other. The grandfather smiles widely and invites his grandson in, and the next page shows the meals they are eating.
Rating: 5 stars
With “La Madre Goose” Susan Middleton Elya crowns herself as the queen of bilingual books. Some bilingual books have an English page facing a translation of the page in Spanish (or some other language). What Middleton Elya does is much more creative — and much more difficult. In this book, for example, she takes familiar Mother Goose nursery rhymes and adds a soupçon of Spanish.
For example, Little Miss Muffet becomes “Little Miss Amarilla.” Instead of rhyming “spider” with “beside her,” the rhyme becomes “big araña” and “very extraña.” They are all clever and culturally appropriate. Instead of putting his thumb in a pie, young Juan Ramón puts his dedo into green guacamole.
Kids who speak English and Spanish or just English will enjoy the combinations of the languages. The rhyme and meter remain true to the original versions of the rhymes. Middleton Elya is also the author of the fabulous “Little Roja Riding Hood,” which is a favorite in dual language classrooms.
Please note: This review is based on the final hardcover book provided by Putnam for review purposes.
Adorable bilingual board books for young children can be found from several publishers. “La Llorona” by Patty Rodriguez and Ariana Stein (Lil’ Libros, 2015) is a board book based on the scary legend of La Llorona, “one of the oldest folktales ever told.” It’s a counting book that counts backwards from ten to one. Perfect for Halloween or anytime, it’s perfectly appropriate for even the youngest child. It’s not really scary; even the ghosts looks benign.
“A Color of His Own” by Leo Lionni (Alfred A. Knopf, 2016) is the wonderful children’s tale of a chameleon who wanted a color of his own. Each page tells the story in English with the Spanish translation below it. The illustrations are Lionni’s wonderful watery watercolors, and the moral is one that children love: things are better when they are shared.
Rating: 5 stars
“Little Roja Riding Hood” by Susan Littleton Elya is a familiar fairy tale that has been spiced up with a Latin point of view. Here, Granny is “Abuela,” and the wolf is “el lobo.”
Kids who know the story of Little Red Riding Hood love this retelling. While all kids enjoy this version, it’s especially perfect for Hispanic children, who will love the inclusion of the mama watching “telenovelas” and the “sopa caliente” that Red uses to chase the wolf away.
Susan Guevara, the illustrator, does a wonderful job of keeping the pictures authentic. They are colorful, and there are details that kids will love looking at over and over. Three little blind mice adorn some of the pages, and there are elves in others. The grandma’s house is decorated with crosses and other Latino effects — all of it colorful and filled with joy.
Brilliant rhymes, bright and bold illustrations, un poquito español — what more could any bilingual classroom teacher want? But even if you are not bilingual, get it anyway. All kids benefit from learning a bit of Spanish.
Why 5-stars? Kids love the combination of Spanish and English and they enjoy the rhyming text. The detailed illustrations help, too.
Please note: This review is based on the final hardcover book provided by the publisher, Putnam Juvenile, for review purposes.