Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Let's Celebrate Hispanic Heritage (FAMILY magazine reviews)
For the month between September 15 and October 15, Latinos, especially those whose family roots are in Central and South American countries, take time to honor their ancestry by paying tribute to those whose passion and commitment secured liberty, equality and self-government as a legacy for future generations. Here are a few titles whose stories salute this inheritance. Enjoy! Disfruta!
A Mango in the Hand: A Story Told Through Proverbs
by Antonio Sacre
illustrated by Sebastia Serra
Abrams, $16.95, Ages 5-8
When Francisco wakes on the morning of his saint day, his father approves him as old enough to go alone for the first time to pick his favorite fruit, mangos, for Francisco’s contribution to the family feast. Excited, the young boy discovers this initially delightful task is not as easy as he expected.
The pencil and ink illustrations use a digital infusion of color to support the folkloric sensibilities of this story. Artist Serra, who lives in Spain, makes use of important details, such as a soccer ball, guitar, dominoes, chilies and hats to create a Latino setting. He also includes common elements of daily life like a swing set, cats, flowers and bicycles, making important use of background features to amplify the text.
Author Sacre’s storytelling skills sparkle in his use of Spanish language proverbs that glow with humor and universal appeal as Francisco is distracted by bees and family members in his attempts to bring the mangos home. Making adept use of English to carry the proverbs, this delightful tale infuses family relationships, problem solving, and independent thinking into an absorbing story of love and acceptance. A glossary of Spanish words and phrases is included at the back.
The Cazuela that the Farm Maiden Stirred
by Samantha R. Vamos
illustrated by Rafael López
Charlesbridge, $17.95, Ages 5-8
A bilingual adaptation of the familiar “House That Jack Built,” author Vamos “cooked” up this yummy version in her kitchen. Using ingredients for rice pudding (Arroz con Leche), this scrumptious communal concoction is a favorite for many, whether or not it’s part of a family’s history. In this cumulative tale, the repetition is highlighted in Spanish as a sweet repetition of the English translation, announcing the ingredient as it’s added to the pot (cazuela).
Rose and golden acrylics characterize the double page spreads in this vivid picture book, emphasizing the sunlit radiance of a Central American daytime. Each animal makes an important contribution, and is given prominence as they prepare ingredients, and add to the music while the pudding is cooking. This is in distinctive contrast to the animals in another familiar folktale –The Little Red Hen – where the main character invites several others to participate, and each time is rejected. Award winning artist López once again furnishes an experience of fiesta, harmonizing text and illustration, in a tale well suited to community celebration. Back matter includes recipe and glossary of Spanish words.
No More, Por Favor
by Susan Middleton Elya
illustrated by David Walker
G. P. Putnam’s Sons, $16.99, Ages 3-5
The rain forest – selva -- is filled with wonderful, tasty things to eat. It’s also full of baby animals deciding they are fed up with the usual. Author Elya’s rhymes tell an amusing story of picky eaters and parents who fix a fiesta to change things up.
With glossary and pronunciation guide at the beginning, adults who read aloud to the youngest children will introduce their listeners to a lilting combination of English and Spanish language. Large double page spreads with bright and pastel acrylics illustrate some of the Spanish words, making it easy for non-Spanish speakers to infer meaning.
Elya makes wise use of rhymes; matching only English words together, and only Spanish words together (with a single exception, finito, an Italian word, matched with the Spanish, Quetzalito). This humorous take on a frequent family problem will tickle grownups and entertain even the most finicky of youngsters.
Welcome to my Neighborhood! A Barrio A-B-C
by Quiara Alegría Hudes
illustrated by Shino Arihara
Scholastic, $16.99, Ages 4-7
Without glamorizing inner city problems, this engaging alphabet book, opens cultural doors for readers with descriptive rhyming language (“G is for graffiti right beside the subway grate. H is for the hoop. It used to be a crate.”). Creating a panorama of authentic urban neighborhood life – “M is for los muralistas” – the dynamic language mix of English and occasional Spanish words, pairs seamlessly with active realistic gouache paintings. Pastel highlights add energy and build interest from start to finish.
Good-bye, Havana! Hola, New York!
by Edie Cólon
illustrated by Raúl Colón
Simon & Schuster, $16.99, Ages 4-8
Just published, this thoughtful, tender reminiscence is based on the author’s childhood in Cuba, and enhanced by her acclaimed, Puerto Rico-born, illustrator husband’s “memorable” paintings. With watercolor, colored pencils and lithograph pencils, artist Cólon evokes an earlier era, using sepia tones in backlit paintings, and featuring clothing, house and school furnishings, hairstyles, and even eyeglasses, notable for the late 1950’s and early 1960’s.
Author and elementary teacher Cólon writes with an easy mix of English and Spanish, sharing her carefully crafted story of growing up in two cultures. This beautiful picture book blends text and illustration in a seemingly effortless partnership, to bring this sensitive story to young readers and listeners. An Author’s Note and a brief dictionary of Spanish words are located at the end.