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Review of Salsa: Un poema para cocinar / A Cooking Poem

argueta_salsaSalsa: Un poema para cocinar / A Cooking Poem
by Jorge Argueta; illus. by Duncan Tonatiuh; trans. from the Spanish by Elisa Amado
Primary     Groundwood     32 pp.
3/15     978-1-55498-442-8     $18.95
e-book ed. 978-1-55498-443-5     $16.95

In this latest addition to his series of bilingual cooking poems (Arroz con leche / Rice Pudding; Guacamole), Argueta plays on the multiple meanings of salsa to create a mouth-watering musical recipe. The poem begins with a young boy telling the history of the molcajete and tejolote, the mortar and pestle traditionally made from the volcanic rock that forms from cooled lava and used to grind vegetables and spices. As the boy and his family prepare their weekly salsa roja, the child’s imagination runs wild. Ingredients become instruments — an onion is a maraca, tomatoes are bongos and kettledrums. Argueta’s use of onomatopoeia (prac-presh-rrick-rrick is the sound of the ingredients being ground in the molcajete) and detailed description of ingredients play on the various senses to convey the sounds, flavors, and feelings coming together as the boy’s family dances, sings, and cooks. Tonatiuh’s illustrations, rendered primarily in greens and reds, complement the two types of salsa mentioned in the poem. The earthy tones and Mesoamerican-inspired drawings suit the poem’s combination of the traditional elements of salsa-making with the modern scenes of a family cooking and celebrating. The lack of measurements may leave some readers perplexed (exactly how many tomatoes are needed?), but the more important message of love and family gathering to create something special shines through.

From the July/August 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Celia C. Pérez About Celia C. Pérez

Celia C. Pérez is a reference and instruction librarian at Harold Washington College in Chicago, IL. She is a former co-chair of REFORMA's Children and Young Adult Services Committee and served on the 2014 Pura Belpré Award committee. Her middle-grade novel, The First Rule of Punk (Viking), was a Pura Belpré Author Honor book winner.

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