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Review of My Papi Has a Motorcycle

My Papi Has a Motorcycle
by Isabel Quintero; illus. by Zeke Peña
Primary    Kokila/Penguin    40 pp.    g
5/19    978-0-525-55341-0    $17.99
Spanish ed.  978-0-525-55494-3    $17.99

Quintero’s picture-book text acts as an evocative love letter to her apá and to the interconnected web of Mexican immigrant working-class people who built her hometown of Corona, California. When Papi gets home from work, young Daisy jumps into his arms for a hug (the warmth of his body language expressing “all the love he has trouble saying”), then grabs their helmets, eager to zoom through their neighborhood on Papi’s speedy blue motorcycle before the sun goes down. Peña’s joyous digital and hand-painted watercolor illustrations capture the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and “redbluegreenorangepink” colors of the town. They observe the community’s many people and institutions that contribute to the well-being and harmony of “everyone and everything [Daisy and Papi] pass” on their motorcycle ride. There’s Abuelito and Abuelita’s yellow house with the lemon tree and the nopales; murals “that tell our history”; there’s Mr. García, the librarian in the Dodgers cap, with whom they exchange nods (“this is how we always greet each other”); and the raspados man. All of this — plus the text’s nuanced alliteration, its use of Spanglish, and the realistic linguistic mix in the illustrations (even the cat says both meow and miau) — marks the quotidian specificity shaping Daisy’s memory-making as well as her loving reflections on Corona’s unfolding changes, its history and future. An appended author’s note tells more about Quintero’s inspiration. Concurrently published in Spanish as Mi papi tiene una moto.

From the May/June 2019 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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