From The Guide: Spanish-Language and Bilingual Books

brown_maya's blanketIn her article “On Writing the American Familia," author Meg Medina speaks to the language “dilemma” of Latino families: “Some of us speak Spanish, and some of us don’t — sometimes all under the same roof.” Written in Spanish; both English and Spanish; or Spanglish (of which Medina is an “unabashed fan”), these picture books are all recommended by The Horn Book Guide.

—Katrina Hedeen
Associate Editor, The Horn Book Guide


Brown, Monica Maya’s Blanket / La manta de Maya
32 pp.     Lee/Children’s     2015     ISBN 978-0-89239-292-6

Gr. K–3 Illustrated by David Diaz. Translated by Adriana Domínguez. When Maya Morales is little, her grandmother makes her a blanket, a “special manta” that changes into different (progressively smaller) things as Maya grows up. Based on the Yiddish folk song “I Had a Little Coat” (and inspired by her Jewish and Latina heritage), Brown creates a contemporary story, in English and Spanish, with a timeless-folktale feel. Diaz’s mixed-media illustrations are warm and joyful. Glos.

Dorros, Arthur Abuelo
32 pp.     HarperCollins/Harper     2014     ISBN 978-0-06-168627-6

Gr. K–3 Illustrated by Raúl Colón. Employing his signature crosshatching-like textures and colors of the earth and sky, Colón creates an expansive South American Pampas setting where Abuelo, a gaucho, shares adventures and advice with his grandson. Abuelo’s guidance stays with the boy after he moves to the city. Spanish words and phrases are integrated naturally into the oral narrative, and the strong grandson-grandfather bond transcends time and place.

Kent, Derek Taylor El perro en sombrero: A Bilingual Doggy Tale
32 pp.     Holt      2015      ISBN 978-0-8050-9989-8

Gr. K–3 Illustrated by Jed Henry. Pepe is a lonely dog until he finds a hat and becomes el perro en sombrero, a famous movie star. Disaster strikes when a jealous cat steals his sombrero, but it helps Pepe realize there is something better than fame. Henry’s illustrations are lively, funny, and filled with action, and the alternation between the English and Spanish texts feels natural.

Klepeis, Alicia Z. Francisco’s Kites / Las cometas de Francisco
32 pp.     Piñata      2015      ISBN 978-1-55885-804-6

Gr. K–3 Illustrated by Gary Undercuffler. Francisco misses flying kites in his native El Salvador, so he builds one from found materials in his new Chicago neighborhood. The owner of a recycled goods store notices the kite and offers to pay Francisco to make twenty more. In both English and Spanish, the quiet text tells a gentle story. The illustrations are stiff but convey Francisco’s pride in his creations.

Levy, Janice Papa Gave Me a Stick
32 pp.     Star Bright     2015     ISBN 978-1-59572-342-0
Paperback ISBN 978-1-59572-343-7

Gr. K–3 Illustrated by Simone Shin. This lighthearted story celebrates the unexpected rewards of small favors. A young boy infatuated with a mariachi band trades objects with many thankful animals before he finally makes a trade for his own guitarra. Spanish words and phrases are interspersed throughout; the book also includes a glossary, pronunciation guide, and list of mariachi instruments. Pastel-colored illustrations bring a quaint village to life.

Seuss, Dr. The Cat in the Hat / El gato ensombrerado
64 pp.     Random     2015     ISBN 978-0-553-52443-7
Library ed. ISBN 978-0-553-52444-4

Gr. K–3 Translated by Georgina Lázaro and Teresa Mlawer. This welcome bilingual edition of Seuss’s classic features a translation in Spanish that manages some nimble rhyming while recounting the exploits of the Cat in the Hat. Although the youngest readers may have difficulty with the longer Spanish words, in general the translation succeeds in capturing the swinging silliness of the original English text.

Spiegelman, Nadja Perdidos en NYC: Una aventura en el metro
50 pp.     TOON      2015     ISBN 978-1-935179-85-6

Gr. 4–6 Illustrated by Sergio García Sánchez. Color by Lola Moral. Mr. Bartle’s sixth graders explore the NYC subway on their way to the Empire State Building. Newcomer and lone wolf Pablo gets on the wrong train; good-natured Alicia follows him. This graphic novel’s detail-filled art vividly conveys scenes below and above ground. The Spanish translation is more formal than the original English but overall is serviceable. Brief essays and historic photographs appended. Concurrently published in English (Lost in NYC: A Subway Adventure). Reading list, websites.

Thong, Roseanne Greenfield Green Is a Chile Pepper
32 pp.     Chronicle      2014     ISBN 978-1-4521-0203-0

Gr. K–3 Illustrated by John Parra. In this festive concept book, all the colors found in a Latino neighborhood are described in rhyming text with frequent Spanish words, explained in detail in a glossary. The objects described, such as ristras, piñatas, and faroles, are staples of Mexican culture, but Parra’s folk art–style paintings, stuffed with entertaining details, make them universally understandable and appealing.

From the January/February 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine. These reviews are from The Horn Book Guide and The Horn Book Guide Online. For information about subscribing to the Guide and the Guide Online, please click here.
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