Review of Not a Bean

Not a Bean
by Claudia Guadalupe Martínez; illus. by Laura González
Preschool, Primary    Charlesbridge    32 pp.
9/19    978-1-58089-815-7    $16.99
e-book ed.  978-1-63289-667-4    $9.99

“Jumping beans” are not in fact beans but moth larvae that have burrowed into the seedpods of the yerba de la flecha shrubs found alongside arroyos in the northern desert mountains of Mexico. In this accessible life-cycle/counting book that organically interweaves Spanish and English, Martínez traces the metamorphosis of “una oruga — a wiggly caterpillar” as it embarks on a pupation journey, that, with the aid of many desert helpers, ends with transformation and a spreading of wings as “a majestic polilla…soars into the sky.” Martínez takes readers inside the seedpod, spotlighting its daily interactions — from the sun that warms it; to cacti (“dos saguaros”) that provide shade; to the predators (“cuatro coyotes,” “cinco cuervos”) its clicking and clacking scares away; to children (“siete amigos”) who come upon it while exploring the desert and use it to play a game. González’s digital illustrations harmonize subdued desert hues, mixing greens, russets, and blues. Capacious double-page spreads capture intricate goings-on inside the seedpod while simultaneously conveying wide-open desert expanses. Martínez (from El Paso) attends to the complexity of this desert landscape—a region politically and environmentally fraught—by tenderly centering its beautifully complex life in an engagingly child-friendly way. An appended author’s note provides additional information about jumping bean moths; a glossary and bilingual “Count to Ten” list are also included.

From the January/February 2020 Horn Book Magazine.

Lettycia Terrones

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