Review of The Youngest Sister

The Youngest Sister The Youngest Sister
by Suniyay Moreno; illus. by Mariana Chiesa; trans. from Spanish by Elisa Amado
Primary    Aldana Libros/Greystone Kids    40 pp.    g
5/22    978-1-77164-875-2    $18.95

In the Andean mountains of Argentina, five-year-old Picu sets off on a trek to Doña Ciriaca’s house to borrow “the flavor bone” that is shared among the Quechua families in the surrounding foothills and used to flavor soup. Picu’s mother, with many children to feed, instructs Picu (“the shusca—the smallest sister”) not to delay and to return before noon, in time to prepare the day’s supper, or face punishment. Moreno establishes a folkloric narrative arc in the voice and style of Argentinian Quechua storytelling (per the translator’s note). She weaves in Quechua words (a brief glossary is appended) and reveals how the land and its flora and fauna enable Picu’s successful completion of her important task: “She followed the little goat prints. There were more thorns but also more mistolas. She stopped to pick some of those reddish, sweet fruit, sucked them, and then continued along the hillside.” Immersive textured crayon illustrations (digitally modified) heighten the feeling of a sensorial wonderland, conveying Picu’s imaginative flights. For example: a “cloud of pilu-pintu butterflies” morphs into Picu with her siblings and cousins at play rendered as white-winged butterflies. Chiesa skillfully uses light to convey mood, juxtaposing the blazing yellows of the morning sun with cool violet tones of night’s intimate darkness. The story ends satisfyingly: thanks to Picu and the flavor bone, the family enjoys a delicious, nourishing soup, and Picu revels in her mother’s praise.

From the July/August 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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