"The Princess And The Pea/La Princesa Y El Guisante"
Adapted by Francesc Boada
Illustrated by Pau Estrada
(Chronicle Books/La Galera, 1993)
A marvelous adaptation of this classic fairytale... One big plus is the look of the book: the artistic motif draws on Indian and Middle Eastern art, and when the prince goes abroad at the beginning of the book, we see princesses dressed in the garb of many different cultures -- Chinese, Japanese, Persian, Thai -- which gives the story a whole new look and places us in a new, non-Eurocentric context. The story follows the standard princess-and-the-pea narrative which, while it still has a weird gender message, is relatively innocuous. No violence, and intellect is used to resolve the prince's dilemma. A very good version of this story, with compact, economical bilingual translations (this was originally published in Catalan, then translated into Spanish and English for this edition.) Recommended! (A)
"Puss In Boots/El Gato Con Botas"
Adapted by Francesc Boada
Illustrated by Jose Luis Merino
(Chronicle Books/La Galera, 1996)
One of the lesser entries in the "La Galera" bilingual series... Textwise, this is an adequate retelling of the Puss In Boots saga -- it follows other versions fairly closely. The artwork is nothing to write home about, though -- a purposefully simplistic, minimalist "kiddie" style that gets the job done, but just barely. The main attraction of this version is the bilingual translation, which is nice for gringos learning Spanish. (This was originally published in Catalan, then translated into Spanish and English for this edition.) (C+)
Written by Arthur Dorros
Illustrated by Elisa Kleven
A nice bilingual picturebook story about a little girl who loves hanging out with her grandmother (abuela) and has a great fantasy adventure with her, where the two of them pretend to fly all across the island of Manhattan, visiting family and friends, and seeing the sights. The artwork is fantastic -- Kleven's folk-art approach already has a strong Latin American component, and she is a perfect match for Dorros's text. This is followed by Isla, where they visit family in the old country. Nice stuff! (B+)
"Radio Man/Don Radio"
Written by Arthur Dorros
Illustrated by Arthur Dorros
(Harper Collins, 1993)
A nice, richly detailed bilingual story about a young boy named Diego who moves with his migrant worker family from job to job and state to state, driving from the cabbage fields in Texas on through the Southwest and up to the apple harvest in Washington state. The story -- which incorporates Spanish words into the English text, and is also translated into Spanish at the bottom of each page -- puts a human face on farm labor, and presents information that many readers might not already know. For example, that migrant kids (often) attend school, and that their fieldwork can involve skill and pride. One nice touch is when the family is driving up North, they pass through California not as workers but as tourists, visiting the old-growth redwoods and seeing the ocean. The book's through-line, that Diego listens to the radio everywhere he goes, also provides a wonderful dramatic opportunity for parents and other readers to enunciate in "announcer" voices... The bilingual content and cultural messages are skillfully presented -- the story is involving but not preachy. Recommended! (B+)
"The Cat In The Hat Beginner Book Dictionary -- In Spanish"
Written by P.D. Eastman
Illustrated by P.D. Eastman
(Random House/Beginner Books, 1966)
A nice entry-level reference book... I've never been that into the English-only version, but this bilingual edition is much more engaging. The pictures are cheerful and illustrative (you gotta love Eastman's artwork!) and there are gazillions of entries, with lots of fun stuff to look at... A few small quibbles: the Cat In The Hat branding is a little duplicitous, since the Cat doesn't appear anywhere inside the book, other than on the front cover. Also, the Spanish content is given secondary status to the English entries -- the book's graphic layout remains the same, so it is still organized by the English-language words (All, Ant, Apple, Attic, etc.) instead of the Spanish, which is fine if you are approaching it as an English speaker, but it doesn't work well for a language immersion approach (you can't learn a bunch of Spanish-language "A" words all at the same time, for example.) More significantly, the singular forms of each word are not always given -- Spanish words are introduced within the context of sample sentences, so nouns are often pluralized, and verbs are often conjugated (although only in one form), so you need to have considerable previous background with the language to really explain the translations. All in all, though, this is a very good resource, which introduces over 1300 words en espanol and also provides a pronunciation guide at the end, just in case. A fine tool, especially when used in conjunction with other language resources. (B+)
"Bebe Goes Shopping"
Written by Susan Middleton Elya
Illustrated by Steven Salerno
An engaging, entertaining multicultural baby book, following a bright-eyed latino toddler as he goes through the supermarket with his mother. While Mama goes down her shopping list, Bebe picks out a few things of his own, until she distracts him with some animal crackers. The trip to the supermercado is punctuated with plenty of Spanish words and phrases -- flores, dulces, manos, hijo, dinero -- and, when the crackers come out, animal names such as leon and oso. The stylized, cartoonish artwork is cheerful and easily understood, and contains plenty of fun visual asides (the baby dropping the box of crackers while they're standing in line, etc.) Nice book! My little girl picked up several Spanish words after we read this a couple of times. (B+)
"F Is For Fiesta"
Written by Susan Middleton Elya
Illustrated by G. Brian Karas
(G. P. Putnam & Sons, 2006)
This small-size alphabet primer introduces several nice Spanish words (and reinforces others already seen in earlier Elya books...) as well as some of the special characters used in the Spanish alphabet ("CH," "LL," "RR," and the tilda-ed "N") It's more workmanlike and less magical than her other titles, though, in part because the unnamed boy whose birthday is the source of all the regalos and dulces isn't as vivid or individual a character as Bebe or the little girl who has to pee in Oh No, Gotta Go! But it may suffer only in contrast to the other books: if you're looking for a good introductory bilingual text, this is every bit as accessible and effective as her other books... Elya has a real knack for giving the information without laying it on too thick, or making it seem like a chore... The stories are fun, the characters' enthusiasm is contagious and the rhymes read well. What more could you want? (A)
"The Ugly Duckling/El Patito Feo"
Adapted by Merce Escardo I Bas
Illustrated by Max
(Chronicle Books/La Galera, 1997)
An excellent adaptation of the ugly duckling saga, with a crisp, bilingual translation, and lovely, cartoonish art. Max, a Barcelona-based comicbook artist, uses the tricks of his trade, particularly motion lines and "sweat" lines to give energy and emotion to the text. This ugly duckling has lots of character, and the graphic composition is marvelous, making the most of the modest page size. The story itself is always such a bummer that I find it hard to get through, but this version was a delight. Nice Spanish-English translation, taken from the original Catalan edition. (B+)
Written by Ginger Fogelsong Guy
Illustrated by Rene King Moreno
A nice, cheerful bilingual counting book... Three children go down to the local store to buy things to put inside a birthday pinata... They take uno canasta -- one basket -- and fill it with dos trompetas, tres animalitos... etc. And then they take their stuff home, build a cool pinata, and have one heckuva fun fiesta. The artwork is vivid, detailed and warm, and the story is simple and cheerful... Plus, it's effective: after reading this story once, my kid was able to count to ten in Spanish, right away. Success! (B+)
"My School - Mi Escuela"
Written by Ginger Foglesong Guy
Illustrated by Vivi Escriva
(Harper Collins, 2006)
This is a very simple Spanish-English primer, centered around some children's day in school. There's no plot to speak of, and it introduces only about a dozen words, but the artwork may hold your attention and the words they want to teach are shown clear as a bell. This wouldn't be my first choice as an introductory Spanish picturebook, but it's okay. (B-)
"The Moon Is La Luna: Silly Rhymes In English And Spanish"
Written by Jay M. Harris
Illustrated by Matthew Cordell
(Houghton Mifflin, 2007)
Cute, goofy, bilingual rhymes that introduce Spanish vocabulary through kooky jokes... I like that each poems is in both Spanish and English, and that the definitions are reinforced through humor -- one of the stronger ways to learn -- and that each language is used to explore the other, back and forth, back and forth... The rhymes can be a little hard to wrap your tongue around, but there's wit and whimsy and it doesn't talk down to the readers... A nice addition to any bilingual library! (B-)
"The Little Mermaid/La Sirenita"
Adapted by Oriol Izquierdo
Illustrated by Max
(Chronicle Books/La Galera, 1999)
A beautifully illustrated, but grim, retelling of this old Danish fairytale... This version stays true to the tone of the original, a rather dark, bleak, harsh story of a mermaid who falls in love with a human prince, but whose love is spurned, and who dies unrequited and unhappy. The ending is fudged a bit -- she is suddenly borne upward to become a "daughter of the air," but the spiritual significance of this transformation is left unexplained, and the possibility of redemption -- key to Hans Christian Andersen's story -- is left out entirely. Although the artwork by Spanish artist Max makes this a striking edition, the story itself may be too harsh, especially for kids who have been previously exposed to the happy-ending version promulgated by the folks at Disney. The bilingual edition (originally published in Catalan in Spain, and translated into Spanish and English for foreign audiences) is quite nice... a key selling point of this version! (B-)
Adapted by Caterina Valriu
Illustrated by Max
(Chronicle Books/La Galera, 1998)
A great bilingual edition of one of the best and most fantastical fairy tales... The text follows the classic version of the plot pretty closely, and isn't too gruesome or disturbing. The artwork is fabulous, a thick-lined cartoony style from the Spanish artist named Max. Good translations, as well. Recommended! (A)
"Te Amo, Bebe, Little One"
Written by Lisa Wheeler
Illustrated by Maribel Suarez
(Little, Brown & Co, 2004)
A charming rhymed lullaby with a latino twist... A new mother makes up her own song for her little baby, singing it as the "brown-eyed babe" grows through its first year. There's a smattering of Spanish in the text, and several cultural signifiers -- such as cacti, palm trees, a mariachi band playing at a fiesta, the use of words like turquoise -- that skillfully place this book into a Latin-American context. The story is universal, though, and toddlers of any background can enjoy the bright, emotionally warm artwork... My only complaint is that the meter of the book's refrain, where the title comes from, just doesn't scan in the last line:
I love you once, I love you twice
I love you more than beans and rice
I love you more than sea or sun
Te amo, bebe, little one
It's as if the author was so in love with that last line, she just couldn't give it up... You can make it work (particularly if you're singing with a melody) but it's needlessly clumsy. Otherwise, a very nice book for really little kids... (B-)
Other Book Reviews
Slipcue.Com (Music & Film)