Thursday, March 22, 2012

BIBLIO BURRO by Jeanette Winter

Winter, Jeanette. Biblio Burro. New York: Beachlane, 2010. ISBN: 9781416997788. $16.99. Ages 6 and up.

Set deep in the jungles of Colombia, Biblio Burro by Jeanette Winter tells the story of a man who takes his love for books to young children. Luis and his wife Diana live in a small house, and once Luis fills it with books they realize they need to do something with them. "After all," Diana tells Luis, “we can’t eat books with our rice.” Luis thinks and comes up with a perfect plan. With the purchase of two mules, he turns his books into a mobile Biblio Burro (Donkey Library) and sets off through Colombia. Luis, Alfa, and Beto’s journey isn’t always easy: It’s hot, sometimes Beto doesn’t want to keep going, and they are even held up by a bandit looking for money. There are also, though, the children and people at the villages who get to see books for the very first time. They sit and listen in wonder to Luis as he reads the story of The Three Little Pigs. At the end of the story, they happily get to pick out their own books from the library, and, as they head home, Luis, Alfa and Beto set off for the next group of children in the next village.

Biblio Burro is a well-crafted and engaging story about Luis Soriana, the real-life Biblio Burro man. Luis’s mission continues today. As a result of donations, his library has expanded from 70 books to more than 4,800. When it comes to the book itself, I found Biblio Burro both enjoyable and useful. As a tutor for early readers, as well as baby-sitter for my niece, I am always on the look-out for interesting books that cultivate intelligence and imagination. Early elementary students are entertained by Alpha and Beto’s names and might notice that if you “squish them together you get “Alphabet-o!” Similarly, a donkey library will draw chuckles. The reference to The Three Little Pigs provides another opportunity for teachers and parents. Not only is it an excellent time to read the fairy tale, students can create their own little pig masks to wear during story-time.

While the plot-line and word play were too advanced for my three-year-old niece to notice all the subtleties, the illustrations were interesting enough to distract her and lessen tears as she realized Mommy wasn’t going to be back for a while. Rendered in acrylic paint, pen, and ink the illustrations resemble appliqué quilt pieces and are useful to practice picking out colors. Additionally, each scene has at least two butterflies as well as a variety of jungle birds and animals which are excellent for a child to hone his or her counting skills. Beyond all of this, Biblio Burro cultivates an appreciation for books, social consciousness, and initiative worth re-enforcing.

Stephanie Ashley

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