Wednesday, June 27, 2012

PEPITA TALKS TWICE by Ofelia Dumas Lachtman

Lachtman, Ofelia Dumas. Pepita Talks Twice. Illustrated by Alex P. DeLange. Houston: Arte Público Press, 1995. ISBN: 1-55885-077-5. 14.95. 

Skipping Stones Honor Award

In Pepita Talks Twice, the author tells the story of Pepita, a little girl who decides that being bilingual is causing her many problems in her everyday life. Having to translate from English to Spanish and vice versa to help her neighbors and other friends from the community, Pepita is constantly running late and is unable to teach her dog, Lobo, new tricks. After a long trip back home, Pepita’s brother, Juan, gets home before her and shows Lobo a new trick. This is the last straw for Pepita! She decides she will only speak English. She is officially tired of “speaking twice.”

As the story progresses, Pepita starts to face new challenges as she speaks only English. Lobo, now named Wolf, does not listen to her. At school, she is unable to help a new girl who does not speak English. Pepita starts to realize that not speaking Spanish is causing her some difficulties. What is her name now going to be? Perhaps Pete? And what will she call a “taco”? Maybe a “crispy, crunchy, folded-over, round corn sandwich,” she thinks. At the climax of the story, Lobo is about to be hit by a car. Pepita yells at him in English but of course the dog doesn't understand. In a moment of frustration, Pepita yells at him in Spanish. Lobo responds and comes back into the house. Pepita is glad that she “talked twice” and was able to save Lobo. She realizes that speaking two languages is actually great, and she determines that she will speak in English and Spanish always.

This fiction picture book is written both in English and in Spanish and it is aimed at elementary school students, primarily 2nd to 4th grade. The font size and the format are clear, visible, and legible. The vivid, colorful illustrations give the reader a perfect description of what goes on in the story. The translation in Spanish is well written; however, if you read it in English you can get a better sense of the story, since Pepita decides to only talk in English, so the words that she uses are better understood if you read it in English. Pepita Talks Twice definitely supports linguistic and skill transfer. Through the language and the illustrations, language learners can get a clear understanding of the story. In addition, the story promotes dialogue. Pepita expresses her feelings and thoughts through dialogue.

I definitely recommend this book. Pepita Talks Twice is a story that connects to the life experiences of many children. Whether it is with English and Spanish or with other languages, the story reflects the concerns, challenges and thoughts that many children might have about being bilingual. Pepita takes the reader through a journey of her experience. She realizes that being bilingual is wonderful! Being able to communicate in two languages leads you into a world where you can appreciate the meaning of "speaking twice," as Pepita calls it.

Ildara Armenta

This review is part of the Special Section: Books in Spanish, featuring a collaboration with Policy and Language Studies students at San Diego State University. Read more about it here.

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