Monday, July 2, 2012


Herrera, Juan Felipe. SUPER CILANTRO GIRL/ LA SUPERNIÑA DEL CILANTRO. Illustrated by Honorio Robledo Tapia. Children’s Book Press/ Editorial Libros para Niños, 2003. ISBN# 978-0-892-39187-5. $ 34.54. Ages 6 and up.

SUPER CILANTRO GIRL/ LA SUPERNIÑA DEL CILANTRO is a bilingual picture book written in both English and Spanish. It is about the experiences of living near the U.S./Mexico border towns. Esmeralda SinFronteras, a small girl, is the main character in the story. She lives with her mother and grandmother. Esmeralda’s mother has been delayed at the border in Tijuana, and Esmeralda worries about this. Through her journey we encounter experiences such as feeling different, feeling lonely because her mother is not with her, and how the border is viewed from a child's perspective. Throughout the story Esmeralda is faced with many obstacles (one of them becomes a green giant) that she must overcome. While facing her obstacles we see her transformation into a super heroine.

Written in both the English and Spanish, this bilingual book gives equality to both the English and Spanish languages. The author does differentiate the languages by color -- English is in a yellow text box and Spanish is in green -- which makes it easier for the reader. Also whenever the phrase SUPER CILANTRO GIRL or LA SUPERNIÑA DEL CILANTRO appears, the typography is in green with different fonts and size to emphasis the power of Esmeralda. Some slang is used because it is necessary in the Spanish language and there is no literal translation for English, as is the case with the word “cilantro,” but it does not affect the outcome of the story or the meaning of the text.

This book can be used in social studies to teach lessons about immigration and creating change. Children from other countries may have similar experiences with crossing the border and may be able to make a connection to Esmeralda. Throughout the story the author uses onomatopoeia, rhyme and repetitions to support language acquisition in the text. The illustrations also boost comprehension by depicting concepts which readers might not get from text alone. However, the illustrations of the character’s facial expression in my personal opinion may be scary at the beginning because they are vivid and crude. Creating a heroine for girls is necessary since there are a limited amount of books in which women are depicted as brave and heroic. This is an enjoyable book that can be used as a great read aloud or small group reading for all to enjoy.

Reviewed by Rosa Salgado

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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