Friday, July 6, 2012

ADIVINANZAS INDIGENAS, Compiled by Elisa Ramirez

Ramirez, Elisa. Adivinanzas Indígenas. Illustrado por Maximino Javier. Mexico, D.F: Editorial Patria, 1999. ISBN# 968-29-0260-X

Como el tema del libro lo menciona, este es un libro de una compilación de adivinanzas indígenas para ninos de los primeros grados de primaria. El lenguaje usado en el libro contiene muchas palabras indígenas. En estas adivinanzas no solamente se utilizan palabras de origen indígena si no que las respuestas de dichas adivinanzas están relacionadas con criaturas míticas y estilos de vida de diferentes grupos indígenas. Estas adivinanzas fueron originalmente escritas o dichas en el dialecto indígena que indica cada pagina. La traducción de estas adivinanzas al español hace el texto accesible a las personas de habla hispana. Sin embargo, la fluidez y la rima por la que se caracterizan las rimas, no se hace presente en la traducción. Las ilustraciones de este libro ayudan al lector a descifrar la adivinanza mientras que el uso de color y lineas simples mantiene la autenticidad cultural del libro. Las respuestas a las adivinanzas se pueden encontrar al final del libro al igual que un glosario con explicación detallada de algunos términos desconocidos para ciertos lectores. Este libro seria mejor utilizado en los niveles de preescolar a tercer grado. El lenguaje usado en este libro podría ayudar a crear una conexión literaria con alumnos de diferentes culturas.

Adriana Jaime

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.

Thursday, July 5, 2012


Zubizarreta, Rosalma. The Woman Who Outshone The Sun. Illustrated by Fernando Oliveria. San Francisco: Children’s Book Press, 1991. ISBN# 0-89239-101-4. $13.95.

See another review of The Woman Who Outshone the Sun on this site here.

This book is about a beautiful young woman named Lucia Zenteno who appears at a village and the villagers are amazed at her. Her long hair outshines the sun, and she is mysterious to the villagers. Every time Lucia goes to the river to bathe, the water and the fishes in it begin to flow through her hair. When she finishes bathing, she combs her hair and the water and the fishes in it return to the river.

Some of the villagers are afraid of Lucia's powers, and they begin to mistreat her, ultimately driving her from the village. Lucia goes to say goodbye to the river before leaving. The water and the fishes flow into her hair again, but this time they won’t return to the river. When Lucia leaves the village, a dry riverbed is left behind. The villagers no longer receive the beauty of nature and they experience a drought. They realize that the river had loved Lucia and the only way to get it back is to search for Lucia and ask for her forgiveness. The villagers find Lucia and seek her mercy. She tells the villagers that just like the river gives water to everyone, they must learn to treat everyone with kindness, even those who are different. Lucia returns to the village, the water and animals return to the river, and the villagers are happy again. Lucia disappears but is not gone; the elders explain that although Lucia can’t be seen, she guides and protects them. She helps them to live with love and understanding in their hearts.

Other information:
This book is a fiction children’s picture book, retold from a Mexican folktale. This book would be ideal for students learning about folktales from other cultures. The book is also written in both Spanish and English, perfect to use in bilingual classrooms and even in bilingual instruction.

For language learners, this book could be used to introduce vocabulary. The translation is accurate; both languages portray the same tone and story. The colorful illustrations go along very well with the story. The font size and format is clear. One of the morals children can take from this tale is to treat everyone, even those who are different from themselves, with kindness. A second moral is that people should live with love and understanding in their hearts. A third moral is that one shouldn’t take for granted the nature that surrounds them. I highly recommend this book; it is enjoyable to read and the morals that it portrays are valuable.

Reviewed by Diana Derner

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.

MY VERY OWN ROOM by Amanda Irma Perez

Perez, Amanda I. My Very Own Room / Mi Propio Cuartito. Maya Christina Gonzalez. San Francisco, CA: Children’s Book Press, 2000. ISBN # 0-89239-164-2

My Very Own Room / Mi Propio Cuartito is a bilingual picture book. It was originally written in English and translated into Spanish. The story is based on the author’s own experience of growing up in a family of eight. Amanda lives with her parents and her five younger brothers in a small two-bedroom house. She has to share a bedroom with her five brothers, and she really desires a little space of her own. She goes around the house to look for her so-desired space, and when she finally finds a potential place, she asks her mother for her approval. This small space is full of furniture, old clothes, and other family belongings, so a lot of work has to be done in order to turn it into a small bedroom for Amanda. The closeness of the family is evident when everyone gets together to help Amanda accomplish her dream.

The translation of the book is accurate. It is evident that the translator is familiar with Mexican culture, since the words are carefully chosen to represent the same meaning that they have in the original language of the story. Thus, the tone of the story is preserved in the translation. Additionally, there is a balance of languages in the book. Both languages are used equally throughout the story; however, some Spanish words are used in the English version of the story because the author probably couldn’t find words in English that had the same emotional meaning as they do in Spanish. Therefore, a glossary of Spanish terms would be useful for Spanish language learners. In terms of English language learners, the translation of the story can help them keep developing their English language by looking at the Spanish translation of the book whenever they don’t understand words or ideas in the English version of the story. The Spanish embedded words in the English version of the story can also make this book more comprehensible to English language learners.

The content of the story is great; however, it lacks metaphors, similes, rhythm, and alliteration, which would make it a richer piece of writing. Additionally, the names of some of the characters are not mentioned in the story, which can be confusing for language learners. The illustrations are well done; they are very vivid, and they match the text of the story.

This book is appropriate for elementary school students, second and third grade in particular, since the vocabulary used is simple. Furthermore, this book can be used to teach a variety of topics such as differences in culture and immigration. I recommend using this book in the classroom because many students will be able to identify themselves with the main character’s situation, and this will engage students in the lessons.

Reviewed by Yvonne Garcia

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.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

FAMILY, FAMILIA by Diane Gonzales Bertrand

Bertrand, Diane Gonzales. Family, Familia. Illustrated by Pauline Rodriguez Howard. Translated by Julia Mercedes Castilla. Houston: Piñata Books, 1999. ISBN #1-55885-269-7. $14.95. Ages 6 and up.

Family, Familia is a bilingual picture book. Daniel Gonzales, the main character in the story, goes to a family reunion in San Antonio, Texas. He expects the reunion to be boring and is not excited to attend. However, he begins to enjoy the reunion and has fun when he starts to make connections between his family and the stories his dad has told him. Daniel finds a boy who is his age and they become friends and find out they are cousins. Daniel goes back home happily, knowing where the Gonzales name comes from.

This story has a very strong message about family unity that children will really love. It promotes multiculturalism in a positive way. Children of Mexican-American backgrounds will be able to easily relate to this story, while children of different backgrounds will get a look into a new culture. The use of descriptive language gives the story a very vivid feel. The illustrations are also very bright and detailed. They support the story’s meaning fully and tell a story even on their own. The use of Spanish that is sprinkled on every page gives the story a more authentic touch. There is no translation for these words, however, which may make it difficult for a non-Spanish speaker to decode. Nevertheless, the book is translated completely from English to Spanish. The translation conveys the story’s meaning perfectly. As Daniel discovers the meaning of family, children will also be compelled to think about where they came from and their own family’s history regardless of their cultural background.

Reviewed by Vicky Zamarripa

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.


Byrd, Lee Merrill. The Treasure on Gold Street. Illustrated by Antonio Castro. Translated by Sharon Franco. El Paso: Cinco Puntos Press, 2003. ISBN 0-938317-75-X. $16.95. Bilingual Early Reader.

The Treasure on Gold Street is a realistic fiction bilingual children’s book. In the book, we meet a little girl named Hannah who tells us about her life growing up on Gold Street and a valuable life-lesson she learns from her mother and father. In this story, Hannah introduces us to her family, her neighbors, and her friend Isabel. Isabel is an adult with mental retardation who lives with her mom, Bennie. Isabel and Hannah love to do a lot of the same things like walking down the street, playing, and reading. Isabel is definitely a special person in Hannah’s life. On Isabel’s birthday, Hannah finds out that Isabel is also a special person in her mother’s life and comes to understand why her parents always say, “Make new friends but keep the old, one is silver and the other’s gold.”

This bilingual children’s book was originally written in English and translated into Spanish. Each page is filled with very colorful and detailed illustrations that depict the narrative text of the story to support the reader’s predictions, questions, clarification, and summarization. This book is easy and clear to read thanks to its legible font size and simple word choice. The Treasure on Gold Street is rich in conversational dialogue between the characters and first-person narration by the main character. Within the dialogue found in the English text, the author uses a few Spanish words without providing specific or immediate translation for those words; however one can deduce the meaning of those Spanish words using the context clues from of the surrounding sentences.

This is a great read aloud book for children in grades K-4th. With this book, children are exposed in a sensitive way to the fact that people are different and that some people have special needs such as mental retardation. This book lends itself beautifully to teaching young children many valuable life-lessons about kindness, friendship, and appreciation. I would recommend The Treasure on Gold Street to both adults and children alike.

Reviewed by Vanessa Polanco

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.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

LA MARIPOSA by Francisco Jimenez

Jimenez, Francisco. La Mariposa. Illustrated by Simon Silva. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1998. ISBN 0-395-81663-7. $16.00. Ages 6-10.

Useful website:

Parent’s Choice Recommended Award
America's Commended List
Smithsonian’s Notable Book for Children

This is a contemporary realistic fiction picture book. Although it is listed as fictional, the book is autobiographical because it is based on the author’s life experiences. The purpose of the book is to address the topic of social acceptance as well as the acceptance of changes and adaptation in the midst of challenges.

The story is about a boy, Francisco, entering first grade in a sink-or-swim all-English classroom where he can’t understand anything. From the very beginning, Francisco fixes his attention to a butterfly in a jar. The butterfly’s metamorphosis takes place alongside the changes Francisco experiences. The message is a positive and inspiring one: that one can flourish by embracing change. The main character’s nuclear family is presented as an important factor in his metamorphosis into a bilingual and bicultural human being. The teacher, principal, and classmates are presented in a positive light because in the end, his teacher, Miss Scalapino, helps establish Francisco as an artist by awarding him a first-place ribbon for his drawing of the butterfly. Through the supportive modeling of his parents and brother, Francisco both finds his place and learns to be tolerant and forgiving of a boy who bullies him. The book ends on the positive notes of acceptance and tolerance.

This book is written in English and Spanish; it falls under the category of Literary Bilingualism, as it includes Spanish words which are italicized and a glossary at the end. Although there are only a total of 16 spanish words, they are very impacting because they are used within a sentence, as a bilingual child would do when code switching. Code switching may have been added to make a connection with the reader on a more personal level. It also implies that English language learners assimilate by adapting what they are acquiring to their own background knowledge. This book also supports linguistic transfer skills because it illustrates the idea that Spanish shares some syntax with English.

The target audience of this book is ages 6-10. Teaching examples might include when and what syntactic features transfer and which do not. Reading comprehension skills can be developed by focusing on text features such as italics. The book also uses the butterfly as a metaphor for the changes a young boy experiences through the acquisition of a second language and culture.

This book can also be used in an integrated lesson between Language Arts and Social Science, and Science. It is a perfect read aloud to introduce the life cycle of a butterfly, a lesson on social justice, contributions of different people in the United States, labor laws, and historical Chicano heroes such as Cesar Chavez. I would use this book to make connections for meaningful learning. I would highly recommend this book as it is a powerful resource that can serve many purposes.

Francisco Jimenez is also the author of The Circuit, Breaking Through, and Reaching Out. These books follow the author from grade school to college. Jimenez is also the author of other bilingual books for children, including The Christmas Gift/El Regalo de Navidad.

Reviewed by Silvia Andrado

A MOVIE IN MY PILLOW by Jorge Argueta

Argueta, Jorge. A Movie in My Pillow. Illustrations by Elizabeth Gomez. San Franciso: Children’s Book Press, 2001. ISBN 0-89239-165-0. $16.95. 

More info:

2001 Americas Award for Latin American Literature
Skipping Stones Honor Award for Multicultural Literature
IPPY Award for Multicultural Fiction for Juveniles

A Movie in My Pillow is a picture book of children’s bilingual poetry. It describes the author’s memories of when he left El Salvador as a young boy with his father during its civil war and moved to San Francisco’s Mission District. Jorgito’s movie, or collection of dreams, is recalled in emotional poems about the people and places he left behind, as well the adventures he has discovered in his new city.

The languages included in this book are Spanish and English. It is a translation from Spanish into English. All of the poems are in both English and Spanish and are displayed either side by side or above and below each other on each page. English/Spanish biliterate readers will be able to tell that the book is very well translated and has accurate usage of words. It was translated by the author himself, which means he has the language, regional, and cultural background from his native El Salvador.

The text of each language seems to be equally present on every page and of equal importance in the telling of the story. The font style seems almost childlike and friendly as well as clear. Every word, line, and paragraph is visible among the various illustrations, and they are easy to read on the pages because they are spaced apart and positioned well.

While there is no slang or jargon in this book, but there is some non-standard vocabulary that language learners might not know or recognize. There is no formal glossary within the book, but there are small notes next to and beneath the poems to explain potentially unfamiliar words to readers.

The vibrant paintings on every page really help bring the author’s story to life with bold bright colors covering every inch of the book. Because the drawings are so detailed, they may help readers boost their comprehension of abstract concepts and better explain what it is like to live in two different countries. I did not find any obvious elements of rhyme or rhythm used in the poems, but the author does use repetition, which supports language acquisition.

The writing style of the author is very imaginative and full of emotion. His heartfelt confessions about the things he misses from El Salvador and the joyful confusion he feels in San Francisco will make any reader empathize with being homesick.

The artwork is vivid and makes you feel as though you’re watching Jorgito’s movie with him. Geography, world cuisines, and indigenous languages are just a few of the social studies themes that are present in this wonderful children’s book.

I would use this bilingual book to support language acquisition by reading it first in one language (the child’s primary language), and then in the second language. This gives the student the opportunity to hear both versions and transfer their skills in the second language. Having the dual language text side by side also helps them access the translations more easily.

Some other books by Jorge Argueta include Sopa de Frijoles, Alfredito Flies Home, Moony Luna, La Gallinita En La Cuidad, The Fiesta of the Tortillas, Talking with Mother Earth, Trees Are Hanging from the Sky, Zipitio, and Xochitl and the Flowers. I would without a doubt recommend this book. It would be a great resource to include in a bilingual library collection or for dual language learners. It would especially be of interest to immigrant students or young readers from El Salvador.

Reviewed by Caroline Rubio Jacobs

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.

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.

FRIDA by Jonah Winter (2nd Review)

Winter, Jonah. Frida. Illustrated by Ana Juan. New York: Arthur A. Levine Books, 2002 ISBN 0-439-37308-5. $16.95

See another review of Frida on this site here.

This book chronicles the life of famous Mexican painter Frida Kahlo and gives the reader a lovely overview of Frida’s daily adventures within her own imagination. Through its vivid imagery and lovely illustration, this book promotes the exploration of students' own imaginations and can promote lively descriptions of the details found within the book's imagery and language. I strongly recommend this book for a teacher who has an appreciation of cultural differences in language and who wishes to artistically inspire her students.

The story recalls the tragic events in Frida’s life, from the separation of her parents to her battle with polio and her years confined to a bed because of it. This story takes place in Mexico City, and the tone of the story relays a beautiful feeling of hope and wonder. This may be difficult for young children to grasp, but I feel could be useful in conversations discussing empathy and compassion. This book is most likely best suited for a read aloud, though, because the text on some pages is embedded within the imagery and can be difficult for students to read on their own. The actual letters of the text are also artistically stylized, which could present difficulty for younger readers.

There are a number of ways one could use this book in the classroom to fuel students' creative writing. Students could do a sensory writing activity while focusing on just one the pages and writing short phrases or ideas each relating to the five senses. Students could also practice persuasive academic language by becoming artistic critics of the illustrations and learning to support their ideas using facts and opinions. Students could also write journal responses on how they speculate Frida could be feeling at any given moment in the story. There are myriad ways students could respond to this text, but all of them come from the wonderful introduction provided by this book to an artist known around the world: Frida Kahlo.

Reviewed by Jazmin Newman

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.