Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Bilingual books and books in Spanish for children

As the holidays draw near, some of my friends have asked me about books in Spanish or bilingual English-Spanish books that are suitable for children. It is always hard to find good books that fall into that category so I have spent the last few weeks browsing the catalogs of various library systems here in the Denver metro area to see what I could find. Here I will highlight some of the better ones that I found.

Elephant and Piggie are always hilarious, heartwarming and tender (sometimes on one page) and I was glad to see that this transferred into Spanish. Debo Compartir Mi Helado by Mo Willems centers around Gerald the Elephant's hardest decision ever- whether or not he should share his ice cream.

What if there was a cute dog who was made even cuter when he put on a sombrero and then lived the most fantastic life imaginable? That is the premise of Derek Taylor Kent's El Perro con Sombrero: A Bilingual Doggy Tale. Pepe is adorable but just when he thinks he has it made in the shade he has to look out for the age old enemy of dogs- cats. This is a really fun book that is very family-oriented and culturally appropriate as well.

René Saldaña Jr is the author of books such as and in this  book, Dale, dale, dale, Una fiesta de números we are transported to a birthday party that could be taking place in any Spanish-speaking country (or in anyone of a thousand barrios across the U.S. for that matter) and at the end of the book we see the kids getting to crack open the pinata. What fun!

Another counting book that also manages to incorporate the cultural phenomenon known as lucha libre is written and illustrated by Xavier Garza and is called The Great and Mighty Nikko. In it a young boy imagines that his toys are real life luchadores and he then goes on to count them as they tussle with each other much to his mom's chagrin. The illustrations in this book arent the most professional but they lend a certain charm to it. It is a bilingual book so there is the Spanish and English text side by side.

At times I feel that the beauty of curly or kinky hair is not as appreciated as it should be and so I was happy to see a book called Dalia's Wonderful Hair /El cabello maravilloso de Dalia by Laura Lacamara. This traces the adventures of a young Cuban girl whose hair magically sprouts one night attracting a plethora of insects and other creatures. This book is as much a Cuban Alice in Wonderland as it is an ode to the beautiful land of Cuba and a celebration of the unique cultural heritage of Cubans and by extension Latinos.

This next book is perhaps better suited as a read aloud in a classroom or for a parent or caregiver to read to a little one.  Franciscos' Kites/Las cometas de Francisco by Alicia Z. Klepeis  is a story about missing home, moving away and is a book that can help a child deal with moving away from people and places that they love.  Other themes such as social responsibility and the entrepreneurial spirit are also touched on as well.

Some of these books can be read in story times and read alouds and some of them cannot. Mango, abuela and me by Meg Medina is in the latter category as I think it is a tad bit too long for a story time. It can though be used as part of a lesson to talk abut a variety of topic as it manages to cover topics such as family, migration and language. We see a little girl who lives in a land far way from her grandmother but one day the older lady comes to live with the girl's family and she bonds with her despite them both not having enough language to communicate well.

Adivinanzas con beso para las buenas noches by Sofia Rhei is the first nonfiction read on this list. Riddles are a great way to develop language fluency and these can be read by a parent to a child or by an older child on their own to help practice fluency. These riddles are a great way to teach culture as well.

This last new book by Julie Paschkis is called Flutter & Hum Animal poems and it is one that I like not only because I love introducing kids to poetry but also because unlike a lot of bilingual books the Spanish translations are excellent. (Read the first poem about the snake and you will see for yourself). It also has a gorgeous cover image that just draws you in.

Till, next time, hasta luego!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

House Arrest by K.A. Holt

 Sometimes when a book gains popularity other books written in a similar style are quickly published. With the immense success of last year's The Crossover by Kwame Alexander it is no surprise that House Arrest by K.A. Holt has come to the forefront as it is written in a flowing, free verse style.

We know from the title that the main character Timothy, through whose eyes we see the novel's events, has done something wrong. As I read the book and discovered what exactly he had done I found his tone to be unrepentant and slightly cocky but as the novel progresses I understood why. His overworked mother burns the candle on both ends in order to make ends meet and his baby brother Levi was born with a serious birth defect.  In an attempt to help him deal with his complex emotions and the turmoil in his life, his probation officer James tells him to write his thoughts down in a journal.

Much of the book revolves around the family's search for a good in-home nurse and Timothy's attempts to get a doctor to help with the complicated surgery his little brother needs. This is not the only aspect of the narrative however as Timothy also finds himself developing a crush. His descriptions of the feelings he experiences when in his crush's presence are some of the lighter moments in the book.

This book is a testament to family, friendship and triumph in the face of adversity. A large part of the story revolves around decision making and the consequences of poor decisions. With such a tangled narrative a book like this can have no happy ending and this one does not, however it leaves the door open for future installments. I recommend it for ages 11+.

Some read alikes to this book are My Brotherś Keeper by Patricia McCormick and Fallout by Ellen Hopkins.