Category Archives: .Bilingual

Mi Familia Calaca | My Skeleton Family by Cynthia Weill, illustrated by Jesús Canseco Zárate

Mi Famlia CalacaCheck out this fabulous overview in today’s New York Times highlighting what real American families look like these days: “Families.” Be sure to scroll through all the imbedded slide shows – you know what they say about pictures and words.

Inspired by all different types of family permutations, the timing seems perfect to share this rather nontraditional one in which the lively members are  … well … maybe not so alive anymore. But don’t fret! Family ties are forever, right?

“In Mexico the skeleton is a beloved and humorous figure. Its origins go back to pre-Columbian times,” explains author and educator Cynthia Weill whose many books celebrate “folk arts from around the world.” Her last title, Count Me In!, highlighted her artistic Oaxacan connections. Those Oaxacan discoveries continue with her latest collaborator, Jesús Canseco Zárate, who spent a month each in bringing these well-dressed, modly-heeled, always grinning sets of bones to life by hand, creating quite the homage to “Mexico’s long history of paper mache or cartonería.

Meet Anita, the rosy-cheeked, red-ribboned, Mary-Janed “big sister,” who will be your guide to her extended family … in both English and Spanish, too! We’re all global citizens, after all. Her brother Miguel, she insists, is “a brat,” but baby Juanito is “so cute!” Her parents “are the greatest,” and her grandparents, “the best.” Her great-grandmother – have walker, will travel! – “tells wonderful stories.” The puppy and kitty make the “wonderful family” complete. Quite the family portrait indeed!

For the youngest readers not yet traumatized by too many dystopic zombies, Anita’s “maravillosa familia” introduces just the right holiday sentiments: this is Turkey week when loved ones gather, and the winter cheer is right around the corner. As scattered siblings and multi-generations gather, here’s an entertaining, uniquely illustrated way to teach the kiddies about some of those neverending family connections.

Readers: Children

Published: 2013

Leave a comment

Filed under ..Children/Picture Books, .Bilingual, .Fiction, .Translation, Latino/a, Nonethnic-specific

Marisol McDonald and the Clash Bash | Marisol McDonald y la fiesta sin igual by Monica Brown, illustrated by Sara Palacios, Spanish translation by Adriana Domínguez

Marison McDonald and the Clash BashIn case you need an introduction to the “unique, different, and one of a kind” Marisol McDonald, check out her 2011 debut here: Marisol McDonald Doesn’t MatchNow that she’s starring in her second book, I hope that means Marisol’s got her own series going, so we can look forward to more of her irrepressible, energetic adventures from award-winning author Monica Brown and her co-conspirator illustrator Sara Palacios.

Marisol is turning 8 – “which rhymes with ‘great,’ no less! – and she “just know[s] [her] birthday will be fabulous, marvelous, and divine.” Marisol’s only birthday wish, though, has nothing to do with princesses, unicorns, or even pirates. Marisol just wants to see her grandmother who lives far away in Peru. Two long years is too long to be separated from “Abuelita’s smiling face.” Alas, not only is the plane ticket expensive, but as Marisol’s mother explains, a visit entails getting the right papeles – visas. “I don’t understand,” Marisol wonders. “Why does Abuelita need papers to see her own family who miss her so much?” Why indeed?!

As her birthday quickly approaches, Marisol prepares for her celebration by making “a unique, different, one-of-a-kind invitation” for each of her friends. She welcomes them with delighted glee when they arrive in mismatched costumes. “Welcome to my Clash Bash birthday party,” she tells her friends as she “show[s] off [her] soccer-player-pirate-princess-unicorn self.”

As she’s about to enjoy her birthday cake, her parents pull her into the study … where they’ve prepared a most unexpected surprise. Abuelita might not have been able to deliver birthday hugs in person, but technology gifts Marisol the next best alternative. Certainly can’t call Abuelita a Luddite!

Brown, who is herself “the bilingual daughter of a North American father and a South American mother” – hence the dual English/Spanish text on these pages – draws on her own experiences: “Like Marisol, my family was spread across two continents, and like Marisol, I missed my family dearly,” she writes in her ending “Author’s Note.” Brown shares how her mother surprised the family by using her first real estate commission to fly her Abuelito from Peru to the U.S. for a longed-for reunion. “This book celebrates a family’s love, all that is unique about each of us, and all that is still left to discover.” Here’s hoping Marisol’s unique series continues to offer many more gleeful discoveries indeed!

Readers: Children

Published: 2013

Leave a comment

Filed under ..Children/Picture Books, .Bilingual, .Fiction, Hapa, Latino/a, South American

Don’t Say a Word, Mamá | No digas nada, Mamá by Joe Hayes, illustrated by Esau Andrade Valencia

Don't Say a WordTwo sisters are always so kind, helpful, and nurturing that they make their Mamá feel like she’s “‘the luckiest mother in the whole wide world!’” Rosa grows up to marry and have three children; she lives just down the street from Mamá. Blanca chooses the single life, and lives just up the street from them both.

One year, each sister plants a garden. Of course, each sister plans to share her bounty with the other. In the dark of night, one sister delivers tomatoes to the other, while the other sister does the same. Neither notices the other. Both sisters naturally stop to share with their mother, each asking that Mamá keep the deliveries a secret: “.. it will be a surprise. Don’t say a word, Mamá.’”

When each sister discovers her undiminished bounty in the morning, each decides to share more with Mamá. For awhile, Mamá appreciates all the plump tomatoes, and then later the golden ripe corn. But when she receives an overabundance of chiles, she decides it’s high time to reveal her thoughtful daughters’ secret exchanges. Banging her posole pot one evening, Mamá declares, “‘I promised you both I wouldn’t say a word, but I had to do something … [W]hat was I going to do with all those hot chiles!’” Sharing laughter and goodness, she rejoices once again that she’s “‘the luckiest mama in the whole wide world!’”

Joe Hayes, best known as a storyteller of American Southwest folklore who has sold over a million copies of his books (!), adds to his long list of bilingual titles from Texas boutique publisher, Cinco Puntos Press [" ... we specialize in publishing bilingual children's books. We love bilingual books because they mirror the incredible place where we live"]. Mamá is Hayes’ first collaboration with Mexican artist Esau Andrade Valencia, who works in saturated, rich hues that emphasize and enhance the depth of love, caring, and commitment the sisters have to each other and to their Mamá. His brush presents tomatoes so tantalizing, corn so sweet, and chiles so peppery, as to make the taste buds salivate from memories of a perfect Sinaloan posole! Join Hayes and Valencia for this delicious fare that’s both nourishing for the grumbling belly … and the hungry soul.

Readers: Children

Published: 2013

Leave a comment

Filed under ..Children/Picture Books, .Bilingual, .Fiction, Latino/a

I See the Sun in Myanmar (Burma) by Dedie King, illustrated by Judith Inglese, translation by PawSHtoo B. Jindakajornsri for the University of Massachusetts Translation Center

I See the Sun in MyanmarWelcome to Myanmar, the latest stopover in the bilingual I See the Sun series from internationally-minded boutique press Satya House. This sixth installment again reinforces the series’ focus: as diverse as children’s lives might be in the details, their basic needs for family, nourishment, health, and happiness are the same throughout the world.

Recognized until recently as Burma, Myanmar’s long, devastating history of British colonialism, Japanese wartime control, civil wars, and military occupations has left a country in need of expansive rebuilding. Myanmar is also home to one of the world’s most beloved activists, the 1991 Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who endured two decades of house arrest.

How appropriate, then, to choose a young girl here who begins and ends her day with prayers for peace: “May all beings live with ease …,” she repeats as part of the “loving-kindness chant” that is metta, a Buddhist concept of “planting the seeds of compassion in one’s heart by saying phrases of loving kindness to those around us.” Aye Aye lives near the famed Irrawaddy River, where her father and brother will spend the day fishing. At home, she breakfasts with her mother and grandmother, then shares their meal with the monks who appear outside. She accompanies her mother to the local hospital where her mother is a nurse – clearly this is 21st-century family, as the mother has a modern career, while the fisherman father practices the more traditional trade!

After lunch, Aye Aye plays with a friend before helping to serve tea to a visiting guest. Evening welcomes her father and brother home, when the family can enjoy their evening meal and later a prayer before drifting off to sleep.

Although Aye Aye’s family is blessed with a peaceful life, author Dedie King does not ignore the possible dangers beyond the village: worry is not far from the everyday life of the afternoon visitor whose son “lives far away in the big city.” The context-rich “About Myanmar (Burma)” at book’s end provides further insight into the country’s violent past with a glimpse at some of the current challenges as it transitions toward a fledgling democracy.

The concept of metta, regardless of religious affiliations or backgrounds, is an idea we can all heed. Just as Aye Aye repeats the words throughout her day, we might learn to do the same. No harm, only hope – and loving-kindness, too:

May I/you be safe.
May I/you be happy and peaceful.
May I/you be healthy and strong.
May I/you live with ease.

Readers: Children

Published: 2013

Leave a comment

Filed under ..Children/Picture Books, .Bilingual, .Fiction, .Translation, Burmese, Nonethnic-specific

I See the Sun in Russia by Dedie King, illustrated by Judith Inglese, translation by Irina Ossapova

I See the Sun in RussiaYoung Anton of Saint Petersburg, Russia begins and ends his day with music … he wakes remembering the notes of the ballet Swan Lake which he saw the night before, and drifts off to sleep that evening as his grandmother plays another Swan song at the family’s piano.

Music dominates Anton’s life, from the specialized music school he attends, to his violin lessons followed by his violin ensemble practice, to his mini-performance for his appreciative grandmother after dinner. In between, he visits the legendary Hermitage Museum with his class, helps his mother pick up a few groceries on the way home from school, plays soccer in the hall with a friend, and enjoys dinner with his family.

Anton’s story is somewhat of a departure from the other girls and boys who populate the expanding around-the-world, bilingual I See the Sun series from New England boutique press Satya House Publications: compared to his series’ counterparts, Anton is perhaps the most privileged. While “his parents work long days to provide for their family,” they have access to cultural luxuries that the series’ other children thus far have not, including visits to the ballet and opera, musical instruments at home, even a dacha – a “small country cabin … where they can relax on weekends and vacations in the summer.”

As with the series’ other titles, Russia concludes with a thorough contextual afterword; this one offers a cultural overview of Saint Petersburg, with an emphasis on the arts as a “powerful force.” When the going gets tough, especially in our Stateside schools, arts and music programs usually become the first victims of funding cuts. Anton’s life proves to be a subtle, cross-cultural reminder from the other side of the world to invest in making beautiful music together, with and for our children.

Readers: Children

Published: 2012

Leave a comment

Filed under ..Children/Picture Books, .Bilingual, .Fiction, Nonethnic-specific, Russian

I See the Sun in Mexico | Veo el Sol en México by Dedie King, illustrated by Judith Inglese, translation by Julio Ortiz Manzo

I See the Sun in MexicoBoutique press Satya House Publications continues their around-the-world cultural tour in their bilingual I See the Sun series with a first Latin American stop. Young Luis excitedly prepares to join his Papa on the tourist excursion boat on which his father works as the cook. On his way to the pier after a favorite breakfast of eggs and tortilla as only his Mama can make, Luis stops by the local market to pick up fresh fruits and vegetables for his father.

Luis sets off into the Sea of Cortez on the good ship Don Jose, helping his father serve lunch, then assisting the tourists with masks and snorkels as they explore the vibrant seas. He swims, then later joins the guests on an afternoon hike on one of the many islands. The evening ends with another made-by-Papa delicious meal, with music provided by his father’s assistant Pablo. Once the guests are settled in their cabins, Luis lies in his father’s arms under sparkling stars: “The boat is like our own island floating between the two bowls of ocean and sky, one shimmering with life and the other with light.”

The book’s dynamic duo of author Dedie King and artist Judith Inglese explain in an afterword at adventure’s end that they “chose to place the story in La Paz because it is not totally dependent on tourism and has a vibrant middle-class Mexican population.” That said, “La Paz is an eco-tourism center of Baja and many citizens here work to preserve the pristine environment.” Luis and his young contemporaries are already part of a global village: they can navigate comfortably between both local and outside worlds, riding the pesero (the local mini-bus) and bargaining at the markets, while helping to provide a unique experience for the many tourists who arrive to enjoy the beckoning coastal town.

Care to join in? The Don Jose is part of real-life La Paz-based Baja Expeditions‘ fleet, touted as “the world’s leader in eco-adventures to Baja.” The almost-40-year old company gets a literal nod of approval at title’s end. Anchors aweigh … and who knows, you just might find Luis, Papa, and Pablo on board!

Readers: Children

Published: 2012

Leave a comment

Filed under ..Children/Picture Books, .Bilingual, .Fiction, .Translation, Latin American, Nonethnic-specific

Birdie Flies Away | Pararillo se va volando by Kat Aragon, illustrated by Andrea Yomtob

Billed as “the nation’s only bilingual children’s book publisher dedicated to Parent Involvement,” Lectura Books is actively working to change some startling statistics: One in four children under age 5 is Hispanic/Latino, but according to the Department of Education, whose who identify as Hispanic or Latino have the lowest educational attainment in the United States.

Literacy, of course, is paramount to easing the path to achievement, and the folks at Lectura Books are well aware that both parents and children need to be working together. To encourage generational involvement, Lectura presents five new titles in May (tomorrow, already!), that offer easy-to-read stories in both English and Spanish on the same page. “Reading bilingual books is one of the most effective ways to acquire transferable literacy skills,” explains Lectura publisher Katherine Del Monte on the company’s website. “Bilingual books are a win-win situation for parents, children and schools.”

Of the upcoming new titles, Birdie Flies Away, is a personal favorite for its adorable story of can-do independence, regardless of size, but even more so because of its enchanting illustrations by Andrea Yomtob. A little girl keeps a regular watch on a family of birds from her window – Mama, Papa, and their four babies. As each of the little birds grow, one by one, they set out to test their wings … but always come back to the nest. Only baby Birdie stays nest-bound, perfectly happy to remain warm and coddled. But even he eventually will make the great leap …

Yomtob distinguishes each of the birds with unique little details – from feather-bows to tiny little spectacles, to a ladybug buddy who never goes far. Mama and Papa are delightfully comical, perched on the branch together, ready with maps and binoculars literally searching high and low for their avian offspring. Kudos indeed to Yomtob for creating such birdie personalities that jump off the page, making the reading adventure that much more entertaining.

One tiny detail that needs correcting: page 22 has a typo in ‘binoculars,’ but hopefully many editions are in the publisher’s future, so an easy fix should be forthcoming.

Readers: Children

Published: 2012

Leave a comment

Filed under ..Children/Picture Books, .Bilingual, .Fiction, Latino/a

Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match | Marisol McDonald no combina by Monica Brown, illustrated by Sara Palacios, Spanish translation by Adriana Domínguez

With prolonged bleak skies across the East Coast thanks to Katia, Lee, and incoming Nate (not to mention recovery from Irene), Marisol McDonald is one brilliant, rambunctious, delightful diversion.

“My name is Marisol McDonald, and I don’t match,” the flame-haired, brown-skinned, fearless, Peruvian Scottish American little girl announces. Her brother points out how her clothes clash, but Marisol loves wearing her green polka dots and purple stripes together. She prefers peanut butter and jelly burritos, and she’s proud to speak Spanish, English, and sometimes both at the same time. When her friends can’t agree on playing pirates or playing soccer, Marisol suggests “soccer-playing pirates,” but her friends seems to lack her limitless imagination.

When her buddy Ollie challenges her with “‘Marisol, you couldn’t match if you wanted to!’” Marisol’s response is something akin to ‘bring it on.’ The next day, she dons an all-orange ensemble, plays pirates at recess (grumbling about why pirates can’t play soccer, too), eats her peanut butter and jelly on mushy bread, and even does some “boring” art. Noticing Marisol’s less-than-sparkling-self, her teacher hands Marisol a special note reminding her that she’s “simply marvelous” just the way she is. She also signs her full name: Ms. Tamiko Apple. Hapas unite!

By the time Marisol has skipped home, she’s back to being the uniquely mismatched and marvelous Marisol McDonald …

Award-winning author Monica Brown – whose extended family is Peruvian, Spanish, Scottish, Italian, Jewish, Nicaraguan, Mexican, Chilean, and African! – revels in every child’s individuality, turning her own experiences of being told she and her cousins “don’t match” into this infectiously engaging, empowering celebration. Illustrator Sara Palacios gleefully infuses Marisol with constant movement (her pigtails an indicator of her happiness level), her room filled with creative clutter, her clothing an especially eye-popping reflection of Marisol’s irrepressible energy.

As the kiddies head back to school, Marisol McDonald is a ‘simply marvelous’ book to sneak into their packs … and share with their libraries, as well. That’s not just a hint, that’s an order!

Readers: Children

Published: 2011

Leave a comment

Filed under ..Children/Picture Books, .Bilingual, .Fiction, Hapa, Latino/a, South American

I See the Sun in Afghanistan by Dedie King, illustrated by Judith Inglese, translation by Mohd Vahidi

The quickly growing I See the Sun series continues with the third installment (following I See the Sun in China and I See the Sun in Nepal), this time heading to Bamiyan in central Afghanistan. Young Habiba begins her day in the dark as her mother gently wakes her to fetch water. After breakfast, Habiba follows her father and younger brother out towards the pasture, then heads to school for the morning. On her way home, she peeks in on her “strong and wise” father who is meeting with village elders in the local mosque. After working in the garden and in the home, she’ll go watch the sheep while her brother takes his turn going to school in the afternoon.

Habiba’s young life is not without difficult reminders of unpredictable violence. Her uncle next door is a former soldier and amputee: Mixed in with exciting stories he tells, “[s]ometimes he gets sad thinking of all the changes he has seen.” The household grows when extended family arrive as they “have lost their house because of the war.” Habiba wonders, “How can so many people live together in a small house?” but after sharing a delicious meal, calming prayers, and even “a BBC broadcast in Dari,” Habibi realizes, “I don’t need to worry. We will share what we have with our cousins as they would with us. Our cousins are family. Our family is strong.”

Like the previous two Sun stories, this volume is bilingual, in both English and in Dari (Pashto and Dari are the official languages of Afghanistan); also as with the other two, this Sun includes a helpful glossary and additional notes. The ancient city of Bamiyan, once a multicultural stopover on the Silk Road, made international headlines in 2001 when two giant Buddha sculptures – the world’s largest examples of standing Buddhas – were destroyed by the Taliban in March 2001. Today Bamiyan is considered one of the few safe areas in the country.

Young Habiba is named in honor of Bamiyan’s governor, Habiba Sarabi, who is Afghanistan’s first and only woman governor. While her country remains in tumultuous flux, Habiba’s story, albeit fictional, reflects very real growing signs of hope around her – family, safety, education, access to enough food and clean water. Undoubtedly, everyday life remains challenging, but as the moon rises and Habiba drifts towards to sleep, her final thought of the day is “I am happy to be right here.” We should all so content.

Tidbit: How’s this for some fortuitous timing … Dear Zari: Hidden Stories from Women of Afghanistan by Zarghuna Kargar is a recent title released in the UK this year (hopefully a US pub date is coming soon), which grew out of an influential BBC World Service Program based in Afghanistan. Perhaps Habiba’s family occasionally tuned into the “Afghan Women’s Hour,” hoping, planning for ways their daughters will have strong, independent, equitable futures.

Readers: Children

Published: 2011

Leave a comment

Filed under ..Children/Picture Books, .Bilingual, .Fiction, Afghan, Nonethnic-specific

My Colors, My World | Mis colores, mi mundo by Maya Christina Gonzalez

Chunky little fingers deserve bright, saturated colors to hold and giggle over, to learn little lessons from … and how about in bonus bilingual presentation? Maya Christina Gonzalez’s already-award winning, bestselling book of many colors gets a gorgeous little makeover for the youngest readers-to-be.

Amidst the squishy brown mud, orange marigolds and purple blossoms flourish in the bountiful garden where a little girl plays. She swings in her red swing as she waits to hug her Papi, pulling herself close to his shiny black hair as her mother waits for them both with an open front door, Safe in her parents warmth, the little girl watches as the pink sun sets. and the blue velvety sky comes down to whisper a soft goodnight.

Ah, if only all our days could be so vibrant and peaceful both  …!

Readers: Children

Published: 2007, 2011 (board book edition)

1 Comment

Filed under ..Children/Picture Books, .Bilingual, .Fiction, Latino/a