June 24, 2016

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Book CoversTHIS MONTH WE’LL BE TAKING A LOOK AT materials that can be used in a number of ways, but primarily in toddler and preschool storytimes: collections of rhymes, counting books, jokes and riddles, poetry, stories for infants and toddlers, and a couple of classic picture books. Planning storytimes requires a constant search for material, not just for books to share, but for bits and pieces to use between the stories. Librarians need to be armed with poems, fingerplays, songs, and activities to keep children actively involved throughout the program. This month there are two new books that should be immediate purchases for your bilingual storytime arsenal.

CANETTI, Yanitzia. Uno Dos Tres: My First Spanish Rhymes. illus. by Patrice Aggs. w/CD. Frances Lincoln. 2012. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-1-84780-193-7.
This is an outstanding and indispensable volume and one of those special books that is truly a gift to librarians. Canetti has selected the most popular versions of rhymes from around the Spanish-speaking world. She has organized them into thematic sections that reflect activities that transcend cultural barriers, such as traveling, going to the country or a farm, studying, playing, eating and sleeping. In the body of the text the rhymes are presented in Spanish only, though as a help to non-Spanish speakers, some of the key words are labeled in the illustrations. All of the popular, well-known rhymes are here, including “De colores,” “Los pollitos dicen,” and “Yo tenía diez perritos.” Also very helpful are the English translations, explanations, and background information given on the back endpapers. (The bad news is that typical library processing with the book jacket will cause you to lose some of this information.) On the CD, the selections are spoken and, in some cases, sung. This is marvelous for non-Spanish speakers, as you can hear the pronunciation, and even learn the tunes that go along with the rhymes.

RUESGA, Rita Rosa. La piñata/The Piñata. illus. by Soledad Sebastian. Scholastic. 2012. pap. $5.99. ISBN 978-0545-41995-6.
This book is a selection of traditional Spanish songs. A number of elements make it eminently useful. First, English translations are provided for the Spanish lyrics. Musical notation is provided for each song. Each pick includes a brief bilingual explanation of its background and origin. The illustrations are highly appealing and complement the piece. There are some well-known songs here, such as “Las mañanitas,” “La cucaracha,” and the lullaby “Arrorró mi niño” along with some more unfamiliar tunes that you’ll want to learn and incorporate in upcoming programs.

Concept Books

Book CoversWEILL, Cynthia. Count Me In! A Parade of Mexican Folk Art Numbers in English and Spanish. illus by the Aguilar Sisters. Cinco Puntos. 2012. Tr $14.95. ISBN 978-1-935955-39-9.
Photos of clay figures created by the Aguilar sisters from the state of Oaxaca, Mexico grace this fine bilingual counting book. Its conceit is that all of the figures are in a parade, led by a man with a balloon. The element of the folk-art aesthetic makes this an ideal title to use to teach numbers, while celebrating Mexican cultural heritage at the same time. The figures themselves are beautiful, creative, and sometimes whimsical, such as the giants maneuvered by a person wearing the costume who can be seen peeking through from inside.

MARTIN, Bill, Jr. & John Archambault. Chica Chica Bum Bum. illus. by Lois Ehlert. S & S. Libros Para Niños. 2011. BD $6.99. ISBN 978-1-4424-2292-6.
It’s amazing that the first Spanish-language edition of this classic alphabet book has only just recently appeared. The English text has been lovingly translated into Spanish, with its own rhyme scheme that meshes perfectly with the Spanish pronunciation of each letter, and even the letter ñ, unique to its alphabet, is included. To share this board book with a larger group, you might consider scanning the pages to a PDF file, and then use an iPad connected to a projector to show the book on a large screen.

SCARRY, Richard. Richard Scarry’s Best Counting Book Ever/El mejor libro para contar de Richard Scarry. ISBN 0-87358-876-2.
–––– . Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever/El mejor libro de palabras de Richard Scarry. ISBN 0-87358-874-6.
ea vol: 2004. Luna Rising. Tr $8.95.
It is wonderful to have these classics back in print as bilingual books. Best Counting Book Ever takes children from 1 to 20, and then by 10s to 100. The book is framed by the story of Willy Bunny, who has no one to play with. His father tells him to practice counting, and to come back that night and tell him all the things he has counted. While it is probably too long for reading in a single storytime, individual pages could be ideal for counting and identifying objects and animals in Spanish and then English or vice versa. The same thing can be done with Best Word Book Ever. Each page has objects and characters based on different topics such as the playground, a farm, an airport. If you were doing a storytime based on a food theme, for example, you could use the mealtime page and have kids identify different foods. The large format is also enormously helpful for use with groups.

MEMBRILLAS, Sergio. Good Morning/Buenos días. ISBN 978-849-29-6817-6.
–––– . Good Night/Buenas noches. ISBN 978-849-29-6818-3.
ea vol: Bilingual Readers. 2012. BD $8.95.
PreS–These two board books are wonderful discoveries, first because they are from a relatively new publisher. Secondly, these are the kind of quality bilingual board books that we’ve all been looking for. They are perfect for babies and toddlers. In the first book, a child says good morning to various things in her world, including the books on the bookshelf, and ends by saying, “Good morning, baby,” as she looks in the mirror. Good Night follows the same pattern, with some very lovely choices such as having the child say goodnight to Mr. Owl. What makes these books special is the excellent design and the quality of the illustrations, which use a limited color palette, but have just the right level of stylization for young readers. If you have bilingual parents who are bringing their children to your lapsit or toddler times, they need to see these titles. Bilingual Readers has two websites, one in Spanish: bilingualreaders.es and another in English: bilingualreaders.com

TULLET, Hervé. Presiona aqui. Chronicle. 2012. Tr $15.99. ISBN 978-1-4521-1287-9.
PreS-Gr 2–Originally appearing in French and subsequently translated into English to great success, Press Here is now available in Spanish. It is an interactive title that uses simple colored dots and a text that instructs readers to touch and manipulate the pages accordingly. With each page turn, a transformation is accompanied by new instructions. There are even directive to tip the book, and of course, all the dots go to one side of the page. This book is absolutely delightful. It takes the trend of interactive electronic books and takes it back to the book itself. When using it in storytime, you might have each child take a turn following the instructions on a page. Much laughter and merriment will ensue.

The following two books are among my all-time favorites for bilingual storytimes.

SASTRÍAS, Martha. Queta la vaca coqueta. illus. by Enrique Martínez. Fondo de Cultura Económica. 1999. RTE $13.99. ISBN 968-16-5757-6.
PreS-Gr 2–Queta is a vain cow who loses a tooth and her tail. A dog comes along and tries to help her. He gives her a rat’s tail but soon a greedy cat comes along and takes it, and Queta is forced to be the way she is. The illustrations are very funning and exaggerated, particularly two full-page spreads, one with Queta’s body spread out like a carpet, and another showing her face with the missing tooth stretched out across the spread.

SASTRÍAS, Martha. El sapo que no quería comer. illus. by Enrique Martínez. Fondo de Cultura Económica. 1998. RTE $13.99. ISBN 968-16-5758-8.
PreS-Gr 2–The frog king has traveled a long distance to attend the spring festival hosted by the turtle queen. Each day she serves the frog king a dish that he does not want to eat. Doctors and specialists examine him, but can find nothing wrong. Finally, a doctor arrives who realizes that the frog king hasn’t eaten because he was too timid to say that his diet consists soley of insects. This would work well in storytime paired with the Spanish translation of Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and HamHuevos verdes con jamón.

Jokes and Riddles

I’ve always felt that it was important to integrate jokes, riddles, and poetry in Spanish into bilingual storytimes so that kids can hear the beauty of the language spoken aloud. Here are several titles that can provide some material to spice up your storytimes.

CUADRADO, Rafael Ordóñez. Un buen rato con cada plato. illus. by Susana Fernández Igual. Alfaguara Infantil. 2011. Tr $11.95. ISBN 978-970-770-785-6.
This book is a series of poems that are riddles, and the answer to each one is a type of food. The last word of each poem is left out, and is the answer to the riddle, but since the poems rhyme, children have a good hint as to what the answer might be. For example, the poem for which the answer to the riddle is “chocolate” (think of the Spanish pronunciation which is Cho-co-LA-te) ends with the following lines: “Claro que no es tomate/porque es el___.” Cuadrado divides his poem-riddles into sections on breakfast, lunch, party food, and a late night cena. If you use this in a storytime, bring some of the actual food mentioned to pull out from a box or some other hiding place once the kids have guessed the riddle, or to give them the answer if they’re stymied. Then you can eat when you’re done!

LOME, Emilio Ángel. Lotería de adivinanzas. illus. by Enrique Martinez. Alfaguara Infantil. 1999. Tr $6.95. ISBN 978-968-19-0663-4.
These are very simple four-line riddles, and the answer is given just below, with the text upside-down. Because the illustrations make the answers pretty clear, this is probably best used as a resource for little breaks between stories. You might chose riddles for which the answer is something that goes along with the topic of your storytime. Most of the selections are about common things, such as eyes, shoes, or the moon, the wind, and the sea.

Book CoversChistes para niños y niñas. illus. by Florencia Cafferata. Susaeta. Todolibro Ediciones. 2011. Tr $9.95. ISBN 978-849-91-3081-1.
This book of jokes is enlivened by delightfully silly illustrations reminiscent of Lane Smith’s work. There are a number of punss in rhyme that are the Spanish equivalent of the classic exchange: “He was so thin.” “How thin was he?” “He was so thin that…” Some jokes are based on the double meanings of Spanish words: One little fish said to the other, “What does your father do?” The answer is “nada,” which means both “nothing” and “he swims.” The illustrations place the jokes in a larger context. There are a couple of caveats when using this book. A couple of the entries might not be deemed appropriate for young audiences. Also, the Spanish origin is apparent in the fact that some of the jokes utilize the “os” form of formal address which may not be familiar to Spanish-speaking children in the United States. However, this is still a good source of material.


The following two books are for slightly older readers than the storytime crowd. They could be used in after-school programs for the 8-11 year-old set as inspiration for their own writing. However, with some adaptation, particularly with the haikus, they could be shared with a preschool audience.

SHUA, Ana María. Las cosas que odio y otras exageraciones. illus. by Jorge Sanzol. Alfagurara Infantil. 1998. Tr $9.95. ISBN 978-970-770-132-8.
Gr 5 Up–This title contains a series of poems written in a child’s voice about the things that she or he truly hates. The selections exaggerate some of these dislikes, allowing children to laugh about them as well. The topics include things that are annoying to kids of any culture, country, or language, such as getting you haircut, taking a bath (especially if the water is cold), cleaning one’s room, or getting up early. One particularly fun poem is about scary clowns that ruin circuses and birthday parties for a youngster. After sharing one of these spirited selections, you could ask listeners what they truly dislike, and they could perhaps even write a poem of their own.

Basho, Matsuo, et al. Al viento: Antología de haikús. illus. Gerado Suzán. Alfaguara Infantil. 2008. Tr $6.95. ISBN 978-970-58-0204-1.
Gr 3 Up–This is a lovely anthology of haiku poetry by multiple authors translated into Spanish. It is a perfect introduction to the form for Spanish-speaking readers, and with a little explanation, could provide examples for kids to create their own haikus.

Tim WadhamTim Wadham is the director of the City of Puyallup Public Library in Washington State. Email him at wadhambooks@gmail.com.

Tim Wadham About Tim Wadham

Tim Wadham (wadhambooks@gmail.com) is a library administrator and the author of Wordplay for Kids (ALA Editions, 2015).

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