Every good children’s librarian is always on the lookout for great material. Whenever you see a picture book, you don’t just read it, you ask yourself, What can I do with it? How can I use this title in a storytime? Is there a theme I can develop? As a newbie librarian, I kept lists of potential themes and books that would fit with them and also work well with a group. Of course, sometimes my themes got pretty esoteric, such as “Animals that crowd into small spaces.” But for me, one of the joys of doing this type of programming is finding books that work perfectly together to create an engaging storytime.
This month I am focusing on Spanish language and bilingual board books, picture books, and collections of songs and rhymes.
There are quite a few board books out there that I wish to highlight. While their size is perfect for one-on-one reading, these titles can also be used for small-group sharing. Bringing quality materials to the attention of new parents and caregivers is just one of the ways that libraries can contribute to early learning programs.
PRINCE, April Jones. Qué hacen las ruedas todo el día?/What Do Wheels Do All Day? tr. from English by Carlos E. Calvo. illus. by Giles Laroche. Houghton Harcourt. 2013. BD $4.99. ISBN 978-0-547-99625-7.
PreS-Gr 1–This is a very simple rhymed text that describes and illustrates the many functions that wheels perform. They help us go places, they win races, they circle and spin. Calvo’s translation is unexpectedly lovely. It scans and rhymes perfectly, and works entirely on its own. The paper cutout illustrations provide a nice sense of reality and dimension to the action.
SCHERTLE,Alice.El camioncito azul. tr. from English by F. Isabel Campoy. illus. by Jill McElmurry. Houghton Harcourt. 2013. BD $7.99. ISBN 978-0-547-98397-4.
PreS-Gr 1–The story is a take on the old Russian folktale “The Giant Turnip.” In this case, a little blue truck is riding along a country road being greeted cheerfully by animals along the way. Then it is sideswiped by a much larger truck that has to get where it is going right away. When the large dump truck gets stuck in the mud, the little blue truck helps it out, but in the process gets stuck itself. The animals come one by one to help push the little blue truck out of the muck, but it is only when the smallest animal, the frog, joins the chain that they are successful. The translation reads aloud very smoothly. The illustrations are perfect for the story, with winding roads and countrysides reminiscent of Virginia Lee Burton’s work.
Activity Ideas: These two books could be paired for a delightful storytime about vehicles. El camioncito azul provides opportunities for audience participation through animal and truck sounds. Qué hacen las ruedas todo el día? gives children the opportunity to point out the different types of vehicles, from motorcycles to baby strollers. El camioncito azul is a terrific story to act out with some impromptu creative dramatization. It could also be paired with a Spanish version of “The Enormous Turnip”: Alexi Tolstoy’s El nabo gigante (Barefoot, 2000).
FOX, Mem. Diez deditos de las manos y diez deditos de los pies/Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes. tr. from English by F. Isabel Campoy. illus by Helen Oxenbury. Houghton Harcourt. 2012. BD $6.99. ISBN 978-0-547-87006-9.
PreS-Gr 1–No matter the place of birth, nationality, race, or color, all little babies share some basic anatomy. Campoy provides a functional Spanish translation, and doesn’t try to force the rhymes. This book is ideal for Spanish-speaking parents to share directly with their infants. Oxenbury’s illustrations remind us why she is considered one of the world’s finest living illustrators.
MUNRO, Fiona, Jo Moon, & Carmen Gil. ¿De quién es esta nariz? Combel Editorial. 2011. BD $11.95. ISBN 978-4-498-25677-2.
PreS-Gr 1–A lift-the-flap book in which children see a detail of a nose and have to guess the animal’s identity. While designed primarily for parent-child sharing, this title can also be used in a storytime, with youngsters taking turns revealing the hidden animals. There are two other books in this series that could work equally as well: ¿De quién es esta cola? (Whose Tail Is This?) and ¿De quién son estas rayas? (Who Do These Stripes Belong To?) (both Combel Editorial, 2012).
THOMPSON, Lauren. Cuaquito. illus. by Derek Anderson. S & S. 2003. BD $7.99. ISBN 978-1-4169-9894-5.
PreS-Gr 1–Here’s a backlist title that would work very well with any books with a counting or animal theme. A translation of Thompson’s Little Quack, it is an absolute delight to read aloud. The Spanish edition provides the little ducklings with perfect rhyming names like Chapucín and Chapuzón. The book allows children to count along in Spanish as the ducklings jump one by one into the water. The littlest duckling, Cuaquito, is hesitant but finally makes it into the water, which should elicit cheers from the storytime crowd.
BROWN, Margaret Wise. El gran granero rojo. illus. by Felicia Bond. HarperCollins/HarperFestival.1996. BD $7.99. ISBN 978-0-060-09107-1.
PreS-Gr 1–Another translation of a popular title that originally appeared in English is this rendition of The Big Red Barn. The Spanish edition is available both in the original hardcover as well as board book formats. The text catalogues all of the numerous animals in the big red barn with a nice rhyme scheme that makes this version flow beautifully when read aloud.
BORN TO READ PROGRAM, San Antonio Public Library Foundation, San Antonio Museum of Art.1, 2, 3, Sí!: a Numbers Book in English and Spanish. 2011. ISBN 978-1-595-34080-1.
–––.Hello, Círculos!: Shapes in English y Español. 2012. ISBN 978-1-595-34140-2.
–––. Colores Everywhere!: Colors in English y Español. 2012. ISBN 978-1-595-34139-6.
ea vol: Design by Madeleine Budnick. photos by Peggy Tenison. Trinity University Press. BD $7.95.
PreS-Gr 1–These titles represent a unique museum/library partnership. Each of these concept books is illustrated with reproductions of artwork from the museum. All of the volumes are impeccably designed. Combining a focus on early literacy with a connection to fine art is absolutely brilliant. Must-haves for all collections.
ARGUETA,Jorge.Tamalitos: un poema para concinar/A Cooking Poem. tr. by Elisa Amado. illus. by Domi. Groundwood. 2013. RTE $18.95. ISBN 978-1-55498-300-1.
PreS-Gr 1–Part recipe, part poem, this book takes readers step-by-step through the creation of corn tamales with cheese filling. What I really like is the way Argueta connects the making of tamales with the indigenous culture of Mexico. In his telling, making tamales becomes a celebratory rite and a near-religious ritual. The Spanish version of the poem is clearly superior, and the English translation, while solid, cannot match the beauty, sound, and cadence of Argueta’s verse. There is no formal recipe, but the text makes the steps of cooking tamales very clear, and the elements of the recipe that require adult supervision (such as turning on the stove) are marked with an asterisk. Domi’s illustrations are colorful and imaginative.
Activity Ideas: Of course, this book would work perfectly with a food-themed storytime, with actual tamales available to eat afterward. The obvious connection is with the previous three cooking poems in this series: Sopa de frijoles/Bean Soup (2009), Arroz con leche/Rice Pudding (2010), Guacamole (2012, all Groundwood).
Each title has a different illustrator, and this might provide some fodder for a compare-and-contrast discussion. Guacamole was previously reviewed in this column, along with another food-themed work, Samantha R. Vamos’s La Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred (Charlesbridge, 2011).
ROMÁN, Celso. Mi papá es mágico. illus. by Alekos. Alfaguara. 2010. pap. $6.95. ISBN 978-607-11-0325-3.
PreS-Gr 2–This is a lovely tribute to a father who takes his child to a park and makes it a magical experience. The child, who is the narrator of the story, simply adores her dad in a way that is totally sincere and heartfelt. This book is in some ways reminiscent of Jules Feiffer’s The Daddy Mountain (Hyperion, 2004), which would make a good pairing in a bilingual storytime. The illustrations are particularly good at portraying the world of imagination that the father creates.
MACHADO, Ana Maria. !Qué confusión! illus. by Francesc Rovira. Alfaguara. 2011. pap. $9.99. ISBN 978-970-770-946-1.
PreS-Gr 2–This is one of the more recent picture books from the revered Brazilian author. In this charming tale written in rhyming verse, Isabel and Enrique are spending the day at their grandmother’s house. They play with some clay and markers. Then it’s off to Grandma’s garden, where they plant some seeds and water the plants. Unfortunately, they end up covered in mud, and Grandma solves the problem by giving them a bath with the garden hose. A simple story of intergenerational relationships in which the use of language truly shines.
DOMINGUEZ, Angela N. Maria Had a Little Llama/María tenía una llama pequeña. Holt. 2013. RTE $16.99. ISBN 978-0-8050-9333-9.
PreS-Gr 1–This book transports the familiar children’s poem and song to the country of Peru. Mary becomes María, and the lamb becomes a llama. The text of the song is no different from what you would be familiar with, with only the substitutions mentioned above. What makes this book valuable for a collection is the illustrations. The pictures transport children into the landscape and culture of Peru. The markets, the music, and the clothing are all vividly depicted and give readers a sense of how different, and yet how alike, we all are.
Song and Nursery Rhyme Books
Here are three collections of Latino songs and nursery rhymes that I absolutely could not live without while preparing storytimes and programs. While a couple of them may be a tad challenging to find, your library users shouldn’t live without them either.
ROCKWELL, Ann. El Toro Pinto and Other Songs in Spanish. Macmillan. 1971 (Aladdin pap. 1995). (out of print) ISBN 978-0-689-71880-9.
All ages–This was one of the very few books available to me when I started programming for Spanish-speaking children. Rockwell was truly a pioneer in making this collection available. This is essentially a songbook, with the music and lyrics presented together. The tunes are simple to learn, the music is on one staff only, and there are guitar chords as well. The book includes the song “Arroz con leche,” which could accompany the Argueta food-themed storytime. The table of contents indicates the country of origin for each song. The illustrations are charming, and English translations of the songs are included at the end of the book.
GRIEGO, Margot C., Betsy L. Bucks, et. al. Tortillitas para Mamá and Other Nursery Rhymes. illus. by Barbara Cooney. Square Fish. 1988. Tr $8.99 ISBN 978-0-805-00317-8.
All ages–This was the first, and is still one of the finest, collections of Spanish-language nursery rhymes. Along with the Rockwell book, it was my go-to source of material when I started out. The title rhyme is easy to learn and fun to share with kids, even if you don’t speak Spanish. English translations are included. And the fact that this has illustrations by Caldecott Medalist Barbara Cooney is an extra bonus.
OROZCO, José-Luis, sel. De Colores and Other Latin-American Folksongs for Children. illus. by Elisa Kleven. Dutton. 1994. (Puffin, 1999). pap. $7.99. ISBN 978-0-140-56548-5.
All ages–This is an absolutely essential book by a revered singer and songwriter for Latino children. Some of the songs, such as “El chocolate,” are also nursery rhymes, which I first learned without music, but then discovered the tunes. Others are musical versions of nursery rhymes that English-speaking children would be familiar, like “The Eensy, Weensy, Spider.” It is also a source for a familiar song that would be great with the animal storytime theme suggested by some of the books mentioned in this column: “Los pollitos,” or “The Little Chicks.” Even my English-speaking daughter memorized this one as a child. There is background information on each song, putting it in context.
Tim Wadham is the director of the City of Puyallup Public Library in Washington State. firstname.lastname@example.org