Velasquez, Eric. Looking for Bongo. illus. by Eric Velasquez. 32p. Holiday House. Feb. 2016. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9780823435654; ebk. $16.95. ISBN 9780823436026.
PreS –An Afro Latino boy searches for his missing stuffed toy in this tender tribute to family, music, and childhood. The adorable narrator, depicted charmingly with a puffy Afro, protruding tummy, inquisitive eyes, and pj’s, inquires after the whereabouts of his beloved Bongo. With Spanish-peppered text, the toddler asks his parents, the family pets, his Wela (abuela), and even the delivery man for help but finally finds the toy dog on his own. When his grandmother suggests that Bongo’s disappearance is due to his owner’s negligence, the boy comes up with a plan to figure out the mystery. Small clues sprinkled throughout will invite repeat readings, and savvy children may guess the identity of the true culprit. The warm, vibrant oil paintings illuminate in obvious and not so obvious ways the family’s love of music, literature, and their African roots. Pinterest-worthy bookshelves, African art on the walls, and rhythm instruments, such as congas and bongos, are present throughout, and they offer an inviting backdrop. The mostly brown and orange palette invokes a 1970s vibe, though the story takes place in the present, and the narrator’s mother’s Audrey Hepburn style gives this tale, inspired by the author’s own upbringing, a nostalgic undertone. Velasquez’s Grandma’s Records (Walker, 2001) makes a cameo during the boy’s bedtime ritual. And as in that previous title, this work’s celebration of the diversity within Latino culture will warm hearts. VERDICT A sweet tale recommended for diverse toddler storytimes and one-on-one sharing. School Library Journal
This review was published in the School Library Journal February 2016 issue.