November 17, 2017

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15 Spanish Language Nonfiction Series for Elementary Schoolers

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In the United States today, one child out of every four under the age of 18 is of Latinx descent. While a large proportion of these children are proficient English speakers, there remain many who are not. Yet a lack of English proficiency is not a reason for children to be left behind academically. It is gratifying to see publishers stepping up to the plate and meeting the needs of these children. All the series reviewed below are for lower elementary grades and cover a variety of topics that complement or supplement classroom learning.

Elementary

Bach, Rachel. El geco. ISBN 9781681512723.

Dieker, Wendy Strobel. El búho. ISBN 9781681512747.

––––. El murciélago. ISBN 9781681512709.

––––. El zorrillo. ISBN 9781681512761.

––––. La ardilla. ISBN 9781681512778.

Storm, Marysa. El mapache. ISBN 9781681512754.

––––. La rana. ISBN 9781681512716.

––––. El ratón. ISBN 9781681512730.

ea vol: 16p. (Spot: Animales del patio). photos. Amicus. Jul. 2017. lib. ed. $25.65.

PreS-Gr 1 –A very simple introduction to some of the more common backyard animals found in North America. Each book opens with four images of the topic creature’s body parts and their names (wing, teeth, foot) and an invitation for readers to keep an eye out for them as they continue through the book. Full-page photographs are accompanied by two or three simple sentences explaining some of the main characteristics of each animal. The text includes questions, exclamations, and interjections to keep little ones engaged. At the end of each book readers are asked if they spotted the images and words suggested at the beginning. And, most important, the translation is spot-on. VERDICT A wonderful introductory series for little ones interested in local critters.

Hansen, Grace. Aeronaves de combate. ISBN 9781532102097.

––––. Aviones bombarderos. ISBN 9781532102103.

––––. Aviones de caza. ISBN 9781532102110.

––––. Tanques de combate. ISBN 9781532102127.

––––. Vehículos militares anfibios. ISBN 9781532102080.

––––. Vehículos militares con ruedas. ISBN 9781532102134.

ea vol: tr. from English by Maria Puchol. 24p. (Vehículos y aeronaves militares). glossary. index. photos. websites. ABDO. Aug. 2017. lib. ed. $28.50.

Gr 1-3 –Detailed descriptions of military vehicles and aircraft for young elementary schoolers. The information provided in the books includes combat and transport uses, weaponry capabilities, personnel required, and in some cases cost of production. Some words in the text are highlighted and explained in the glossary at the end; however, the explanations are often as complicated as the word explained. The Spanish translation is flawless. Full-page photographs of the machines in action complement and extend the text. ­VERDICT Budding military enthusiasts will find enough information and captivating photographs to keep them engaged for a while.

Hansen, Grace. Aly Raisman. ISBN 9781532102158.

––––. Michael Phelps. ISBN 9781532102165.

––––. Simone Biles. ISBN 9781532102172.

––––. Usain Bolt. ISBN 9781532102189.

ea vol: tr. from English by Maria Puchol. 24p. (Biografías de deportistas olímpicos). glossary. index. maps. photos. websites. ABDO. Aug. 2017. lib. ed. $28.50.

K-Gr 2 –Olympic athletes profiled for young learners. All four of the individuals featured won gold medals in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Readers learn when and where each athlete was born and how they started practicing their sport. In each title, a location map with a photo of the city and an image of the athlete in their youth complement this information. Kids are provided with lots of statistics, mainly how many medals the athlete has won, where, and for what event, all accompanied by full-page photographs. There is also a description of the physical attributes that have contributed to their success. VERDICT Not very inspiring, but will do the job for biography ­assignments.

Hansen, Grace. Caballo cuarto de milla. ISBN 9781532102059.

––––. Caballo gypsy. ISBN 9781532102035.

––––. Caballo miniatura. ISBN 9781532102042.

––––. Caballo percherón. ISBN 9781532102028.

––––. Caballo Pinto. ISBN 9781532102011.

––––. Caballo purasangre. ISBN 9781532102066.

ea vol: tr. from English by Maria Puchol. 24p. (Caballos). glossary. index. photos. websites. ABDO. Aug. 2017. lib. ed. $28.50.

Gr 1-3 –Large photographs accompanied by a few facts introduce children to a handful of horse breeds in this perfectly translated series. The featured data includes color, size, and ways humans use horses and train them. Some of the words that may be new to readers are highlighted in the text, and their definitions can be found in the glossary. Every book also includes a few extra facts at the end. The photographs are very attractive and go hand in hand with the text. When appropriate, some of the images include children, thus furthering their appeal. VERDICT A pleasing introduction for the youngest of horse enthusiasts.

Higgins, Nadia. Arrecifes de coral. ISBN 9781620318003.

––––. Bosques. ISBN 9781620318010.

––––. Humedales. ISBN 9781620318034.

––––. Océanos. ISBN 9781620318041.

––––. Praderas. ISBN 9781620318058.

––––. Selvas. ISBN 9781620318065.

––––. Tundras. ISBN 9781620318072.

Mayerling, Tim. Desiertos. ISBN 9781620318027.

ea vol: 24p. (Ecosistemas). glossary. index. maps. photos. websites. Jump!/Bullfrog. Aug. 2017. lib. ed. $25.65.

K-Gr 2 –This series introduces children to earth’s ecosystems. Each book begins by defining the topic environment, identifying plants and animals and the food chain, and ends with a visual glossary. The biggest draw in this series is the stunning photography. Unfortunately, the text does not do justice to the images. The books attempt to introduce complex notions with just one or two very simple sentences per page, and the result is often nonsensical. The Spanish translation is not always correct, at times clumsy, and sometimes the word used is unnecessarily obscure. For example, eggs hatching is translated as eclosionar, when salir del cascarón is more commonly used. VERDICT An unnecessary addition for most collections.

Kenan, Tessa. ¡Es un camaleón! ISBN 9781 512441277.

––––. ¡Es un chimpancé! ISBN 9781 512441314.

––––. ¡Es un jaguar! ISBN 9781512441307.

––––. ¡Es un murciélago vampiro! ISBN 9781512441291.

––––. ¡Es una boa constrictora! ISBN 9781 512441260.

––––. ¡Es una rana arbórea de ojos rojos! ISBN 9781512441284.

ea vol: tr. from English by Annette Granat. 24p. (Bumba Books en español: Animales de la selva tropical). diag. further reading. index. photos. Lerner. Nov. 2017. lib. ed. $25.32.

PreS-Gr 1 –Appealing close-up photographs of tropical animals are the main draw of this introductory series. Short simple sentences convey two or three basic facts on each page: physical characteristics, food, babies, and life spans. Each book also includes a few questions meant to encourage critical thinking. Some of the answers can be inferred from the information given, but others require knowledge that is not provided. For example, in ¡Es un camaleón! readers are told chameleons may lay up to 100 eggs and are then asked why they think chameleons lay so many eggs. Given that predators are not mentioned, it would be difficult for a child to come up with the correct answer. VERDICT The visual appeal of these books accompanied by just enough facts should engage students, despite some flaws.

Kingsley, Imogen. Anacondas. ISBN 9781 620318089.

––––. Boas. ISBN 9781620318096.

––––. Mambas negras. ISBN 9781 620318102.

––––. Serpientes de coral. ISBN 9781 620318119.

––––. Víboras de la muerte. ISBN 9781 620318126.

ea vol: 24p. (Mundo de reptiles). diag. glossary. index. photos. websites. Jump!. Aug. 2017. lib. ed. $25.65.

K-Gr 2 –Extraordinary photographs of some of the deadliest snakes on earth are the main attraction here. Some of the photographs, particularly the ones showing the snake eating its pray, will send a shiver down readers’ spines. One or two expository sentences per page provide the basic facts about each snake: where they live, what they look like, what they eat. The visual glossary at the end is not always helpful: Veneno (venom) is defined as liquid toxin. Macho (male) is defined as an animal that cannot have babies. VERDICT The visual appeal of this series will surely attract browsers, though the content is rather slight. An additional selection.

Kingsley, Imogen. Boca. ISBN 9781620318133.

––––. Dientes. ISBN 9781620318140.

––––. Manos. ISBN 9781620318157.

––––. Nariz. ISBN 9781620318164.

––––. Ojos. ISBN 9781620318171.

––––. Orejas. ISBN 9781620318188.

––––. Piel. ISBN 9781620318195.

ea vol: 24p. (Tu cuerpo maravilloso). diag. glossary. index. photos. websites. Jump!/Bullfrog. Aug. 2017. lib. ed. $25.65.

PreS-Gr 2 –In this series, parts of the body associated with the senses are described. The full-page photographs are all of children and represent many cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Readers see the multiple things they can do with each extremity or body part (hands, nose, eyes, ears, etc.), followed by an explanation of how this happens and what constitutes each part. The Spanish translation is flawless; all the explanations are simple and clear. Helpful diagrams are included, and a visual glossary concludes each book. VERDICT A fine introductory series for early science collections.

Moon, Walt K. Exploremos China. ISBN 9781512441208.

––––. Exploremos Cuba. ISBN 9781512441239.

––––. Exploremos India. ISBN 9781512441222.

––––. Exploremos Japón. ISBN 9781512441246.

––––. Exploremos México. ISBN 9781512441215.

––––. Exploremos Rusia. ISBN 9781512441253.

ea vol: tr. from English by Annette Granat. 24p. (Bumba Books en español: Exploremos países). further reading. glossary. maps. photos. Lerner. Aug. 2017. lib. ed. $25.32.

K-Gr 2 –Students are introduced to countries and learn about their location, topography, animals, plants, food, cities, and culture. However, the information is trite and the photos do not necessarily expand or complement the text. Many images have no captions. A number of questions meant to encourage critical thinking cannot be answered based on what is covered in the texts. The maps have been simplified to the point of being pointless. There is also a quibble with the Spanish translation: Japan and India are usually referred to in Spanish as El Japón and La India—both with an article in front; and the language feels stilted. VERDICT Readers are unlikely to gain much from these volumes.

Murray, Julie. Capitolio de los Estados Unidos. ISBN 9781532101915.

––––. Estatua de la Libertad. ISBN 9781532101908.

––––. La Casa Blanca. ISBN 9781532101922.

––––. Monte Rushmore. ISBN 9781532101892.

––––. Monumento a Lincoln. ISBN 9781532101878.

––––. Monumento a Martin Luther King Jr. ISBN 9781532101885.

ea vol: tr. from English by Maria Puchol. 24p. (Lugares simbólicos de los Estados Unidos). glossary. index. maps. photos. websites. ABDO. Aug. 2017. lib. ed. $27.07.

PreS-Gr 1 –Little ones are introduced to well-known landmarks in the United States. In each title, full-page photographs and images accompanied by one or two short sentences provide information on who or what the landmark commemorates; biographical content where appropriate; and basic information on the size and materials of the construction. Each book also provides a helpful locator map, a selection of thumbnail photos of the landmark with additional information, and a visual glossary. VERDICT Pedestrian, but will satisfy curricular needs in social science or geography.

Parkes, Elle. ¡Que vivan las enfermeras! ISBN 9781512441390.

––––. ¡Que vivan los maestros! ISBN 9781512441321.

––––. ¡Que vivan los oficiales de policía! ISBN 9781512441352.

––––. ¡Que vivan los pilotos! ISBN 9781512441376.

Waldendorf, Kurt. ¡Que vivan los chefs! ISBN 9781512441345.

––––. ¡Que vivan los granjeros! ISBN 9781512441383.

––––. ¡Que vivan los obreros de construcción! ISBN 9781512441369.

––––. ¡Que vivan los veterinarios! ISBN 9781512441338.

ea vol: tr. from English by Annette Granat. 24p. (Bumba Books en español: ¡Que vivan los ayudantes comunitarios!). diag. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Lerner. Sept. 2017. lib. ed. $25.32.

PreS-Gr 2 –Familiar occupations (cooks, farmers, teachers, nurses) are presented. Full-page photographs accompanied by simple sentences describe the occupations: what they do, where they work, how they study to prepare for the job, and tools of the trade. For the most part, the photographs include different ethnicities and genders. The images in ¡Que vivan los veterinarios!, though, seem to be mostly of white women. And ¡Que vivan los granjeros! has more photos of farming equipment than people, perhaps reflecting the reality of large-scale agribusiness but ignoring the vast numbers of Latinxs working in agriculture. Critical thinking questions sprinkled throughout are age appropriate and accessible. VERDICT Will meet the needs of curricular units on community.

Pettiford, Rebecca. Apariencias diferentes. ISBN 9781620317907; ISBN 9781620317952.

––––. Culturas diferentes. ISBN 9781620317914; ISBN 9781620317969.

––––. Familias diferentes. ISBN 9781620317921; ISBN 9781620317976.

––––. Habilidades diferentes. ISBN 9781620317938; ISBN 9781620317983.

––––. Intereses diferentes. ISBN 9781620317945; ISBN 9781620317990.

ea vol: 24p. (Celebrando las diferencias). diag. glossary. index. photos. websites. Jump!/Bullfrog. Aug. 2017. lib. ed. $25.65. pap. $6.99.

K-Gr 2 –This series explores the ways in which people are different and invites children to celebrate those differences. Full-page photographs are accompanied by two or three positive and affirming sentences per page. All of the pictures are portraits of kids or include children in happy and friendly ways, making them very relatable to the audience. At the end of each title there is a question to encourage further discussion or observation. VERDICT A good resource to help instill empathy and acceptance in little ones.

Raum, Elizabeth. Las abejas y sus colmenas. ISBN 9781681512792.

––––. Los castores y sus madrigueras. ISBN 9781681512785.

––––. Los conejos y sus madrigueras. ISBN 9781681512839.

––––. Los orangutanes y sus nidos. ISBN 9781681512822.

––––. Los osos y sus guaridas. ISBN 9781681512815.

––––. Los pájaros y sus nidos. ISBN 9781681512808.

ea vol: illus. by Romina Martí. 24p. (Animales constructores). glossary. Amicus. Jul. 2017. lib. ed. $29.95.

K-Gr 3 –This illustrated narrative nonfiction series explains the ways in which different animals construct their homes. The entries explore when and how they build, how long it takes, and how the structure functions. The illustrations also provide a glimpse inside these living quarters. The very attractive illustrations, though ­stylized, are still accurate and recognizable. Martí’s pastel palette lends a friendly and inviting feel to the volumes. Every book includes an illustrated range map for the animal in question and instructions for children to build their own version of each home. Aside from the word predator translated as predador—the correct word is depredador—the Spanish translation is correct. VERDICT Highly recommended for its visually engaging approach to ­animal habitats.

Rober, Harold T. El iguánodon. ISBN 9781512441178.

––––. El mamut lanudo. ISBN 9781512441185.

––––. El pterodáctilo. ISBN 9781512441147.

––––. El tigre dientes de sable. ISBN 9781512441192.

––––. El tricérratops. ISBN 9781512441161.

––––. El velocirraptor. ISBN 9781512441154.

ea vol: tr. from English by Annette Granat. 24p. (Bumba Books en español: Dinosaurios y bestias prehistóricas). diag. further reading. glossary. illus. index. photos. Lerner. Oct. 2017. lib. ed. $25.32.

K-Gr 2 –Large images introduce kids to a few dinosaurs and prehistoric creatures. The books provide information on how long ago they existed, their physical attributes, and what they ate. A visual glossary at the end of each title explains words such as extinto. The mix of images—mixed-media illustrations and photographs of fossils—is very engaging. The Spanish translations for triceratops and velociraptor (tricerratops and velocirraptor) add an extra “r” that should not be there and in fact make the words difficult to pronounce; and in El tricérratops, T. rex is left in English. VERDICT Somewhat marred by the translation, but still appealing fodder for dino-enthusiasts.

Schuh, Mari. Las cargadoras. ISBN 9781 681512693.

––––. Las excavadoras. ISBN 9781681512679.

––––. Las grúas. ISBN 9781681512662.

––––. Las mezcladoras de concreto. ISBN 9781681512655.

––––. Las topadoras. ISBN 9781681512648.

––––. Los camiones volquetes. ISBN 9781 681512686.

ea vol: 16p. (Spot: Máquinas poderosas). photos. Amicus. Jul. 2017. lib. ed. $25.65.

PreS-Gr 1 –Popular construction trucks for beginners. Each book starts with four images of a part of the vehicle and its name; readers are encouraged to keep an eye out for them as they read the book. Full-page photographs of the machine and close-ups of the different elements are accompanied by two or three simple sentences explaining how it works. The well-translated text keeps kids engaged by asking questions and making exclamations. At the end of each book readers are asked if they spotted the images and words suggested at the beginning. VERDICT Young “things that go” enthusiasts will be satisfied.


As can be seen, the series focusing on animals are the top choices—Amicus’s “Animales constructores” and “Spot: Animales del patio” and ABDO’s “Caballos” for fans of horses. Children attracted to vehicles will find much to enjoy in ABDO’s “Vehículos y aeronaves militares” and Amicus’s “Spot: Máquinas poderosas.” Though some publishers have heeded the call for Spanish language materials, more attention needs to be placed on the accuracy of the translations. All children deserve a flawless book.

Lucia Acosta, Children’s Literature Specialist, NJ

This article was published in School Library Journal's November 2017 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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