9 Bilingual and Latinx Books for Young Animal Lovers

This past year has seen a ­number of Latinx-themed works with animal characters. Fictional, informational, funny, ­serious, sweet, and thought-provoking, here are some of the best.

The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet! written by Carmen Agra Deedy
© 2017 by Eugene Yelchin. Used with permission from Scholastic Press/Scholastic.

FEATURING ANIMALS INSTEAD OF HUMANS has been a ­long-held tradition in children’s books, often sidestepping the need to ­include the faces of our diverse population. ­Refreshingly, this past year has seen a ­number of works that though ­centered on animals are clearly ­Latinx-themed books. Fictional, informational, funny, ­serious, sweet, and thought-provoking, here is a selection of some of the best.

BROWN, Monica. Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos. illus. by John Parra. North South. Sept. 2017. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9780735842694. PreS-Gr 2 –“This is the story of two monkeys, a parrot, three dogs, two turkeys, an eagle, a black cat, and a fawn.” And it is, of course, the story of the famous painter as well, seen through her love of animals. Brown’s lyrical text is coupled with Parra’s warm and bold-colored artwork to create a lively introduction to the life and work of the artist for the younger set. DEEDY, carmen Agra. ¡El gallo que no se callaba!/The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet! illus. by Eugene Yelchin. Scholastic. Jan. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781338114140; English ed. ISBN 9780545722889. PreS-Gr 3 –A masterfully told bilingual tale about speaking up for what you believe is right. A rooster arrives in the village of La Paz unaware that singing has been outlawed. As the brave bird and the town mayor face off, the essential message is spelled out: “…a song is louder than one noisy little rooster and stronger than one bully of a mayor, …and it will never die—so long as there is someone to sing it.” Imagine the discussions that could be had around this story! DELACRE, Lulu. ¡Olinguito, de la A a la Z!: Descubriendo el bosque nublado/Olinguito, from A to Z!: Unveiling the Cloud Forest. ­ illus. by author. Children’s Book Pr. Feb. 2016. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780892393275. K-Gr 3 –Using the alphabet as a device, Delacre introduces children to the rain forest habitat of the olinguito, a recently discovered species in the Ecuadorean Andes. The poetic bilingual text has none of the stilted language so often found in bilingual books; the mixed-media illustrations are detailed and stunning; and the well-researched facts are accessible, further complemented by the bilingual back matter. This informational picture book belongs in all libraries. ENGLE, Margarita. Forest World. S. & S./Atheneum. Aug. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781481490573. Gr 4-7 –Separated by divorce and 90 miles of ocean, siblings Edver and Luza are reunited when Edver is sent by his cryptozoologist mother to spend the summer in Cuba. As awareness of the disparities of their lives threatens to tear them even further apart, they find common ground in protecting the mountaintop forest they both love. An eco-adventure, with a dose of science, and a thoughtful exploration of Cuban American experiences. JARAMILLO, Susie. Ratoncitos/Little Mice. illus. by author. Encantos. Jun. 2017. Board $14.99. ISBN 9780996995924. Baby-K –Part of the “Canticos” series, this bilingual board book follows the same concertina format of its predecessors, with Spanish in one direction and the English version in the other. Children are introduced to the traditional song about five little mice that wiggle their noses, give their ears a shake, finish their cheese before the cat has them for lunch, and eventually head home and go to sleep. Perfect for storytime or one-on-one reading or singing. MENA, Pato. The Perfect Siesta. tr. by Kim Griffin. illus. by author. Nube Ocho. June 2017. Tr $15.95. ISBN 9788494541537. PreS-K –It is hot in this South American jungle. When a cool breeze blows, Jaguar wants to take a siesta, so he asks Coati if he will wake him up in exactly 10 minutes. Coati agrees, but when he decides to take a siesta as well, he makes the same request of a cockatiel. Soon enough the number of nappers and wake-up requests builds, leading up to a very satisfying ending and a great big snore! This should become a storytime or bedtime favorite. NOBLEMAN, Marc Tyler. The Chupacabra Ate the Candelabra. illus. by Ana Aranda. Penguin/Nancy Paulsen Bks. Mar. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399174438. PreS-Gr 2 –The legendary creature whose name translates to “goat-sucker” gets an unscary makeover in this account. Three silly goats live in fear of the chupacabra until they resolve to encounter their fear head on. They soon learn that candelabras are the chupacabra’s third favorite food, cucarachas are his second favorite food, and his most favorite food is goat…CHEESE! Whew! QUINTERO, Isabel. Ugly Cat and Pablo. illus. by Tom Knight. Scholastic. Apr. 2017. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9780545940924. Gr 1-3 –This first book in a series introduces two clueless friends with hearts of gold—one guided by the love of adventure and the other by his love of food. Here, the cat-and-mouse duo engage in a madcap adventure to obtain a paleta (Spanish for ice pop) at the park. There is a liberal sprinkling of Spanish words throughout the text, accompanied by a helpful glossary at the end. This book should appeal to new chapter-book readers who enjoy a bit of slapstick. WEILL, Cynthia. Animal Talk: Mexican Folk Art Animal Sounds in English and Spanish. illus. by Rubí Fuentes & Efraín Broa. Cinco Puntos. Apr. 2017. Board. $9.95. ISBN 9781941026694. Toddler-PreS –This bilingual concept board book, previously published in trade hardcover and now in a sturdier format, features beautiful traditional Oaxacan carved wood animals. On facing pages—English on the verso, Spanish on the recto—children will find that even animals sound different depending on the language. Take horses for example: “What do horses say? NEIGH NEIGH./¿Qué dicen los caballos? JIII JIII.” This volume is part of a “First Concepts in Mexican Folk Art” series.

Lucía Acosta is a children’s literature specialist and reviewer. She has served on the Pura Belpré and Caldecott Awards and is currently on the Odyssey Award. She lives in a house visited by deer, groundhogs, rabbits, birds, squirrels, and plenty of mice!

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