Book Reviews: Marta Big and Small & The Chupacabra Ate the Candelabra

 

Reviews by Ruby Jones

MARTA! BIG & SMALL

Marta! Big & Small CoverDESCRIPTION OF THE BOOK: Marta is una niña, an ordinary girl . . . with some extraordinary animal friends! As Marta explores the jungle, she knows she’s bigger than a bug, smaller than an elephant, and faster than a turtle. But then she meets the snake, who thinks Marta is sabrosa—tasty, very tasty! But Marta is ingeniosa, a very clever girl, and she outsmarts the snake with hilarious results.

With simple Spanish and a glossary at the end, this fun read-aloud picture book teaches little ones to identify opposites and animals and learn new words.

MY TWO CENTS: Marta is a little girl who is exploring the animals around her. Compared to a horse, Marta is lenta. Compared to a turtle, Marta is rapida. All of this fun catches the eye of an animal that finds Marta sabrosa. Using her cleverness, Marta is able to escape.

Judging by only the title and the beginning of the book, you might be tricked into thinking that Marta! Big & Small is about opposites but you would be wrong! This picture book has an ingenious ending that is actually empowering to little girls….girls can be clever! What I really appreciated was that at the end of the book, there are Spanish to English translations of both Marta’s attributes and also the animals she encounters. Not only that, but the illustrations are very clean but bold and vibrant. It’s a great book for any young reader.

TEACHING TIPS: This book is a great opportunity to learn about opposites and comparing our attributes to the world around us. A good lesson would be comparing our size to various objects like a pencil or a house. Teachers could also review a variety of animals in English and Spanish.

WHERE TO GET IT: To find Marta! Big & Small, check your local public library, your local bookstore, or IndieBound. Also, check out GoodreadsAmazon, and Barnes & Noble.

copyright Meredith Zinner PhotographyABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jen Arena is a former editorial director at Random House Books for Young Readers. She now writes books for children full time, including 100 Snowmen, a wintry counting story, and Besos for Baby, a bilingual board book of kisses. Her books have been translated into French, Korean, Arabic, and of course, Spanish.

 

 

Image resultABOUT THE ILLUSTRATOR:  Angela Dominguez was born in Mexico City, grew up in the great state of Texas, and lived in San Francisco. She’s the author and illustrator of picture books such as Let’s Go, Hugo!;Santiago StaysKnit Together, and Maria Had a Little Llama, which was an American Library Association Pura Pelpré Honor Book for Illustration. She now writes and creates in her studio in Brooklyn, New York.

 

 

THE CHUPACABRA ATE THE CANDELABRA

The Chupacabra Ate the Candelabra CoverDESCRIPTION OF THE BOOK: Like most goats, Jayna, Bumsie, and Pep’s greatest fear is being eaten for dinner by the legendary chupacabra. (It’s common knowledge that goats are a chupacabra’s favorite food!) One night, tired of living in fear, the impetuous goats whip out their trusty candelabra and head off to find the beast and scare it away before it can find them. Little do they know that candelabras are the chupacabra’s third-favorite food . . . and he isn’t about to stop there. This chupacabra has quite the appetite, and the goats are in for a big surprise!

MY TWO CENTS: The chupacabra loves to eat many, many things. Three little goats hope that it definitely isn’t them! To make make sure they don’t become dinner, goats Jayna, Bumsie and Pep set off to scare the chupacabra before he scares them. When they encounter the continually hungry chupacabra, he devours their candelabra in an instant and demands more. When they are unable to produce more candelabras, the chupacabra eats his second-favorite meal. Finally, when they are unable to satisfy his desires using his third- and second-favorite foods, the chupacabra reveals what his favorite thing to eat is: Goat cheese! The relieved goats merrily proclaim that they have so much goat cheese, he’ll never be hungry again.

The first thing that you notice is this book’s winning feature: it’s beautiful and vibrant illustrations. It is obvious the illustrator was inspired by the colors and history of Mexico. She does a wonderful job of depicting the story line while still interjecting humor and whimsy.

The story line itself, however, has some issues. Mainly, the writing reads rather choppy and forced. I would have much preferred if the chupacabra were more similar to the little old lady who swallowed a fly, where the chupacabra would devour any ridiculous thing including a candelabra. Also, reading this book aloud was very difficult for me as some of the wording didn’t really seem to flow right. Finally, there were some phrases that most kids will fail to get like “the whole enchilada” or words like “cucaracha”.

In the end, the book is a whimsical and funny read, but I was left wishing for more finesse with the storytelling.

TEACHING TIPS: Teachers could definitely use this book to teach the culture and history about the chupacabra, highlighting the place it holds in, not just Latino culture, but throughout the Americas. There could also be a unit on Mexican art, using this book’s illustrations for inspiration. Children could also perform their own little “Three Billy Goats Gruff” version of goats and the chupacabra as a play!

WHERE TO GET IT: To find The Chupacabra Ate the Candelabra, check your local public library, your local bookstore, or IndieBound. Also, check out GoodreadsAmazon, and Barnes & Noble.

Marc Tyler Nobleman ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Marc Tyler Nobleman is the author of Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman and Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman, which helped correct the credit line of one of the world’s most beloved characters. Formerly a writer for Nickelodeon Magazine and a cartoonist whose work has appeared in over a hundred publication, Marc lives in Maryland. His third-favorite thing to eat is anything banana flavored.

 

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Photo by Feather Weight

ABOUT THE ILLUSTRATOR: Ana Aranda was born and raised in Mexico City, where she first befriended a chupacabra, and she completed her undergraduate studies in illustration in France. She now lives in San Francisco, California, where she has painted murals in the Mission District, for the consulate general of Mexico, and for the prestigious de Young Museum. Her biggest inspirations are her childhood memories, the vibrant colors of Mexico, and music. Her first, second, and their-favorite things to eat are tacos.

 

 

 

headshotABOUT THE REVIEWER:  Ruby Jones has been working in public libraries since 2007 in various capacities, including Adult & Teen Services technician and webmaster at her current library.  She currently lives in Maine with her husband and precocious 2 year old. She continually strives to impart a passion and a sense of fearlessness toward technology, reading and learning for all ages.

The Chupacabra Ate the Candelabra: A Cover Reveal!

 

We are excited to participate in the cover reveal of  The Chupacabra Ate the Candelabra, an upcoming picture book written by Marc Tyler Nobleman and illustrated by Ana Aranda!

With a title like that, you can tell how much fun kid readers are in for, as this early review makes clear: “A nervous herd of goats tries to convince the legendary chupacabra, a monster that allegedly eats goats, that there are other culinary surprises he may enjoy.”                                –Publishers Weekly.

Here is the book description from Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group:

With its hilarious dialogue, trio of bumbling goats, and fantastically zany villain, this unique, laugh-out-loud story based on a legendary monster is sure to crack up kids and grown-ups alike.  Like most goats, Jayna, Bumsie, and Pep’s greatest fear is being eaten for dinner by the legendary chupacabra—it’s common knowledge that goats are a chupacabra’s favorite food! One night, tired of living in fear, the impetuous goats whip out their trusty candelabra and head off to find the beast and scare it away before it can find them. Little do they know that candelabras are the chupacabra’s third-favorite food . . . and he isn’t about to stop there. This chupacabra has quite the appetite, and the goats are in for a big surprise!

 

Intrigued? So are we. The release date is March 7, 2017. While we patiently wait to see the book in person, let’s feast our eyes on the fabulous cover created by Ana Aranda, a bright new star in the field of children’s illustration, and one we’re proud to claim as a Latinx creator!  You met Aranda in an illustrator round-up we featured earlier this year.

Ana ArandaAna writes: “This cover design was created in watercolor, inks and gouache. I’m so happy to share with everyone the face of an unknown, mysterious and mischievous creature: the chupacabra!”

We look forward to reading the full story and enjoying all of Ana’s adorable illustrations!

 

 

 

Here we go….

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Ta da!!

 

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Spotlight on Latina Illustrators Part 1: Angela Dominguez, Juana Medina, and Ana Aranda

By Cecilia Cackley

This is the first in a series of posts spotlighting Latina illustrators of picture books. Some of these artists have been creating children’s books for many years, while others will have their first book out this year. Some of them live in the US, while others live overseas. They come from many different cultural backgrounds, but are all passionate about connecting with readers through art and story. Please look for their books at bookstores and libraries!

Angela Dominguez

Angela DominguezAngela Dominguez was born in Mexico City, grew up in the great state of Texas, and lived in San Francisco. She’s the author and illustrator of picture books such as Let’s Go Hugo!, Santiago Stays, Knit Together, and Maria Had a Little Llama, which received the American Library Association Pura Belpré Illustration Honor. Recently, she received her second Pura Belpré Honor for her illustrations in Mango, Abuela, and Me written by Meg Medina. Her new books How do you Say?/Como se Dice?  and Marta, Big and Small (by Jen Arena), will both be published later this year. To see more of Angela’s work, visit her website, blog or twitter.

Q: What inspired you to become an artist?

A: Like many of my artist friends, I’ve always liked to draw. Growing up, I was obsessed with books and art in general. I’d spend evenings watching VHS tapes and drawing all night (if I wasn’t doing homework). Still, I didn’t really consider art something I could do professionally until high school. Fortunately, my high school really had a great art program and teachers who were supportive. Then I received a partial scholarship to Savannah College of Art and Design based on my skills and academics. That sort of sealed my fate as a professional artist.

Q: Tell us about your favorite artistic medium.

A: I still love drawing with pencil. It feels so good in my hand. I even love the way a freshly sharpened pencil smells. I also enjoy working with ink especially with a dip pen and brush. I just like how there is less control. It forces you to work boldly and confidently. My last favorite medium is tissue paper. I just really enjoy collage and the texture it produces. It’s really fun to work with all three at the same time. In graduate school when I saw that Evaline Ness worked that way, I was inspired to do it even more!

Q: Please finish the sentence “Picture books are important because…”

A: Picture books are important because they can speak universal truths to people of all ages. They can make you cry and laugh all in the same little book. (Also there are pictures!)

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Juana Medina

Photo by Silvia Baptiste

Photo by Silvia Baptiste

Juana Medina was born in Bogotá, Colombia, where she grew up, getting in a lot of trouble for drawing cartoons of her teachers.

Eventually, all that drawing (and trouble) paid off. Juana studied at the Rhode Island School of Design – RISD (where she has also taught). She has done illustration & animation work for clients in the U.S., Latin America, & Europe.

She now lives in Washington, DC. where she teaches at George Washington University. Juana draws and writes stories from a big and old drafting table, in an even older -but not much bigger- apartment.  Juana is the illustrator of the picture book Smick! by Doreen Cronin. Her new books 1 Big Salad: A Delicious Counting Book and Juana and Lucas will be published later this year. You can find out more about Juana on her website and blog.

Q: What inspired you to become an artist?

A: I grew up in a family where pretty much everyone had some kind of artistic outlet; my grandfather was a great draftsman, my grandma was a fantastic carpenter, my aunt a potter… everyone found a way to use arts as a way to express themselves, so it took me a while to realize not everyone in the world did this! Moreover, I went to a school that valued arts very much. So for the longest time, I thought art was just one more fabulous aspect of being human. I didn’t think of art or my ability to draw as super powers; they were simply an added feature, almost as a bonus language. Now that I recognize not everyone draws, I have dedicated a lot of time to using this ability as best as possible, to tell stories.

Q: Tell us about your favorite artistic medium.

A:  Ink is one of my favorite mediums, because I find it very expressive. I enjoy the high contrast between the stark white paper and the very dark black ink; it makes it very exciting to see lines and traces -almost magically- appear on the page.

Q: Please finish the sentence “Picture books are important because…”

A:  Picture books are important because they don’t require more than visuals -and a handful of words- to understand a story. And understanding a story can lead to a shared experience with those who have also read the book. This not only serves for entertainment purposes, but allows us to learn about other people’s feelings, struggles, and dreams. Picture books also allow us to see the world through a different point of view and they tend to teach us things we perhaps didn’t know about, like how people live in villages we’ve never visited, or what dinosaurs used to eat, or how giant squids live in the darkest, deepest waters in the ocean, all valuable lessons to be learned.

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Ana Aranda

Ana ArandaAna Aranda was born and raised in Mexico City, where she studied design. From there, she moved to France, where she lived for three years while doing her undergraduate studies in illustration. Ana now lives in San Francisco thanks to a grant from the Mexican Fund for Culture and Arts (FONCA). Her biggest inspirations are her childhood memories, the vibrant colors of Mexico, and music. Her work focuses on transforming the every day into fantastical situations, and often includes images from nature and whimsical creatures. Ana’s work has been featured in different galleries and museums in the United States, France, Mexico and Italy. In San Francisco, she has painted murals in the Mission District, for the Consulate General of Mexico, and for the prestigious de Young Museum. Ana’s illustrations can be found in picture books published in France and Italy. Some of her forthcoming titles include “J’ai Mal à Mon Écorce” (Éditions du Jasmin, France, 2015). She also illustrated ¡Celebracion! by Susan Middleton Elya, coming in 2016 and The Chupacabra ate the Candleabra by Marc Tyler Nobleman, coming in 2017.

Q:  What inspired you to become an artist?

A: When I was a little girl, I lived in a colorful city in Mexico called Cuernavaca, also known as the “City of Eternal Springtime”. My childhood memories in this city full of flowers always inspire me to create colorful and joyful pieces for children of all ages.

I have also been very inspired by my family, teachers, Mexican muralists and printmakers, growing up learning about women artists such as Remedios Vario and Leonora Carrington.

Q: Tell us about your favorite artistic medium.

A: I first learned to use acrylics when I was around 14 years old and fell in love with it! Since then I’ve been playing with bright colors and mixing that technique with others such as pigments, scratchboards, etc. I’m in love with color and finding how every color can be part of an emotional experience.

Q: Please finish this sentence: “Picture books are important because…”

Ana Aranda Cover

 

A: Picture books are important because they help you travel to different worlds!

 

Books to Check Out:

Dominguez, Angela. Lets Go Hugo

Dominguez, Angela. Maria Had a Little Llama

Dominguez, Angela. Santiago Stays

Dominguez, Angela. Knit Together

Medina, Meg. Mango, Abuela and Me

Brown, Monica. Lola Levine is NOT Mean!

Elya, Susan Middleton. ¡Celebracion!  (coming Fall 2016)

Cronin, Doreen. Smick!

Medina, Juana. 1 Big Salad: A Delicious Counting Book (coming Summer 2016)