Book Review: The Piñata that the Farm Maiden Hung by Samantha R. Vamos, illus. by Sebastià Serra

 

Review by Dora M. Guzmán

DESCRIPTION OF THE BOOK: A band of helpful animals joins the farm maiden, a farmer, and a boy in order to make a piñata from scratch and decorate the plaza. But then everyone falls asleep in the warm afternoon sun…

…and no one fills the pinata that the farm maiden hung.

How will they finish in time for the party? And who is the party for?

This bilingual story borrows the familiar structure of “The House that Jack Built” and is a companion title to The Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred, a Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor Book.

MY TWO CENTS: This is a must-have addition to your classroom library and curriculum! It highlights the significance and collaboration in Latinx celebrations, traditions, and community. I am infatuated with this book’s integration of culture and overall style in a familiar story structure from the first book, The Cazuela that the Farm Maiden Stirred. The farm maiden and her community members, who include the boy, horse, cat, goose, farmer, and sheep, all partake in sharing their contribution to make the centerpiece of the celebration. In this case, the centerpiece is the piñata. There are other essential pieces to complete the celebration like alebrijes, cascarones, and papel picado. The author does not explicitly tell the reader who this party is for or why, but the characters are enthusiastically working together to get it right!

The author and illustrator, however, give readers a clue into this celebration by placing on the first page a young girl in her room who then walks outside, with the remaining characters peeking out of the house. This is a great stopping point for inferring and predicting before the story begins!

The deliberate shading and bold layers of color accentuate character features and the beauty in the environment as the characters are preparing for a celebration. Throughout the story line, words in Spanish are emphasized in bold print and their definitions are included at the end of the book. Cultural representations include alebrijes (wood carvings), cascarones (confetti in eggshells), and papel picado (tissue paper flags). Characters also share humor and collaboration as they work together to make this moment as special as they can, even when they all take a nap and forget to fill the piñata! No worries, because as they say “Teamwork makes the dream work,” and a dream it sure was! The birthday girl walks in and is surprised by the beautiful, thoughtful setup, but most of all there is an intricate and colorful piñata! The story ends at it should whenever a piñata is in the story- time to hit and break it! Readers are invited to sing along in Spanish and English to La Canción de la Piñata/ The Piñata Song, one that is reminiscent in many Latinx childhood memories.

Overall, I am forever grateful for this, a book that authentically reflects a Latinx culture. While there was an absence of food, except for the cake, it highlighted other parts of the celebration that are just as important. The words in this book brought life to Spanish vocabulary words and to the illustrations that married with the theme of collaboration, teamwork, and love for special moments like birthdays. Most of all, it solidifies the symbolic meaning of the piñata, which is an experience that is meant to be shared with those who bring you joy and happiness.

TEACHING TIPS: Many of these teaching moments can be implemented in a grades K-5 setting, with a focus on the primary grades.

  • The repetitive nature in the text is perfect for reader participation and engagement in read alouds, especially in the early grade levels.
  • Readers can develop their inferring abilities, especially with the illustrations.
  • Focus on building vocabulary, not only focusing on the Spanish words that are introduced but also on verbs and descriptive language.
  • Readers can be invited to learn more about other traditions, centerpieces, and components that are essential in other cultural celebrations.
  • Students can learn to make a piñata!
    • Included at the end of a book, is a step-by-step guide to make a piñata. This pairs well with a lesson on reading the procedural text.
  • This book can also be combined in a unit to compare and contrast story lines and characters. Books in this unit can include The Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred, as well as other stories similar to The House that Jack Built. Students can also be invited to write their own story that follows this structure.

 

Image result for samantha r vamosABOUT THE AUTHOR: Samantha R. Vamos is the author of the companion title for this book, The Cazeula That the Farm Maiden Stirred, a Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor Book. She also wrote Alphabet Boats, Alphabet Trains, and Alphabet Trucks. She lives with her family in California.

Listen to Samantha R. Vamos talk about this book, The Piñata That the Farm Maiden Hung, on her publisher’s podcast.

Link: (https://charlesbridge.blogspot.com/2019/01/charlesbridge-unplugged-19-samantha.html)

 

 

Image result for Sebastiá SerraABOUT THE ILLUSTRATOR: Sebastià Serra is an award-winning artist who has illustrated more than 70 children’s books in Spain, Italy, France, UK, Portugal, Taiwan, Brazil, and the United States. Also, he has worked as a graphic designer for several television shows, family theatre, and many museums and cultural institutions. He lives in Barcelona, Spain.

 

 

 

 

img_0160ABOUT THE REVIEWER: Dora M. Guzmán is a bilingual reading specialist for grades K-3 and also teaches an undergraduate college course in Children’s Literature. When she is not sharing her love of reading with her students, you can find her in the nearest library, bookstore, or online, finding more great reads to add to her never ending “to read” pile

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About the Illustrator

Sebastiå Serra

 

From the book: Sebastiå has illustrated more than seventy children’s books in many countries, including Inky’s Great Escape and A Pirate’s Twelve Days of Christmas. He lives in Barcelona, Spain.

www.sebastiaserra.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Dale, Dale, Dale: Una fiesta de números/Hit it, Hit it, Hit it: A fiesta of numbers by René Saldaña, Jr.

By Sujei Lugo

DaleDaleDaleCoverDESCRIPTION FROM THE BOOK (provided by publisher): In this bilingual counting picture book, a young boy counts to twelve in anticipation of his birthday party: one piñata filled with candy; two hours until the party; three tables set for all the guests, etc.

MY TWO CENTS: Using simple text interwoven with a birthday party theme, René Saldaña, Jr. creates a fun bilingual counting book that makes us want to join the party. Carolyn Dee Flores’s illustrations are filled with photorealism and vibrant colors, supporting Saldaña’s words, and they successfully capture the excitement of children’s birthday parties. In what is definitely a welcomed surprise, Dale, Dale, Dale/ Hit it, Hit it, Hit it not only illustrates an adequate counting story, but decides to tell a good tale about sharing and enjoying a special day with your loved ones.

Our young protagonist is Mateo, a boy who anxiously awaits his birthday party and who uses this opportunity to practice counting throughout his special day. From “one piñata filled with candy” to “twelve children ready to swing at the piñata,” readers can count along with Mateo in Spanish and English. The items that the boy chooses to count include party supplies, colorful toys, lucha libre masks, musical instruments, and his own cousins. The picture book doesn’t limit readers to count only Mateo’s choices, but places other elements that can be counted throughout each page.

This bilingual book provides simple sentences in Spanish and English, which early readers, whether in one language or both, can easily follow. Although the translation of some words is problematic for language learners, for example, niños/guests, it isn’t a limitation to learn and practice words in two different languages.

As a picture book, the photorealistic illustrations can be seen by some as a weakness at the moment to capture children’s attention. But Flores plays well with vibrant colors to encourage young readers to focus on the story and stimulate them, not only to count, but also to identify different colors displayed on every page. The educational content of the book will inspire children to count everything around them and will motivate them to be even more excited to have their own birthday party.

TEACHING TIPS: As early readers or as a read aloud, this bilingual picture book works well for children ages 4-6. Parents, caregivers, and librarians can read in Spanish, English, or both, while encouraging young ones to practice their counting skills and color identification. Children can also point out what they like about birthday parties and collaborate to plan their next one. A song is included in the story, which can be useful if you include a piñata in your party.

Teachers can plan learning activities to combine math and language arts. Students can learn new vocabulary words, numbers, colors, and Spanish-English language meaning. Activities that develop memory and concentration can be done with second graders, including sequence of events and pairing numbers with items mentioned in the book.

AUTHOR & ILLUSTRATOR: René Saldaña, Jr. is a Latino young adult and children’s books writer and Language and Literacy professor at Texas Tech University. He holds a B.A. from Bob Jones University, a M.A. from Clemson University, and a Ph.D. in English and Creative Writing from Georgia State University.

He is the author of several books, including his semi-autobiographical novel The Jumping Tree (2001), Finding Our Way: Stories (2003), the Junior Library Guild selection The Whole Sky Full of Stars (2007),  A Good Long Way (2010), the collection of short stories Dancing with the Devil and Other Tales from Beyond/Bailando con el Diablo y otros cuentos del más allá (2012), and the bilingual Mickey Rangel mystery series.

Carolyn Dee Flores, a former computer analyst, is a writer, illustrator, musician, and composer. She attended the International School of Bangkok, Thailand and Naha, Okinawa, Japan, and Trinity University, where she studied Engineering, Philosophy and Art. Flores began her painting career as a muralist and oil painter, before switching over to children’s books illustration.

She has illustrated several other children’s books, including Canta, Rana, Canta/Sing, Froggie, Sing (2013), Peggy Caravantes’s Daughter of Two Nations (2013).

For more information about Dale, Dale, Dale: Una fiesta de números/Hit it, Hit it, Hit it: A fiesta of numbers (2014), visit your local library or bookstore. Also check out worldcat.org, goodreads.com, indiebound.org, and Arte Público Press.