Book Review: ¡Vamos! Let’s Go Eat by Raúl the Third with color by Elaine Bay

Review by Sonia Alejandra Rodríguez, PhD and Ingrid Campos

DESCRIPTION OF THE BOOK: In this new Vamos! title, Let’s Go Eat, Little Lobo is excited to take in a show with wrestling star El Toro in his bustling border town. After getting lunch orders from The Bull and his friends to help prepare for the event, Little Lobo takes readers on a tour of food trucks that sell his favorite foods, like quesadillas with red peppers and Mexican-Korean tacos. Peppered with easy-to-remember Latin-American Spanish vocabulary, this glorious celebration of food is sure to leave every reader hungry for lunch!

OUR TWO CENTS: ¡Vamos! Let’s Go Eat by Raúl the Third with color by Elaine Bay centers Little Lobo, his dog Bernabé, and his rooster friend, Kooky Dooky. Little Lobo takes his delivery services to El Coliseo to meet Luchador star, El Toro, who asks Little Lobo to get lunch orders for him and all of his famished wrestling friends before the big show that night. Little Lobo, Bernabé, and Kooky Dooky visit different food trucks and food stands in the area to find some of their favorite Mexican dishes such as tacos, tamales, churros, aguas frescas, and many more delicious treats. 

¡Vamos! Let’s Go Eat is crowded with fun, humorous characters from cover to cover: from a snake with a sombrero slithering up a utility pole, to a tortoise driving a “Tortas Tortuga” truck with “despacito” blazoned across the side, to “Armor Dillo,” a luchador armadillo covered in armor, and so much more. The illustrations are also action-packed, mimicking the high energy of any good lucha match. The cars speed by leaving zig-zag “vroom” behind. The floor retumba like waves at the rumble of the luchadors’ hungry tummies. Puffs of smoke or exhaust rise as Little Lobo dashes from one place to the next. Elaine’s color choices bring the book to life–resembling Little Lobo’s lively neighborhood. Additionally, readers will find many words for different types of foods, animals, and actions as part of the illustrations. On one spread, when Little Lobo first meets all the luchadores, their names are drawn to match their styles, like the “L” in “Lizarda” is as long as their tongue. On another page, when Little Lobo goes to pick up dessert, there are so many options that the words fill up half the page: “Flan,” “arroz con leche,” “churros,” and more. Raúl and Elaine give every inch of the pages something new for readers to find with every read.

¡Vamos! is also an extraordinary book for showcasing bilingualism in Spanish and English. Some of the speech bubbles offer immediate translation of the Spanish words and phrases: “Un poquito de esto. Un poquito de lo otro. A little of this. A little of that.” Other speech bubbles or words in the illustrations don’t offer direct translations; instead, the illustrations serve as context for translation. An example of this is when Little Lobo sits to watch the lucha, and the vendor shouts, “¡Cacahuates! ¡Palomitas! ¡Soda!” There’s no direct translation on the page but instead the reader can see the vendor toss a bag of peanuts at Little Lobo. On other pages, the English and Spanish serve as a call and response. When Little Lobo and Bernabé make it to El Coliseo for the first time, Little Lobo asks, “¡¿Qué es eso?!” and one of the luchadores responds with, “That’s our bellies. We are very hungry.” Additionally, there’s a food glossary at the end of the book, which readers can refer to if they are unfamiliar with the words. The author also encourages readers to use a Spanish-English dictionary to look up words not found in the glossary, which is a significant way to encourage proactiveness and agency in young readers. 

The heart of this story is not only Mexican food but also love and respect for street food vendors. Raúl does an excellent job at representing the diversity of street food, the types of kitchens where the food is made, and kinds of characters who make the food. After getting the long list of food orders from the luchadores, Little Lobo, Bernabé, and Kooky Dooky head outside to shop from the different food vendors. The narration reads, “A food truck is a kitchen on wheels. Food of all kinds can be prepared there. Some food sellers used modified bikes or wagons.” There are also food sellers selling out of a cooler and from a box around their neck. Additionally, in ¡Vamos!, Raúl shows that street food vendors are an important staple of any community and demonstrates how street food vendors support one another. For example, at one point in the story, Little Lobo notices: “At the elotero, the corn boils in the giant tub right on the cart. Macho gives all his husks to Tammy. She uses them to wrap her tamales.” Here, the vendors support one another by sharing supplies to create food that’ll feed a community, but the example also demonstrates how conservation is an innate part of many Latinx cultures; nothing goes to waste. 

By capturing the diversity and beauty of Mexican food and street food vendors, Raúl challenges negative stereotypes that currently may exist around both of these cultures. At a time when street vendors are under constant policing and harassment, a book like ¡Vamos! is essential reading to expand young peoples’ understanding of culinary practices and respect for those who make the food and for those who deliver it.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR-ILLUSTRATOR: (From his website) Raúl The Third is an award-winning illustrator, author, and artist living in Boston. His work centers around the contemporary Mexican-American experience and his memories of growing up in El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

Lowriders in Space was nominated for a Texas BlueBonnet award in 2016-2017 and Raúl was awarded the prestigious Pura Belpré Award for Illustration by the American Library Association for Lowriders to the Center of the Earth. He was also a contributor to the SpongeBob Comics series.

¡Vamos! Let’s Go to The Market! is Raúl’s first authorial project, which he wrote and illustrated, and is colored by Elaine Bay.

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ABOUT THE REVIEWERSSonia Alejandra Rodriguez, PhD is an Associate Professor of English at LaGuardia Community College (CUNY) where she teaches composition, literature, and creative writing. Her academic research focuses on decolonial healing in Latinx children’s and young adult literature. Sonia is a Mellon Emerging Faculty Leader.

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Ingrid Campos is a 19-year-old college student interested in Latinx Literature. After graduating from LaGuardia Community College (CUNY) this year with an associates in Writing and Literature, she will continue her studies at Queens College to earn her Bachelors in English Education 7-12 . Ingrid was born and raised in Queens, New York. As a Mexican-American living in Queens and graduating from the public school system, Ingrid is inspired to become a high school teacher. One of her main goals is to center academic curriculums around more diversity and inclusivity towards Black and Brown students.

Book Review: Yum! ¡MmMm! ¡Qué Rico!: Americas’ Sproutings by Pat Mora

largeBy Sujei Lugo

DESCRIPTION FROM THE BOOK JACKET: Peanuts, blueberries, corn, potatoes, tomatoes, and more—here is a luscious collection of haiku celebrating foods native to the Americas. Brimming with imagination and fun, these poems capture the tasty essence of foods that have delighted, united, and enriched our lives for centuries. Exuberant illustrations bring to life the delicious spirit of the haiku, making Yum! ¡MmMm! ¡Qué Rico! an eye-popping, mouth-watering treat.

MY TWO CENTS: Beware: This book will make you feel hungry!

Through Pat Mora’s wonderful haikus (a traditional and very popular form of Japanese poetry) and Rafael López’s vivid illustrations, we are introduced to a wide variety of foods from the Americas. From blueberries and papaya, to pumpkin and vanilla, readers will have the opportunity to discover and learn about crops that have been growing in our lands for centuries.

Mora uses this opportunity to present us with 14 different types of foods accompanied by a haiku, an illustration, and an informational paragraph for each. This combination effectively makes this book a fun, poetic, and informational read. Mora’s short poems strive to capture the various feelings and sensory experiences we encounter when we eat and enjoy these foods. The informational paragraph provides us with the etymology, origin and uses for each food, and some of them even include national holidays across the region that celebrate them.

Even though food is the main character of the book, children and nature are presented throughout each page, as they interact with the food that is being discussed. Through cheerful and colorful illustrations, López supports Mora’s words with lively anthropomorphic foods, suns and moons, friendly animals, and picturesque landscapes. The book also embraces the real diversity of the Americas, giving us multiethnic and multiracial children and their families enjoying and being part of this magic realism journey of foods and words.

Among the food, colors, and haikus there is an important aspect that is constant throughout Yum! ¡Mmmm! ¡Qué rico!, although featured discreetly: a strong sense of how vital sharing is–sharing the land with nature, humans, and animals, as well as sharing the products of our land with others. It stresses the need to understand the importance of a non-exploitative relationship with nature and our role in taking care of our land. We can see this aspect clearly with López’s constant use of images of children and families, seen either eating or preparing food together, planting seeds, and picking crops, as well as images of nature watering our soil. There’s no doubt that this book will encourage children to eat fruit, vegetables, and other natural foods. At the same time, it will help them to recognize the work that needs to happen to enjoy those foods.

Yum! ¡Mmm! ¡Qué Rico! America’s Sproutings was the first collaboration between Pat Mora and Rafael López. Published in 2007, the book won several awards such as Bank Street Children’s Books of the Year (2008), Américas Award (2007) and American Library Association (ALA) Notable Books (2008). It was also included in the Texas Bluebonnet Award Master List (2008-2009), Great Lakes Great Books Award Master List (2008-2009) and ALA’s Top Ten Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers. 

TEACHING TIPS: The book works well for children in grades K-6. At home, kids can read it with adults and learn about haikus and how to incorporate some of the foods into their diet. They can do fun cooking activities, such as making fruit faces or fruit kabobs, and even make ice cream, like in this activity shared by the book’s publisher Lee and Low Books.

The content of the book provides librarians, teachers and educators the opportunity to create cross-curricular activities in subjects such as language arts, social studies, art, and health. Students may even become inspired by Pat Mora’s haikus and write their own pieces about the foods they’ve just learned about, and how they feel by eating them or sharing them. The book incorporates a few words in Spanish, such as luna and dulces, teaching children new words as well as showing them they can incorporate words in other languages in their writing. For activities related to social students, art, and health, Lee and Low Books provides a great classroom guide.

LEXILE: AD970L

AUTHOR & ILLUSTRATOR: Pat Mora (author) is a writer, speaker, multicultural literacy advocate, and founder of Día de los Niños/Día de los Libros (Children’s Day/Book Day). A former teacher, university administrator and consultant, Mora has dedicated her life to spread her “bookjoy” to children and adults. She is the recipient of various awards and honors such as Honorary Doctorates from North Carolina State University and SUNY Buffalo, Kellogg National Leadership Fellowship, National Endowment of the Arts Poetry Fellowship, Civitella Ranieri Fellowship, Honorary Membership in the American Library Association, Lifetime Membership in the United States Board on Books for Young People and several Southwest Book Awards.

She was written books of poetry, fiction and nonfiction for children and adults. Some of her children’s books are: Listen to the Desert/Oye al Desierto (1994); Tomás and the Library Lady (1997), winner of the 1998 Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award; The Bakery Lady (2001); Doña Flor: A Tall Tale about a Giant Woman with a Great Big Heart (2005), winner of the Pura Belpré Author Honor and Illustrator Awards (2006) and Golden Kite Award from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators; Book Fiesta!: Celebrate Children’s Day/Book Day/Celebremos El Día de los Niños/El Día de Los Libros (2009), a Junior Library Guild selection and Pura Belpré Illustrator Award (2010) winner; Gracias/Thanks (2009), recipient of the Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor (2010); A Piñata in a Pine Tree: A Latino Twelve Days of Christmas (2009), Dizzy in Your Eyes: Poems about Love (2010) and The Beautiful Lady: Our Lady of Guadalupe (2012).

Rafael López (illustrator): Rafael López is a Mexican award-winning illustrator and artist, whose work is influenced by his cultural heritage, colors of Mexican street life, and Mexican surrealism. In addition to children’s books, Rafael López has created illustrated posters and United States Postal Service stamps such as the Latin Music Legends series. He also launched street art projects to revitalize urban neighborhoods such as the Urban Art Trail Project.

He is the recipient of various Pura Belpré Honor for Illustration awards, for books such as: My Name is Celia: The Life of Celia Cruz/Me Llamo Celia: La Vida de Celia Cruz (2006), Book Fiesta!: Celebrate Children’s Day/Book Day/ Celebremos El Día de los Niños/El Día de Los Libros (2010), The Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred (2012) and Tito Puente: Mambo King/Rey del Mambo (2013). He also received two Américas Awards for Children’s and Young Adult Literature for My Name is Celia (2006) and Yum! ¡Mmmm! ¡Qué Rico! Americas’ Sproutings (2007).

FOR MORE INFORMATION about Yum! ¡MmMm! ¡Qué Rico!: Americas’ Sproutings (2007) visit your local library or bookstore. Also, check out worldcat.orgindiebound.orggoodreads.comamazon.comleeandlow.com.