Lu and Bean have been privileged to learn Spanish from birth after attending a Spanish-immersion daycare and preschool. We decided to enroll them because I speak Spanish conversationally and we thought it would be a great way to get their little brains working creatively at a young age. We hope someday they will appreciate the gift of just knowing a second language and not having to learn one.
Because they already have a solid grasp of basic Spanish vocabulary, we have found a number of excellent children’s books that incorporate Spanish language into the text. But even for children (and adults) who do not know Spanish, these books should be easy enough to understand—and if not, they each have a glossary in the back to help you and your kids learn more. The majority of these also rhyme, making the text flow smoothly and creating a rhythm that carries you easily through the book even if there is a word you don’t know. Call me crazy—I really like reading rhyming books. Have fun with these!
In Gazpacho for Nacho, written by Tracey C. Kyle and illustrated by Carolina Farias, a young boy refuses to eat anything but gazpacho, the cold tomato-based soup popular in Spain. His mother gets so fed up with making gazpacho that she forces him to prepare it himself—and by cooking his own batch, he learns he may like to explore other foods, too. We found Gazpacho for Nacho by accident at the library and borrowed it several times before realizing we should probably just own a copy.
There is also a recipe for gazpacho at the end of the book which, is a fun way to get your kids involved in cooking with you and—possibly—getting them to consider eating cold tomato soup.
The Three Little Tamales is another re-imagination of a classic story—this time the Three Little Pigs are reincarnated as tamales in the southwestern desert. The bad guy is still a Big Bad Wolf who wants to blow their houses down and eat up the tamales. Except for the change in characters and scenery, Eric A. Kimmel‘s story unfolds much like the original, with the tamales trying to save their casitas, and themselves, from Senor Lobo the wolf. My girls were drawn to the I’ll-Huff-and-I’ll-Puff sections, which in this telling are instead a cute English-Spanish rhyme.
I’ll huff and I’ll puff
like a Texas tornado
and blow your casita
from here to Laredo!
Again, this is one the girls have on repeat request from the library. It was illustrated by Valeria Docampo.
Roseanne Greenfield Thong brings us this rhyming depiction of the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos (illustrated by Carles Ballesteros <–go here to see more illustrations you will want!). The rhyming text is sweet, but the illustrations are the star of this book, with bright spreads that bring to life Dia de los Muertos traditions like altars, decorations, offerings, picnics and special celebration foods. A surprise visit from Frida Kahlo especially delighted Lu and Bean.
This clever new take on the Little Red Riding Hood story was written by Susan Middleton Elya and illustrated by Susan Guevara. A modern day Roja (Spanish for Red) encounters a tricky lobo (wolf), but she and her Abue (short for Grandma) outsmart him. Throughout the story, Middleton Elya adds details to bring Roja into the modern era, complete with cell phones and security sistemas. Little Roja Riding Hood received honors for writing and illustration. But most importantly in our home, it includes an inexplicable band of gnomes that the girls love to search for on each spread.
My Abuelita is the first book among this group that does not rhyme. But you do get to shout “Pantuflas! Pantuflas!” several times throughout the reading. Which is a very fun word to shout, and which, if you’re Lu and Bean, pretty much makes this book worthwhile. (Pantuflas means slippers—you’ll have to read for yourself why it’s necessary to shout about your slippers.) Anywho, this Abuelita character created by author Tony Johnston and illustrated by Yuyi Morales sure knows how to make life fun for her adoring grandchild. The story follows the pair throughout a morning getting ready for Abuelita’s mysterious job. When they get there, you’ll realize you’ve been there all along.
One of our new favorites! Waiting for the Biblioburro, illustrated by John Parra, tells the story of a young girl who lives in a remote Latin American village far from access to a bricks and mortar library. She loves books, but she only has one and she has read it one too many times. Then one day, a librarian shows up by burro—donkey—with a traveling library meant to connect rural kids to a love of books. What’s not to love about the concept of a donkey-powered Bookmobile? Although the book never names him or the country and context in which he works, the story celebrates Luis Soriano Bohórquez, a man who spends his free time and risks his own personal safety to bring books to children in the mountains of Colombia. It’s a fascinating story, and one that parents can definitely supplement with more information (the basics are on CNN.com).