A Song of Frutas (Margarita Engle)

Hello, friends! Our book today is A Song of Frutas, written by Margarita Engle and illustrated by Sara Palacios, a heartwarming love letter to family and Cuban culture.

The young narrator opens the story by enthusiastically recounting the delights of visiting her Abuelo and helping him sell frutas – fruits – in the marketplace. When she visits him in Cuba, she relishes the chance to sing out the names of the fruits, haggle prices, and watch the other pregoneros (singing vendors) sell their own exciting wares and treats. Her favorite visits are on the eve of el año nuevo, when she sells grapes and partakes of the tradition of eating all twelve at midnight, making wishes for each. She always saves a wish that friendship between Cuba and the US will grow, so that someday her Abuelo can visit her home as well.

Sweet, immersive, and touching. Engle’s text perfectly captures the colorful and exciting narrative through a child’s eyes, mixing guileless sincerity with fancy and wonder and creating everyday magic on every page. The gorgeous artwork adds to this immensely, filling the scenes with color, atmosphere, and a diverse cast of characters; the little girl and Abuelo are particularly charming. The choice to include Spanglish in the text adds authenticity, as many dual-language Spanish/English speakers use this blended dialect. Backmatter features author’s notes on the Cuban traditions and current travel restrictions mentioned in the story, which are edifying for readers young and old. The length was great for a storytime, and JJ loved this one. Overall, a heartfelt treat, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

All The Way To Havana (Margarita Engle)

Hello, friends! Our book today is All The Way To Havana, written by Margarita Engle and illustrated by Mike Curato, a beautiful tale of a unique island.

A little boy’s family is headed into town today, with a cake and a gift in hand, for his new baby cousin’s zero-year birthday. But their generations-old car, affectionately named Cara Cara after the chicken-like sounds its engine produces, is having trouble starting, as always. So the boy and his father lift the hood and tinker with the hodge-podge of parts and scraps holding the ancient engine together, coaxing the old land-yacht back to life. After giving some friendly neighbors a ride and navigating a sea of similarly-unique vehicles, the family at last arrives at the birthday party, filled with excitement, family, and food. And after a fiesta (and a short siesta for the boy), the family heads back to their village, the cluck/clanking of Cara Cara ferrying them on their way.

Fascinating and beautiful. Without going into any detail (beyond mention of a complicated political situation in the afterward), Engle introduces the reader to a slice of Cuban life through a child’s eyes that is filled with color, culture, and life. With the theme of the unique vehicular population of the island running throughout, the story also deftly folds in elements of Cuban life and culture, inviting readers to experience the boy’s day alongside him. Curato’s immaculately detailed illustrations, especially his talent for bustling cityscapes, is the perfect compliment to the journey. The length is great for any age, and JJ loved imitating all the onomatopoeic car sounds. A sweet, one-of-a-kind adventure the celebrates what makes modern Cuba so unique, as well as all the things – such as kindness, wonder, and familia – that we share. Baby Bookworm approved!