I have a secret passion for abecedarios. (Okay. Maybe not so secret now.) I even love the word – ah-beh-seh-dah-ree-ohs and the way it falls around in my mouth. It sounds like a yummy cereal you eat that is made out of letters. So the point is that I love them, these ABC books. I like them in both English and Spanish and even best is when they come in both languages!
¡Marimba! Animales from A to Z by Pat Mora is especially great for children like mine who are obsessed with animals and zoos. The story is about how once a year, a little monkey sings the zookeepers to sleep then proceeds to wake up all the animals in the zoo with his little marimba for an energetic fiesta. Before you know it, the iguanas are doing the cha-cha and the manatíes are dancing the mambo while quetzales sell lemonade and ocelotes make piñatas.
Mora comments in an "Author’s Note" at the back of the book how she used 26 cognates (words similar in both English and Spanish) to help English learners and Spanish learners both, discover the similarities in the languages. In addition, the book mentions a large number of Latin dances (such as those I mentioned above) and also foods with ties to the Latin culture.
The illustrations by Doug Cushman help convey the rhythm and movement of the story line. Animals dance and leap across the pages with expressive faces. Each opening engages children as it reflects different animals and habitats. But children will enjoy looking for the little monkey playing his marimba (though, personally, I would have preferred him without his stereotypical sombrero) as he appears throughout the book.
Overall, mis niños enjoyed the story, and I did, too. The book is a great way to discuss the similarities in languages. Parents can also easily convince children to get up and dance afterwards. Probably best suited for daytime reads, not so much bedtime.
If you would like to buy your own copy of ¡Marimba! Animales from A to Z, click here. New and gently used copies are available.
Portions of this post originally ran on the LBBC.