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Friday, April 3, 2009

The Storyteller's Candle (Picture Book/Spanish)

Released March 2008

Reviewed by Deb Fowler

Hildamar was from Puerto Rico and her first winter in New York totally shocked her. It was so unlike the warmth she was accustomed to. She and her cousin Santiago would just have to get used to living in El Barrio (Spanish Harlem). It was 1929 and Mama Nenita, Tio Pedro, Titi Maria (Santiago’s parents) and the children were all missing their native land and were apprehensive about the upcoming Navidad, their first in America. It was going to be very different for them because Spanish wasn’t spoken everywhere and that could be difficult and unsettling.

But one day something very special happened. A woman named Pura Belpré came to school to tell them about the public library and tell them stories with puppets in both English and Español! The exiting thing for Hildamar was that they had books in Spanish. Ms. Belpré would make the library a very special place for Spanish immigrants of all ages. She would even help them celebrate their favorite holiday El Día de los Reyes, Three Kings’ Day, in a very special way. At the end of each storytelling session Ms. Belpré would whisper:

“Now close your eyes and make a wish. We’ll blow out the storyteller’s candle and your wish will come true.”

This gentle biography was very appealing. I loved the illustrations and the unique embedding of period newspaper articles in the collage. The text is bilingual with the storyline on opposite pages or in some instances, one language on top of another on the same page. This is an excellent book to introduce children to another language, an especially nice introduction given the charm of the tale.

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