Title: Mango, Abuela and Me
Author: Meg Medina
Illustrator: Angela Dominguez
Publisher: Candlewick Press, 2015
Themes: love, learning new language, making friends
Awards: Belpre (Author and illustrator) Honor Books, 2016
SHE COMES TO US in winter, leaving behind her sunny house that rested between two snaking rivers. “Her old place was too much for one.” Mami tells me and we make room in my dresser for her clothes. “And too far away for us to help,” Papi adds, “Abuela belongs with us now, Mia.” But I still feel shy when I meet this far-away grandmother.
Mia’s abuela has left her sunny house with parrots and palm trees to live with Mia and her parents in the city. The night she arrives, Mia tries to share her favorite book with Abuela before they go to sleep and discovers that Abuela can’t read the words inside. So while they cook, Mia helps Abuela learn English (“Dough. Masa”), and Mia learns some Spanish too, but it’s still hard for Abuela to learn the words she needs to tell Mia all her stories. Then Mia sees a parrot in the pet-shop window and has the perfect idea for how to help them all communicate a little better. An endearing tale from an award-winning duo that speaks loud and clear about learning new things and the love that bonds family members. (Goodreads)
Why I like this book:
This is a sensitive story about a young girl teaching her Spanish-speaking grandmother English — to speak and read. The illustrations are done in ink, gouache, and marker and capture their loving relationship, even when they don’t understand each other’s language. The story also reinforces the respect between generations in this community, which I appreciate.
Besides being a book about how a grandaughter who doesn’t speak Spanish decides how she can communicate with her abuela who doesn’t speak English, it also reveals the early stages any new language learner goes through, whatever their age.
While I Ioved Mango’s humor and language assistance, I was distressed to see the family buy a parrot (since most of them are illegally captured from South America). Mango is however, illustrated as a happy parrot, allowed outside his cage, even out in the street! Of course, his language repetition does indeed add to the storyline.
This is a gentle celebration of family that tells a heartwarming story that should be included even in monolingual classrooms.
I would take any of the children’s languages in the classroom and do the same language learning activity demonstrated in the picture book!
Each week a group of bloggers reviews picture books we feel would make great educational reads. To help teachers, caregivers and parents, we have included resources and activities with each of our reviews. A complete list of the thousands of books we have reviewed can be found sorted alphabetically and by topics, here on Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.