I wish I had the numbers in front of me. I wish I could tell you how many bilingual books for kids have been published in the past and how that number compares to today. If we’re going to speak to my experience as a children’s librarian over the past decade, all I can say with any certainty is that while I don’t know if the number of bilingual books has increased, I do feel as if I’m seeing a wider range of languages. That is a wholly unscientific speculation, of course. In any case, enjoy this smattering of some truly lovely bilingual books out in 2016.
Note: Some of the titles on this list are not strictly bilingual. They may instead incorporate more than one language into their text. I have included these because they encourage a love of multiple languages and do not slot neatly under any kind of definition (and are consequently forgotten). I’ll note these titles as they appear.
2016 Bilingual Books for Kids
Ada’s Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay by Susan Hood, ill. Sally Wern Comport
A friend pointed out to me earlier in the year that it was somewhat remarkable that a nonfiction picture book was coming out in both English and Spanish versions. Never mind that it’s beautiful to look at with great writing and a unique story. Or that it’s one of the rare picture books out there where you can honestly get it from a child’s point of view. I like to think that this book may be a sign of things to come. Or maybe I just hope it.
Animal Talk: Mexican Folk Art Animal Sounds in English and Spanish by Cynthia Weill, ill. Rubi Fuentes and Efraiin Broa
This isn’t Weill’s first time around the block. It is, however, strange that I can’t conjure up more titles that do precisely this: show animals sounds in another language. It sort of sounds like a no-brainer when you hear about it, doesn’t it? Kudos for the idea and the gorgeous follow through.
Little Chickies / Los Pollitos by Susie Jaramillo
I think this is just one of the great book publications of the year. In fact, I included this on my earlier board book list. Then, one of my commenters mentioned that there was also this out there:
Little Elephants / Elefantitos by Susie Jaramillo
La Madre Goose: Nursery Rhymes for Los Ninos by Susan Middleton Elya, ill. Jana Martinez-Neal
Yay! Now this appeared on the nursery rhymes list already, and it’s nice to see it here on the bilingual list as well. Granted it’s not strictly bilingual. Spanish words are integrated into the text. But that’s okay. I just think it’s neat.
Olinguito, from A to Z! / Olinguito, de la A a la Z! by Lulu Delacre
And you may have seen this gorgeous title on my alphabet list too. It’s far more than that, though. A science book that looks at rainforests in depth, an alphabet book, a bilingual book, and a collection of the author’s poetic rhymes (in TWO languages!), it’s a bit of an achievement.
Rudas: Nino’s Horrendous Hermanitas by Yuyi Morales
They’re baaaaack! Again, not strictly bilingual but with a consistent smattering of Spanish words, this sequel to Nino Wrestles the World picks up where the last book left off.
Somo Como Las Nubes / We Are Like the Clouds by Jorge Argueta, ill. Elisa Amado
Oh, these poems are AMAZING! Subject matter aside, these poems make an immediate emotional connection with readers
Waiting for the Biblioburro / Esperando el Biblioburro by Monica Brown, ill. John Parra
I felt bad. An acquaintance, not knowing if this book would appear on my list, went so far as to send me a copy. I could have saved them a stamp since this book has been on my radar for a while. It is by NO means the first biblioburro book I’ve ever seen, but it may well be the most touching.
Are You an Echo?: The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko by David Jacobson, ill. Toshikado Hajiri, translations by Sally Ito and Michiko Tsuboi
I believe that there’s a fair amount of Japanese at the end of this book or perhaps in the poems. Hey, if it means I get to put it on a list, you can BET that I’ll be first in line to do so.
The Last Kappa of Old Japan: A Magical Journey of Two Friends by Sunny Seki
A sweet story with a modern twist, this is great! Takes a classic folktale creature and gives it warmth and heart and wonder.
Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Journey by Margriet Ruurs, ill. Nizar Ali Badr
Bilingual Arabic books for kids are few and far between, so the appearance of this book on our shelves is a real treat.
I would be amiss if I didn’t shout out two Chinese / English bilingual titles that I thought were truly wonderful but that are well nigh impossible to find online. Alakazam by Chao Wang, ill. Duncan Poupard (9781945295102) and CeeCee by Mao Xiao, ill. Chunmiao Li & Yanhong Zhang, translated by Helen Wang (9781945295140) are two books that deftly display how seamlessly some bilingual Chinese titles fit into the American picture book market. Unfortunately, as of this posting, I’ve been unable to locate them online. If you have any leads on the matter, be sure to let me know. They’re really and truly great books.
Interested in the other lists of the month? Here’s the schedule so that you can keep checking back:
December 1 – Board Books
December 2 – Board Book Adaptations
December 3 – Nursery Rhymes
December 4 – Picture Book Readalouds
December 5 – Rhyming Picture Books
December 6 – Alphabet Books
December 7 – Funny Picture Books
December 8 – Calde-Nots
December 9 – Picture Book Reprints
December 10 – Math Picture Books
December 11 – Bilingual Books
December 12 – International Imports
December 13 – Books with a Message
December 14 – Fabulous Photography
December 15 – Fairy Tales / Folktales
December 16 – Oddest Books of the Year
December 17 – Older Picture Books
December 18 – Easy Books
December 19 – Early Chapter Books
December 20 – Graphic Novels
December 21 – Poetry
December 22 – Fictionalized Nonfiction
December 23 – American History
December 24 – Science & Nature Books
December 25 – Transcendent Holiday Titles
December 26 – Unique Biographies
December 27 – Nonfiction Picture Books
December 28 – Nonfiction Chapter Books
December 29 – Novel Reprints
December 30 – Novels
December 31 – Picture Books