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31 Days, 31 Lists: 2019 Bilingual & Spanish Books for Kids

This year on their Best Books for Kids list, New York Public Library included a section that was just “En espanol.” It got me to thinking. On 31 Days, 31 Lists I always include a day of celebration for “bilingual books”. What do I mean by that? Well, either these are books that were originally in English and were translated to another language, or they feature both English and another language in their text. Following NYPL’s lead, however, I think that in 2020 it will behoove me to make a separate Spanish Language List as well. With all the great books being produced right now, it just makes sense.

In the meantime, enjoy a list of books that are pretty much entirely Spanish, with one notable exception:


2019 Bilingual & Spanish Books for Kids

Adopting a Dinosaur / Adoptar Un Dinosaurio by José Carlos Andrés, ill. Ana Sanfelippo

I’ve read a lot of pet dinosaur books over the years, believe you me, and they all tend to contain one similar thread. Generally speaking, the number one thing a kid wants to do when they have one is to ride it. Makes perfect sense. This book takes the I-want-a-pet storyline and combines it with the dino storyline. I think it’s Sanfelippo’s art that’s the true lure, though. The cacophony of critters is hard to beat.

Amazing Me! / Soy Sorprendente!: Music! / Toco música! by Carol Thompson

This is an entire series of books, actually, and they’re all called “Amazing Me”. Of them, this is undoubtedly my favorite. Why? Well, first off it’s a board book, and you simply cannot have enough bilingual board books in this world. Then there are the storytime possibilities. In this story toddlers play with musical instruments like bells and sticks that they can clack together. If you want to pair a readaloud of this book (which hopefully may someday get a large sized edition) with the instruments in your storytime (I’m talking to you, children’s librarians) that would work perfectly. Oh! And there are drums and shaky things too! You can’t lose!

Al bebé le encanta la ingenieria aerospacial / Baby Loves Aerospace Engineering by Ruth Spiro, ill. Irene Chan

Breaking down the rudimentary mechanics of flight for toddlers (in spite of the series name “Baby Loves” this is a bit above the book muncher set) is a skill. Showing how air travels above and below a bird’s wings and then applying that to planes and rockets is pretty darn smart. Best of all, the design allows for a nice amount of space for the words in both Spanish and English. Nothing feel scrunched. Well done.

Blue Sky, White Stars / Un Cielo Azul, Blancas Estrellas by Sarvinder Naberhaus, ill. Kadir Nelson

I opened this up to remember it since it’s been a little while since the original came out (just two years, but my brain gets fuzzy after a while) and the page I opened two was the old black WWII veteran staring at you while his grandson peeks out from behind him. And then it all came flooding back. That’s right. This book had some really nice elements to it when it was published. Worth checking out.

The Boy Who Touched the Stars / El niño que alcanzó las estrellas by José M. Hernández, ill. Steven James Petruccio

Actually, it seems a little odd to me that we haven’t learned more about child migrant worker turned astronaut José M. Hernández before. Told entirely in the first person (so bear that in mind, oh children’s librarians, when a kid comes to you asking for a picture book autobiography) it recounts his life and dreams. Something it also does, and which I really appreciated, was that it made it clear that we still have astronauts going up into space. It’s very simple and very informative. One of the rarer picture book bios out there.

Días y días / Days and Days by Ginger Foglesong Guy, ill. René King Moreno

A seasons book, handled with care, and told very simply. The title actually provides the element of the book I like the most. Kids have a very hard time figuring out how much time it takes to get from one season to another. I appreciate that this book acknowledges that it takes days and days and days or días y días y días to get to that next time of year. Moreno’s pastels just suck you in as well. Exceedingly gentle.

Don’t Let Them Disappear: 12 Endangered Species Across the Globe by Chelsea Clinton, ill. Gianna Marino / No dejes que Desparezcan: 12 animales en peligro de extinción alrededor del mundo, escrito por Chelsea Clinton, ilustraciones de Gianna Marino

Released simultaneously in both an English and a Spanish edition, we’ve certainly seen this topic handled many times before in English before. But finding Spanish nonfiction from major publishers? That’s a rarity indeed. A nice book and Marino tames her style a bit for it, which is interesting to observe. Purdy.

Lejos / Far by Juan Felipe Herrera, ill. Blanca Gómez

Well THAT was better than I was expecting! This book, THIS book, is amazing. It’s a concept book at its heart, no doubt, but look at how it turns the old “near” and “far” idea into something much bigger, better, brighter, and more meaningful. It seemed funny to me that Herrera, our former U.S. Poet Laureate, would want to make board books but the press materials for this book included this quote from him: “Toddlers read sounds, collect shapes, and play images every millisecond. This is why they possess the power of invention and discovery. I believe in toddlers and their genius.” An author who respects his readers. Even the ones that don’t have all their teeth in yet. Be sure to check out Herrera’s Cerca/Close as well.

Malala Yousafzai: Guerrera con palabras por Karen Leggett Abouraya, ill. Susan L. Roth

Nice of Lee & Low to make a Spanish language version of this. It really is a good biography of Malala, and it’ll be one of the few you have in your collection in a language other than English. And lord knows we need more Spanish language biographies with excellent art and text.

Mamá Goose by Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy, ill. Maribel Suárez

I was quite surprised to hear that this book came out originally in 2004, but that was right at the beginning of my librarian career, so maybe that’s why I missed it. I’m very pleased to see Hyperion putting it out again in a board book form. Bilingual lullabies (nanas) are expertly paired with Suárez’s gentle art. The trick is in the translation, of course. Fortunately, the English versions of these rhymes are top notch. They work beautifully, so that you could read both the English and Spanish, just the Spanish, or just the English, and the book holds up no matter what. Kudos for this reprint.

Mamaqtuq! by The Jerry Cans, ill. Eric Kim

[romanized Inuktitut]

A lot of reasons why I find this book interesting. First off, it has zero problems with showing a cutesy little seal on the title page and then shooting it for food later. This is a contemporary Inuit tale, told by an Inuit music group that combines alt-country, throat singing, and reggae. We almost never see hunting in a book unless it’s bad with a capital B. This gives us an alternate view. And, kinda made me hungry too.

Mario y el Agujero en el cielo: Cómo un químico salvó nuestro planeta by Elizabeth Rusch, illus. by Teresa Martinez

What do you do when you can see a looming disaster that could wipe out all life on earth and nobody will listen to you? A stellar bio of Nobel Prize winner Mario Molina, who discovered the dangers of CFCs. This is the book that had to drop David Diaz as its illustrator when the #MeToo stuff about him broke. And you know what? I think I like the art by Martínez more than I ever did the art by Diaz. One reason might be the fact that Diaz is all about otherworldly looks and Martínez is all about emotion. You actually like Mario quite a lot in this version. You feel for the guy. I just felt more tied into the material and his struggles to get the world to listen to something they didn’t want to hear. It’s also realistic while remaining hopeful. Mario says that now he’s looking to warn the world about global warming, and you are left hoping that maybe  he’ll succeed. There is some fake dialogue in the front but the author addresses this, saying it came straight from interviews from Mario himself, so I think that covers her bases. Worthy, necessary stuff. 

Me rompí la trompa! por Mo Willems

Mi Amigo Está Triste por Mo Willems

Duh.

My Big Bear, My Little Bear and Me / Mi Oso Grande, Mi Oso Pequeño y Yo by Margarita Del Mazo, ill. Rocio Bonilla

Sneaky little book, it manages to squiggle its way into your heart. I can’t help but like it. This is one of those books the publisher nubeocho will put out simultaneously in English and Spanish editions. For some reason, they got really into a lot of snot-related picture books in 2019. Not sure what’s going on there (and I read these books during my lunch break, so you can imagine how quickly my appetite faded after some of them). This book, in contrast, was just a gentle, lovely surprise. It’s a picture book featuring an unreliable narrator. You take the kid at their word when they say they travel with a big bear and a little bear. The reveal of the big bear, however, changes the interpretation of the text. Lovely.

Mi Papi Tiene Una Moto by Isabel Quintero, ill. Zeke Peña

A book that probably needs no introduction. The story really just consists of a girl going for a ride with her Papi on his motorcycle. That’s it. But in spite of its simplicity, I found it immensely cool. The art by Peña is super keen and you get this amazing sense of the author’s love of Corona, CA. Very glad to see it available in a Spanish-language edition. I just sort of loved it.

Por Todo Nuestro Alrededor by Xelena González, ill. Adriana M. Garcia

When this book was released in 2017, I had every intention of giving it a proper review on this blog. Time, unfortunately, ran out on me and I completely failed to give it it’s due. Fortunately, thanks to the wonders of translation, there is such a thing as second chances. How many books are on your list with blurbs from Yuyi Morales (“All Around Us begs to be shared over and over. The use of lines and strokes conveys energy, spirit, magic. And I love the way it connects us all to the idea that we come from inside, from the earth, from something gentle and primal, and that is where go back to—and we better take care of it.”) and Naomi Shihab Nye (“A transcendent, perfectly gorgeous book, as magical as childhood feels in its best times. Rich, warm, comforting words and images to hold closely in your mind.”)? Worth all the praise and more.

La oruga muy impaciente / The Very Impatient Caterpillar by Ross Burach

It’s already shown up on two of the lists this year (Funny Picture Books and Readalouds). I think the universe is trying to tell you something.

Solo Pregunta by Sonia Sotomayor, ill. Rafael López

I don’t have to tell you that for all that we’ve made great strides in publishing Spanish language children’s titles in 2019, it’s still not as if there’s an abundance to pull from. And to be perfectly frank, I rather like this book. It’s a little systematic (showing kids that would be deemed “different” in school, be it for allergies or Down syndrome or dyslexia) but I like it.

¡Vamos! Let’s Go to the Market! by Raúl the Third, colors by Elaine Bay

My co-worker described this book as Richard Scarry meeting Robert Crumb, which isn’t the worst way of putting it. I was already a fan of the man’s work on the Lowriders series, so it’s kind of cool to see the man put down the ballpoint pen, and pick up whatever instrument of illustration he’s using here. There are so many tiny details to discover, but the real lure (aside from the fact that he’s basically bringing El Mercado Cuauhtémoc in Juárez to life in a format kids can read) are the tiny little Spanish words that keep popping up to explain everything. There’s a Glossary of Spanish/English words in the back, should you need it, but a lot of what you’ll find is pretty self-explanatory, not to mention mind-blowing. You know a good word for it? Joyous. That’s the term.

¡Los zombis no comen verduras! by Jorge Lacera and Megan Lacera

Sometimes I’ll talk about the kind of book I want to see more of: Gross Diversity. Booger Beard has always been my go-to in the past, but this Latinx take on vegetarian zombies may oust it from its throne. I love the art, the text, and the gags. And I particularly love that we can have a goofy and disgusting picture book in Spanish in our collection. Woohoo!


Interested in the other lists? Here’s the schedule of everything being covered this month. Enjoy!

December 1 – Great Board Books

December 2 – Board Book Reprints & Adaptations

December 3 – Transcendent Holiday Picture Books

December 4 – Picture Book Readalouds

December 5 – Rhyming Picture Books

December 6 – Funny Picture Books

December 7 – CaldeNotts

December 8 – Picture Book Reprints

December 9 – Math Books for Kids

December 10 – Bilingual Books

December 11 – Books with a Message

December 12 – Fabulous Photography

December 13 – Translated Picture Books

December 14 – Fairy Tales / Folktales / Religious Tales

December 15 – Wordless Picture Books

December 16 – Poetry Books

December 17 – Easy Books

December 18 – Early Chapter Books

December 19 – Comics & Graphic Novels

December 20 – Older Funny Books

December 21 – Science Fiction Books

December 22 – Informational Fiction

December 23 – American History

December 24 – Science & Nature Books

December 25 – Unconventional Children’s Books

December 26 – Unique Biographies

December 27 – Nonfiction Picture Books

December 28 – Nonfiction Books for Older Readers

December 29 – Older Reprints

December 30 – Middle Grade Novels

December 31 – Picture Books

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About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.

Comments

  1. Hi Betsy,

    No lie, I look forward to these lists All. Year. Long. One request: every link to the translated picture book list brings me to this bilingual list. Can you fix the link? Thanks!

    • Oops! That’s my mistake. Translated picture books got moved to tomorrow. I’ll update all the links soon. You didn’t miss it. I just got thrown off slightly. Thanks for the catch!