“Abuelo” Shines with Bilingual Word Play

Title: Abuelo

Author: Arthur Dorros

Illustrator: Raul Colon

Publisher: Harper

Year: 2014

Word Count: 351


My husband is from Colombia. We met in Spain. And now we are raising our Colombian-American son to be bilingual in that bastion of multiculturalism, Ohio. (Don’t get me wrong — I love Ohio! It’s just not the first place that comes to most people’s minds when you think of multiculturalism!) As you can imagine, I’m always looking for bilingual books that share the Hispanic experience. Abuelo, which is set in Las Pampas of Argentina, a place that my husband and I once traversed by bus, not by horse as in the book, does just that.

I love the way that Spanish words are woven into this beautiful story about a grandfather (abuelo) and his grandson (nieto). I also appreciate how it depicts that the old lessons passed down through the generations and learned in the country can translate beautifully to a new life lived by the next generation in the city. The word play found in this book is different than the types of word plays I’ve uncovered in my other reviews (onomatopoeia and puns). Here it’s simile and vivid verbs used in unexpected ways that caused me to pause and really drink in the language.

The book begins like this:

When I was little,

Abuelo and I would ride

with the wind, “el viento,”

washing our faces.

Isn’t that a beautiful image — the wind washing your face? It definitely captures the feeling of riding a horse and paints a picture in your mind. The second spread continues this beautiful use of language:

We would ride into the clouds,

with the sky, “el cielo,”

wrapped around us.

Again, that language leaves the reader with a strong image. When Abuelo and his nieto come across a mountain lion in their path, Abuelo shows him how to be strong.

We stood as strong as any mountain trees.

That use of simile paints a powerful picture of strength. Later in the story, the young boy will use what Abuelo has taught him about being strong to stand up to a bully in his new life in the city. This brings up the use of patterning in the book. Every lesson that the young boy learns in Las Pampas with his Abuelo, he later puts to use in his new life in the city. The lessons and their applications in his new home play out in the same order.

The beautiful language, the bond between grandfather and grandson, and the simple life lessons imparted make this a memorable book.

What’s your favorite children’s book depicting the special bond between grandparents and grandchildren?

6 Responses to ““Abuelo” Shines with Bilingual Word Play”

  1. Manju Howard

    It’s nice to see a new PB with a grandchild who loves his grandparent. In children’s books, too many adults sound like they came out of Charlie Brown’s world.

  2. Juliana Lee

    Sorry, I was so excited I hit return before I left my message! I can’t believe how many life experiences we share. My mother is Spanish, from the northern basque region. It was even harder growing up ‘multicultural’ and ‘bilingual’ when I was young. Kuddos to you for making sure your son gets the best of both worlds!

  3. Linda E.H.

    I love stories that introduce kids to/weave in words from other languages.

    We brought our daughter up bilingual (English & German). It is so easy for the children to learn a second language that way. She is way ahead of her German classmates in English class and when they don’t understand something, they often ask her instead of the teacher. LOL.


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