From School Library Journal
Kindergarten-Grade 3—Tonatiuh compares and contrasts the daily lives of two cousins, or primos. Charlie is American, and Carlitos is Mexican. Charlie enjoys a slice of pizza after school, while Carlitos helps his mother make quesadillas. Charlie cools off in an open fire hydrant, while Carlitos jumps into a small rio. The writing is simple yet peppered with imagery that enhances it significantly: "Skyscrapers are buildings so tall they tickle the clouds" or "The subway is like a long metal snake and it travels through tunnels underground." Twenty-seven Spanish words are sprinkled throughout the text, easily understood from the context and explained in a glossary. Tonatiuh's hand-drawn, then digitally colored and collaged illustrations were influenced by the art of the Mixtecs, one of the major civilizations of Mesoamerica. While the pictures are attractive and carefully composed, one small problem might be that all the faces, young or old, male or female, are identical—only their hairstyles change, and at no time do any of the characters make eye contact. This accurately reflects Mixtec tradition, but may be a bit disconcerting for children unless put into context. Otherwise, this is an excellent tool for explaining how cultures connect.—Grace Oliff, Ann Blanche Smith School, Hillsdale, NJ
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This spin on the traditional tale of a city mouse and a country mouse explores the lives of Charlie, in urban America, and his cousin Carlitos, who lives in Mexico’s countryside. As the two boys write snail-mail back and forth, they describe their respective homes (an apartment for Charlie, a farm for Carlitos), methods of transportation, favorite sports, food, and cultural traditions. The alternating letters are printed in distinct fonts, and Carlitos’ messages integrate Spanish words, which are then helpfully duplicated next to a corresponding image and included with pronunciations in the appended glossary. The digitally enhanced collage illustrations are based on traditional Mixtec art, and show the characters posed in profile in simply composed scenes. This useful method of comparing and contrasting can serve as a fine general introduction to contemporary rural life in Mexico, while it also demonstrates the fun of having a pen pal and reinforces the sense that kids around the world are more alike than different. Grades 1-3. --Andrew Medlar