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Dear Primo: A Letter to My Cousin Hardcover – Bargain Price, March 1, 2010
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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
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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
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Top Customer Reviews
We also got his Diego Rivera book.
Great author and illustrator!
Carlitos letters are in English, with a few Spanish words included.
In the town from time to time they have fiestas that last two or three days. At night there are cohetes that light up the sky and mariachis that play and play.
I love how the Tonatiuh allows readers or listeners who don't speak Spanish to understand the Spanish words. He also includes a visual image of the Spanish words to make it that much easier.
One of the things that stands out for me in Dear Primo, are the author's illustrations. Tonatiuh uses a style I am not use to. I love his use of color. The more I look at the book, the more I appreciated the art. In the back its says Tonatiuh was inspired by the ancient art of mixtecs and other cultures of Mexico.
I did a quick search , I wanted to know more about mixtecs art but came up empty. So I decided to ask Duncan Tonatiuh about his artistic style.
"My art is mostly inspired by ancient Mixtec codex. Most of those codex were done in the eleventh century I believe. I am attaching some images.I draw by hand but I color and collage texture into my drawings in photoshop. I developed my style while I was doing my BFA thesis at Parsons School of design.
I looked at a lot of Pre-Columbian art from Mexico and the Americas to develop the look of my thesis project. When I saw the Mixtec codex I was particularly struck. Something clicked. I really like the design of the images -the geometry and the repetition of colors and forms. I find them very musical.
I adopted a lot of the aesthetic choices in those codex, like the fact that people are always seen in profile or the proportions, which differ from the classical western standards. I did not want to simply imitate those drawings though. Using digital techniques was a way for me to make those images contemporary and also make them my own.
Basically I try to combine something that looks very ancient with something that looks very modern. I am from Mexico, and Mexico has such a rich visual tradition. I want to keep those traditions alive but I also want to innovate and make those ancient aesthetics relevant and accessible to kids and people today.
I think what I do is a little bit like sampling. The way a dj/producer samples a base line, or guitar section, mixes it with a new drum beat etc and makes a new song. "
Primo shows the imagination and playfulness of the child's mind that has this innate curiosity, as he describes the picturesque experiences of his life. This is a book for children who will be excited and curious. It will open their mind to a different world, different from their own. Any adult will also be fascinated by the characters, through the colorful illustrations, that tell the story in itself as the writer brings them to life.
With its illustrations inspired by ancient Mexican cultures and its parallel storylines, this book provides readers with an appealing account of some of the cultural and socioeconomic differences that children with similar interests may experience in different countries. The author's note about his own background of migration from Mexico to the United States helps to place the story into a more personal context of understanding and appreciating one's identity as a Mexican American.