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Looking for Bongo Hardcover – January 30, 2016
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From School Library Journal
PreS—An Afro Latino boy searches for his missing stuffed toy in this tender tribute to family, music, and childhood. The adorable narrator, depicted charmingly with a puffy Afro, protruding tummy, inquisitive eyes, and pj's, inquires after the whereabouts of his beloved Bongo. With Spanish-peppered text, the toddler asks his parents, the family pets, his Wela (abuela), and even the delivery man for help but finally finds the toy dog on his own. When his grandmother suggests that Bongo's disappearance is due to his owner's negligence, the boy comes up with a plan to figure out the mystery. Small clues sprinkled throughout will invite repeat readings, and savvy children may guess the identity of the true culprit. The warm, vibrant oil paintings illuminate in obvious and not so obvious ways the family's love of music, literature, and their African roots. Pinterest-worthy bookshelves, African art on the walls, and rhythm instruments, such as congas and bongos, are present throughout, and they offer an inviting backdrop. The mostly brown and orange palette invokes a 1970s vibe, though the story takes place in the present, and the narrator's mother's Audrey Hepburn style gives this tale, inspired by the author's own upbringing, a nostalgic undertone. Velasquez's Grandma's Records (Walker, 2001) makes a cameo during the boy's bedtime ritual. And as in that previous title, this work's celebration of the diversity within Latino culture will warm hearts. VERDICT A sweet tale recommended for diverse toddler storytimes and one-on-one sharing.—Shelley Diaz, School Library Journal
About the Author
Eric Velasquez was born in Spanish Harlem to Afro-Puerto Rican parents and grew up in Harlem. The many awards he has won include a Pura Belpré and the Coretta-Scott King/John Steptoe Award. He illustrated Ol’ Clip-Clop by Patricia C. McKissack, which received starred reviews in Kirkus Reviews and Publishers Weekly. He lives in New York with his family.
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Looking for Bongo features a multiracial, extend family home. The use of Spanish phrases throughout by the mother and “abuela” highlights how some families speak more than one language without being over direct. Velasquez has crafted an entertaining and fun read aloud by taking on the role of the young boy and mimicking his facial expressions and gestures for young and old readers. I can’t wait to share this book with other primary teachers in by school building and district.
The search is on! A young Afro-Latino boy, remaining nameless throughout the story, searches frantically for his beloved Bongo by asking each family member, including his grandmother, mother, father, cat, and dog, if they have seen Bongo. The large illustrations in the book with limited white space give the feeling that the story has come to life and will engage children with the vibrant colors and details. The details in the illustrations further develop the Afro-Latino boy and his family by Velasquez’s consideration of the features of each family member. Velasquez incorporates the use of both Spanish and English throughout this picture book but avoids explaining what Bongo is until the conclusion of the book. This not only provides a mystery but also implies that the word “Bongo” can mean many things. The book’s last page offers a glossary of four words and provides pictures next to these definitions, giving readers a deeper understanding of what these objects are. This book would make a great class read because it provides curriculum support to preschool and kindergarten children by helping them develop vocabulary while giving insight into an Afro-Latino family.
BIBLIO: 2016, Holiday House, Ages 4 to 6, $16.95.
REVIEWER: Elizabeth McGoye
FORMAT: Picture Book ISBN: 978-0-8234-3565-4