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Mango, Abuela, and Me Hardcover – August 25, 2015
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From School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 2—Mia is unsure of what to think when her grandma, Abuela, comes to live with her. She must open up her room to share with Abuela, even though the two don't even share a common language. "Abuela and I can't understand each other" Mia confides to her mom. "Things will get better," she tells her, and indeed they do. Through some trial and error, persistence and even a feathered friend, Mia and Abuela find new ways to communicate. "Now, when Abuela and I are lying next to each other in bed, our mouths are full of things to say." In this tale, Medina blends Spanish and English words together as seamlessly as she blends the stories of two distinct cultures and generations. Dominguez's bright illustrations, done in ink, gouache, and marker, make the characters shine as bright as the rich story they depict. The glowing images of Mango, the parrot, a nearly silent star of the book, will win over audiences of all ages but the real magic is in the heartfelt tale of love. Everything about this book will make readers want to share it with someone they love. VERDICT A timeless story with wide appeal.—Megan Egbert, Meridian Library District, ID
Medina artfully weaves a few Spanish words and phrases into her mainly English sentences in a way young Latinos take for granted, and most English speakers should understand...
—The New York Times
With its emotional nuance and understated, observant narration—especially where Abuela’s inner state is concerned—Medina’s (Tia Isa Wants a Car) lovely story has the feel of a novella.
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Pura Belpré Award winner Medina (Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, 2013) and Pura Belpré honoree Dominguez (Maria Had a Little Llama, 2013) have created a poignant tale
of intergenerational connection, transition, and patience. The language and vivid illustrations (a colorful
blend of ink, gouache, and marker) are infused with warmth and expression, perfectly complementing the
story’s tone. Abuela’s adjustment to her new home is sensitively portrayed as she and Mia bond over their
different cultures and shared heritage. Pair with Matt de la Peña’s Last Stop on Market Street (2015) for
another look at urban multiculturalism. Heartfelt, layered, and beautiful—a must for library collections.
—Booklist (starred review)
This uplifting and affirming tale makes clear that connecting with someone sometimes takes work and ingenuity, but the payoff is priceless.
—Shelf Awareness (starred review)
Readers from multigenerational immigrant families will recognize the all-too-familiar language barrier. They will also cheer for the warm and loving relationship between Abuela and Mia, which is evident in both text and illustrations even as the characters struggle to understand each other. This warm family story is a splendid showcase for the combined talents of Medina, a Pura Belpré award winner, and Dominguez, an honoree.
Medina honors the beauty of holding onto one's history while also making room for new traditions. She demonstrates the richness to be gained by bridging two generations through the language dear to each. Her deceptively simple story models a way to close the communication gap and respect two languages and ways of life...This uplifting and affirming tale makes clear that connecting with someone sometimes takes work and ingenuity, but the payoff is priceless.
In this tale, Medina blends Spanish and English words together as seamlessly as she blends the stories of two distinct cultures and generations. Dominguez’s bright illustrations, done in ink, gouache, and marker, make the characters shine as bright as the rich story they depict...Everything about this book will make readers want to share it with someone they love. A timeless story with wide appeal.
—School Library Journal
Medina (Tía Isa Wants a Car, rev. 7/11) tells a heartwarming story about intergenerational relationships, finding common ground, and adapting to change. Dominguez’s (Maria Had a Little Llama, rev. 11/13) digitally adjusted ink, gouache, and marker illustrations capture the various emotions and moods of the characters, from shyness to frustration to happiness...Young readers will enjoy seeing the relationship between Mia and her grandmother develop—with the help of Mango.
—The Horn Book
Dominguez’s easy- going illustrations (in ink, gouache, and marker) have a casual yet precise style; there are touches of humor in Mia’s English labeling of nearly every object in the apartment, and the occasional perspectival shift (looking down on a wistful Abuela as she sits in the park with her granddaughter) adds emotional resonance. There are a lot of families negotiating language and cultural divides, especially with extended family, so plenty of kids will sympathize with Mia’s situation and appreciate her growing relationship with Abuela.
—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
Family stories warm the heart and help to remind us about our own family memories. The colorful artwork is much like the relationship created in this story.
—School Library Connection
Medina pays careful attention to what it means to live in a new language.
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Top customer reviews
The beginning of the story introduces Mia’s Abuela who comes to stay with the family, “leaving behind her sunny house that rested between two snaking rivers.” Although her home country is never named, readers can assume by her knowledge of Spanish that she is from Latin America. Additionally, the description of water and a warm climate may lead readers to assume that she is specifically from the Caribbean. Nonetheless, the lack of specificity enables a variety of readers from a variety of backgrounds to identify with Mia and her “far-away” Abuela. Although, of course, the immigrant experience is different for everyone, this book captures many of the familiar struggles of adapting to a new language and new home.
Mia is shy at first, and has trouble communicating with Abuela: “With our mouths as empty as our bread baskets, we walk back home and watch TV.” The illustrations expertly express the sense of desperation and sadness on Mia’s and Abuela’s faces. However, little by little, both the narration and the illustrations show how Mia begins to get to know her grandmother in ways that don’t rely upon language: “Snuggled in my pajamas, I smell flowers in her hair, sugar and cinnamon baked into her skin.” The illustrations do an excellent job of communicating the emotional ups and downs that Mia and her Abuela are experiencing as they grow excited about the time they get to spend together and discouraged by the linguistic barriers. A review by Kirkus Reviews reaffirms the moving effect of Dominguez’s illustrations:
"The accompanying illustrations are charmingly executed in ink, gouache, and marker, ‘with a sprinkling of digital magic.’ They depict a cheery urban neighborhood and a comfortable, small apartment. Readers from multigenerational immigrant families will recognize the all-too-familiar language barrier. They will also cheer for the warm and loving relationship between Abuela and Mia, which is evident in both text and illustrations even as the characters struggle to understand each other."
This book would be excellent for young readers who are currently going through similar struggles or who are witnessing family members go through these struggles, as it is full of creative inspiration, encouragement and comfort. According to Miss Marple’s Musings’ blog, one way to integrate this book into the classroom would be to ask children about the other languages that they speak, and then reproduce the many language-learning activities that we see in the book. This could help immigrant children learn English, and also help native-English speakers learn the languages of their classmates, effectively breaking down the barriers that Mia and her Abuela are fighting against.
Additionally, as little Mia confides in and seeks help from her mother, we see a beautiful constellation of women’s resilience and support. All the main characters in this story are female and readers will delight in their consistent display of magnanimity, warmth and assistance.
As the story progresses, we see the various tricks and lessons that Mia comes up with in order to help Abuela. From interactive activities to marking each object in the house with a vocabulary flashcard, to, finally, buying a pet parrot, Mia, with the help and inspiration of the women in her life, learns to assist her beloved abuela.
For access to the full review and additional resources, check out our Vamos a Leer blog at teachinglatinamericathroughliterature.com
A charming book, though perhaps not on any award lists. The struggles of Mia and Abuela are quite common, so I'm sure there will be plenty of kids relieved to find their own struggles addressed in such an easy to understand book. It's especially nice that it's not just Abuela who adapts, but also Mia, showing that each has their own valid ways of being.
Good for a unit on multiculturalism, and how we can work together for better understanding.