Cafe Condesa in Antigua, Guatemala is one of my favorite places in the world. I loved sitting in their tranquil garden, sipping my cafe con leche, and dreaming. In my dream, I roamed the cobblestone streets of the city, taking in the lovely iglesias, marveling at the brightly colored textiles, and savoring just one more piece of tres leches cake…all the while speaking in FLAWLESS SPANISH. Alas, the dream would not become reality (though I did put away my fair share of tres leches) because, as I learned in Antigua, I absolutely stink at language learning.
I had not studied Spanish in high school, as I went to a Catholic School where I was encouraged to take the ever-useful LATIN. Studying Latin was supposed to make the verbal portion of my SATs a breeze (and in theory should have helped me with my Spanish). It did neither of those things. My husband Rob, who took GERMAN in high school, picked up Spanish immediately. que fastidio! I would hear him having loud, animated conversations with his tutor in Spanish, while my tutor and I spoke to one another in hand signals. I came to the conclusion that some people are
smarter more suited for language learning. If only I had this week’s Perfect Picture Book selection, perhaps I could have been more successful! In THE CAZUELA THAT THE FARM MAIDEN STIRRED, children (and slow language learning adults like me) are introduced in a fun and interactive way to a variety of Spanish vocabulary words.
- Written By: Samantha R. Vamos
- Illustrated By: Rafael Lopez
- Published By: Charlesbridge Publishing, February 1, 2011
- Suitable For: Ages 3 and up
- Topics/Themes: Bilingual, Multicultural, Language learning, Food, Community
- Opening: “This is the pot that the farm maiden stirred. This is the butter that went into the CAZUELA that the farm maiden stirred. This is the goat that churned the cream to make the MANTEQUILLA that went into the CAZUELA that the farm maiden stirred.”
- Synopsis: (from the jacketflap) “When a farm girl starts cooking, all the animals want to help. The cow contributes milk, the hen offers eggs, and even the duck makes a special trip to the market. While the pot is bubbling merrily on the stove, everyone dances and sings – but who is watching the cazuela? This spicy tribute to the classic nursery rhyme ‘The House That Jack Built’ is a bilingual celebration of community and food.“
- Resources: I was really impressed with the Activity Guide featured on the author’s website. It has activities to get them talking about the book, but also about their own cultures. There are even math word problems anchored in the Arroz con Leche recipe featured in the book! And really the book is a resource in itself, since the back matter has both a glossary of Spanish words and the rice pudding recipe. I also loved reading the story of how this book came to be, which you could use with kids to discuss creativity, how we get ideas and what we do with them. Lastly, I think you will enjoy this marvelous video from Rafael Lopez, as he draws his reaction to receiving the Pura Belpre Honor Award for his illustrations in this book!
- Why I Like this Book: The way Samantha R. Vamos crafted this book is brilliant. As you can see from the excerpt, it is a play on “The House That Jack Built.” And she incorporates Spanish by replacing the English word on the previous page with the Spanish word on the next. So on one page, a donkey plucks a lime, but on the next page, as she retells it, the burro plucked the limon. So clever. And wow, I can’t begin to say enough about the fabulous art of Raphael Lopez in this book. The vibrant colors draw you in and you never want to put it down. My kids love the nursery-rhyme cadence, and are challenged to both say and remember the Spanish words. It is the perfect combination of fun and education.