On The Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred

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.

which one of these kids does not belong? Our son Josh at 16 months, being loved-on by the ninas in Guatemala.

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.

This is the last week of Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book Friday before she takes a well-deserved summer hiatus! Please click on over to her blog and check out this wonderful resource.

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  • Elizabeth Stevens Omlor

    Amy Dixon! You crack me up! I too went to Antigua. Isn’t it beautiful there? I also took the smallest, oldest plane in the universe up to the ruins in the north….ack! I thought I would lose my tres leches lunch! Great post! Thanks for sharing!

    • http://amydixonbooks.com/ Amy Dixon

       Wow, what a small world! I love Antigua and want to go back with Rob and stay at the Santo Domingo (did you go there? beautiful hotel!) We have been twice, both times working with Students International in the villages to improve their agriculture, build cisterns and other various things. We never made it to the ruins, will have to put it on the list for next time (sans oldest plane in the universe)!

  • http://www.bethstilborn.com/ Beth Stilborn

    What a delightful sounding book! When I saw the text falling into the familiar “house that Jack built” cadences, I settled into it with anticipation. What a clever way to build language skills, introducing the concept in English, then replacing the words with Spanish the next time round.

    I’m consistently impressed with the books published by Charlesbridge. This one looks as though it would be no exception. And your introduction is a total joy! Thank you, Amy!

    • http://amydixonbooks.com/ Amy Dixon

       Thanks for the kind words, Beth! It really is a quality book and I hope that you get a chance to check it out!

  • http://twitter.com/CatherinePoet Catherine Johnson

    I’d love to read this, I hope it does have a bit of Spanish in. Mine is rusty and I suppose it was rusty from the start :)

    • http://amydixonbooks.com/ Amy Dixon

      Yes, it definitely has Spanish in it so you can brush up!

  • http://designofthepicturebook.com/ Carter Higgins

    I’ve yet to get my hands on this one, but from your words and that cover (!) it looks fantastic!

    • http://amydixonbooks.com/ Amy Dixon

      It really is a great one. Thanks for stopping by, Carter!

  • http://www.writeupmylife.com/ Julie Hedlund

    I love this book, and I share you desire (and lack of talent) to speak another language. :-)

    • http://amydixonbooks.com/ Amy Dixon

       I have found that the core issue I have with language is an unwillingness to practice it because I am afraid of looking foolish. A classic perfectionist problem…and that is a whole ‘nother blog post…

  • Kirsten Larson

    I too studied the every useful German. Unlike your husband, I have not found it makes spanish any easier. And spanish would be oh, so useful in SoCal. Anyway, this book looks lovely. Our church has an outreach ministry in Guatemala. I’ll have to pass this on.

    • http://amydixonbooks.com/ Amy Dixon

       Spanish really is a must in California! That is definitely part of the reason I wish I was better at it!

  • Tiltonph

    Amy, I really like this multicultural story based on a classic English nursery rhyme.  It seems lively and is a great teaching tool for kids on who and what is involved in the cooking of a rice pudding.  Love the Spanish.  I studied it for years.  I hope there are a lot of Spanish words in the text or a glossary.  Good entry for Reading the World.

    • http://amydixonbooks.com/ Amy Dixon

       Yes, there are many Spanish words in the glossary! They are all related to the cooking of rice pudding. Glad you like this one, Pat.

  • http://www.flowering-minds.com/ Darshana

    Sounds great. Will have to get this for my kids, who are learning Spanish in school. I did take German in highschool. I did find learning Spanish, evening class at the local college to be a bit easier. But I am shy about speaking so didn’t advance much.

    • http://amydixonbooks.com/ Amy Dixon

       Darshana – That is a big part of my problem, too. I am too afraid of things coming out wrong!

  • http://julierowanzoch.wordpress.com/ Julie Rowan-Zoch

    Great pick. I like this book a lot – AND I would like a recipe for the tres leches cake, if you’ve got one!

    • http://amydixonbooks.com/ Amy Dixon

       I have never been able to come even close to the tres leches I had in Guatemala! I stopped trying :-)

  • http://www.samanthavamos.com/ Samantha Vamos

    Hello Amy. Your beautiful review made my evening! Thank you so much. I’m really complimented and thrilled you like the Activity Guide. I love sharing the following link – Rafael Lopez sharing his reaction to the Pura Belpre Honor (he is really wonderful):

    Thank you again and all best to you – Samantha Vamos

    • http://amydixonbooks.com/ Amy Dixon

       Hi Samantha! I enjoyed that video of Rafael Lopez so much, I am going to add it to the resource list so others can check it out. I love recommending quality picture books, and your is definitely one of them. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  • Lisa Long

    This is a fabulous story.  The students in my school love it.  As you noted, it’s a great introduction to some Spanish words and the illustrations and story are beautiful.

    • http://amydixonbooks.com/ Amy Dixon

      I am so glad to hear that they are using this book at your school! It is such a quality book!

  • Joanna Marple

    I love this beautiful, rhythmic multicultural book. The slow build of Spanish words is very clever and great for adults and children reading this story!

    • http://amydixonbooks.com/ Amy Dixon

      I agree completely, Joanna! Thanks so much for stopping by!

  • Heather Newman

    Gorgeous cover! You are not alone in your language troubles. I have a terrible ear for accents and languages while my husband has no trouble at all!

    • http://amydixonbooks.com/ Amy Dixon

      It is annoying, isn’t it? Glad you like the look of this book, now go out and pick it up! :-)

  • http://susannahill.blogspot.com/ Susanna Leonard Hill

    What a fun-looking, wonderfully clever book!  I am also astoundingly bad at learning languages, so this book would probably help me a lot :)  Love the art – so bright and colorful!  Thanks so much for adding this one to our list!

    • http://amydixonbooks.com/ Amy Dixon

       No problem, Susanna! Spanish would be extra-helpful where I live, so I am glad to expand my vocabulary a little. The art really is wonderful.

  • Robyn Campbell

    This book is genius! Great addition to the list. I’ll add it to my ‘gotta have’ books. The pictures jump off the page they’re so vivid. What a wonderful opportunity for children to interact with this language. *waving*

    • http://amydixonbooks.com/ Amy Dixon

      Oh good, I’m glad you like it! I am certain it will become a favorite!

  • http://twitter.com/ThisKid_Erik This Kid Reviews Bks

    This sounds like it could be useful! I like the idea of it! I want to learn!

    • http://amydixonbooks.com/ Amy Dixon

       I think you will love it, Erik! Thanks for stopping by my blog!

  • http://www.positiveparentalparticipation.com/ Vivian Kirkfield

    Amy…this is a wonderful book on so many different levels.  Thank you for writing such a great review and providing the resource/activity list.  It is very clever how the author combined the old “house that Jack built” idea with the multilingual vocabulary and created something fresh and fun!