A Song of Frutas by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Sara Palacios. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2021. 9781534444898
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5
Genre: Picture book
What did you like about the book? I always love books by Margarita Engle and Sara Palacios, and this is no exception! The lyrical text combined with beautiful illustrations make this a strong addition to any collection looking for a book to celebrate Cuban culture and family connections. The girl character loves visiting her abuelo (grandfather) in Cuba, where she helps him sell fruit. The poetic text matches the songs her abuelo and other vendors sing to get attention and sell their goods. Many Spanish words are integrated into the English text, either with translations or labels in the pictures to make it clear to non-Spanish speakers. Readers see into the city streets of Havana, and learn about the tradition of eating 12 grapes, with one wish for each month, on New Year’s Eve. While the story is joyful and highlights the connections the girl has with her abuelo, we also get a small peek into the sadness of not being able to visit easily because of political tension between Cuba and the United States. Many young readers will be able to connect with visiting family and helping an adult with work. An author’s note at the end further explains Spanglish, travel restrictions, los pregoneros (singing vendors), and New Year’s Eve. The illustrations match and enhance the vibrant culture from the book, and Palacio’s artistic style combining different textures and mediums comes across strongly. The setting appears authentic, changing as the girl travels from Cuba back to California.
Anything you did not like about the book. Nothing
To whom would you recommend this book? This would be a great read aloud to celebrate the connections between different cultures, which could be paired in school with research about Cuba or go along well with a class learning Spanish. There are many discussion opportunities for windows and mirrors with children. I’d recommend this to readers who have enjoyed Drum Dream Girl (Engle), Islandborn (Diaz), or Abuela and Isla (Dorros).
Who should buy this book? Elementary and public libraries
Where would you shelve it? Picture books
Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Sarah Bickel, Greenlodge Elementary School, Dedham, Massachusetts
Date of review: August 19, 2021