La Casita de Esperanza by Terry Catasús Jennings, illustrated by Raúl Colón. Holiday House, 2022. 9780823452033
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5
Format: Hardcover picture book
What did you like about the book? Simultaneously published in Spanish and English, this beautiful and touching picture book celebrates hard work and generosity. When Esperanza’s family (her name translates to “hope” in English) arrives from Cuba, they rent a small house and work hard to adapt to their new country. Both parents take two jobs, the brother and sister work hard at school, and the whole family is shown learning English, reading books and newspapers. They take great pride in their casita, painting and cleaning it. Soon Mami’s sister arrives with a new baby, and the family happily makes room. Then Mami decides to take in a family of four from Mexico, turning the garage into temporary quarters. With so many people, the casita feels crowded, but everyone pitches in to take care of the little house. Eventually, Esperanza’s parents move into professional jobs, and the family from Mexico is able to find their own home. Jennings celebrates the casita’s warm, welcoming walls: “Un lugar seguro, en una tierra nueva”, a safe place in a new land. In her note in the beginning of the book, Jennings describes a conversation she had with a realtor who boasted that he never rented to Hispanic families, who he described as mistreating his properties. Jennings felt angry hearing his words, and wrote this book to counter that negative perspective.
Colón’s colorful watercolor and pencil sketches are cozy and virtually glow with warm colors and well-being. For young readers, this can be a window into the life of immigrant families while for children whose families have recently arrived to the U.S. will recognize the hard work and closeness that made Jenning’s family successful. Abundant familiar details — Dad biting into an apple or stocking shelves in the supermarket, Mom making friends with the co-worker from Mexico in the restaurant storeroom, and Esperanza making photo collages of friends and family — all reinforce the commonalities all families share. Despite being inspired by anger, Jennings and Colón have created a positive and charming story.
Anything you didn’t like about it? No
To whom would you recommend this book? Both the English and Spanish versions would be great for units on immigration or families and would work well as read alouds. I did really like that it was such a positive view of community and immigration.
Who should buy this book? Elementary and public libraries
Where would you shelve it? Picture books
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes
Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA
Date of review: November 2, 2022
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