Allison's Book Bag

A Fiesta of Numbers by Rene Saldana

Posted on: August 26, 2014

Counting books. We all grew up with them. Now here comes one from Rene Saldana Jr. called Dale, dale, dale: una fiesta de números/Hit It, Hit It, Hit It: A Fiesta of Numbers. In it, Mateo’s birthday is full of excitement with many things to count in numbers in English and in Spanish. The full-spread illustrations are photorealistic, while the accompanying bilingual text is minimal. Together, the pictures and words create a story easy enough for young readers to independently enjoy.

Through the artwork alone, readers will figure out most of the story details. Mateo is having a birthday. So we learn from the balloons. It is on Saturday at 3:00. So we learn from the birthday invitations and the time on the analog clock. About a dozen children will attend. So we learn from the birthday hats placed on the table and the surprise gift boxes being filled with marbles, spinning tops, and toy cars. Because of the piñata, we can also guess that this is a Latino birthday. I mostly enjoyed the photorealistic illustrations. For the one page, where a hand is shown holding a digital camera, I initially felt confused about what was being pictured. Also, at times such as when bubbles were being blown and the piñata was being broken, I might have preferred a little less realism and a little more whimsical art. Over all though, the artwork is lavish, beautiful, and draws one through the story. I also liked the unifying use of a piece of piñata candy being repeated on most pages.

The text nicely complements the artwork, with Spanish first and English on the bottom. The vocabulary is simple enough, with even longer words being that which one might find on a primary word list such as birthday, children, and happiest. Most pages have only a short phrase, or perhaps a sentence, with the longest text being only four short lines. The one exception is the piñata song, which is eight quick lines.

Some ideas are introduced, which will perhaps be unfamiliar to English audiences, such as the piñata. I also wonder if the wrestling masks are unique to Latino culture, because they are not a known part of birthdays to me. Some reviewers raised the question about why there wasn’t a note at the end explaining these aspects of culture. Initially, I felt inclined to agree with them. Then I started to doubt this view, feeling it to be ethnocentric. Caucasian Americans don’t complain that children’s books about OUR culture don’t explain the references. Why should we complain when books about other cultures don’t? Latino readers will probably have grown up being acquainted with the various aspects of Mateo’s birthday celebration and appreciate a story to which they can relate. As for me, my questions spurred me to search the internet and to discover a whole history exists behind the origins of piñata, not all of which are Spanish.

Counting books. It’s been a long time since I’ve read one. Dale, dale, dale: una fiesta de números/Hit It, Hit It, Hit It: A Fiesta of Numbers is an excellent addition, with the wonderful hook of a birthday. Anyone with small children or young students will do well with this picture book in their book stash.

My rating? Read it: Borrow from your library or a friend. It’s worth your time.

How would you rate this book?

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