Via the English-language lyrics of “Cielito Lindo,” a traditional Mexican song, a child fondly recalls her abuelo’s visits from Mexico.
After a serious childhood accident, his seemingly boundless optimism is epitomized by the song’s lilting refrain of “canta y no llores” (“sing and don’t cry”). Dominguez’ tribute to her grandfather and his love of music, however, falls short of engaging readers, its poignancy truncated before it is explored or developed, illustrations hinting glancingly at critical narrative moments. For example, late in the book, her grandfather is presumably shown meeting his wife-to-be. In the next frame, there is a photo alluding to the successful courtship. Then nothing. The curiosity teased forth by this sentimental thread is quashed with nary a transition to the remaining vignettes. Dominguez’ photo reproductions are exceptional, and her use of sepia wash is effective in differentiating the present from the past. However, the majority of the pencil-and–digital color illustrations fail to reinforce readers’ emotional ties to the highly elliptical story. The illustrations and text do not form a cohesive unit. Were it not for the biographical information included in the author’s note, readers would be in the dark.
The advice to sing whenever life deals a difficult hand loses its impact due to a confusing and convoluted visual narrative. (Picture book. 4-7)