Supported by primary colors and playful illustrations, Roman (Stuck in the Doldrums: A Lesson in Sharing—A Captain No Beard Story, 2013, etc.) takes little ones on a journey through the sights, sounds and spaces of Mexico.
A nameless young boy and girl guide readers through different details of Mexican life, touching on its geographic location; its capital, Mexico City; and several landmark structures, including the historic Mayan pyramid, Chichén Itzá. In addition to these larger attractions, Roman shares tidbits of information about everyday cultural highlights such as traditional Mexican names, holidays, sports, currency and food. The prose is unimaginative in places, but the simple vocabulary will be accessible for young or beginning readers, and a helpful pronunciation guide will aid readers who are unfamiliar with the Spanish words used throughout. This format perhaps works best when, after using a Spanish word in a sentence, Roman asks the reader its meaning; for instance, after writing about learning in “la escuela,” the narrator asks, “Can you guess what that is?” It’s almost possible to hear children excitedly answering, “School!” Elsewhere, the story is strongest when directly engaging readers, allowing children to connect the story to their own personal experiences: “You would love to celebrate a holiday called Decubrimiento de América. It is a day to honor the discovery of Christopher Columbus in 1492. Do you have a day like that too?” Connections between the highlighted details are sometimes difficult to follow, however, which undermines the narrative flow. Roman links together some of the examples but not consistently, causing the book to sometimes read more like a vocabulary exercise than a fully realized tale.
Despite some weaknesses, a helpful introduction to Mexico for early elementary students and a useful addition to a Spanish language lesson.