Bertrand’s collection of bilingual poems offers a (mostly) child’s view of the surrounding world.
Odes to cherished objects like Easter cascarones (confetti-filled eggs), favorite foods like cinnamon buñuelos, and fond moments like napping together in Pepo’s favorite chair root the poems in Mexican familial culture while also touching on universal topics. Lima-Padilla’s Spanish translation of the entire book follows the English version. The collection targets intermediate readers, but some poems reflect a much younger voice that likely won’t resonate with middle-grade readers: “We climb aboard, chugging upon the seats / as we ‘choo-choo’ along.” Others require more emotional depth from readers, as in the downright sad “My Piñata Cowboy,” in which a heartbroken child empathetically looks on at a piñata’s demise: “He’s beaten, broken and empty. / Why does no one care?” A tribute poem to the children of Houston compares Hurricane Harvey to a bully using a third-person adult perspective. The overall result is a lack of cohesive voice in both age and tone. In an author’s note, Bertrand cites previous appearances of some work, which helps to explain the disjointed perspective. Nevertheless, the odes to family members stand out for their genuine appreciation for slice-of-life moments, such as in relishing Abuelita’s delicious raisin tamales, Tía María’s hugs, or learning to dance to cumbia from Daddy.
Positive reflections of children’s experiences within Mexican families balance this collection’s unevenness. (Poetry. 6-9)