After a storm floods their school, a group of racially diverse children is left with no books.
Rather than stressing about the empty bookshelves, the teacher, a brown-skinned Latina, invites her students to use their imaginations as she tells rather than reads a story. The children become inspired to share and then write down their own flights of fancy. “Once upon a time a girl named Alexis found a piñata filled with magic candies”; “Mrs. Martínez’s lawn mower broke. So she bought three goats to eat up her grass!” Unfortunately, these simplistic, one-sentence, plotless forays into creative exploration belie the resulting multipage books that the children create, filling the shelves at day’s end. Martin’s watercolor-and-ink illustrations richly convey the dreamscape quality of the fantasies springing forth from each child. Conversely, the children’s ubiquitous open-mouthed expressions lend them a simple-minded air, dragging down the artist’s overall effort. Bertrand’s commendable message—that the story resides within—is derailed by the uneven art and the slight, didactic narrative that, like the children’s efforts, suffers from too little plot.
This fully bilingual title is marginal at best—not recommended. (Bilingual picture book. 5-9)