A familiar tale crosses cultures with almost magical ease.
The story is based on the well-known Jewish folk tale in which an old, worn coat is turned into a jacket, then a vest, then a tie, here given a warm, Latino spin. Not only does Brown’s text alternate passages in English with sections in Spanish translated by Domínguez, but on some pages, nearly every sentence is written in two languages: “Maya made her manta into a vestido that she loved very much.” The effect isn’t subtle, and at first, every paragraph feels like a vocabulary lesson. But as the sentences get longer, the language becomes hypnotic. As Maya’s blanket is recut and resewn, the words begin to sound like an incantation: “So with her own two hands and Abuelita’s help, Maya made her rebozo that was her falda that was her vestido that was her manta into a bufanda that she loved very much.” It sounds like a magic spell to preserve the garment for all time. Sometimes spells work: Maya turns the blanket into a story, the same picture book that is in readers’ hands. Diaz’s beautiful, mixed-media illustrations feel like another sort of magic. The moon looks like a pomegranate. A spinning jump rope looks like water shooting from a fountain.
As the book ends, Maya’s daughter is sleeping under “her own special, magical manta.” Readers may be eager to tell their own versions of the story—that’s how magic works. (author’s note, glossary) (Bilingual picture book. 5-9)