Friendship and Spanglish form a loose connection in this picture book about a young Latina girl who lives on the U.S.–Mexico border.
“¡Ai’ te wacho! María de la Luz loves speaking Spanglish with friends and family. Many in the border town of Calexico speak it, too. Grandma, however, wants María to speak “proper Spanish or English,” not just Spanglish. Though María tries her best to please Grandma, she can’t stop using the local dialect. “All the kids understand me. We all talk the same.” Everybody, that is, except Miguel, the new boy in school. Every day after school, María greets him in Spanglish, but he doesn’t seem to understand her. He speaks only Spanish. Luckily, María knows what to do; readers will know, too. The predictable ending here works against Laufer’s unfocused narrative, which meanders due to halfhearted conflicts and a bare-bones plot. The author attempts to capture Calexico’s diverse culture and María’s home life in broad strokes, but it all adds up to too little. The story soars highest when focused on María and her friends. Equal parts shaggy, colorful, and outlandish, Roth’s collage artwork crackles with weird energy, featuring disproportionate limbs and bodies in unusual poses. The boldface and italicized text help depict the differences between the languages in a tidy way.
A well-meaning but flawed representation of Spanglish. (references, glossary) (Picture book. 6-8)