What’s a birthday without a piñata?
A young girl’s family, along with some talented farm animals, get cracking as soon as she leaves for the market. To the traditional rhythms of “The House that Jack Built,” clay is gathered, water hauled, paper shredded, etc., until all is ready for the celebration. The girl and the code-switching rhyming scheme from Vamos’ The Cazuela that the Farm Maiden Stirred (illustrated by Rafael López, 2011) return for more Spanish vocabulary reinforcement. The inclusion of Oaxacan alebrijes indicates the setting is Mexico. As such, it’s puzzling as to why “pasta” is used for the glue paste instead of the correct piñata-making term: “engrudo.” The European term “farm maiden” is also incongruous to the setting. Barcelona-based Serra’s inaccurate illustrations further the sense of inauthenticity. The characters present as Spaniards and not Mexicans, as evidenced by clothing and hats. Plain wood carvings are substituted for the fantastical alebrijes referenced in the text. Papel picado banners are depicted as pennants instead of rectangles. His piñata seems to have clay points rather than cardboard. Even the “brilliant bluebells” the caballo picks are European rather than Mexican. To add insult to injury, the glossary includes Anglicized pronunciations: “sor-PRAY-sah” instead of sor-PREH-sah for “surprise.” Such lighthearted touches as the cat ferociously shredding paper cannot mitigate the book’s flaws.
What’s meant to be a cultural celebration is, alas, culturally inaccurate. (piñata instructions, glossary) (Picture book. 4-8)