Children around the world may speak different languages, but pacifiers remain a cross-cultural item, according to this tale for toddlers.
Lewinson (Hands, 2015, etc.) opens the story in Mexico, where young Maria and her doll (muñeca) both suck on their chupones. Next, blond-haired, green-eyed Sarah from the United States shows how she can avoid eating her spaghetti by sucking on her “paci.” Swedish Niles takes a nap with his napp while dreaming of playing hide-and-seek (kurragömma). Each setting features a child, the word for pacifier in that kid’s language, and another word from the youngster’s culture. Lewinson and illustrator Griffin (Spacing Out!, 2015, etc.) feature boys and girls in similar proportion, though children with blond hair have a somewhat lopsided representation. Lewinson highlights nations worldwide, including Israel, Russia, Germany, Australia, Congo, Saudi Arabia, Japan, and India. The overall message of finding connections across the boundaries of geography and language rings clear, even for young lap readers, who are likely to see at least one child in the text who provides them with a mirror. The structure is easy for children to grasp, and the beautiful images, particularly the ones featuring a boy dreaming of flying on a magic carpet and a girl riding on an elephant, are appealing. But while the text tells readers that Niles is dreaming about hide-and-seek, the picture shows sheep jumping over a fence. In addition, Lewinson’s choice of spellings for non-English words is mystifying. He relies on phonetic spellings rather than depicting the actual words, which are likely to aid adults and very early readers in sounding out unfamiliar terms. Unfortunately, the text doesn’t show features of the languages, such as tildes and acute accents, making the words unrecognizable to many readers. Likewise, Griffin’s children, while wonderfully realistic and diverse, tend to be on the old side to be using pacifiers. German Simone, playing tag with her friends, looks like an early elementary student rather than a preschooler, and Irit from Israel is described in the text as a kindergartner. For parents trying to wean their children off pacifiers before they attend school, these examples are problematic.
A lovely, comforting, and wide-reaching tale about finding similarities in children regardless of their cultures, marred by some strange choices in language presentation and the ages of its cast.