Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Monday, May 20, 2019

A Daily Dose Of Delight

One of the advantages of growing up in a small house, on a small street, in a small town is you can walk everywhere you need to go.  Our elementary, junior high and high schools were minutes from home.  We walked to the grocery store, post office, bank, drug store, the five-and-ten for trinkets and candy, flower shop, public library and doctor.  We loved hiking to the nearby Kiwanis Park and Dead Man's Hill for winter sledding.  On Saturdays gals and guys all walked to the local roller-skating rink.

With only one car, Dad used to get to and from work in a nearby town. Mom ran errands pulling a red wagon loaded with odds and ends and groceries.  Once we (my sister and I) were old enough, we started pulling the red wagon to do the grocery shopping.  VAMOS! Let's Go to the Market (Versify Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, April 2, 2019) written and illustrated by Raul The Third, colors by Elaine Bay, follows a daily trip to el mercado made by Little Lobo and his dog, Bernabe.  In a lively, beautiful blend of Spanish and English, readers enjoy the sensory experience with the two companions.

For breakfast Little Lobo
and Bernabe eat huevos
rancheros con tortillas de
maiz and wash it down 
with warm milk.

Pulling their wagon, the first stop is the warehouse to gather supplies to take to the vendors at the market.  As they quickly move toward their destination, Little Lobo greets Kooky Dooky, the rooster, and thanks him for waking them up.  Walking down the sidewalk of their community, past a shop for haircuts and a movie theater, the duo joins all sorts of people busily making their way to their jobs.

On their way to the market Little Lobo and Bernabe cross through La Placita (a small plaza).  Here people are setting up booths, selling their merchandise and all sorts of delicious foods and beverages.  An older woman is feeding pigeons at the fountain.  Mal Burro and Peeky Pequeno try to keep La Placita (and the Mercado) neat and tidy.  There is music and folk dancing.

There is also a local renowned figure headed in the same direction as Little Lobo and Bernabe.  Their paths are close but not close enough for Little Lobo to notice.  Upon their arrival at the market (Mercado Cuauhtemoc), bursting with activity, they weave through people buying, selling, looking and watching.

Little Lobo and Bernabe stop to make deliveries of shoe polish, clothes pins, wood, tissue paper, paint brushes and the Golden Laces at a variety of shops.  They pass by other stores and greetings are exchanged.  With each stop Little Lobo's wagon empties of one item but fills up with other objects he acquires.

Upon arriving at his final (and favorite) destination Little Lobo is shocked at his good fortune.  On Little Lobo's journey home his load is heavier, but his heart is light.  Heroes really do walk among us.  Good night.  Buenas noches.  Until tomorrow.  Hasta manana.

From the beginning you find yourself fascinated by the short narrative text and dialogue penned by Raul the Third.  There is energy on every page with the perfect blend of two languages.  Text is placed outside of the narrative and dialogue on buildings, near objects and above actions.  It's an explosion of linguistic goodness.  Readers can easily understand either the English or the Spanish based upon the context or placement of both words together.  Sometimes an asterisk will advise you to look for a translation.  Here are two passages.

Mal Burro and Peeky Pequeno keep
La Placita and the Mercado clean.  La
viejita de la fuente feeds the pigeons.

Ding! Ding! Ding!
Something sure smells good!
Churros con
canela y azucar! *

*Churros with cinnamon and sugar.

By their eyes, facial expressions and body postures readers know Little Lobo and his dog, Bernabe, featured on the front of the book case are eager to go to the market.  They are accompanied on this daily adventure by a bug who barely clings to a bouncing box on the back of the wagon.  This bug also lives with them.  The text and characters are varnished.

The red in the text and used as an accent color on the front, covers the back of the book case.  There information normally found on dust jacket flaps is placed.  The bug in his splendid clothes is showcased in the center.  On the opening and closing endpapers in green and white is an intricate design cleverly formed of arrows.  On the title page, Kooky Dooky shouts out the title, waking up Little Lobo and Bernabe.

The color scheme mirrors the community and region in which this story is placed.  All the animals are wearing authentic clothing.  Kooky Dooky has a black and yellow checked shirt, belt with a buckle showing a rising sun, green pants and brown shoes.  The colorist Elaine Bay's work is marvelous.  The details by Raul the Third are superb.  The illustrations are done using ink on smooth plate Bristol board with Adobe Photoshop for color.  They appear as panels like in comic books or as full-page or double-page pictures to accentuate pacing.

You can't help but pause at every page turn.  The first narrative sentence is showcased in steam coming from the kettle heating the milk.  So, we know what is on Little Lobo's list, when he stops at the warehouse, a looped arrow comes from an enlargement of that list.  It is in Spanish and English.  As we move from the desert where Little Lobo and Bernabe live to the city, every element is appropriately placed and many are labeled.  It is here we notice there are stories within this story.

A newspaper headline hints of events to come.  Look at the floating balloon.  Where did it come from?  What are the pigeons doing with the elderly woman?  We come to understand why the bug put a carrot on the wagon at the warehouse.  Readers need to watch this little guy constantly as well as the two cleaners, Mal Burro and Peeky Pequeno.  Also references to famous creators in Mexican culture are seen in multiple places.  It's simply amazing!

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is when Little Lobo and Bernabe are hurrying from the warehouse to make their deliveries.  As they move through the desert with mountains behind them, Kooky Dooky runs along with them.  Bernabe grips the front of the wagon with his paws.  The bug hangs on and swings from a rope tying the boxes together.  Along the bottom of the page are rocks, lizards and a cactus.  A mountain, the desert, a rock and the boxes are labeled in red in Spanish.

Having read this book, VAMOS! Let's Go to the Market written and illustrated by Raul the Third with color by Elaine Bay, repeatedly, I can honestly say you will discover something new every time you read it.  You will be captivated by the story, the use of language and the astounding illustrations.  Spanish and English-speaking readers will completely enjoy the two languages.  They will be making lists of every word they see.  They will be noticing every single element in each illustration.  At the close of the book, Raul the Third includes a glossary of more than ninety words in Spanish with their article and the English translation.  I highly recommend this title for your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about Raul the Third and his other work, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  Raul the Third has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  You'll want to peruse through both to get peeks at interior images from this book.  Raul the Third is interviewed at Let's Talk Picture Books, author Jarrett Lerner's website and author Chris Barton's website.  (You'll learn this is the first book in a series!)

UPDATE:  Raul the Third was featured on author, reviewer and blogger, Julie Danielson's Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast on July 7, 2019.

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