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Thursday, February 4, 2016

Mango, Abuela, and Me. Written by Meg Medina and illustrated by Angela Dominguez. Candlewick Press, Random House. 2015. $19.00 ages 5 and up

"The rest of the winter, while Mami and Papi are at work, Abuela waits for me to get home from school. Then we bundle up in thick socks and handmade sweaters to walk in the park and toss bread to the sparrows. My espanol is not good enough to tell her the things an abuela should know. Like how I am the very best in art ... "

In a story that will resonate with children who live far away from their grandparents, especially those who speak a heritage language that is largely unknown to their grandchildren, we meet Mia and her Abuela. Abuela has left the sunshine of her home country to come to live with Mia and her family in a snowy city. The apartment is small; the two must share a bedroom. Despite their close proximity, there is a language barrier that creates a problem for them. Abuela doesn't know English, Mia doesn't know Spanish.

Mia has a plan: she will teach her Abuela the language she needs to make life in her new home more satisfying, and much happier.

"Then I remember the word cards we taped in our classroom to help Kim. So, while Abuela fries our empanadas, I put up word cards, too, until everything is covered - "

A colorful parrot is added to the mix after a visit to the pet shop. He will remind Abuela of home and keep her company while the family is away during the day. It is a  terrific match, with Mango and Abuela learning language together. It isn't long until Mia's grandmother is feeling much more comfortable in her new home. Her smiles grow brighter and life takes on new meaning as she is able to share stories of home and family with Mia.

This is a lovely intergenerational story, narrated in Mia's clear voice. Angela Dominguez matches the warm tone of the telling with her 'ink, gouache, and marker, with a sprinkling of digital magic' art. The colors are as bright as Mango's glorious feathers. The friendliness of the community is evident in the urban setting she creates. The growth in love and understanding that both Mia and her Abuela experience is lovely to watch as each page is turned ... a warm celebration of family and culture.

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