My Abuelita

Posted in Ages 05 and up, Mexican, Mexico, Theme: Bilingual

9780152163303_p0_v1_s192x300My Abuelita
By Tony Johnston
Illustrated by Yuyi Morales
Published by Harcourt

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Winner of a 2010 Pura Belpre Illustrator Honor!


Abuelita’s hair is the color of salt. Her face is as crinkled as a dried chile. She booms out words as wild as blossoms blooming. She stuffs her carcacha—her jalopy—with all the things she needs: a plumed snake, a castle, a skeleton, and more. Her grandson knows he has the most amazing grandmother ever—with a very important job. What does Abuelita do? With her booming voice and wonderful props, Abuelita is a storyteller. Next to being a grandmother, that may be the most important job of all.

Sprinkled with Spanish and infused with love, My Abuelita is a glorious celebration of family, imagination, and the power of story.

Reviews & Accolades
“A boy describes the morning routine he shares with his grandmother as she prepares for work. Flights of fancy enliven the tasks of bathing, eating breakfast, and dressing. When the pair arrive at her workplace, readers discover that Abuelita is a storyteller—a calling that her grandson shares. Spanish words are sprinkled throughout, often followed by brief definitions. For example, the boy says, “I live with my grandma…I call her Abuelita.” Johnston effectively engages young readers’ interest by mentioning the woman’s work, but not revealing what she does until the final page. Morales’s bold, innovative illustrations brilliantly reinforce the text. On one spread, Johnston writes that Abuelita is “robust…like a calabaza. A pumpkin.” On the left, children see a cheerful, round person, while a mirror on the right shows a pumpkin with Abuelita’s smiling face. The illustrations represent a fresh new direction for Morales. Characters molded from polymer clay are dressed in brightly patterned fabrics and placed among images that evoke Mexican art. Abuelita’s mirror is framed by traditional metalwork, and her storytelling props include a winged serpent and a Day of the Dead skeleton. While the story is firmly placed in a Mexican context, children of all ethnic and racial backgrounds will be drawn to the eye-catching illustrations and the universal story of a loving intergenerational relationship.” –School Library Journal

“Morales visualizes this happy, affection-filled tale in settings with characters created “with polymer clay, wire, felting wool, acrylic paints, fabric, wood, metals, and Mexican crafts,” all worth examining and discovering with pleasure. There is an attractive, pinch-able quality to the characters; even the cat exudes personality. The visual story evolves on double pages with settings only suggested. The love of grandson and grandmother are clearly expressed. The meaning of the Spanish words is clear in context. “–Children’s Literature

“A Mexican-flavored story of a small child who lives with a lovely and extravagant grandmother. He calls her “Abuelita,” the affectionate word that Spanish-speaking children and children of Hispanic origin use to name their grandmas. The attentive child expresses a genuine admiration for his Abuelita’s job, describing her daily rituals to get ready to work: The child and Abuelita’s cat (Frida Kahlo) follow her while she takes a shower, prepares breakfast, exercises her voice and dons (after a reminder) a special gown. Then, after besitos for Frida Kahlo, they leave in an old car, a “carcacha,” full of the unusual objects she needs to perform her work: a sun, a moon, a skeleton, a king and a queen. The digital photographs of Morales’s unique polymer-clay sculptures, surrounded by elements and colors distinctive of traditional Mexican crafts, create a surrealistic atmosphere that transforms the locations where this story take place-a humble home and a school-into fantastic places. Children and adults, especially those who love listening and telling stories, will be thrilled to discover Abuelita’s enchanting profession.  –Kirkus Review

Groups Represented

Grandparents & Intergenerational


Engagement Projects
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