Ah. I have This Thing for sun images, and so I’m really kinda crazy about Rafael López’s sun here. (Note: Visiting that link there to his site will just improve the quality of your day and make your eyes and brain happy. I highly suggest going there to take in his art.)
Also, that post title is supposed to be “The Book This Blogger Enjoys,” but seven bajillion apologies to all Spanish-speakers of the world if I just mangled that. I am not one. A Spanish-speaker, that is.
Where was I? Oh. Right. That sun, as well as this goat to the right, comes from one of my favorite early-2011 picture books, written by Samantha R. Vamos and illustrated by Mr. López, The Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred (Charlesbridge, February 2011). Think of this as the bilingual “The House That Jack Built.” But, okay. Well, there is no malt or rat or shaven and shorn priest or farmer sowing his corn. Instead, we have a farm maiden, who is quite the opposite of forlorn, as she’s happy to be baking. Mmm. Baking. There’s a goat churning cream, a duck heading to the market, a donkey plucking a lime, a farmer planting rice, and much more. They’re getting ready for a rice pudding celebration — the yummy treat, that is, along with some dancing and singing and banjo-playing and maraca-shaking.
And Vamos introduces the Spanish words in the text seamlessly and cleverly, which I’ll explain with an example. Here’s how the book opens:
“This is the pot that the farm maiden stirred. This is the butter that went into the CAZUELA that the farm maiden stirred. This is the goat that churned the cream to make the MANTEQUILLA that went into the CAZUELA that the farm maiden stirred.”
And so on. (Those Spanish words are not only capped and in a separate type, but they’re also bolded.) No glossary of Spanish terms even necessary, though the author does provide one at the end, it turns out (as well as pronunciations, heaven bless). As well as a recipe for arroz con leche, or rice pudding. Mmm again. And Vamos knows how to build momentum with each page turn, as the tension in the tale builds until—while everyone was having too much fun dancing and celebrating—the cazuela “simmered and sputtered” and “bubbled and burbled” and nearly burst. Fortunately, the farm maiden catches this in time, and the animals join her in stirring the pudding to satisfaction.
I’m really rather taken with López’s illustrations, acrylics on grained wood. There’s so much joy and humor depicted in his artwork. Or, as the experts write (in this case, Publishers Weekly), “López’s acrylics-on-wood paintings have a burnished copper glow, while the menagerie exudes cartoonish joie de vivre.” Adds Kirkus, “López’s artwork, with its desert palette punctuated by brilliant primary colors and its graphic, hard edges, suggestive of folk art, is a perfect match. His sophisticated, multilayered textures create depth, give form and work together to create an image that’s easily readable, humorous and harmonious.”
That’s all I want to say. That is, I’ve given you my enthusiastic opinion, I’ve quoted the real reviewers, and now I’m going to let the art speak for itself. That’s the least I can do here in 7-Imp Land. Enjoy. See you another day this week…
that the farm maiden stirred.”
THE CAZUELA THAT THE FARM MAIDEN STIRRED. Copyright 2011 by Samantha R. Vamos. Illustration © 2011 by Rafael López. Published by Charlesbridge, Watertown, MA.