Book Review: La Madre Goose By Elya & Martinez-Neal

Happy New Year everyone! I’m still continuing my sporadic posting thanks to my book project; but as I still have piles upon piles of books that I am loving and hoping to share, I want to pop in with one today. I grabbed this one at a book festival in Brooklyn and we are in love with it! Breathtaking illustrations, vibrant colors, and delightful bilingual nursery rhymes – this book is a must-add to your bookshelf. Come delight in La Madre Goose: Nursery Rhymes for Los Niños by Susan Middleton Elya, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal, 2016.

The book opens with a glossary of every Spanish word in the book, how to pronounce it and what it means. This is fantastic and so incredibly helpful for those of us who are not fluent Spanish readers. My older daughter is slowly learning Spanish at school and she recognized about a fourth of the words as we read. The rest of them we got into a quick rhythm of looking up in the glossary while we read. And some of the words are used in multiple nursery rhymes, so we became familiar with them by the end of the book.

The nursery rhymes throughout the book are mostly familiar Mother Goose rhymes. Though their familiarity depends on your age I suppose. My two and four year olds are familiar with some more than others as we don’t have a steady diet of Mother Goose to the point of memorization. I sometimes think this makes the book frustrating, but learning a new language is never an easy process and this book does it fluidly and beautifully. My girls still love to read it, though we look up words as we read and they can’t contextualize the words like I sometimes can and figure it out immediately. My assumption is as we continue to read and reread it, we will continue to grow our knowledge and memorization of the Spanish words. I have already noticed this in myself with just a few readings, so I’m fully expecting my little children sponges to have the same reaction eventually. Regardless, I have been trying to grow our Spanish books on our own shelves as my daughter will eventually be fluent thanks to her school. And I’m always desiring to grow my own knowledge and diversity, especially on my bookshelves.

As I said, most of the text is familiar Mother Goose rhymes, though with some alterations. I’m fairly certain these are to help the rhymes continue to rhyme when the usual English word is changed to a Spanish one; but quite often the changes also reflect a change to the rhyme culturally: i.e. referencing rice and frijoles, arroz and beans, a child becoming un toreador and shouting ¡Olé!, and changing the names to appropriate Spanish ones. I find them to work very fluidly and laughed a few times at the change to the rhyme.

The illustrations were the main attraction for me, as usual. I’m wowed and a bit intimidated by this being Juana’s first picture book! So incredibly well done. Created with acrylics, colored pencils and graphite – the illustrations are positively stunning. I love the use of anthropomorphic animals as many of the rhymes call for that; but most especially, I love the use of latino children. Juana is from Lima, Peru and used her own children for many of the characters in the rhymes. I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed before, but Mother Goose books tend to be filled predominantly with Caucasian children. Hurray for another beautiful and also beautifully multi-cultural picture book! I cannot wait to see this duo’s next book in September!

I wholeheartedly urge you to go get this book for your own shelves and please also encourage your library to carry it as well! You will love it and more picture books like this–beautifully created and celebrating diversity–need to abound in our society.

lovely end papers to open and close the book



4 thoughts on “Book Review: La Madre Goose By Elya & Martinez-Neal

  1. This looks so fun! I didn’t know your oldest was learning Spanish. That’s so cool! Maybe she can speak it with my two who are trying to learn it as well when you come! Thanks so much for sharing it at Booknificent Thursday on this week.


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