El Hermoso Libro De Rimas

Nursery rhymes with their short phrases and spirited cadences become part of a child's language and literature foundation sometimes before they are even born.  The reading, reciting and singing of these poetic pieces span generations.  All you need to do is begin one of the more popular titles and everyone, regardless of their age, will join in.

Many nursery rhymes are a reflection of the culture and historical time period in which they originated.  One of the better known collections of nursery rhymes are those bearing the name of Mother Goose.  La Madre Goose: Nursery Rhymes for Los Ninos (G. P. Putnam's Sons, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, July 19, 2016) written by Susan Middleton Elya with illustrations by Juana Martinez-Neal is a charming bilingual blend and interpretation of eighteen of those poems.

Maria Had a Little Oveja
Maria had a little oveja.
Its lana was white as snow.
And everywhere that Maria went,
la oveja was sure to go. ...

In Baa, Baa, Black Oveja the words are changed to create a more familial setting for young readers but keep the same beat.  One bag of wool is given to my sister and my mother (madre) and the third is shared by my brother and my father (padre).  The theme of Peter, Peter Pumpkin Eater is abbreviated but works splendidly.  His wife is able to use her artistic talents matching casita and bonita.

Little Miss Amarilla (Little Miss Muffet) and Young Juan Ramon (Little Jack Horner) have new twists when it comes to food selections; beans and rice, guacamole, tomato and beans.  Monday's Child names the days in Spanish but the final line gives a nod to an occupation which could lead to further discussion.

But the child that is born on domingo day
will be un toreador. !Ole!

A rhythmic rendition of One Potato, Dos Potatoes is created by substituting Spanish for the numbers in the first two lines and using Spanish entirely for the final two phrases.

In Old Mother Hubbard the dog, while still going without a treat or meal, does receive something special.  What Are Las Ninas (Little Girls) Made Of? and What Are Los Ninos (Little Boys) Made Of? are a lighthearted look at these rhymes with the slight changes making them absolutely perfect.  Readers will surely giggle at the antics of the dish in Hey, Diddle, Diddle.  

Moving toward the close of day we lift our eyes to the sky.  A star will still twinkle like un diamante.  And la luna will still see you as you gaze at her glowing, growing shapes.


Adeptly Susan Middleton Elya places Spanish for English.  Her gift is in knowing when to substitute one for the other without losing the cadence of the original rhyme.  When the words are changed they ring culturally true.  When Elya rewrites the poem creating a new rhyme, the bones of the first still remain.  Here is an entire rhyme.

What Are Las Ninas Made Of?
What are las ninas made of?
What are las ninas made of?
Azucar and flores
and all los colores.
That's what las ninas are made of! 


When you open the dust jacket for this title it sings of shared moments; it calls out to readers asking them to speak the words within aloud.  The charming scene of La Madre Goose happily walking with the laughing children on her back is a prelude to delight.  To the left, on the back, continuing with the yellow background bordered in delicate branches are small pictures of el gato and the fiddle, three little gatitos and baa, baa, black oveja.

On the book case colored in a pale sage green with the branches framing the edges in white a child sits cozily on a crescent moon on the front. They are clothed in striped pajamas wearing a wreath of branches and holding a stuffed toy cow.  You already want to be a part of the world you know you will find inside this book.  The matching opening and closing endpapers in a dusty teal hue with the palest similar shade are thirty etched images with labels in Spanish.  Some of them have more than one portion labeled.

Rendered in acrylics, colored pencils and graphite on handmade textured paper the exquisite illustrations by Juana Martinez-Neal, covering either a single page or two, are brimming with warmth and merriment.  Readers will pause at each page turn to enjoy her fine-lined tender details. The facial expression on all the characters will have you wanting to reach out and hug them all.  Her visuals extend the rhyme.

In This Little Cerdo Went to Market a little girl is chatting with a pig sitting next to her.  On the wall she has drawn all the parts of the poem in white chalk.  Mice can be seen laughing after they've taken the little kittens' mittens and then they are throwing them back for the second portion of the rhyme.  The Itsy Aranita is wearing a red and white polka-dot dress, eight white boots and carrying an umbrella, wondering if the sun will stay out.

One of my many favorite illustrations is for the rhyme One Potato, Dos Potatoes.  Spanning two pages the scene unfolds in a garden.  Along the edges of the garden are dainty purple flowers with yellow centers.  On the right side is a bag full of potatoes, labeled papas.  Standing on top is a rabbit holding a potato to be placed in the bag.  Next to the bag is another rabbit watching a third rabbit on the left.  This bunny is handing a potato from a row to a little girl.  She is wearing polka-dot tights, a jumper and a yellow and orange striped shirt.  In her hair are some of those purple flowers.


La Madre Goose: Nursery Rhymes for Los Ninos written by Susan Middleton Elya with illustrations by Juana Martinez-Neal is a wonderful addition to the children's literature realm.  It will have appeal for both English and Spanish speaking readers creating connections between cultures.  In the front of the book there is an extensive glossary of the Spanish words with their English translations.  You will want to include this title in your personal and professional nursery rhyme collections.

To discover more about Susan Middle Elya and Juana Martinez-Neal and their work please visit their websites by following the links attached to their names.  At Juana Martinez-Neal's site you can view several interior images from this title.  She also has a link to a blog she maintains.  Both Susan Middle Elya and Juana Martinez-Neal have accounts on Twitter at @susanpolkadot and @juanamartinez respectively.

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