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ABeCedarios

The Santa Fe New Mexican Magazine

"Children’s books with Spanish and English text side-by-side are not uncommon, but this one has an extra treat: photos of animal carvings by a well-known family from Oaxaca, Mexico.

Each photo by K.B. Basseches takes up the whole page and the text by Cynthia Weill is the name of each animal. Some translate letter-for-letter, as in 'the coyote-el coyote', others translate through letter shifts ('the buffalo-el búfalo') while others are more complex ('the turtle-la tortuga', 'the snake-la serpiente'). Some of the animals are exotic ('the quetzal-el quetzal', a tropical bird). And a couple names don’t translate straight across, as in 'el zorro' for fox, 'el ñu' for gnu and 'el chapulín' for grasshopper. And one animal doesn’t exist: 'the X-el/la X.' Well, do you know an animal that begins with the letter 'X'?

The sculptures were created by the Jiménez family from Mexico, led by brothers Armando and Moisés, grandsons of Manuel Jiménez, who the book credits with starting the carved-animal art. The result is some lovely and colorful creatures that add charm to the book. Certainly something to catch a child's eye.

The book uses three letters that have been removed from the Spanish alphabet: ch ('chapulín'), ll ('llama'), and rr ('zorro'). It's a good bet the letters still are being taught. Otherwise, what would we call La Llorna?"

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