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<< Back to Don't Say A Word, Mama / No digas nada, mama

Don't Say A Word, Mama / No digas nada, mama

Kirkus Reviews 1 Stars
"A sweet family tale that never turns saccharine…Esau Andrade Valencia contributes highly saturated paintings that combine a folk aesthetic with magical realism…This book overflows with affection—and you can never have too much of that."
Mamá has always been proud of her loving daughters, even when they’ve grown.

Rosa, her husband and their three children live “in a little house just down the street from her mother.” Sister Blanca lives alone “in a little house just up the street from her mother.” One year, each sister plants a garden, growing tomatoes, corn and “good hot chiles.” Each woman gives their mother some and tells her that she is going to give her sister half her yield—but: “Don’t say a word, Mamá!” In the night, each unknowingly passes the other with a basketful and leaves it in her sister’s empty kitchen. In the morning, each is astonished at the enormous pile of tomatoes and gives still more to her mother, who accepts them with a shrug: “you can never have too many tomatoes.” This is repeated with the luxuriant crop of corn, but Mamá at last spills the beans—or rather the peppers—as she can’t manage a similar surplus of chiles. Storyteller Hayes uses repetition, parallel structure and short sentences masterfully, unspooling a sweet family tale that never turns saccharine. His own Spanish translation appears alongside the English text. Andrade Valencia contributes highly saturated paintings that combine a folk aesthetic with magical realism, playfully depicting anthropomorphized vegetables marrying and having babies as the sisters marvel at the bounty.

This book overflows with affection—and you can never have too much of that. (Bilingual picture book. 4-7)
- August 3, 2013 
The New York Times
Hayes balances humor with sentiment, and abundance with a concern for privation in a way that imbues the notion of harvest with a sense of real value … Perfect for readers of either language, or for language learners.
On the cover of “Don’t Say a Word, Mamá,” the illustrator Esau Andrade Valencia paints a mysterious scene: a dark-haired, almond-eyed woman puts her index finger to her lips to signal a secret, while chilies, corn and tomatoes float through the air around her head. A midnight-blue sky glitters with gold stars like a chapel ceiling. Inside, the Southwestern storyteller Joe Hayes recounts a tale of two sisters “who loved each other very much.” “If their mother sent Rosa to the store to buy flour for tortillas, Blanca would say: ‘Wait, Rosa. I’ll go with you.’ If their mother told Blanca to sweep the sidewalk in front of the house, Rosa would say: ‘Wait, Blanca. I’ll help you sweep.’”
As the years pass, the girls settle in houses on the same block as their mother, Rosa with her own family; Blanca, alone. Each plants a garden, and in addition to sharing her vegetables with their mother, each, worried about her sister having enough, secretly puts some of her harvest in the other’s kitchen — until one night, their mother reveals their well-meaning deception. The English text is followed paragraph by paragraph in Spanish; perfect for readers of either language, or for language learners. Hayes balances humor with sentiment, and abundance with a concern for privation in a way that imbues the notion of harvest with a sense of real value.
- Sarah Harrison Smith, September 25, 2013  Visit Website
Shelf Awareness
"A funny, affectionate tale of two sisters who let their mother in on their secret gift-giving missio … This bilingual tale of sisterly generosity by master storyteller Joe Hayes (Ghost Fever) brims with humor and love, while Esau Andrade Valencia's Mexican folk art matches the siblings' affection and playfulness … Author and artist celebrate family and abundance in a story that will be a favorite read-aloud at harvest time or anytime."
This bilingual tale of sisterly generosity by master storyteller Joe Hayes (Ghost Fever) brims with humor and love, while Esau Andrade Valencia's Mexican folk art matches the siblings' affection and playfulness.
As children, Rosa and Blanca helped each other with the chores their mother assigned. Blanca accompanied Rosa to buy flour for tortillas; Rosa helped Blanca sweep the sidewalk in front of their house. Their proud mother proclaims, "I think I'm the luckiest mother in the whole wide world." Rosa marries and has three children; Blanca lives alone. But both sisters still live on the same street, on either side of their mother. Hayes describes how each helps the other harvest corn, tomatoes and "good hot chiles"--and secretly takes half her yield to the other. "Don't say a word, Mamá!" each of them makes her promise. (Rosa and Blanca of course share with Mamá, too.)
Hayes makes the most of the repeated phrases ("The night was dark. The sisters didn't see each other when they passed right in front of their mother's house"), and Valencia heightens the comedy when Rosa and Blanca see their bounty in the morning ("Did my tomatoes have babies during the night?" Rosa says), depicting tomato parents in dresses and jeans pushing baby carriages, and corn cobs in top hat and bridal veil. In a clever climax, Mamá breaks her silence--but without breaking her promise to her daughters. Author and artist celebrate family and abundance in a story that will be a favorite read-aloud at harvest time or anytime. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness
Discover: A funny, affectionate tale of two sisters who let their mother in on their secret gift-giving mission.
- Jennifer M. Brown, November 8, 2013  Visit Website
Book Dragon
"[Valencia's] brush presents tomatoes so tantalizing, corn so sweet, and chiles so peppery, as to make the taste buds salivate from memories of a perfect Sinaloan posole! Join Hayes and Valencia for this delicious fare that’s both nourishing for the grumbling belly … and the hungry soul."
Two sisters are always so kind, helpful, and nurturing that they make their Mamá feel like she’s “‘the luckiest mother in the whole wide world!’” Rosa grows up to marry and have three children; she lives just down the street from Mamá. Blanca chooses the single life, and lives just up the street from them both.

One year, each sister plants a garden. Of course, each sister plans to share her bounty with the other. In the dark of night, one sister delivers tomatoes to the other, while the other sister does the same. Neither notices the other. Both sisters naturally stop to share with their mother, each asking that Mamá keep the deliveries a secret: “.. it will be a surprise. Don’t say a word, Mamá.’”

When each sister discovers her undiminished bounty in the morning, each decides to share more with Mamá. For awhile, Mamá appreciates all the plump tomatoes, and then later the golden ripe corn. But when she receives an overabundance of chiles, she decides it’s high time to reveal her thoughtful daughters’ secret exchanges. Banging her posole pot one evening, Mamá declares, “‘I promised you both I wouldn’t say a word, but I had to do something … [W]hat was I going to do with all those hot chiles!’” Sharing laughter and goodness, she rejoices once again that she’s “‘the luckiest mama in the whole wide world!’”

Joe Hayes, best known as a storyteller of American Southwest folklore who has sold over a million copies of his books (!), adds to his long list of bilingual titles from Texas boutique publisher, Cinco Puntos Press [" ... we specialize in publishing bilingual children's books. We love bilingual books because they mirror the incredible place where we live"]. Mamá is Hayes’ first collaboration with Mexican artist Esau Andrade Valencia, who works in saturated, rich hues that emphasize and enhance the depth of love, caring, and commitment the sisters have to each other and to their Mamá. His brush presents tomatoes so tantalizing, corn so sweet, and chiles so peppery, as to make the taste buds salivate from memories of a perfect Sinaloan posole! Join Hayes and Valencia for this delicious fare that’s both nourishing for the grumbling belly … and the hungry soul.
- November 12, 2013  Visit Website
School Library Journal
Children will enjoy the back and forth and will laugh at Mamá’s predicament … Culturally relevant in its depiction of Latina characters, the book makes an excellent read-aloud to a broad audience. Hayes’s many fans will enjoy this story as will those looking for tales about families and goodwill among siblings.
Gr 2-4–Rosa and Blanca are loving sisters who grow up and live separately–one by herself and the other with a family–in close proximity to their mother’s home. Both have bountiful gardens and decide to share their harvests, in secret, with one another. While Rosa, worried that her sister has so many mouths to feed, sneaks half of her tomatoes into Blanca’s kitchen, Blanca, concerned that her sister has no one to help support her, is adding half of her crop to Rosa’s stash, and both are amazed to discover that they have a surplus. Only Mamá knows of her daughters’ generosity, and she is the recipient of the extra tomatoes and corn. The chile peppers are the last straw, and, finally, Mamá spills the beans about what has been going on. Children will enjoy the back and forth and will laugh at Mamá’s predicament. The writing is good and the Spanish text is fluid and accessible. The colorful paintings are realistic for the most part, with a little magic when depicting the personified veggies. The text is placed nicely alongside the paintings. Culturally relevant in its depiction of Latina characters, the book makes an excellent read-aloud to a broad audience. Hayes’s many fans will enjoy this story as will those looking for tales about families and goodwill among siblings.
- Maricela Leon-Barrera, San Francisco Public Library, October 1, 2013 
Midwest Book Review
"A lushly illuminated bilingual original tale with a precious moral for all times, the value of sisters sharing of carefully harvested garden bounty and love … a beautiful tale of sharing plenty that is exactly what the notion of thanksgiving is about."
Don’t Say a Word, Mama / No Digas Nada, Mama is a lushly illuminated bilingual original tale with a precious moral for all times, the value of sisters sharing of carefully harvested garden bounty and love. However, as the mama of Rosa and Blanca said, “You can never have too many tomatoes, and you can never have too much corn. But what was I going to do with all those hot chilies!” So the secret, loving sharing of garden bounty between a mother’s two daughters becomes proof to her that she is the luckiest mama in the whole wide world! Don’t Say a Word, Mama is a beautiful tale of sharing plenty that is exactly what the notion of thanksgiving is about. The magical, dancing images of the corn, tomatoes and chiles are the ideal manifestations of edible love in this Hispanic influenced original story.
Edible Baja Arizona

“Visual beauty, humor, storyline, and a moral come together in this excellent book for kids.”
If children’s books are to teach a lesson, the moral of “Don’t Say a Word/No Digas Nada, Mamá” is on the virtue of sharing. A spin on the Gift of the Magi, it is the story of two sisters named Rosa and Blanca. As children, they were always helping each other perform the tasks assigned by their mother.

As adults, Rosa got married and had three children, while Blanca remained single and lived on her own. One year, the two of them planted gardens, and each helped the other pick her bountiful produce. Rosa reasoned that Blanca did not have a husband and children to help her out, and told her mother that she would give half of her tomatoes, chiles and corn to Blanca. When giving some produce to her mother, Rosa told her of this plan, but asked her to keep it a surprise: “No digas nada, Mama.”

On the other hand, Blanca decided that Rosa had more mouths to feed, and she set out to secretly give half of her produce to her sister. Likewise, she asked her mother to keep it a secret. The two crossed paths in the dark of night, stowing into each other’s kitchens to deliver their edibles.

Each sister, in response to the inexplicable proliferation of tomatoes and corn on her kitchen counter, gave even more produce to Mamá. At first, Mamá kept the secrets of her daughters from each other, until the day she ended up with mountains of hot chiles—which is when she decided to reveal what each sister had been up to.

Hayes grew up in southern Arizona, and his stories are inspired by the storytelling tradition of the American Southwest. Esau Andrade Valencia’s illustrations are lovely, with soft expressive faces as the central theme. Valencia is originally from Tepic Nayarit, Mexico, and his folk art style echoes Rufino Tamayo and Diego Rivera. Visual beauty, humor, storyline, and a moral come together in this excellent book for kids.
- Molly Kincaid, September 13, 2015  Visit Website

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