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<< Back to Grandma Fina and Her Wonderful Umbrellas

Grandma Fina and Her Wonderful Umbrellas

School Library Journal
Grandma Fina loves her bright yellow umbrella, which she uses to keep herself shaded as she walks through her sunny neighborhood visiting friends and relatives. While all comment on it, each one notices that the sombrilla amarilla maravillosa is far from wonderful. In fact, it looks pretty beat up and ragged. Thus, when Grandma Fina's birthday rolls around, she finds herself the proud owner of nine new umbrellas. Fortunately, she knows just what to do with them so that all are appreciated, and she is able to keep the yellow umbrella that she loves so much. Repetitious text, in both English and Spanish, that goes beyond basic vocabulary, will prove just challenging enough for second-grade readers. The story is also good for read-alouds; young listeners will chime in as Grandma Fina says all is "wonderful." Bright cartoon illustrations complement the text well. Readers and listeners alike will enjoy matching the unique umbrellas to their respective donors (Mr. Lopez's umbrella looks like a big, red tomato, Mrs. Wong's has dogs all over it). Similar to Lucia Gonzalez's The Bossy Gallito (Scholastic, 1994) and Nina Jaffe's Sing, Little Sack!/Canta, Saquito! (Bantam, 1993), this story is aimed at young readers who still need predictable plots but are ready for more challenging vocabulary.
ForeWord Magazine
Grandma Fina attracts attention as she strolls through her neighborhood with her yellow umbrella and matching shoes and purse. As she cheerfully greets neighbors, children and grandchildren, everyone notices that Grandma Fina's umbrella is torn. Grandma Fina is aware that her umbrella is old and tattered, but she still thinks it is wonderful. Her friends and family, however, have their own ideas and, at a surprise birthday celebration, each of them gives Grandma Fina a new umbrella in a color or pattern offering a distinctive reminder of the giver. Graciously, Grandma Fina accepts the gifts and brings them to her friends at the Community Center. When the ten elderly women step out for a walk, each of the friends is carrying one of the new umbrellas while Grandma Fina happily holds her torn, but wonderful, yellow umbrella.

This bilingual early reader is the first children's book by Saenz, an author of novels, poems and short fiction for middle readers. Each page contains blocks of the Spanish and English texts with the English text having only a few Spanish phrases that can be understood from context. The story is long enough to satisfy a young reader ready to move beyond the simplest beginning readers. The vocabulary is somewhat challenging, but the repetition of words and phrases through the characters' conversations provides the opportunity for mastery. The brightly colored pictures follow Grandma Fina's meandering walk through the neighborhood and around the blocks of text.

The story will be an enjoyable read-aloud in either language as well as a title to offer to the newly independent reader who is not quite ready for a chapter book. Despite the proliferation of umbrellas, no rain falls in this sunny book and the umbrellas are used for protection from the heat. The friendliness of neighbors and family depicted in the book is, as Grandma Fina says, "Wonderful!"

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