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The Day It Snowed Tortillas

School Library Journal
A master storyteller sets down 10 tales told in New Mexico. In the title story, a clever wife diverts some thieves who are after her dim-witted husband, thus assuring the couples prosperity. In a cumulative tale, a little ant escapes being stuck forever in the cold under a large snowflake by enlisting help from tiny cousin flea. The stories are well told, rhythmic, and spellbinding, both in English and in the colloquial Spanish. Hayes is a fine translator, and these stories are a testament to his expert execution of this exacting art. The format indicates that the book is designed more for the storyteller than for the reader. A paragraph of English text alternates with the same paragraph in Spanish. This makes for choppy reading, but is a natural and helpful division if the tale is being memorized. Each story begins with a full-page pencil drawing. Photographic in detail, Castro L.s art extends the stories a bit. Notes to the stories give history as well as the Arne-Thompson numbers for the tale type. Similar in content to Carmen Diana Deardens Little Book of Latin American Folktales (Groundwood, 2003), Hayes’ work is the better told of the two. It could be used alongside Mary-Joan Gersons excellent Fiesta Femenina (Barefoot, 2001) for a storytime that points out similarities and differences in Mexican and New Mexican folktales. An excellent purchase for storytelling librarians or for schools with storytelling clubs.

Bloomsbury Review listed the original The Day It Snowed Tortillas as one of their 15 all-time favorite children’s books.
Recognized as Cinco Puntos's best-selling author, Hayes has written such modern favorites as El Cucuy! A Bogeyman Cuento in English and Spanish (2001); La Llorona: The Weeping Woman (1987); and, most recently, Pajaro verde/The Green Bird (2002). The Day it Snowed Tortillas was originally published in English in the 1980s and has sold almost 40,000 copies. Now available in a bilingual edition with new artwork by Antonio L. Castro, this collection's title story tells the tale of a poor woodcutter and his very clever wife. When the woodcutter comes home with three bags of gold he has found, his wife knows he cannot be trusted to keep the secret. Due out in October, the review will appear in the next issue of Criticas.
Children's Literature
This flip-book by Joe Hayes relates ten Spanish folktales in both English and Spanish. A pencil drawing accompanies each story. Though every story has a familiar feel, they all have a distinct Spanish flavor that makes them appealing. For example, in the title story, a man finds a bag of gold, and because his wife is more astute than he is, she keeps her husband from losing the gold. Each story shows the reader the importance of cunning and smart thinking. Though the characters vary in many ways —there are princes, thieves, ghosts, etc. —they all represent universal forms. The wide range of stories offers something enjoyable for everyone. The book also exposes readers to both Spanish and English through its integration of the two languages in the text. Overall, the book is e njoyable and fun.
San Antonio Express-News
Joe Hayes’ “The Day It Snowed Tortillas” or El Dia Que Nevaron Tortillas, a bilingual collection of folktales, is full of magical twists and turns that are just as entertaining to grownups as to the intended audience: children. Like the word tortilla, these folktales with their colorful characters and magical settings maintain a charm that transcends all language barriers.

Among the enchanting characters we meet: A slow woodcutter, a lazy boy called Juan Camison for his large shirt (camiseta), a compadre called El Grillo (The Cricket) because he never shuts up, a lost ant, the best thief in town, a prince and even the infamous La Llorona. These characters are so fantastic and incredibly humorous that we cannot help but laugh at their stories.

In the title story, an uneducated woodcutter is overjoyed when he finds three sacks of gold on the road. Knowing full well that these sacks could only belong to robbers—los ladrones―the woodcutter’s smart wife creates a plan to protect her husband. With 100 pounds of flour, she makes tortilla after tortilla, later tossing them all over the ground to trick her husband into thinking that it actually snowed tortillas.

Even La Llorona, whose spooky legend has scared many children, is playfully portrayed as a crazy ghost woman. When she mistakes a small boy for her son―whom she threw into the river―she drops the boy and disappears back into the forest when he says a little prayer to the Virgin Mary – “Ave, Maria Purisima!”

Not one of Hayes’ stories goes without a happy ending. Whether it is El Grillo’s lucky escape or the little ant’s lucky return home, these twisted “happily ever after” endings are sure to give off a spark of optimism to all readers. These stories deserve more retellings.
El Paso ISD Library Review
Grades All. This collection of 10 folktales told in Spanish and English has been compiled by a popular storyteller and presented in a bilingual format with English on the left page and Spanish on the right page. The stories are tales that Mr. Hayes enjoys telling such as “Pedro and Diablo,” “The Cricket,” and “Little Gold Star.” Each story is accompanied by one black and white illustration on the first page. The stories are well constructed, lean and full of twists and turns. Mr. Hayes also includes source notes for readers and storytellers. These tales would be good material for storytellers or story readers. The stories also would work well in units about local folklore and as compare/contrast materials. Well worth the price. You may even want two copies of this gem.
Yellow Brick Road
Middle reader to adult. This brand-new bilingual edition of his signature book distills twenty years of Joe Hayes’ inimitable storytelling. There are great read-aloud stories here, including the beloved The Little Ant.

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