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A Spoon for Every Bite

Publisher's Weekly
New Mexican storyteller Hayes builds an involving moral tale around an old Hispanic joke about tortillas. A poor, kindly husband and wife invite their rich neighbor over to dinner; the neighbor, realizing his hosts have only three spoons, boasts that he has "so many spoons in [his] house [he] could use a different one each day of the year." The wife, unfazed, replies that she has a friend "who uses a different spoon for every bite he eats." This galls the rich man, who then squanders his fortune buying spoons for his every bite. In his poverty, he discovers the couple's trickery: their friend's "spoon for every bite" is a tortilla. Rendered in warm, earthy pastels, Leer's (The Girl Who Listened to Sinks) illustrations are a potent blend of rusticity and droll melodrama. The exaggerated facial expressions flatter the hyperbolic story line while also helping to clarify for children the moral choices found in this deftly told tale.
School Library Journal
This Southwestern tale is based on a play on words that most children raised (even peripherally) in the Hispanic tradition understand: a rolled tortilla can be used as both bread and eating utensil. This slight story's humor depends on a character who makes a fool of himself because he doesn't have this knowledge. A poor couple who own only two spoons invite a rich neighbor to be their newborn's godfather. They save their pennies to buy a third spoon, then invite their compadre over for dinner. When he hears what they have done, he laughs at them, bragging about the number of spoons he owns. The husband and wife can't resist telling him about someone they know who never uses the same spoon twice. Eaten with jealousy, the man begins throwing his spoons away after each use (in the poor family's yard). He goes through his entire fortune before giving up in despair. His neighbors take him to a nearby pueblo where an Indian demonstrates how to have "a spoon for every bite" (a tortilla). An author's note explains the background of the story. Leer's realistic paintings, rendered in pastels, display a southern Arizona desertscape. The faces of the three main characters are especially vivid in their display of emotion.
Kirkus Reviews
The landscapes and lore of the desert are captured in this traditional Hispanic fable about a boastful rich man who is outsmarted by his poor neighbors. The poor couple, whose shack looks out on the mansion of the wealthy man and who own but two spoons, ask him to be the compadre, or godfather, to their child. He agrees; they save every penny to buy a third spoon so they can invite him to dinner. The compadre comes to their home and laughs at their poverty, boasting that he could use a different spoon every day of the year. They mention a man they know who uses a different spoon for every bite. Intent on proving his superior wealth, the compadre bankrupts himself trying to outdo this legendary man, whose "spoons'' are the tortillas with which he eats his beans. Hayes includes an author's note about his sources, while Leer successfully combines the colors of the southwest with the caricatured figures who piquantly inhabit the tale. An entertaining marriage of pictures and words.
Booklist
Set in the Southwest, this is the story of a couple so poor they own only two spoons. When their child is born, they ask a rich neighbor to be the baby's compadre (godfather). The couple save up enough to buy a third spoon so that they can invite the rich man to dinner, but he makes a poor guest, bragging about the amount of spoons he owns. The couple tell him they know someone who uses a new spoon for every bite. Obsessed, the rich man buys so many spoons he eventually loses his fortune. The spoon that can be used for every new bite, by the way, is a tortilla. As the author's note tells readers, this story is a variation on several Hispanic traditions that feature poor but clever men (here, the husband inherits all the old spoons and sells them) and a rich but silly adversary. The tortilla-as-spoon motif is also familiar. The attractive paintings do a nice job of re-creating the Old Southwest, featuring desert colors and flora, fauna, and architecture of the region. The art also helps kids visualize just how a tortilla becomes an eating utensil.
Children's Literature
This Land of Enchantment Book Award winner is an excellent offering from Cinco Puntos Press. Hayes retells the story of a rich rancher who becomes fixated on one goal: to use a different spoon for every bite, upon learning from the poor parents of his godchild that they have a friend who does this. The rancher cannot imagine someone living more lavishly than he and sets off on a yearlong quest that leaves him bankrupt and mad. He finally goes to the poor parents's house and insists that their friend's lifestyle is impossible to sustain and that they must show him how he does it. The parents oblige and take him to their even poorer friend's house who uses each spoon only once, however, it is a rather different sort of spoon than the reader might expect and certainly than the rancher expected. Leer's illustrations develop wonderful characters and show off lovely dramatic compositions. This edition of the book offers a full Spanish translation, which will make the book accessible to an even larger appreciative audience and even better for use in bilingual classroom settings.
New Mexico Magazine
A Spoon for Every Bite/Una Cuchara Para Cada Bocado is the kind of funny folk tale that readers have come to expect from master storyteller Joe Hayes. Suffice to say, a rich man becomes godfather to the child of a poor family. The rich man is stuck up and competitive. The poor family is warm and clever.

The plot hinges on a riddle: Who is it that uses a different spoon with every bite? The answer is a classic one in the Hispanic Southwestern tradition, but you’ll have to read the book to discover the answer! The illustrations by Rebecca Leer are warm and gentle, with a nostalgic feeling. As in so many folk tales wit triumphs over greed—to the reader’s enjoyment.

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