Thursday, March 23, 2006

Review: Antonio's Card

Antonio's Card/La Tarjeta de Antonio by Rigoberto Gonzalez.
Illustrated by Cecilia Concepcion Alvarez. Children's Book Press,
2005 (0-89239-204-5) $16.95. Text in English and Spanish.

Antonio enjoys playing with letters, finding "Mami" in his alphabet cereal to please his mother, and spelling words for her in both Spanish and English. But when the other kids at school start making fun of his mother's partner Leslie, saying "that woman looks like a guy" and "She looks like a rodeo clown," word games don't seem fun anymore. "Words are more than letters. Words hurt feelings." Marco draws a mother's day card for Mami and Leslie, showing the three of them with the words "family/familia" above, but he's worried when he finds out it will be part of a school exhibit, and tries to keep Leslie away. Until he sees the mother's day surprise Leslie has painted for Mami, a beautiful scene of the three of them, just like the one on his card, and realizes how much "family/familia" really means.

This tender story in picture book format feels just right for its intended audience, neither too metaphorical nor too didactic. The large watercolors are a bit still and somber for my tastes, but I was moved to tears by the loving images of family, one as drawn in crayon by Antonio, the other as painted by Leslie. (5-8)