Written & Illustrated by: Duncan Tonatiuh
For ages: 5-7 years
Language: English, Spanish.
Topics Covered: Latinx Families, Love, Global Community, Family.
Summary: Charlie and Carlitos are cousins, one living in America and one in Mexico. This story is told through excerpts of their letters the boys exchange. The penpals talk about their lives, and at the beginning it seems as though they have nothing in common. One rides the subway to school, the other a bike. One loves quesadillas and the other pizza. Carlitos’ letters have lots of great Spanish vocabulary words, with the objects labeled in the illustrations. As the book progresses, there are more similarities between the two boys than at first glance. The book ends with each other waking up in their respective beds with the idea that they should visit each other. In the back is a glossary of Spanish words, and an Author’s Note from Tonatiuh.
The illustration style by Tonatiuh is unique and beautiful, figures appearing to be influenced by Mayan art. The texture in these illustrations are provided by a mix of collage-style: denim, bricks, and different photos with some drawing as well. This book is a great start to introduce penpals, a global community unit, or a study on immigration. Tonatiuh’s message that people are people, even in different countries is a great lesson for young children to learn early.
- Do you have any family that lives in a different country? Where do they live?
- Have you ever been to visit them?
- What do you think might be different about other countries?
- What do you think might be the same as in your country?
Continuing the Conversation:
- Contact a school in another country, and see if they would like to be pen pals! There is so much to be learned from other people, especially kids your own age.
- Try making collage-based art like Duncan Tonatiuh. What can you use photographs of to create texture in your art?
- Learn more about traditional Mexican art. What is the same as the book, and what is different? Can you tell what influenced Tonatiuh when he was creating this book?
About the Author & the Illustrator:
Duncan Tonatiuh (toh-nah-tee-YOU) is the author-illustrator of The Princess and the Warrior, Funny Bones, Separate Is Never Equal, Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote, Diego Rivera: His World and Ours and Dear Primo. He is the illustrator of Esquivel! and Salsa. His books have received multiple accolades, among them the Pura Belpré Medal, the Sibert Medal, The Tomás Rivera Mexican-American Children’s Book Award, The Américas Award, the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award and the New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book Award. Duncan Tonatiuh is both Mexican and American. He grew up in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico and graduated from Parsons School of Design in New York City. His artwork is inspired by Pre-Columbian art, particularly that of the Mixtec codex. His aim is to create images and stories that honor the past, but that are relevant to people, specially children, nowadays.