Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Mice and Beans

By Pam Muñoz Ryan
Illustrated by Joe Cepeda
Ryan, Pam Muñoz. Mice and Beans. Ill. by Joe Cepeda. New York, NY: Scholastic Press, 2001. 
ISBN 0439183030

Plot Summary
This is a charming story about Rosa María's week preparing for her granddaughter's seventh birthday. She has made her list and started working, but things keep disappearing, like napkins, piñata feathers, her favorite wooden spoon, and mousetraps. "No importa" she says, finds a solution and persists on. Rosa María has her mind set on one thing, a great birthday for her Little Catalina. What she doesn't know is that there is another party being planned in her house, and the missing mousetraps are involved.

Critical Analysis
Pam Muñoz Ryan and Joe Cepeda have created a delightful story with authenticity from the Hispanic culture. The cultural markers are displayed through the text and the colorful illustrations. Ryan sprinkles in Spanish words during the course of the story in words and phrases. "No importa" is the phrase that is repeated through the story, but she includes many other Spanish words like bolsa, pasteleria, frijoles, and fiesta.  To assist readers in translating the Spanish words, Ryan provided a glossary with pronunciation guide in the back of the book. The text does not seem to be stereotypical but rather authentic in the cultural aspects. Rosa María loves to cook for her big family and for the birthday party she is cooking enchiladas with rice and beans "no dinner was complete without rice and beans!" 

Cepeda's illustrations play a big roll in the joyful nature of this book. He uses a lot of bright colors and his depiction of Rosa María is unforgettable. Her character wears big red glasses, heels, and her hair looks like a blonde bee hive. The skin color of the characters are all slightly different, but they are nicely blended to create a tan look for the authenticity of the story. Hispanic culture consists of big families and the author and illustrator provide the reader with that experience in this book.

Readers get a little extra with this book because the back cover contains recipes for Rosa María's Rice and Beans. The book jacket was also very appealing with the blue and purple checkered background and several mice holding candy (from the piñata). On the inside is another recipe, but this one is for a Festive Story time. This book is very playful, fun, and a must read for lower elementary grade levels.

Review Excerpts
  • "Readers of this clever story will chuckle at the skillful collaboration between author and artist." -Horn Book Guide 
  • "The story is charming, but what makes it special is the quiet authenticity of the Hispanic characterizations. Cepeda's pictures are as good as the story, with bright, funny scenes depicted from human (looking down) and mouse (looking up) points of view." -Booklist
  • "Cepeda wraps up this festive volume by showing how the well-meaning vandals have put their loot to use by throwing a mouse party of their own." -Publisher's Weekly

More picture books by Pam Muñoz Ryan.
  • Nacho and Lolita (9780439269681)
  • When Marian Sang: The True Recital of Marian Anderson (9780439269674)
More picture books to celebrate the Hispanic culture.
  • Marisol McDonald Doesn't Match/ Marisol McDonald no combina by Monica Brown (9780892392353)
  • Napí by Antonio Ramirez (9780888996107)

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