Review Source: Independent
Book Author: Jorge Argueta
Olita (Holly) is a young Salvadoran-American girl who is visiting her family and friends in El Salvador. As soon as she arrives, her family members invite her to attend Manyula’s birthday party. The children make their way to Manyula’s house: jumping over puddles and walking under the rain of their neighborhood streets. They take in the country’s natural beauty as they recognize the San Salvador Volcano and the Acelhuate River. Finally, they arrive at the Zoo to see the birthday girl, who happens to be an elephant! The audience cheers for Manyula and sings happy birthday as she is presented with a big birthday cake with tropical fruits and vegetables.
Jorge Argueta portrays an idyllic day in El Salvador in this bilingual story. The poet’s words come to life through the vibrant colors of the illustrations that depict El Salvador’s landscape. Salvadoran children and children of Salvadoran descent will feel pride as they turn the pages of this book because Argueta’s words and Sánchez’ illustrations are filled with love for their country. Other readers will appreciate the beauty, culture, and language of this small country.
The story contains many words that are unique to El Salvador. Studying this vocabulary a lot closer can help young readers learn about the country’s Spanish language, as it is different from other varieties of Spanish spoken throughout Latin America. In a bilingual classroom setting, teachers may want to compare this variety used in the book with Standard Spanish or other varieties spoken by children in the classroom.
One issue that is not addressed in the book is the one of animals in captivity. Manyula is described as a happy elephant living in a zoo, “Manyula, the biggest and happiest elephant in the whole world, is dancing moving her legs and trunk from one side to the other.” Educators may want to ask their students about the pros and cons of zoos. They can develop a persuasive unit around this topic and even debate the issue in class! Read more here.
For more resources on Central America and by Central American authors, visit Teaching Central America.
Wendy Bermudez is a 5th grade bilingual teacher in Arlington, VA.
Olita and Manyula by Jorge Argueta
Illustrator: El Aleph Sanchez
Published by Luna's Press Genres: Central America, Animals
Reading Level: Grades 1-2
Review Source: Independent
Also by this author: Salsa, Somos Como Las Nubes / We Are Like the Clouds, A Movie in My Pillow
Publisher's Synopsis: Olita visits El Salvador from the United States. Her cousin, friends and aunt invite her to Manyula's birthday party. On the way to the party they walk through the San Jacinto neighborhood under the warm rain, jumping over puddles. When they arrive at the party, Olita receives a gigantic surprise. Everyone has a great time watching Manyula dance and eat her huge cake. This is the big birthday party Olita will never forget.