Saturday, June 14, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me

Happy Birthday to Me by David and Tessie DeVore celebrates both cultural diversity and the amazing blessing of a child's life.

The story begins with young David (about five years old) excited because today is his birthday. He finds his Latino mother (Mami) in the kitchen cooking up special birthday food, then steps outside to help his Caucasian father (Papi), hang the pinata. "I never had a pinata when I was a boy," Papi says. Then Mami brings out the food: Arroz, friholes negros, tostones, and flan...her favorite foods when she was a child in Puerto Rico. And there's also Papi's favorite foods from when he was a boy: Hamburgers, fries, and green beans.

Papi's parents (Grandpa and Grandma) and Mami's parents (Abuelo and Abuela) soon knock on the door, followed by David's aunts, uncles, and cousins on his father's side and his tios and tias on his mother's side. They bob for apples and smash the pinata. Abuela laughs and says, "We never bobbed for apples in Cuba," while Grandma says, "We never had pinatas in South Carolina when I was growing up." "What a blessing that David has both of our families' cultures top enjoy," Abuela concludes.

David receives a variety of presents, including books in both English and Spanish, an American football and a Spanish "futbol" (soccer ball). The family sings "Happy Birthday" and David blows out his candles. Then Grandpa and Auelo pray, thanking God repeatedly for David, and for blessing him with two rich cultures. "We ask that You continue to bless David and use him to show others how diverse and wonderful the world is," they pray. Finally, David thanks God for a wonderful birthday - and a wonderful family.

What I Like: I love that this book covers the topic of birthdays with such a strong emphasis on the fact that they are about thanking God for the birthday boy (or girl). David's family is not only diverse, but they are loving and warm, and willing to share their different traditions. Happy Birthday to Me is especially ideal for those with Latino and Caucasians friends and family, or for those who live in a culturally diverse area...or those who want to learn more about the Latino culture.

What I Dislike: The illustrations by Heather Graham are only so-so. The colors are pale, and sometimes the images are dull. But the biggest fault in Happy Birthday to Me is that parents who know little or no Spanish will have a tough time reading the book aloud. Having grown up in an area with a large Latino population, I know a wee bit of Spanish, but not nearly enough to get me through this book without butchering the language. Happy Birthday to Me would appeal to a much broader audience if the authors included a pronunciation guide.

Overall Rating: Good.

Age Appeal: 4- 8.

Publishing Info: Strang Communications, 2004; ISBN: 1591852072; hardback, $9.99

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