Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match / Marisol McDonald no combina

author: Monica Brown
translator: Adriana Dominguez
illustrator: Sara Palacios
Children’s Book Press / Lee & Low, 2011

How can someone tell a child that she doesn’t “match”? Only things can’t match: colors, socks, bookends, chopsticks. Not children. But this is what happens—over and over—to Marisol McDonald, a happily non-conformist, self-assured little girl.

Marisol is a soccer-playing pirate princess who eats peanut butter-and-jelly burritos, wears green polka dots with purple stripes, and mixes cursive with print. She’s inherited a brownish complexion from her Peruvian mother and bright orange hair from her Scottish father, and everyone, she says, tells her she “doesn’t match.”

One day, young Marisol’s just had it with everyone’s negative comments, so she decides to tone it down. She dresses in clothes that “match,” eats foods that “go together,” plays soccer or pirate and writes either in cursive or print. ¡Ay, pobrecita! Marisol’s life becomes so sad and boring. When her teacher notices that Marisol’s spunk is gone, the child receives this note: “I want you to know that I like you just the way you are, because the Marisol McDonald that I know is a creative, unique, bilingual, Peruvian-Scottish-American, soccer-playing artist and simply marvelous!”

The next day, a smiling, ebullient Marisol dresses in a pink shirt, a brownish polka-dot skirt, orange-and-red tights, and her favorite hat that her abuelita brought her from Peru. ¡Ay, caramba! Marisol la fabulosa is back and loving it!

A common dilemma in bilingual picture books is how to present dialogue realistically. How would a Spanish translation, for instance, reflect that the character is speaking both English and Spanish? Here, the problem is resolved brilliantly: In the sentence or phrase in which one of the languages is dominant, the subordinate words in the other language are italicized.

Here, for instance, Marisol asks her parents if she can have a puppy. The English reads: “Can I have a puppy? A furry, sweet perrito?” I ask my parents. ¿Por favor?” And in Spanish: —¿Puedo tener un perrito? ¿Un puppy dulce y peludito?—le pido a mis padres—. Please?

This is one of the few bilingual Spanish-English picture books I know in which both languages are presented effortlessly and flawlessly, so that both English readers and hablantes can enjoy the story.

Sara Palacios’s engaging double-page illustrations—in mixed media that combine childlike crayon-and-pencil drawings with cartoons in acrylics, watercolor, pen, and newsprint collage—are perfect. I especially like the spread of young Marisol, in one of her riotously colored outfits, swinging on a tree branch. Joining her on the branch are two birds, one yellow and the other made of newsprint. Talk about diversity!

Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match / Marisol McDonald no combina is an absolutely amazing little story that will resonate, not only with ethnically mixed youngsters, but also with LGBT youngsters and everyone else who dares to be different. Brava, Monica, Adriana and Sara! Highly recommended.

—Beverly Slapin
(published 11/7/13)

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