Dog Who Loved Tortillas/ La perrita que le encantaba las tortillas

author: Benjamin Alire Sáenz
illustrator: Geronimo García
Cinco Puntos Press, 2009
grades 2-up
Mexican, Mexican American

When Dieguito and his older sister, Gabriela, each see a dog and its owner having a good time, both decide they really, really want a dog. The sibling rivalry begins when Dieguito goes to his parents to ask for a puppy. Gabriela hears him and flies out of her room shouting, “No fair! I want a dog, too!” After listening to the children arguing about why one should have a dog and not the other, their parents decide that the two can have one dog—to share. When the rival siblings realize it’s one dog or no dogs they agree; but each thinks that the new dog will be more his or hers anyway.

The family visits the Humane Society, where both children decide they want a white puppy with brown spots. When Gabriela chooses a cute girl puppy, Dieguito, who originally wanted a boy puppy, falls in love with her and names her Sofie. 

They take Sofie home, where Dieguito and Gabriela learn to care for her and train her, using pieces of warm tortilla, which she loves. One day, Sofie gets very, very ill and, as the children sleep by her side—and comfort each other—they realize that Sophie is “our dog.”

García’s molded clay art, in muted, natural colors—and bright backgrounds that enhance, rather than obfuscate the clay figures—is gorgeous; I especially love the picture where Gabriela and Dieguito are sleeping with Sofie between them. The Spanish text is idiomatic and excellent, and Spanish words within the English are realistically presented. For example, when Gabriela encounters the shelter dogs, she says, “Pobrecitos…I feel sorry for them.”

I’m pleased that the family adopts their puppy from a shelter, rather than purchasing one from a pet store or breeder. As such, this is a wonderful story to use in a classroom discussion about adopting and caring for pets, relationships with pets, and, of course, sibling rivalry.

However, as a parent and an advocate for animals, I would like to have seen a family discussion—before adoption—about the responsibility required to care for a pet. Here, Dieguito and Gabriela successfully learn about caring for Sofie after they adopt her and, unfortunately, this is not often the case. Many animals are purchased or adopted impulsively and soon returned or abandoned because their new owners haven’t thought through the kind of work involved in bringing in a new family member.

Nevertheless, The Dog Who Loved Tortillas / La perrita que le encantaba las tortillas can be supplemented with non-fiction books about the care of pets and the commitment one must make before getting a pet, and is highly recommended.

—María Cárdenas
(published 2/11/14)

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