illustrator: Carolyn Dee Flores
Piñata Books / Arte Público Press, 2014
“Dale, Dale, Dale” (“Hit It, Hit It, Hit It”), the traditional piñata-breaking song that Mexican and Mexican American children sing during birthday parties and other celebrations, is the focus of this endearing bilingual counting book.
As excited seven-year-old Mateo, with the help of his parents, prepares the decorations for his birthday fiesta, young readers count the party giveaways. First, there’s una piñata llena de dulces (one piñata filled with candy). There are also cuatro cajas llenas de regalitos (four boxes filled with little gifts), cinco máscaras de la lucha libre (five lucha libre masks), seis trompos (six tops), siete botellitas de burbujas (seven little bottles with bubbles), ocho bolsitas llenas de canicas (eight little bags filled with marbles), nueve carritos (nine little cars) and diez guitarritas (ten little guitars). When Mateo’s 11 cousins arrive, they happily pick up their gifts, play music, take photos, eat cake, and—as the birthday boy takes the first swing at the piñata—sing, “Dale, Dale, Dale.”
Flores’ full-spread illustrations are rendered in Prismacolor colored pencil and most of the images—decorations, presents, toys, birthday cake, and piñata, of course—are on a bright, richly saturated palette of reds, greens, blues, purples and yellows. These are artfully balanced by sharply lined photorealistic images of Mateo, his parents, his cousins—and his puppy. My favorite spread is that of Mateo trying on five lucha libre masks. With all his primos at the party, I hope Mateo gives one of the masks to the exuberant prima in the pink skirt. She definitely looks like she has luchadora potential!
On the pages, idiomatic Spanish precedes the natural English text. Some of the English, especially the song, is an interpretation rather than a direct translation; so both young hablantes and English speakers can go back and forth and practice some of each other’s language.
Dale, Dale, Dale, a festive party celebration in minimal text perfectly paired with vibrant, colorful art, is bright, fun and engaging, and is highly recommended.