illustrator: Lulu Delacre
Children’s Book Press / Lee & Low, 2016
Like the rare and beautiful olinguito thriving in the brilliant cloud forest of the Andes, Delacre’s bilingual abecedario is a rare and beautiful thing that will enthrall young readers—and everyone else as well.
Unlike most other bilingual books for children published and marketed in the US, Delacre’s elegant alliterative verse forefronts the Spanish and follows with an English interpretation—“Alto, allá arriba en los Andes brilla un bosque bordado de bromelias… / High, high up in the Andes blooms a brilliant forest embroidered with bromeliads…” Another “rarity” is that no words are italicized, so that both the Spanish and English texts are equally important.
Delacre’s exquisite mixed media illustrations consist of collaged printed patterns in flat acrylic colors on a background of watercolor paper, and leaves and ferns from the cloud forest dipped into ink and pressed onto textured rice paper. As well, each double-page spread contains two letters—one on the left page and the subsequent one on the right—pasted on vellum paper and carefully placed so that, along with the text on the bottom panel, they virtually melt into each overall image. The result is a gorgeous palette of bright, flat tropical colors and lyrical text that represent the amazing cloud forest and its denizens.
For Delacre’s detailed description of the media she used and her process, see: http://blog.leeandlow.com/2016/02/03/authorillustrator-lulu-delacre-take-us-behind-the-art-of-olinguito-de-la-a-a-la-z-olinguito-from-a-to-z-descubriendo-el-bosque-nublado-unveiling-the-cloud-forest/.
Back matter—all in Spanish and English—includes articles about the Ecuadoran part of the cloud forest and the discovery of the olinguito in 2013, a comprehensive glossary containing the scientific names of all the forms of life pictured (and “more helpful words”), Delacre’s note about her research and art, and an extensive list of sources.
There are also suggestions to children about how they can “explore” the pages of the book, and teaching possibilities are, as are the lives inhabiting the cloud forest itself, many and varied. And Olinguito is not the only elusive creature in the cloud forest—each luminous double-page spread hides a tiny image of a zoologist who is looking for the furry little guy—so young readers can be encouraged to have a “search and discover” experience of their own.
But, perhaps more important, there are “hidden” lessons here about art and life. I hope that we, as humans, will encourage our children to regard ourselves—like Delacre’s tiny zoologist—as a very small part of a perfect universe. Como antes, ahora, y en el futuro. ¡Olinguito, de la A a la Z! Descubriendo el bosque nublado / Olinguito, from A to Z! Unveiling the Cloud Forest is highly recommended.