Cuddled and Carried / Consentido y Cargado (“Beginnings” Collection)

author: Dia L. Michels
translator: Victory Productions (text)
translator: The Spanish Group (teachers’ guide / back matter) 
illustrator: Mike Speiser
Science, Naturally! 2018, 2019

A year after its publication, Cuddled and Carried / Consentido y Cargado is being re-released in a 6 x 8-inch edition, with a new teacher's guide and supplemental back matter. The book is also still available in a larger format in paperback and hardback.

Rather than pre-readers themselves, the target audience appears to be parents and preschool teachers. Rather than being geared to very young children, this series uses an adult framework. Even with illustrations, the vocabulary is far beyond what pre-readers can relate to. Words such as “grooms,” “guides,” “cuddles,” “snuggles,” “shelters,” “nurtures,” “nuzzles,” and “nourishes” lose pre-readers. 

Six pages of back matter are presented in very small type, and text, illustrations and activities appear to be tailored to students way beyond preschool—more likely, at grades 5-up. The first part contains definitions and activities, including a list and description of  “Animal Classes / Clases de animales” (Bird / Pájaro, Reptile / Reptil, Fish / Pez, Mammal / Mamífero, Amphibian / Anfibio, and Arthropod / Artrópodo). This section instructs students to match the animals pictured in the book to its correct class, and identify which classes appear more than once, and which do not appear at all. Another section, “Care and Attachment / Cuidado y Apego,” includes Cache Mammals / Mamíferos que escondan, Follow Mammals / Mamíferos que siguen, Nest Mammals / Mamíferos que anidan, and Carry Mammals / Mamíferos que carman; and instructs students to “review the definitions provided here and try to match the mammals in this book to the way the mother cares for her babies.” 

Except for the excellent cover illustration, Speiser’s watercolor artwork is for the most part flat, with a limited range of colors and shades; and lacking texture and feeling. The animals in some are naturalistic and in others, exhibit human expressions. The design is awkward, with illustrations falling into the gutters and cutting off the images. (In one case, the mama elephant’s left ear is cut off and, on the other side, parts of the mama seal’s head and body are chopped off.) The full-bleed spreads, while somewhat better, still do not come together smoothly.

Almost all of the Spanish translations—in the text and the back matter—are either incorrect or presented in standard American English rather than standard or colloquial Spanish. Here are a few examples:

• “Consentido” means “consented” or “indulged,” not “cuddled,” which would be “acurrucado” or “abrazado.” “Cargado” means “loaded,” not “carried.” When a diaper is full, it’s said to be “encargado.” “Carried” would be “llevado.”

• “Mi mamá me limpia” means “my mom cleans me,” which is appropriate, but it’s not a translation of “My mama grooms me,” which would be “Mi mamá me prepara.” (Animals sometimes groom each other and humans sometimes groom their animals, but human moms don’t groom their young children, so this example in English is meaningless to pre-readers.)  

• “Mi mamá me mima” means “my mom pampers me,” not “My mama snuggles me.” That would be, as above, “Mi mamá me accurruca.”

• “Mi mamá me da calor” means “My mom makes me hot” or “My mom gives me warmth,” rather than “My mom cuddles me,” which would sound better as “Mi mamá me abraza.” 

The final two-page spread depicts a family, whose members are sitting together on a couch. In English, the text reads, “My family loves me very much,” and it’s translated as, “Mi familia me da mucho amor.” This is literal, word-for-word Spanish; no one talks like that. Rather, it would be “Mi familia me quieren mucho” or “Mi familia me ama mucho.”

And, finally, that everyone in a Black family (dad, baby, grandma,  mom, older sister) is depicted with the exact same complexions, eyes, eyebrows, noses, and teeth—and, except for one of them, the exact same facial expressions—is a racist trope.

Books that are presented as bilingual or multilingual must be faithful to both or all of the languages. Especially when they’re marketed as educational materials for children, there is no room for error. Cuddled and Carried / Consentido y Cargado does not meet this important criterion and is not recommended.
—Beverly Slapin
(published 9/11/19)

Míl gracias a mis amigas y colegas, María Cárdenas y Judy Zalazar Drummond.

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