Birdie’s Beauty Parlor / El salón belleza de Birdie

author: Lee Merrill Byrd
translator: Luis Humberto Crosthwaite

illustrator: Francisco Delgado

Cinco Puntos Press, 2020



What do you do if you’re a little girl with a great imagination and not very much to do and the only person you have to play with at the moment is your grandma? And she’s all worn out. What do you do? You go through her drawers and dump all her makeup and everything else you need on her bed; you put a towel under her head to make sure she’s comfortable—and the grandma makeover is on!

Birdie’s Beauty Parlor / El salón belleza de Birdie uproariously depicts the close relationship between a patient, loving Chicana abuelita and her artfully ambitious young nieta.

Although Birdie’s Beauty Parlor / El salón belleza de Birdie is based on a true story about Lee Merril Byrd and her own granddaughter, Emma “Birdie” Byrd, fronteriza artist Francisco Delgado used his children, Citlali and Itzel, as models for bossy beautician Birdie; and his mother-in-law—whose many skills include relaxing under pressure—posed for Abue.

Delgado’s art— on a background spray-painted with thinned acrylic and illustrations filled in with colored pencil and acrylics—complements both Birdie’s entusiasmo sin fin and Abue’s paciencia sin fin. On one spread, for instance, Birdie is focused on pulling out one of her abuelita’s gigantic chin hairs while Abue is focused on not screaming. And on another illustration, Abue even allows her nieta to pinch her lips (¡Ay!) in order to apply the lipstick just-so. 

As always, Crosthwaite’s talent in idiomatic translation follows the hilarious tone of the story and illustrations while maintaining their rhythm and exuberance, so both young hablantes and English-speakers will laugh out loud at Birdie’s abuelita’s makeover. For instance, the rhyming English on the back cover tells young English-readers:

When Grandma’s ready to hit the hay, there’s still one game you both can play—Birdie’s make up will save the day!

And Crosthwaith’s rhyming Spanish speaks to young hablantes: 

Abue nada más se quiere acostar, pero todavía se puede jugar—maquillala bien y hazla brillar! 

(The direct English translation would be: “Grandma just wants to go to bed, but you can still play—put her makeup on and make her shine!”)

Together, Byrd’s riotous, no holds-barred story, Crosthwaite’s brilliant idiomatic Spanish translation and Delgado’s delightful illustrations are filled with humor and warmth and demonstrate the love between an exuberant little girl and her ever-patient abuelita. 

Finalmente, after treating her abuelita to a foot massage, putting earrings in her ears and expertly wrapping a bufanda around her head, Birdie holds up a mirror so both she and Abue can admire her handiwork.

Indeed, Abue’s face is a work of art: almost totally enveloped in rouge, her eyebrows and eyelids are purple, blue and yellow; white dots of talcum powder cover her chin, and bright, bright red lipstick fills much more than just her lips. ¡Birdie es la jefa¡

Now done with Abue, Birdie turns to the story’s young readers: “Who’s next?” she asks. “¿Quién sigue?”

As with Byrd’s and Delgado’s earlier Juanito Counts to Ten / Johnny cuenta hasta diez (2010), young hablantes who want to learn English and English speakers who want to learn Spanish will revel in this hilarious family story. 

*Highly recommended for all home, classroom and library collections. 

—Beverly Slapin

(published 7/28/20)

[Note: With only the English title displayed on the cover, there’s no indication until the first story page that Birdie’s Beauty Parlor / El salón belleza de Birdie is bilingual. Whether this was an error or a design decision, it needs to be corrected in the next edition—BHS]