author: Meg Starr
illustrator: Ying-hwa Hu
illustrator: Cornelius Van Wright
translator: María Fiol
Star Bright Books, 2002
Alicia is a strong, self-sufficient young girl, a Puertorriqueña who lives with her family in the large Puerto Rican barrio in East Harlem. Today is her birthday, and her family, friends and community bless her. They wish for her all good things, large and small. Among them:
Que las palomas se inclinen para saludarte (“May the doves bow to greet you”)
Que rías con todas tus ganas sin que nadie te interrumpa…(“May you laugh deep and rich with no one getting in your way…”)
Without going into overtly descriptive details, all of these good wishes bring life to the story, and it’s Ying-hwa Hu’s and Cornelius Van Wright’s gentle illustrative work in soft, realistic watercolors that defines Alicia, her family and her barrio. They portray a warm Puerto Rican community where everyone knows everyone, and the doves and squirrels in the park (in their own languages) bless Alicia on her happiest day.
María Fiol’s excellent Spanish translation is a great improvement on the original English text, which was left unchanged. For instance, every sentence in Spanish (except for the first one in the story) begins with “que,” in this context a blessing that expresses a wish or hope. After the first few pages, the Spanish text maintains this warm, hopeful feeling, and the sometimes weak English (although the hope is understood) switches from hope to fact. For example, returning to the doves: (Que las palomas se inclinen para saludarte), the English text reads, “And pigeons bow shiny necks to you.”
Throughout this story, the Spanish implies: May you see a shooting star. May you have an extra scoop on your ice cream cone. May you be blessed.
At the time Alicia’s Happy Day was first published (2002), it represented a move towards more diverse publishing. In this bilingual edition, Alicia’s Happy Day / El Día Más Feliz de Alicia (translation: Alicia’s Happiest Day) is a better story for the Spanish.
*Highly recommended for all home, classroom and library collections.