10 Fantástico Bilingual Picture Books to Celebrate Día

It started from a sad place: I went on the hunt for bilingual picture books for children – English/Spanish, board books for the really young – because a friend’s son is in the hospital and needs some entertainment. It’s going on a few months now: we’re all praying for a full recovery and return home, and in the meantime, mom and niño are desperately in need of happy distractions to occupy their time.

As my friend (the mom) speaks English as her primary language, her husband (the dad) speaks Spanish and English: the little one is going to grow up hearing and speaking both languages. So I proposed a gathering of bilingual books. And then, in my research for books that fit the bill, I stumbled upon Día.

Otherwise known as El día de los niños/El día de los libros (Children’s Day/Book Day), Día is day that celebrates children and reading and the importance of literacy for children of all backgrounds. An American Library Association collaboration, my favorite part about Día is that it respects “culture, heritage and language as powerful tools for strengthening families and communities.” And what better way to do that than with bilingual books for a diverse, bilingual family?

The bonus, to me, is that these bilingual books have a real sense of their own purpose and importance, in a good way. With the exception of personal favorite Curious George, they’re not just “See Jane Run” in English and Spanish. These are thoughtful, delightful books that kids and their parents can enjoy, with a little warm fuzzies on the side.

Sol a Sol: Original and Selected Bilingual PoemsFantástico Bilingual Picture Books , by Lori Marie Carlson and Emily Lisker (Illustrator)

I love this book of short, sweet poems that open with the rising and end with the setting sun. What a fantastic concept, to spend a day with poetry! There are poems about the sweetness of a young child’s mama, spending time with friends, purring kitty cats. Each page has bright, vibrant illustrations and the poems – some written by the author, some collected from others – are presented in both languages, to make the translation learning even more fun. What’s not to love?

Fantástico Bilingual Picture Books Jorge el curioso visita el acuario / Curious George at the Aquarium, by H.A. Rey

I was sooooooooo happy to see a Curious George book in bilingual translation! This little monkey remains one of my childhood favorites, and his visit to the aquarium is filled with fun creatures for little ones to be introduced to through George’s adventures. This edition also has some puzzles/games included, for extra activity time. And I personally love that I now have “el senor del sombrero amarillo” floating around in my head. I missed the man with the yellow hat.

Fantástico Bilingual Picture Books Calavera Abecedario: A Day of the Dead Alphabet Book, by Jeanette Winter

Learn about making calaveras (papier-mâché skeletons) for Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) while the stories spell out and translate the alphabet. With gorgeous illustrations, naturally. From A, ángel/angel, to Z, zapatero/shoemaker, with everything from limonera to mariachi in between. I’ve taken Spanish language courses: this book is so easily readable and linguistically fun – it should really be on every beginning Spanish recommended reading list.

Fantástico Bilingual Picture Books Quinito, Day and Night/Quinito, Dia y Noche, by Ina Cumpiano and Jose Ramirez

Quinito is a happy medium, a boy who fits snugly in the middle, and loves it. He doesn’t wake up early or late: he wakes up when he should. He’s neither too tall or short, he’s just right. Not old or young, he’s just who he is. Quinito is a wonderful way to acknowledge everyone has their own place in a young child’s world, and to be happy with who you are. A wonderful lesson for children of any age.

Fantástico Bilingual Picture Books Who Hops?/Quien salta?
by Katie Davis, F. Isabel Campoy (Translator)

Learn about all the cute little animals who hop – and those who don’t hop. (Spoiler alert: cows do not hop.) Who flies, who swims, who crawls – it’s all inside, in short, sweet sentences and bright, primary color. As you can possibly tell – I have a fondness for bilingual children’s books with animals as the storyteller,  or main theme. This fits in perfectly, and has the advantage of teaching little ones some science on the side.

Fantástico Bilingual Picture Books Un gato y un perro / A Cat and A Dog, by Claire Masurel, Bob Kolar (Illustrator), Andres Antreasyan (Translator)

The classic tale of what happens when opposites attract. In this tale, the fussy cat and the dirty dog meet, are forced to live together, and, through shared obstacles, bond and become forever friends. Translates well to the sibling relationship too. And the watercolor illustrations are a perfect pairing for the story.

Fantástico Bilingual Picture BooksSweet Dreams/Dulces Suenos, by Pat Mora, Maribel Suarez (Illustrator)

This book of a sweet little boy going to bed with all of the usual goodnight rituals might be a bit too old for the age range I’m buying for, but I couldn’t resist a goodnight moon-type bilingual book. The acclaimed author, Pat Mora, is the founder of Día, which came about when she proposed linking the pre-existing Children’s Day with a program celebrating literacy for all young ones. This one had to go on my list. Check out Mora’s entire My Family/Mi familia for more in the bilingual children’s series.

Fantástico Bilingual Picture BooksOnly One You/Nadie Como Tú, by Linda Kranz, Teresa Mlawer (Translator)

One day papa and mama fish decide it’s time, and take their little one on a journey through their watery world to show and share the wisdom they’ve learned. Like: always be on the lookout for a new friend. And: look for beauty wherever you are. This is a book of sweet lessons that parents can delight in sharing with children, all told through the eyes of friendly fishes. There is, after all, only one you, so make it a good one.

Fantástico Bilingual Picture BooksMaya’s Blanket/La Manta de Maya
by Monica Brown, David Diaz (Illustrator)

Maya’s special blanket is one that her grandma knitted just for her, and Maya loves it. But as Maya grows, the blanket starts to fray, so she and Grandma team up. Grandma teaches Maya how to sew, and transform the blanket so that it’s always in her life. The blanket becomes a skirt, a hair ribbon, an even a bookmark – and is finally celebrated in the form of a story, Maya’s blanket, that grown Maya reads to her own baby, snugly tucked in a blanket of her own.

I love the imagination and resourcefulness this story conjures. My own childhood blanket is growing old in a cedar chest – maybe it’s time to give it new life, a la Maya.

Fantástico Bilingual Picture BooksMoon Rope/Un lazo a la luna, by Lois Ehlert, Amy Prince (Translator)

Fox and mole are hanging out peacefully, as they do, and fox asks mole what he wants most in the world. Worms, duh, says mole. But the fox wants to go to the moon more than anything, and suddenly, running through the strong green grass, he gets an inspiration. Will this cute duo make it to the moon and beyond? Tune in to find out! Adapted from a Peruvian tale, illustrated in a pre-Columbian art style, this story is an adventure children will love to go on with the fox and mole.

Like diversity, literacy, and children, Día is celebrated every day, but culminates on April 30 to recognize the “importance of literacy for children of all linguistic and cultural backgrounds.” Pick up a book and get reading! And if you have any books to add to my list, please share.

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