“'There's cold chicken inside it,' replied the Rat briefly; 'coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaladfrench

'O stop, stop,' cried the Mole in ecstacies: 'This is too much!'”
-- from
The Wind in the Willows

Monday, October 19, 2009

Opuestos: Mexican Folk Art Opposites in English and Spanish • Picture book

Opuestos:  Mexican Folk Art Opposites in English and Spanish
by Cynthia Weill • wood sculptures from Oaxaca by Quirino and Martin Santiago
August 2009 •  Cinco Puntos Press • Ages 2 - 7
Learn about opposites - in both English and Spanish - using colorful Mexican folk art wood carved animals.
Story:  Cynthia Weill’s book of Mexican folk art teaches kids about opposites in Spanish and English.  "At the turn of each page, readers see brightly painted wood characters set against equally vibrantly colored background pages that effortlessly convey the concept the author sets out to teach. On each spread, the English and Spanish words for a single concept face the opposing concept. This attractive volume conveys the concept in a unique and inviting fashion and provides youngsters with an introduction to some Mexican art in the process." (School Library Journal) Together/Juntos; Apart/Separados.  Alike/Iguales; Different/Differentes.  Asleep/Dormido; Awake/Despierto.  And more.  These whimsical little animals from Oaxaca, carved and painted by hand, make learning about opposites fun. Up and down, tall and short, left and right—all inside a beautiful book.
Story behind the story:  Cynthia Weill is an educator and art historian whose expertise is the work of indigenous artisans from all over the world; she was introduced to Martin and Quirino Santiago while in Mexico researching Oaxaca's famous folk arts.  A friendship formed and Cindy decided to use the brothers' charming figures in a children's books.  Over the years, she met other woodcarving family members.  Each one made a special figure to be included in Opuestos.  (See also her very successful ABeCedarios: Mexican Folk Art ABCs in Spanish and English.)

“OPUESTOS means opposites—right and left, up and down, asleep and awake,” says Cynthia, who explains that she traveled to La Union Tejalapan to collect work from brothers Quirino and Martin Santiago and others to illustrate the opposites that kids -- and adults -- experience in their every day lives. “I was fascinated by the whimsical carved alebrijes and instinctively knew children would be too; these colorful carvings have the power to delight both the new learner and the collector of Mexican folk art,” says the author.  Today, she says crafts are an economic lifeline for many Oaxacans, and she’s proud and delighted to have found an educational use for the work.  “Ideally, my books will help promote the sustainability of the craft and aid in the overall economic well being of the artisans,” she says.

FYI:  I've just discovered Cinco Puntos Press and so glad I did.  They're making their mark as a publisher of authentic voices in multicultural children's literature, priding themselves in bilingual children's books and the traditional folktales from various cultures in our books.

For more information about wood carving in Oaxaca, see this fabulous resource featuring photos of the area, info about the wood used to carve the animals, and the talented artisans who make the carvings.

"It's hard to take one's eyes off this book, the wood sculptures are so appealing, so re-readings are probable." -- Chicago Tribune

"Direct and charming."—Publishers Weekly

"A great selection for bilingual storytimes at preschools, elementary schools and public libraries. As a work of art, its display will enhance art exhibits and cultural programs as part of Hispanic Heritage Month or Children's Day/Book Day celebrations." —Kirkus Reviews

FYI, all the review copies of OPUESTOS have been sent; please check back on the "comments" link to read what your colleagues have to say.


Mrs. Horne said...

This looks like a great multi-cultural book for the classroom - sorry I missed the deadline to get a copy!

Lindsay Horne
New Kent Middle School

Laura _SPED Teacher said...

So very sorry that I missed out on this one. This looks like an amazing book for a unit I have coming up in my diversr 6th grade classroom. I can't wait to read the reviews!

Susan Appleton said...

This is a wonderful little book that teaches about opposites. On the right page is one word written in English AND Spanish. Then on the facing page is the opposite word, also written in English AND Spanish. The pages also feature pictures of artistic carvings and are VERY colorful and attractive. It is a beautiful little book and I loved flipping through the pages. I would recommend the book to all ages. I teach 5th grade and my students LOVED looking through it! A definite 5 out of 5 and a great multicultural addition to the class library!

loonyhiker said...

On a scale of 1 to 5, I would give this book a 5 (strongly recommend). The ages suggested for this book is ages 2-7 which I feel are very appropriate for this book. I could also see it being used for children with mental disabilities. The colors and the pictures are beautiful to look at and would appeal to young students. Under each picture are the words. The English word is on one side of the page and the Spanish word is on the other side. The words are very simple and easy to understand with the pictures to help. This would be a great way to incorporate cultural lessons in the classroom and increase the students’ vocabulary at the same time. I could see students coming back to this book over and over again. The book could be used to teach the words in two languages as well as introducing the concept of opposites. Students could also be encouraged to come up with opposite pairs that are not mentioned in the book. Then they could research to find out the Spanish or English words that mean the same thing.

Pat Hensley
Greenville, SC

Karen said...

I really enjoyed this book and think it can be used in all levels of the elementary classroom. I would give it a 5. In the primary classroom it can be used to teach Spanish words to English-speaking students and it can be used to teach English words to Spanish-speaking students. The words are very relevant and would be used often in common speaking. In the intermediate grades you can use this book to teach inferences-how does the author get her point across without telling you in words. It can also be used to teach authors craft-how the author intentionally used bright colors common in the Mexican culture, how she used Mexican folk art for her visuals, how important visuals are in a textbook. I can't wait to use this book as a mentor text when I teach non-fiction writing!

Karen Schwartz
6th grade teacher
Papillion, Nebraska

BrittLit said...

5 Strongly Recommend This book is so delectable that it calls for a picnic just to read it. I might even skip dessert to read it or enjoy the book and the strawberry shortcake. Definitely part of the gourmet, decadent picnic basket.

This is a great book that not only teaches some basic Spanish, but also teaches children about opposites. The vibrant colors and beautiful wood carvings are sure to catch their eyes. This is a great book for all ages.

El said...

Opuestos: Mexican Folk Art Opposites in English and Spanish by Cynthia Weill (Cinco Puntos Press, 2009)

Bright colors, simple identifiable animal sculptures, and basic vocabulary make this charming English-Spanish picture book accessible to young readers. It’s easy to learn the concept of opposites in English and Spanish with this book. It also introduces children to Mexican folk art using easily identifiable wood sculptures. This small book is highly recommended for both English and Spanish readers. The small size is great for little hands. A great book for the classroom and both school and public libraries. A definite Five!

Tina's Blog said...

I love getting books for review from The Picnic Basket! Last week I received Opuestos: Mexican Folk Art Opposites in English and Spanish by Cynthia Weill, the second in a planned series of four. The first book ABCedarios is one whose title I remember hearing, but have not seen yet.

Opuestos is a great concept book for the young, or for our English Language Learners who benefit from seeing the Spanish and English text to understand a concept. I enjoyed the artwork Weill uses to depict her concepts. Using the wood carvings from the Mexican state of Oaxaca gives students some exposure to Mexican artwork as well. Students of all ages will enjoy looking at this book and its artwork.

I enjoyed this book a great deal! I am looking forward to sharing it with my ELL teachers because I am sure they will have many uses for it.
Rating 4/5

Sandra Hartman, Wedgeworth Elementary Library said...

I found the illustrations to be very exciting, knowing that they were actual hand-carved figurines. I used the book at a story time with my first and second grade classes, half of whom are bilingual (English/Spanish), and they loved them too. That age is fascinated by opposites anyway, and they were doubly fascinated by the animalitos. We talked a little about the history behind it and that addressed a social studies TEKS about other cultures. I would recommend this book as a purchase (4) to any bilingual elementary school library, or to public libraries. I really appreciate the opportunity to read and review it.
My school is located in Waxahachie, Texas.

Sandra Hartman
Wedgeworth Elementary Library

Monica said...

I shared this book with my first-grade class, many of whom are ESL. I loved the bright pictures of the hand-carved animals, contrasted against brilliant backgrounds, which illustrated the definition of the words in both English and Spanish. My students loved sharing their connections to the book: knowing Spanish words and having relatives that live in Mexico. This is an example of a fabulous multi-cultural book. My students are thrilled that we have this wonderful book to add to our classroom library. I would rate it a 5.

Lisa Kennedy said...

There are so many things about the book Opuestos that I am anxious to share with students. I collect Oaxacan carvings and can't wait to share one of my interests with everyone at East Side Elementary. The last year I took Spanish was 1972. Opuestos was a quick, fun refresher course. Because children love to know a word or two of another language from a very early age Opuestos will appeal to a large age range. I enjoyed the beautiful colors, the wonderful carvings, and, whether intentional or not, the occassional hunt for the opposite. I know that others will feel the same delight. A definite Picnic Basket 5! Every school, public, and personal library should own at least one copy.

ahslibrarian said...

Opuestos: Mexican Folk Art Opposites in English and Spanish provide a playful bilingual experience that should be satisfying on a number of different levels. Children will find the woodcarvings attractive and will quickly get the point that they are posed as opposites. They should also enjoy identifying the animals. As a concept book, Opuestos is a winner, but it exceeds expectations in terms of both art and culture.

The pages of this book should continue beyond the printed page into the lives of those who experience it fully. Activities encouraging the finding of opposites will be an easy extension from the book as will the addition of other Spanish based activities.

Classrooms and libraries serving emerging readers will want to make sure this book is available. Lending libraries serving families with young children will also want to include this as part of family resource packages. Opuestos encourages all of us in a subtle way to become more diverse and appreciative of the world in which we live.

Best concept book for the age range I have seen in a while.

5 of 5

John Parker

Media Coordinator

Andrews High School

50 HS Drive

Andrews, NC 28901


Melinda said...

This is a great book for any classroom. It would work for all grades Pre-k through 12. Anyone learning basic Spanish would love the bright pictures and easy to understand set up of this book.

MP Bernhard said...

I gave my copy to the ESL teacher in our school. She read it to her Kindergarten class and said they loved it.
The illustrations are beautiful.

Barbara said...

A visual treat! I used this in my middle school reading class to showcase the vibrant illustrations and asked one of our ESL students to help with the pronounciation. I have also loaned this to our ESL teacher to use with practicing the concept of "opposite".
Rating: 4.5

Anonymous said...

This is a great addision to what we have taught this year. We are in the process of reading Esperanza Rising and I used this book to show them the pictures and talk about the background of the folk art. I then shared the book with the spanish teacher who works with some of our students for exploritory class. She was so excited to use this book with the class. I always love when I am able to share books from my picnic basket experience.
This book receives a 5 in my basket.

janew said...

what a treasure on so many levels! Its size is perfect for little hands, the dual languages are clearly represented, and the concept of opposites is clearly presented with with bright and unique folk art figures. WOW!!
Many children who may never get to an art museum or gallery can experience the beauty of art through picturebooks and I thank Cynthia Weill and John Byrd for giving children another rich opportunity to learn, wonder, and experience Quirino and Martin Santiago's and their extended & talented family members' whimsical wood carved figures. 5++++
My recommendations soars way beyond Strongly!!

Carol said...

Ripping open the mail envelope and finding Opuestos inside was like opening an oyster to reveal a pearl. The size of the book, vibrant colors, Spanish title, and hand sculpted wooden animals on the cover, gave this book an attractive appeal, and welcomes the reader to come on in!

I like the jacket cover and the information that it provides. The end papers are beautiful too. This book is an excellent model to demonstrate Organization and as a model of a concept book. The wooden sculptures that pose as the illustrations is such a clever and underused art medium. When teaching kid about the art of the picture book, it is nice to know have an example of wood sculptures to add to the list of art mediums shared.
This book can open up conversations about culture and places around the globe. A very well done book that I eagerly give a 5 out of 5 stars too!

SunshineFamily73 said...

Colorful. Delightful. Happy. 5/5. While I am sure this is intended for toddlers and preschoolers but I think that it would be fun to throw in a 2nd or third grade to introduce spanish to your students. They could make their own Opuestos books, create their own art and photograph it in class. Great addition- very fun!

Heather Hill said...

"Opuestos" is a wonderful book for a K-1 classroom. The animals illustrate the word on the page with them (in both English and Spanish), that is the opposite of the animal's expression on the facing page.

Additionally,the Mexican Folk Art makes the book feel really special, not ordinary. An Art teacher would probably love using this book in many different ways. It might even be fun after sharing this book to make a classroom book of opposites with the children either making the pictures or being in the photos demonstrating.

I give this book a 5 out of 5. This book will probably be safest in the teacher's collection as a read aloud, unless you are not worried about it getting torn up from love and use.

Heather Hill, Reading Specialist
Enterprise Elementary
Woodbridge, VA

Ms. Armstrong said...

Our lower school Spanish teacher is very excited about this book. It simply teaches the opposite words with beautiful carvings done by local Oaxaca artists.

Anonymous said...

I rate this book a 5! It was shared with a first year Spanish class of 8th graders. They were able to create their own opposites with illustrations and words. Well done.

Lemon the Duck said...

This is a great book, full of photos of colorful wood carvings. It teaches some basic Spanish and the concept of opposites.
My second grade students loved repeating the Spanish words and have been using them over and over again.
I rate this book a 5 out of 5 for elementary classrooms.
Laura Backman
Hathaway School

Ann said...

Bilingual spanish/english concept book-- beautifully done. Whimsical Oaxacan folk art animal figurines --striking in both color and simplicity-- convey the concept of opposites-- big/tall, large/small, together/apart, etc. Weill has a great eye, not just for art, but for color, and her vibrant color wash backgrounds for the concept figures add punch without adding clutter. Beautifully detailed endpages and borders continue the Mexican folk art motif. Opuestos can also be used for colors, animals, and auditory awareness--an added plus I always look for in concept books. Another winner from Cinco Puntos-- I loved this book. 5 out of 5.

Ann Langone,
Children's Librarian
Boston Public Library
Mattapan Branch

Megan B. said...

I give this book a very strong 5. I loved it! I loved its simplicity, its bright colors, its illustrations, and of course the fact that it is bilingual.

Mrs. F-B's Books Blog said...

I received this book from Cinco Puntos Press via the Picnic Basket website, and I have to say, I think it would be a fabulous book for our beginning Spanish classes, our ELL classes AND for our art classes.

The book is a simple picture book with words like "alike" and "different, "long" and "short,"face" and "tail, " etc. given in both English and Spanish, and then "illustrated" with a photo of an animal carving done by the Santiago brothers who live in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico. The animal figurines are brightly painted and the backgrounds on the pages are extremely simple, plain bright colors with a simple border around the page. Each page is a different color.

This book is so simple, yet it is delightful and visually interesting. It will be an excellent addition to our collection and very useful in the classroom.

I definitely give this one a 5!

cindy said...

For the first time in months I am enjoying a bit of leisure time at home. I am finally able to read everyone's thoughtful comments for my book Opuestos. Thank you all most kindly. Should you be in Oaxaca please do visit Martin and Quirino in their homes in La Union, Mexico. If you are staying at Casa Colonial, Bugambilias or Casa Panchita they can call the artisans to come in to the City to meet you or they can arrange taxi service. Martin and Quirino will happily sign your book, pose for photos and may have some of the same pieces in the book for sale. It will be a lovely experience and will also be something fun to show your students when you get home. Please feel free to e-mail me at cweillvietnam@yahoo.com if you need any other information.