Mango, Abuela, and Me by Med Medina, illustrated by Angela Dominguez
Sometime in the winter, Mia’s “far-away grandmother” arrives to live with her family. “‘Abuela belongs with us now,’” her mother explains. On the first evening together, Mia realizes Abuela “can’t unlock the English words,” but at least they can communicate over two treasures Abuela pulls out to share: a parrot feather and a photo of Mia’s late grandfather.
With all the time the two spend together, conversations continue to prove challenging: “My español is not good enough to tell her the things an abuela should know. Like I am the very best in art and how I can run as fast as the boys.” As for Abuela, “her English is too poquito to tell me all the stories I want to know about Abuelo and the rivers that run right outside their door.”
When Mia whisper-confesses to her mother, “‘Abuela and I can’t understand each other,’” Mami reminds Mia how not so long ago the “whole class helped teach [Mia’s best friend] English words.” The next day, while making meat pies with Abuela, Mia is inspired to purposefully, methodically increase both their vocabularies: dough, masa; meat, carne; raisins, pasas. In a moment of thoughtful brilliance, Mia convinces her mother to bring Mango into the family – that loro proves to just what the family needed!
Award-winning Cuban American writer Meg Medina (2014 Pura Belpré-winning Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass) crafts a captivating multi-generational story about finding new ways to communicate when words are not quite enough. Heartwarming and entertaining, it’s also realistic and informative for extended families with immigrant members. Medina’s warm text is endearingly complemented by Mexican American artist Angela Dominguez whose versatile style is especially effective in revealing emotions, from concern to disappointment to determination and gratitude to relief and delight, and so much more – and not just in her human subjects, because charming Mango proves to be quite the expressive character, too! Dominguez adds important narrative enhancements: that Edmund the hamster and Mango both spend at least as much time out of their cages as in them, that Mia lives in a diverse neighborhood and has friends of various backgrounds, and – most notably for some of us – that Abuela is a serious reader of really thick books. Oh, the joyous power of books … like this!