Review by DeeDee C. Lee
On summer afternoons seventy-eight-year-old Octavio Rivera has amazing dreams. He sees “a Spanish guitar falling out of a piñata and the guitar was whispering songs of love to a sky filled with perfect stars.” He longs to share his dreams, a feeling that grows stronger each day, but he hesitates. “Who should I tell? Should I tell my son? Should I tell my daughter-in-law? No, no, he said to himself, [they] would only think that I was finally going crazy.” At last he realizes that the person to trust with his dreams is his granddaughter, Regina.
A story of memories and dream-sharing, Sáenz’s picturebook offers a window on intergenerational transmission of cultural heritage that will resonate with a generation of bicultural children in the U.S., such as, Latinx, Mexican, Mexican-American, Chicano, and Hispanic children. With both English and Spanish narrative on the same page, the book is accessible to bilingual as well as English readers. It provides a positive and beautiful portrait of Latinx culture as part of American cultural landscape, challenging negative narratives about immigrants from Central and South America manufactured in the current American political climate. The grandfather’s dreamland journeys are expressed in lyrical language with repetition that lend the book to a great read-aloud for young children. The story provides a window into the meaning of culture we each remember from our childhood, the connection to Mexican culture highlighted through the bright-colored illustrations for Octavio’s dreams rendered in the tradition of folk art reminiscent of Frida Kahlo. When Regina declares “You are the most beautiful dreamer in the world, Tata Tabo!”, the reader feels that the dreams had indeed been passed on to someone who appreciates their power. Sáenz’s picturebook conveys larger life lessons related to appreciation for elders, cultural expression, and celebrating multigenerational connection that a reader of any age can appreciate.
Resources related to the book:
Publisher’s website: https://www.cincopuntos.com/products_detail.sstg?id=129
Author’s website: https://www.benjaminsaenz.com/
Vamos a Leer Lesson plan (https://teachinglatinamericathroughliterature.wordpress.com/)
Vamos a Leer is overseen by the Latin American & Iberian Institute (LAII) at the University of New Mexico. The blog supports K-12 teaching about Latin America by providing resources to educators, including lesson plans, author + book suggestions, and related materials.
Perfect Season for Dreaming / Un tiempo perfecto para soñar, by Benjamin Alire Sáenz, illustrated by Esau Andrade Valencia, translated by Luis Humberto. (2008). Cinco Punto Press: 37 pages.
DeeDee, a graduate student in the Speech-Language Pathology program, is a seeker of stories that help connect us with diverse experiences and perspectives.