This review was contributed by Brooks Lindner from Sonrisas Spanish School. He writes about the Spanish story La sorpresa de Mamá Coneja by Alma Flor Ada, with illustrations by Vivi Escrivá.
This Easter-themed story, La sorpresa de Mamá Coneja, has many practical uses for teaching Spanish, but one of its greatest strengths lies in the lyrical beauty of the text. In the story, Mamá Coneja’s eight little bunnies decide on their own that they are going to help their mother by collecting eggs for her. So, they each ask a different bird to give them an egg for Easter: a chicken, a duck, a quail, a robin, a goose, a swallow, a cuckoo, and a hummingbird. Each egg is distinct and beautiful. When the bunnies give the eggs to Mamá Coneja, she praises them for finding eggs with such variety and beauty. This dovetails (no pun intended) into a lesson that Flor Ada chooses for the ending of the book—emphasizing that we can learn something from friends of all colors.
At Sonrisas Spanish, we choose books to accompany our lessons based on their effectiveness at teaching Spanish. We look for qualities such as: illustrations that convey the meaning of the text, repetition, age-appropriate themes, rhyme, and simple text. The text in La sorpresa de Mamá Coneja is fairly long and complex, but there is repetition that young learners will pick up, and the beauty of the verse draws children into the story. It is this lyrical beauty that allows children to connect with the language on an emotional level—through the sounds and rhyme—even though they might not understand all of it. Each time one of the bunnies asks a bird for an egg the text repeats:
—Buenos días, señora Gallina. (Substitute whichever bird.)
¿Me daría un huevo para la Pascua Florida?
Y la gallina le respondió:
—Ya mis pollitos nacieron;
No me queda ningún huevo.
Pero por ser para ti
Voy a ponerte uno nuevo.
Flor Ada also beautifully describes what each bird is doing when the bunnies come to ask them for eggs:
La petirrojo escarbaba en la huerta, buscando
gusanos para alimentar a sus pichones.
La cuclillo cantaba alegremente, con su hermosa voz,
parada en un rama florida.
The beautiful watercolor illustrations in this book also help to convey the meaning of the text. Readers see each different bird, its offspring, and the egg it has laid in each illustration. La sorpresa de Mamá Coneja is not only beautiful but also very practical for teaching themes such as: colors, adjectives, names of birds and the names of their offspring, friendship, and of course Easter eggs. Flor Ada is a celebrated author, and La sorpresa de Mamá Coneja is authentic children’s Spanish literature. Your young Spanish learners will love it.
You may also be interested in this Sonrisas review of another picture book in Spanish featuring rabbits.