These two books are Spanish stories children will love as they learn language.

Marisol McDonald is the protagonist of two wonderful bilingual picture books – Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match/ Marisol McDonald no combina and Marisol McDonald and the Clash Bash/ Marisol McDonald y la fiesta sin igual. She is a character inspired by today’s children to inspire today’s children. They will adore her as she reassures them that they can make their own choices and be who they want to be.

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Marisol is bilingual and multicultural and has all she needs to take on today’s complicated world. Marisol McDonald doesn’t match because she chooses to draw from different cultures, languages and interests to create the world she wants to live in. She is unique, but not alone; she is a free spirit that pulls others to her. Her individuality is treasured by her family, friends and teacher.

The Marisol McDonald books are written by Monica Brown, illustrated by Sara Palacios, and published by Lee & Low Books. Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match/ Marisol McDonald no combina is the award-winning introduction to this delightful character. In the second book, Marisol McDonald and the Clash Bash/Marisol McDonald y la fiesta sin igual, Marisol celebrates her eight birthday with the help of her family and friends.

The books are dual language; there is both an English and a Spanish text. I tremendously appreciate the care that has gone into the layout of the text and illustrations to block and separate the languages. You can read the story in either language, with minimal distraction from the other. This might seem like a detail, but it is not easy to do, does not even occur to many publishers, and makes a huge difference in the reading experience.

Reading Marisol McDonald Spanish Stories with Language Learners

For children learning Spanish, these books are an excellent choice in terms of language and an important choice in terms of culture.

Marisol McDonald no combina
The language in this story is relevant and accessible. The narrative centers the vocabulary on family, clothes, food, and school. The story is in the first person and entirely in the present tense, with very few adjectives.
Marisol McDonald no combina lends itself to many follow-up activities. Here are two ideas to work with the language in the book.

Talk about contrast to reinforce vocabulary.
Marisol draws on her different cultures and interests and puts them together in her own way.
Have children identify the contrasting pairs presented in the story:
piel morena – pelo rojo (de color de zanahorias, de color de fuego)
pantalones con rayas moradas – blusa con lunares verdes
burritos – mantequilla de maní y jalea
español – inglés
imprenta – cursiva
fútbol – piratas

Discuss the title.
The Spanish title is an excellent opportunity to talk about how the same verb can have subtle changes of meaning depending on context. Discuss how the verb combinar in the title communicates the idea of joining two things that fit well together (to match).

The verb also has the meaning of simply putting two things together (to combine): Marisol combina muchas cosas para ser quien es. You can help child seen the difference with sentences like these:
Su hermano cree que la ropa de Marisol no combina, pero a Marisol le gusta combinar muchos colores.

Do activities where kids present clothes or foods that they like together. They can use pictures from catalogs to make posters or dress in clothes they like to wear together.

Use the story to reinforce the structure of gustar and similar verbs.
This book is about preferences, and there are many uses of the verbs encantar and gustar.  Children can practice these verbs by answering the question ¿Qué le gusta (le encanta) a Marisol?
Le gustan los lunares verdes y las rayas moradas.
Le encantan los burritos de mantequilla de maní y jalea.
Le encanta hablar español e inglés
Le gusta escribir en letra de imprenta y en cursiva a la misma vez.

Personalize the question by asking children about their preferences.
¿Qué colores te gusta juntar?
¿Qué comidas te gusta combinar? 

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Marisol McDonald y la fiesta sin igual
Use the story to practice descriptive language, adjectives and agreement.
In the story, Marisol uses adjectives in sets of three:
original, diferente, y única (Marisol)
dulces, agrios, deliciosos (cereales)
fabulosa, estupenda, maravillosa (fiesta)

Have children describe things with three adjectives. The words can be synonyms, but they do not have to be:
Mi casa es grande, enorme, gigante.
Mi abuelo es viejo, inteligente, simpático.
Talk about how strings of adjectives have a cumulative effect, adding to the mental image the reader or listener has of the noun.
Remind children that all of the adjectives have to agree grammatically with the noun.

Use the story as an introduction to the future tense.
This story is largely in the present tense, but there are key uses of the simple future as Marisol talks about her birthday party:
cumpliré
vendrá
llegará
podremos
podré

Children will easily understand these verbs in the context of the story.
Using the first-person verbs from the story as models, children can answer questions:
¿Cuándo cumplirás años?  Cumpliré …
¿Qué podrás hacer en el verano? Podré…

Disclosure: The company sent me a copy of this product to be able to write the article. I may have been compensated for my time. All of the ideas and opinions are my own.

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