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Cover of ¡Vamos! Let’s Go to the Market,; image courtesy Versify/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Book Review:
¡Vamos! Let’s Go to the Market

With muted desert colors and plenty of action on each page, Raúl the Third’s ¡Vamos! Let’s Go to the Market offers adults and kids alike a chance to be steeped in the culture of a vibrant Mexican market. Drawn in a style reminiscent of 1920s-style cartoon characters, a young wolf named Little Lobo and his dog, Bernabé, wind through a busy day of delivering supplies to Lobo’s clients, who all work at the Mercado.

¡Vamos! Let’s Go to the Market

Author: Raúl the Third (Raúl González)
Publisher: Versify/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Copyright: 2019
Pages: 40
Audience: Grades K–3

His list runs from shoe polish to golden laces, which creates a bit of mystery for the reader: what is the shoe polish for? Who needs golden laces? As they make their way through the crowded market, Little Lobo smells cinnamon churros, watches traditional dancers, buys some candy, reads a comic book—and fantasizes about meeting the wrestler El Toro. Through his experience, the reader feels the neighborliness that surrounds Little Lobo in this comfortable environment. He’s greeted by people he knows, and he’s happy to help them. The friendliness sets a light, welcoming tone.

Throughout the pages are discreet vocabulary signposts that invite adults and children to learn a new word or two each reading, without turning the experience into a language lesson; image courtesy Versify/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

This utterly charming book draws in readers the same way Richard Scarry held his audience captive. Children won’t read it in a linear fashion—they can’t—but they may spend several minutes gazing at one page, spotting something new at each reading. If they don’t know Spanish, they’ll pick up more than a few words: in addition to Spanish words in the text, in footnotes, and alongside illustrations, readers will find a partial glossary in the back of the book. If they do know Spanish, they’ll be thrilled to see a collection of translations from la acera (sidewalk) to la viejita (little old lady). Adult readers, be on the lookout for some visual treats besides the lush artwork, such as the puppets of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, and the author’s name (or his son’s?) on a comic book rack.

It’s no surprise that ¡Vamos! Let’s Go to the Market was among the first titles published by Versify, a new imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt founded by beloved author Kwame Alexander. This book fully exemplifies the imprint’s mission to celebrate all children; readers of Mexican heritage and those who have experienced a mercado (such as the one the author often traveled to near his home of El Paso, Texas) will feel the energy in every comic book–like illustration: the mix of old and new treasures to be found, the humor of the vendors, the range of people visiting the market, and the fun of wandering around with all five senses working at maximum capacity.

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