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Archive for January 17th, 2020

by Sam Juliano

Mexican culture is given the ultimate whirlwind tour in one of the liveliest graphic children’s books ever published, Vamos! Let’s Go to Market by Raul the Third, a work that also has the distinction in the opinion of this writer as being the finest example of Spanish and English language interaction yet attempted in the form.  The fact that this frenetic, vivid and immersive experience is wholly successful to that end is a tribute this distinguished author-artist’s dedication to cross-cultural education in the service of one of the most entertaining rides conceivable for the younger set.  The special bonus of course is that adult readers and teachers have been privy to the fun, with the special joy and challenge of reciting the Spanish terms and dialogue with the notable assistance of a partial glossary on the last page which highlights a slew of translations.  It is hard to imagine a more festive place than the locations explored in Vamos! Let’s Go to the Market!, which makes the early 1900’s Mulberry Street in Little Italy seem like a sparsely inhabited urban hamlet by comparison.  The author-artist, whose real name is Raul Gonzalez, is Boston-based and has scored a Pura-Belpre win.  He is fondly known as the illustrator of the utterly delightful “Lowriders” series authored by Cathy Camper.  Vamos confirms the proverbial expression that “there is something for everyone” in a book with carnival atmosphere, frenzied movement and a glorious investigation of the carnal, the performing arts and and the diversity of marketplace in the most sensory of terms.

After end papers graphically launch Vamos with a myriad of arrows a rooster (el gallo)   “announces the book’s title” as he simultaneously does what all roosters do at the break of dawn.  An anthropomorphic wolf leads the charge to set the day rolling as his dog, Bernabe (perro) woofs (Guau!) feast on huevos rancheros con tortillas de maiz, depart their home (mi casa).  Their destination is the market (mercado), and before embarking the duo must stock their wagon at the warehouse where he checks his list, which includes (with their Spanish equivalents) shoe polish, clothespins, wood, tissue paper, paint brushes, and laces.  Then in one of the book’s most irresistible tapestries (eat ya heart out, Chuck Jones!) this most intrepid wolf heads off passing through a short desert track as he thanks the gallo who retorts no thanks you is necessary as the wake up is his job in a playful nod to the bird’s exclusive claim to fame.  The first stop is a crowded street in front of a barber shop and movie marquee sporting the name of the theater, the “Bunuel” which for older readers and mentors is a tribute to one of the world’s greatest directors, the Spanish satirist Luis Bunuel, who made a few great films in Mexico including the sordid and despairing masterpiece Los Olvidados.  Gonzalez accentuates this cinematic homage by showcasing a poster “Un Perro Andaluz” which is a send-up on the director’s famed 1929 silent surrealist short Un Chien Andalou  (An Andalusian Dog). There is also a passing truck that advertises “Bunuelos” a thin, round, fried pastry, often dusted with cinnamon sugar, which is actively being unloaded  to buyers.  Gonzalez includes clues to future canvases by having a Toro riding on a motorcycle and a newspaper seller holding up a headline that announces “El Toro loses mask!.”  But theater patrons are served refreshments on the outdoor promenade, a skateboarder weaves his way through the traffic, a window washer services a taxi, and in general, much like the bustling cities people are heading off in their own direction. (more…)

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