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Book Review-¡A comer! by Ana Zamorano

Review by Brooks Lindner

¡A comer! has always been one of our favorite children’s Spanish books. The author, Ana Zamorano, was born in Madrid but resides in Sidney, Australia. ¡A comer! is her picture of Spanish life told through the eyes of Salvador, the youngest in a family of seven. The illustrator, Julie Vivas, uses beautiful watercolor illustrations to present the setting of a traditional, small Spanish town, and throughout the book she does a wonderful job of capturing the emotions of the different family members.

¡A comer! begins with Salvador telling the reader about his family and how every day, at 2:00 in the afternoon, they sit down to eat around the wood table that his father made. The story unfolds through the progression of the week—each day at meal time Salvador’s mom asks him to go and tell a different family member that it is time to eat. The meals she prepares are traditional Spanish dishes: garbanzo soup, empanadas, sardines, gazpacho, pollo asado, and paella. Each day, as Salvador goes to fetch a different family member, he finds them engaged in some activity where they are too busy to come and eat. These activities give the reader a vivid picture of the family’s life in their town: Salvador finds his father busy in his woodworking shop, his sister is practicing dancing Sevillanas with her friends, his brother is playing hide-n-seek in the ruins of a castle, his grandmother is picking tomatoes in her garden, and his grandfather is holding court in the local café. On Saturday his mom is not present at the meal as she has just given birth the night before. The following Sunday the family prepares a paella, and Salvador tells what everyone is doing around the table as they eat. The story ends with his mom exclaiming, “¡Qué maravilloso es comer todos juntos!”

¡A comer! is one of those books that just works. Through the simple, yet engaging story and the beautiful, informative illustrations, the reader is transported into the story—transported into the setting and life of the family. I really like the illustrations in this book. Vivas effectively presents the illustrations of the family’s mealtime from different perspectives: straight-on, from floor-level, from above, from outside the window looking in, close-up, and farther away. She does this very subtly, and it really makes the book come to life. Because the book comes to life so effectively, it engages children’s imaginations; making it a very effective tool for teaching Spanish to preschool and elementary students.

Most obviously ¡A comer! can support a cultural lesson on Spain. It is one of our suggested titles for Lesson 6, Tapas en España, in the Sonrisas Cultural Curriculum. There are many opportunities to gain knowledge and understanding of the Spanish culture in ¡A comer!: the different foods, the different customs and practices surrounding mealtime, the family structure, music and dance, the architecture and setting of the town, and Spanish daily life.

¡A comer! can also support a number of different themes: food, mealtime, family, and days of the week. It is a suggested book for several lessons in the Sonrisas Spanish School Curriculum. In Level I it accompanies Lesson 6, ¿Qué día es hoy? and Lesson 12, Mi familia. In Level II it accompanies Lesson 11, Describe la familia. There are various vocabulary words that are repeated throughout the book that could be used as a springboard for instruction including: nos sentamos, encuentro a, ve, and dile. Whether you use it for one of these specific topics or simply as a beautiful and fun book to read to your students, I highly recommend ¡A comer! as a part of your children’s Spanish library.

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