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Book Review—Pinta ratones by Ellen Stoll Walsh

Review by Brooks Lindner

Pinta ratones is the Spanish version of Ellen Stoll Walsh’s book Mouse Paint, first published in 1989 and translated by Gerardo Cabello, an editor with the Fondo de Cultura Económica of Mexico. A simple, fun, and engaging story, Pinta ratones is an excellent tool for teaching Spanish to children.

Pinta ratones tells the tale of three white mice who are able to hide from the cat by blending in with a white piece of paper. One day, as the cat sleeps, the mice find three jars of paint: one red, one yellow, and one blue. They think that it is mouse paint, and they jump into the jars, turning themselves into a red mouse, a yellow mouse, and a blue mouse. They splash the paint around and make puddles, and then they begin to dance in the puddles. As they mix the paint in the puddles with the paint on their feet, they make some amazing discoveries about what happens when you mix red and yellow, yellow and blue, and blue and red. After washing themselves in the cat’s water bowl, they then paint their white piece of paper using the primary colors and the new ones they have discovered. But, they leave a part white—in order to hide from the cat.

The great thing about Pinta ratones is how it uses good-natured playfulness to teach about colors and color combinations. Children love the characters of the mice, and they can imagine themselves jumping into the jars of paint, making puddles, and dancing in them to form new colors. The illustrations are simple and straightforward and do an excellent job of conveying the meaning of the Spanish text. The lesson of color combinations is reinforced as the mice first mix colors in the puddles and then later mix colors to paint the piece of paper. Using shared reading strategies such as building anticipation, checking for meaning, and educated guessing, teachers can illicit responses from students about what color is going to appear when the mice mix them.

Pinta ratones is an obvious choice for a Spanish lesson on colors. It is one of the book suggestions for Lesson 3 in Sonrisas Level I. Children love guessing what colors the mice are going to form, and the repetition of the colors vocabulary is very effective. The nature of the story also lends itself very well as a basis for different art projects using paint and mixing colors. Pinta ratones is one of those books that you can return to throughout the school year, and your students will always enjoy it.

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