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Dear Primo: A Letter to My Cousin

Dear Primo: A Letter to My Cousin

4.5 2
by Duncan Tonatiuh

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From first-time Mexican author and illustrator Duncan Tonatiuh comes the story of two cousins, one in America and one in Mexico, and how their daily lives are different yet similar. Charlie takes the subway to school; Carlitos rides his bike. Charlie plays in fallen leaves; Carlitos plays among the local cacti. Dear Primo covers the sights, sounds, smells,


From first-time Mexican author and illustrator Duncan Tonatiuh comes the story of two cousins, one in America and one in Mexico, and how their daily lives are different yet similar. Charlie takes the subway to school; Carlitos rides his bike. Charlie plays in fallen leaves; Carlitos plays among the local cacti. Dear Primo covers the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of two very different childhoods, while also emphasizing how alike Charlie and Carlitos are at heart. Spanish words are scattered among the English text, providing a wonderful way to introduce the language and culture of Mexico to young children.
Inspired by the ancient art of the Mixtecs and other cultures of Mexico, Tonatiuh incorporates their stylized forms into his own artwork.

F&P Level: M
F&P Genre: RF

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Carlitos lives in Mexico and his cousin Charlie lives in an American city. Though they have never met, they compare their daily routines through letters. “Every morning I ride my bicicleta to school,” Carlitos writes. Charlie takes the subway, which he compares to “a long metal snake.” Tonatiuh draws from ancient Mexican art for his collages—always shown in profile, Carlitos and Charlie have oversize hands and feet and stylized facial features, almost like stone statues—while skyscrapers and graffiti provide modern flair. It's a subtly reflective story about friendship and commonalities. Ages 4-8. (Mar.)
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Charlie, who lives in America, exchanges letters with his cousin Carlitos in Mexico. Carlitos describes his life on a farm amid the mountains, including the Spanish names for what is around him. Charlie in turn depicts his city and skyscrapers. They talk about their different ways of getting to school, subway versus Bicicleta; the games they play, basketball versus futbol; the foods they eat; and what they do with their friends. Carlitos and his parents shop in an open-air market, while Charlie and his mom go to the supermarket. They write about the entertainments around them and their holiday traditions and celebrations. Together they conclude that they should visit each other. The boys are depicted on the cover in a stylized manner influenced by some ancient Mixtec and other Mexican artifacts. The illustrations combine Tonatiuh's hand drawings with other pre-structured materials, colored and collaged digitally. They are just detailed enough to compare the lifestyles of the cousins. Along with a glossary, the author has included a note about the relationship of his life as both a Mexican and an American to the story. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3—Tonatiuh compares and contrasts the daily lives of two cousins, or primos. Charlie is American, and Carlitos is Mexican. Charlie enjoys a slice of pizza after school, while Carlitos helps his mother make quesadillas. Charlie cools off in an open fire hydrant, while Carlitos jumps into a small rio. The writing is simple yet peppered with imagery that enhances it significantly: "Skyscrapers are buildings so tall they tickle the clouds" or "The subway is like a long metal snake and it travels through tunnels underground." Twenty-seven Spanish words are sprinkled throughout the text, easily understood from the context and explained in a glossary. Tonatiuh's hand-drawn, then digitally colored and collaged illustrations were influenced by the art of the Mixtecs, one of the major civilizations of Mesoamerica. While the pictures are attractive and carefully composed, one small problem might be that all the faces, young or old, male or female, are identical—only their hairstyles change, and at no time do any of the characters make eye contact. This accurately reflects Mixtec tradition, but may be a bit disconcerting for children unless put into context. Otherwise, this is an excellent tool for explaining how cultures connect.—Grace Oliff, Ann Blanche Smith School, Hillsdale, NJ
Kirkus Reviews
In a story based on the author's childhood experiences, two cousins, Charlie and Carlitos, exchange letters. Charlie lives in the United States; his primo Carlitos lives in Mexico. They both write about the friends, games, foods, fiestas and holidays they know. Like the characters in "The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse," their lives are very different. But readers will discover that there are more than differences. There is something that unifies them: They both wish to meet each other someday. What sets this title apart are Tonatiuh's outstanding full-page illustrations, reminiscent of the aesthetic and style of the Mixtec codices. His clever use of colors, Mayan blue and Indian red for the Mexican setting and a variety of grays, blacks and browns mixed with bright colors for the U.S. urban scenes, the varying typefaces used on each side of the story and the inclusion of Spanish terms in Carlitos's letter all contribute to differentiate both cultural experiences but make them at the same time positive, attractive and special. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-8)

Product Details

Abrams, Harry N., Inc.
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
8.60(w) x 11.10(h) x 0.30(d)
AD610L (what's this?)
Age Range:
5 - 7 Years

Meet the Author

Duncan Tonatiuh was born in Mexico City and grew up in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. He graduated from Parsons the New School for Design, where he studied writing and illustration. He divides his time between Mexico and New York City. This is his first picture book.

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Dear Primo: A Letter to My Cousin 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
BrittanyNeff More than 1 year ago
Dear Primo was such a cute book! I loved the way the author interchangeably used Spanish and English words when writing the cousin, Carlitos’, letters. It would be a great book to use to introduce a few Spanish words to someone who isn’t familiar with any. This book really captured how different, yet at the same time, similar two worlds can be. I felt like it covered a little bit of the everyday things we do in our lives that we may not realize could be so different in a different place. Duncan Tonatiuh’s artwork was so unique! It had its very own quirky and simple style to it. All the illustrations match the story so well. Each picture fit in with the letters from that of a child’s perspective. I thought it worked perfectly hand in hand with the story line.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is great to teach kids about culture, geography, and other Kindergarten and first grade concepts! It is a must get!