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The Song of el Coqui and Other Tales of Puerto Rico

The Song of el Coqui and Other Tales of Puerto Rico

by Nicholasa Mohr, Antonio Martorell

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Three stories about three animals-each creature, says Mohr (In Nueva York), exemplifies one of the three most important cultural groups in Puerto Rico. After the lonely god Huracn rages against silence, he hears the singing of the little coqu (representing the indigenous Tanos) and is soothed. La Guinea, a guinea hen (symbolic of the African people) makes a perilous journey from Africa to the New World on a slave ship. And La Mula, from Spain, flees a cruel master to join a community of cimarrones (escaped slaves) in the hills. The deeper levels of these stories may escape younger children but they are told with drama and humor, their energy enhanced by the bright, fluid colors of Martorelli's (Where the Flame Trees Bloom) paintings. Semi-abstract compositions and patterns nearly kaleidoscopic in their density create a lustrous ambience. Together, stories and art afford an unusually engaging introduction to Puerto Rican culture and history. All ages. (Aug.)
Children's Literature - Kearsley Briggs
A mix of illustration, folklore, and modern storytelling, this magical book evokes the rich cultural heritage of Puerto Rico. Three tales reflect each of the island's main cultural groups: the indigenous Tainos, the Africans, and the Spaniards. In one story, the god of the Tainos is sad because there is silence, so the island frog (el coqui) provides the gift of music. In another, a guinea hen comes to the island as a stowaway on a slave ship. Because she is different, the townspeople fear her and throw stones at her. Ultimately, she is rescued by a mask-maker who finds in her both beauty and inspiration for his mask making. The vibrant, colorful artwork, lyrical prose, historical perspective, and symbolism make this book one that can be enjoyed on many levels. The sprinkling of Spanish words adds to the richness of the text; however, an initial read-through of the glossary is recommended.
School Library Journal
Gr 1-3-A wonderful collection of three Puerto Rican folktales. In the first one, the god Huracn is frustrated because of the silence around him. One day he awakens to the sound of ``coqu, coqu''; he sings with the little frog, and soon all the other animals join in, each in its own distinct voice. The second tale involves a guinea hen who ends up on a ship en route to Puerto Rico. When she arrives, the people fear her and try to kill her. She escapes and encounters a mask-maker who is inspired by her beauty and offers her a home. The final story is about a mule that is sold by thieves to a cruel master. At the work camp, she is befriended by Otilio, a slave. Late one night they escape and La Mula carries Otilio safely back to his Cimarron village, which she helps grow and prosper. The three creatures represent individual groups of people in Puerto Rico. El coqu symbolizes the indigenous Tanos, the guinea hen represents the African slaves, and the mule relates the parable of the Spaniards' conquest of the island. The writing gives life to the tales with lovely descriptive phrases. The paintings are full of vibrant colors and light, evoking images of the different cultures in one land. A book that combines storytelling and artistry to convey the richness of a land's people.-Maria Redburn, Collier County Public Library, Immokalee, FL
Hazel Rochman
The storytelling is lyrical and dramatic in these three animal stories from the rich mixed heritage of Puerto Rican folklore. Mohr says in her introduction that each story exemplifies one of the three main cultural groups on the island. The first is a beautiful creation story about the great god of storms, Huracan, who was worshiped by the indigenous Tainos. "La Guinea" is a story of the bird who escapes the bullets of the slavetraders in West Africa and comes with the slaves to the island. Most compelling is the tale of the mule brought from Spain to labor in a wretched work camp, who escapes with a slave to freedom with Los Cimarrones in the mountains. The double-page-spread impressionistic paintings are gloriously colored, evoking both the mythical transformation and the island landscape. However, a few pictures have abrupt switches in scale and viewpoint, which may confuse the young audience. The occasional Spanish words are an easy colloquial part of the narrative, understandable in context, with brief notes at the back that add history and culture to the stories.

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
10.58(w) x 8.78(h) x 0.37(d)
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

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