The Taco Magician and Other Poems for Kids / El mago de los tacos y otros poemas para niños
By Diane Gonzales Bertrand
Publication Date: October 31, 2019
Format: Trade Paperback
Imprint: Piñata Books
“When our father cooks, tacos become magic tricks,” Diane Gonzales Bertrand writes in the title poem of this collection for young people. “Like a magic wand, / he stirs circles through the frying pan, / Like a magic cape, he wraps a tortilla / around our wishes.” In her introduction, “A Taste for Poetry,” she exhorts adults to introduce kids to verse. By helping them discover moments and memories through words, she says “tiny roots of curiosity, / tender wings of knowledge” will grow.
Gonzales Bertrand writes about everyday occurrences and feelings that children will recognize. In “Blankie,” a blanket sewn before the girl’s birth kept her safe and warm for years. She can’t take it to school now, but at home she still wraps it around herself, “even though it won’t / cover my toes and my shoulders at the same time.” There’s also an ode to chanclas, or flip-flops, “Narrow rubber soles / protect my bare feet / from hot sidewalks.” They even clap for her when she walks!
The importance of family shines through in pieces such as “My Little Sister,” “Fishing with My Uncle Charlie,” “Abuelita’s Kitchen Table” and “Tía María’s Love.” In “The Sailor of Woodlawn Lake,” she remembers her brother’s determination to create boats that would stay afloat. “I would love to say / he finally sailed across Woodlawn Lake, / but each raft slowly sank, / a few at the shore, one or two in the middle.” The poems in this collection will encourage children ages 8-12 to consider writing odes to the important people and places in their own lives.
“Odes to cherished objects like Easter cascarones (confetti-filed eggs), favorite foods like cinnamon buñuelos and fond moments like napping together in Pepo’s favorite chair root the poems in Mexican familial culture while also touching on universal topics. The odes to family members stand out for their genuine appreciation for slice-of-life moments.”
“Bertrand brings to life this working-class Southwestern neighborhood full of large, struggling families. The characters are well developed and appealing.”
—School Library Journal on The Ruiz Street Kids / Los muchachos de la calle Ruiz
“Alicia’s account of her experience brims with the bracing flavors of the beach and the immediacy of each moment as it rolls in like a wave and breaks upon her.”—Booklist on Alicia’s Treasure
DIANE GONZALES BERTRAND is the author of more than twenty books for children and teens. Her books for intermediate readers include The Ruiz Street Kids / Los muchachos de la calle Ruiz (Piñata Books, 2006) and Alicia’s Treasure (Piñata Books, 1996). A lifelong resident of San Antonio, she teaches creative writing at St. Mary’s University, where she is the Writer in Residence.