Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Fire! Fuego! Brave Bomberos by Susan Middleton Elya; illustrated by Dan Santat

To celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month, I wanted to discuss my favorite bilingual picture book from the past year (and perhaps favorite ever): Fire! Fuego! Brave Bomberos. In the book, we meet five firefighters who soon have to rush to the scene of a neighborhood fire, put out the flames, and make a dramatic last-minute rescue.  Of course, since firefighting is a perennially popular topic for kids, this book has everything you'd expect to findfrom a trip down a fire pole to an appearance by a couple of loyal dalmatians.  Although the story follows a familiar trajectory, Susan Middleton Elya and Dan Santat make this book stand out with their wonderful execution.

Elya, who is renowned for her many Spanish/English picture books, doesn't miss a beat here. She manages to incorporate around forty Spanish words into her melodic stanzas seamlessly. Readers are often able to figure out what the words mean from the illustrations and are even occasionally offered help in pronouncing them by the very nature of the rhymes. (But if they still need help, there's a glossary in the back.)

© 2012 by Dan Santat
The most exciting part of the book, however, has got to be the art (at least for me anyway). I'm a big fan of Dan Santat's work and was so excited to get my hands on this book after reading a blog post he wrote about creating the art for it. (Click the above image to go to the original post.) Inspired by the fact that he was working on a book about firefighters, Santat used both water and fire to alter the images at key moments in the story. For example, when the firefighters come face-to-face with the flames for the first time, the pages themselves look as if they're starting to burn. And when the firefighters leap to action with their hoses, their water looks as if it's not only putting out the fire in the story but also on the actual pages themselves. If you look closely, the above artwork actually has a little bit of both. Although, if you notice in the bottom right corner, Carlota is alerting the other firefighters that they're not done yet!