Tamalitos: Un poema para cocina/Tamalitos: A Cooking Poem

By Jorge Argueta • Illustrated by Domi
Translated by Elisa Amado
Groundwood • 2013 • 32 pages
Hardcover ($18.95)
ISBN: 978-1-55498-300-1
Ages 7-10

Kids will devour Tamalitos, the latest culinary feast in the bilingual series by the author of Sopa de frijoles/Bean Soup, Arroz con leche/Rice Pudding, and Guacamole. Keep this book handy on your pantry; Argueta’s “cooking poem,” with its step-by-step recipe for making corn tamales, helps children to experience food as culture.

Tamalitos teaches children the importance of corn to the Indigenous Nahua, Maya, and Aztecs of Central America, who revered Mother Earth as the ultimate food supplier. It tells of the Popol Vuh, the Mayan sacred book that records the ancient belief that the first man and woman were made of corn, something that kids will surely get a kick out of.

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Neon bright illustrations capture different varieties of corn, and show the parts that are used in making tamalitos. Folksy drawings of a happy brother and sister measuring, chopping, mixing, kneading, boiling and finally, eating the tamales will have children itching to replicate the recipe. Note that both boys and girls are invited to cook! Although adults are not shown helping with the cooking, beware that asterisks indicate those stages of the preparation that require supervision.

Given today’s fast-food culture, the wholesome ingredients in these tamalitos and the fun preparation at home carry a lesson in eating right. Another plus: the free verse and its almost seamless translation expose children to poetry as a different mode of storytelling. Definitely one guaranteed not to gather dust on the shelf!

Reviewed by Gisela Norat, Agnes Scott College, Atlanta, Georgia