Monday, April 11, 2016

Salsa: Un poema para cocinar / A Cooking Poem, by Jorge Argueta & Duncan Tonatiuh (ages 5-8)

I'm so happy to share Salsa, a delightful poem and picture book which is the latest in Jorge Argueta's cooking poems. Argueta and Duncan Tonatiuh bring together music, dancing and food to celebrate salsa as a brother and sister work together to make for their family. Please join me later this week on Wednesday for an interview with Argueta.
Salsa: Un poema para cocinar / A Cooking Poem
by Jorge Argueta
illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh
Groundwood Books, 2015
Google Books preview
Your local library
ages 5-8
Argueta connects kids' enjoyment of salsa today to the cultural traditions of ancient Aztec, Mayan, and Nahua peoples in Central America. As we begin the story, we meet the molcajete, a type of stone bowl that ancient peoples made from volcanic rock and used to grind tomatoes, corn, chilies, vegetables and spices.

Please note, as you look at these samples, how the Spanish text comes before the English text. I especially appreciate the message this sends, showing the importance of Spanish language in conveying this poem.
My mother tells me
molcajetes were
our ancestors'
Just like their ancestors, the brother and sister sing and dance as they make their salsa. I love how Argueta brings the ingredients to life, describing each one as part of the "salsa orchestra". He conveys the joy of cooking, and shows how each ingredient brings the salsa its own sound and feeling.
"I am ready with four tomatoes.
They are bongos and kettledrums.
My onion is a maraca.
Cloves of garlic are trumpets,
and the cilantro is the orchestra conductor
with his shaggy, green hair."
Duncan Tonatiuh uses his signature style to illustrate in ancient Mixtec style. Faces are shown in profile, with big, swiveling heads and oversized hands. Borders, reminiscent of those used in the ancient codices, show the ingredients and the musical instruments.
For the music to be really spicy,
it's important to use chilies.
My family loves hot peppers.
The extended musical metaphor is well played throughout, adding texture, humor and description to the cooking process. A true delight to share at home, at school, anywhere.

Illustrations copyright ©2015 Duncan Tonatiuh, used with permission of the publisher, Groundwood Books. The review copy came from our school library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books


  1. This looks like a fabulous book! Thanks for your great review. We'd love for you to link up this post to the Literacy Musing Mondays Link-up if you're interested! You can find it at Thanks!

  2. I know these cooking books, just wonderful, glad to see about this one. That salsa orchestra is wonderful.

  3. I love seeing the Spanish in the page! And Tonatiuh's illustrations are wonderful

  4. I love seeing the Spanish in the page! And Tonatiuh's illustrations are wonderful

  5. I really enjoy books about food even when they make me hungry. I am also a huge fan of Tonatiuh's illustrations.

  6. I love Tonatiuh's illustrations; I want to read everything he illustrates. I am really intrigued by this book--thank you for sharing.