Friday, November 13, 2015


I am a literacy coach at a dual language school. I speak some Spanish, and I work on my Spanish pretty much every single day, but I am not bilingual. It's really, really, really hard to learn a new language.

As a literacy coach, I am responsible for supporting English and Spanish teachers. Over the past few years, I have found it much harder to support the Spanish teachers, not only because of my lack of fluency, but also because of the lack of resources. There simply aren't as many great books published in Spanish as there are in English.  I'm always delighted, then, when I come across a new title. This week, in my reading of CYBILS nominees, I came across a terrific new bilingual poetry book.

FLUTTER AND HUM: ALETEO Y ZUMBIDO by Julie Paschkis, is a collection of fifteen animal poems- snake, turtle, crow, heron, parrot, dog, cat, cow, fly, whale, deer, moth, owl, fish-- in English and in Spanish. Each poem is a two-page spread, English on the left and Spanish on the right. Each poem is accompanied by Julie Paschkis' gorgeous folk art, with words/palabras embedded in the illustrations.

One of my favorite poems from the book was the lead poem, "Snake."


through the grass
the sinuous snake
is writing
a slippery poem
with his body.
But his alphabet is
too simple.
He only knows
one letter:


por la hierba
la serpiente sinuosa
está escribiendo
un poema resbaloso
con su cuerpo.
Pero su alfabeto
es súper sencillo.
Sólo sabe
una letra:

Julie Paschkis

As much as I loved the poems in this book, I loved the author's note in the back In this note, Julie says that she is not a native Spanish speaker, and has, in fact, only been speaking Spanish for about ten years. She became interested in the language when she was illustrating a book about Pablo Neruda. Paschkis says, "Somehow my unfamiliarity with Spanish freed me to write poetry. I felt like a visitor wandering through a forest of Spanish words, marveling at the beauty of sound, meaning, and syntax." As someone who struggles every single day to understand and communicate in a language that is not my own, I am blown away by this comment.  I can't imagine myself ever having enough facility to write poetry in Spanish. Wow.

Read Julie Paschkis' explanation of how she is learning Spanish and how she writes poems in Spanish here.

Read Jama Rattigan's review and interview with Julie Paschkis here.

Read the Kirkus review here.

I'm taking this book to school today for Poetry Friday!

Bridget, at Wee Words for Wee Ones, is hosting Poetry Friday today. 


Linda B said...

I loved this book, Carol, and for all the reasons you gave. Happy you'll be sharing it with your students. I'll let you know if I find other bilingual books.

jama said...

LOVE this book so much. Hope it gets serious Caldecott consideration. I was also blown away by Julie's note about writing the poems in Spanish first. She's totally amazing.

Thanks for the link love :)!

Bridget Magee said...

Wow, indeed, Carol! I am so glad this book is getting the recognition it deserves. The snake poem is perfect resonates with me as I am a desert dweller with snakes and have heard them writing a poem with just one letter, ssssssss. Fabulous! =)