Salsa Lullaby by Jen Arena

Salsa Lullaby By Jen Arena, Illustrated by Erika Meza (2019) – hardcover

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Recommended ages: 0 to 7
Reading LevelLexile AD370L | Fountas & Pinnell K

Salsa Lullaby is such a delightful little book featuring a Spanish-speaking family! It follows their night-time routine as Mami and Papi try everything to get their baby to sleep. The dynamic illustrations by Erika Meza paired with Jen Arena’s lyrical text perfectly captures the tone and spirit of Salsa music and Latin culture as a whole.

The book opens with Mami turning on the radio after Papi reads a book to their baby. They begin to dance with the baby and their dog. The baby sings and the dog joins in before Mami bottle-feeds her baby. The couple then take some time on their own to enjoy a dance together, while the dog and baby watch excitedly. Soon it is time to settle down and get ready for bed and they wish their baby goodnight. It ends with Mami and Papi tiptoe-ing out of the room, leaving the baby to sleep after a long evening of joyous dancing and singing.

Especially exciting is the bilingual text that is sprinkled throughout the story.

Mami starts a salsa song.
Papi keeps the beat.
Baby loves this lullaby,
moves those dancing feet.

Baila, baby, baila!
Dance, dance, dance.

This book is not entirely set in bilingual text, but allows the reader to either learn new words or recognize familiar ones like baila, canta, salta, mira, duerme, and buenas noches. A glossary of Spanish terms can be found at the end of the book, which is a great teaching resource for little ones. This is the type of book to read to a younger child just before bed to help solidify vocabulary, and help lull them to sleep!

It was refreshing to see a joyous representation of a brown-skinned family. I love that Salsa Lullaby introduces Hispanic children to their native tongue and also gives them representation in such a simple thing as a bedtime story. Finding their own language and someone who looks like them can help solidify confidence in a child, no matter how young. And for non-Hispanic readers, it’s a fun way to learn a few Spanish words!

Take-away message: Salsa Lullaby is simply a fun bedtime-read. But I feel that the message of the story is mostly directed at parents: we all know bedtime can be a challenge. This book offers parents a possible solution: use a song and dance routine! They’ll slowly get tired and eventually be lulled to sleep with the right music.

TAGS: family, nuclear family, Latinx, Spanish, bilingual, hardcover  

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