Dear Primo: A Letter to My Cousin

by Duncan Tonatiuh (Author)

Dear Primo: A Letter to My Cousin
Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

From first-time Mexican author and illustrator Duncan Tonatiuh comes the story of two cousins, one in America and one in Mexico, and how their daily lives are different yet similar.

Charlie takes the subway to school;

Carlitos rides his bike.

Charlie plays in fallen leaves;

Carlitos plays among the local cacti.

Dear Primo covers the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of two very different childhoods, while also emphasizing how alike Charlie and Carlitos are at heart. Spanish words are scattered among the English text, providing a wonderful way to introduce the language and culture of Mexico to young children. Inspired by the ancient art of the Mixtecs and other cultures of Mexico, Tonatiuh incorporates their stylized forms into his own artwork.

F&P Level: M

F&P Genre: RF

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School Library Journal

K-Gr 3Tonatiuh compares and contrasts the daily lives of two cousins, or "primos". Charlie is American, and Carlitos is Mexican. Charlie enjoys a slice of pizza after school, while Carlitos helps his mother make quesadillas. Charlie cools off in an open fire hydrant, while Carlitos jumps into a small "rio". The writing is simple yet peppered with imagery that enhances it significantly: "Skyscrapers are buildings so tall they tickle the clouds" or "The subway is like a long metal snake and it travels through tunnels underground." Twenty-seven Spanish words are sprinkled throughout the text, easily understood from the context and explained in a glossary. Tonatiuh's hand-drawn, then digitally colored and collaged illustrations were influenced by the art of the Mixtecs, one of the major civilizations of Mesoamerica. While the pictures are attractive and carefully composed, one small problem might be that all the faces, young or old, male or female, are identicalonly their hairstyles change, and at no time do any of the characters make eye contact. This accurately reflects Mixtec tradition, but may be a bit disconcerting for children unless put into context. Otherwise, this is an excellent tool for explaining how cultures connect."Grace Oliff, Ann Blanche Smith School, Hillsdale, NJ" Copyright 2010 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly

Carlitos lives in Mexico and his cousin Charlie lives in an American city. Though they have never met, they compare their daily routines through letters. Every morning I ride my "bicicleta" to school, Carlitos writes. Charlie takes the subway, which he compares to a long metal snake. Tonatiuh draws from ancient Mexican art for his collagesalways shown in profile, Carlitos and Charlie have oversize hands and feet and stylized facial features, almost like stone statueswhile skyscrapers and graffiti provide modern flair. It's a subtly reflective story about friendship and commonalities. Ages 48. "(Mar.)" Copyright 2010 Publishers Weekly Used with permission.
Duncan Tonatiuh
Duncan Tonatiuh (toh-nah-tee-YOU) is an award-winning author-illustrator. He is both Mexican and American. He grew up in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, and graduated from Parsons School of Design and Eugene Lang College in New York City. His artwork is inspired by pre-Columbian art. His aim is to create images and stories that honor the past, but are relevant to today's people, especially children. He currently lives in San Miguel with his family but travels in the United States often.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Harry N. Abrams
Publication date
March 20, 2010
BISAC categories
JUV000000 - Juvenile Fiction | General
Library of Congress categories
New York (State)
New York
New York (N.Y.)
City and town life
Country life
Mexican Americans
Pura Belpre Award
Honor Book 2011 - 2011
Americas Award for Children & Young Adult Literature
Commended 2011 - 2011
Monarch Award
Nominee 2015 - 2015

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