Book Review: Julia y el león
Author: Hortensia Moreno
Author page: http://www.compartelibros.com/autor/hortensia-moreno/1
Publisher: El Barco de Vapor
Length: 62 pages
Illustrations: watercolors by Verónica Murguía
Quote: “Éste era una vez un león que trabajaba de gato.”
Once there was a lion who was employed as a cat. To keep from being recognized as a lion, he had to wear a cat suit, and he was afraid to play with his humans’ toddler, Julia, because his disguise was old and tight and might fall apart.
As if this plot weren’t silly enough, Verónica Murguía has never studied what cats and lions really look like; the cat suit is green, and although the lion’s face is drawn as a feline rather than a human face, the eyes and whiskers aren’t right and the body shape is definitely human.
The moral of the story is “Be what you are,” but frankly, as a children’s story with that theme, I preferred The Sneetches and I’d bet your toddler will too. Children like The Cat in the Hat, who’s not drawn like and doesn’t act like a real cat, so maybe some five-year-olds like Julia y el león...I don’t think I would have liked this book when I was five years old. It lacks the wackiness and the rhymes that attract kids to Dr. Seuss. It’s funny in the way telling elephant jokes with a straight face is funny; apart from the fundamental absurdity of the situation, everything that happens is predictable and told in an earnest, serious manner. Some children this age can laugh at the idea that an adult doesn’t know as much about the real world as they do, some find it offensive, and I don’t want to think about the possibility that a five-year-old would not have noticed the difference in the shapes of humans’ and cats’ legs and feet. It’s not always easy to predict into which of these categories children will fall.
So, this book might be better appreciated by someone who’s just beginning to read Spanish. It’s short and simple, told in very familiar words, and it offers readers whose first language is English some useful contrasts between the preterit and perfect past tenses.