The Heart of Mi Familia
Author: Carrie Lara
Illustrator: Christine Battuz
Ages: 4 to 8 years old
In her book, The Heart of Mi Familia, Lara seamlessly weaves a story of what it is like to be not only bilingual, but also bicultural, and she does so in a sweet story of a little girl that effortlessly moves between two cultures.
Growing up in Miami during the ’70s and ’80s, the daughter of Cuban immigrants, I never questioned the way we spoke. I spoke in English and Español because that was the way all my friends spoke. My parents were also bilingual so they were not only able to understand, but keep up and take part in the conversations. When I grew up and eventually had my own kids, the practice remained firmly in place. Now, it is part of my grandchildren’s upbringing as well.
Some may argue that learning two language simultaneously creates confusion and hinders the appropriate development of either language. Those of us that have grown up speaking this way will more than likely disagree with that argument and offer countless reasons to support the opposite position.
In her book, The Heart of Mi Familia, Lara seamlessly weaves a story of what it is like to be not only bilingual, but also bicultural; and she does so in a sweet story of a little girl that effortlessly moves between two cultures. As the story opens, she explains to us that in her home, two worlds become one. She then goes on to elaborate on exactly what that means.
Her parents are from different cultural backgrounds and have arrived at where they are in their lives following very different paths. Her mom can trace her family history back to Europeans traveling to North America on ships. Her dad arrived in Los Estados Unidos from Central America, a trip that took two months on a bus.
Throughout the story, she identifies the differences in their families while also proudly sharing their similarities. While the differences are significant, for her and her little brother, they are a source of happiness and pride. They relish visits to Abuela’s house where she and her hermanito enjoy Abuela’s cooking, la playa, time with primos and being together. They also love time spent at Grandma and Grandpa’s house where they delight in their traditions of hayrides around their vineyard, the changing colors of the leaves, their yummy cooking, time with their cousins and being together.
She explains that Abuela’s house is “el corazón de la familia” and Grandma and Grandpa’s house is “the heart of the family'”.
With cheerful, colorful illustrations, Battuz helps to tell this beautiful story of family, traditions, cultural differences and similarities, and love. She depicts each family using colors that are easily related to the cultures as described by our protagonist. The individual cultures are even evident in the look of the different houses where we are subtly shown the heritage of each side of the family.
As the story comes to a close, the family is preparing for her little brother’s fiesta where both sides of the family will come together to celebrate him blending the traditions of both cultures to create their big, happy family where the main ingredient, regardless of culture is LOVE.
Written beautifully with eye catching illustrations and a sweet story line, this book perfectly depicts how differences can bring people together and teach important lessons about acceptance and family. Sure to be enjoyed in multi-cultural as well as monocultural homes. This book is a treasure.
More books for this Age Group can be found here.
My thanks to Magination Press for providing a Review Copy of this book. All opinions provided herein are my own.
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