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Reviewed by Donna Gielow McFarland for Readers' Favorite
Smiley Face Blatoon/El Globipelotón Risueño by Lady Nefari Ydarb is a bilingual (English/Spanish) picture book that follows a group of smiley face balloons as they travel the globe. They pass by the Statue of Liberty on their way to Canada, where they nearly get pecked by a Canadian goose. From there it’s on to the North Pole, Europe, Egypt, through Asia to Australia, the South Pole and home again. The locations are illustrated with the balloons passing by recognizable landmarks and there is a world map so kids can easily trace the route. Smiley Face Blatoon is written in rhyming verse, which is included in both English and Spanish on every page. At the end of the book is a lengthy section with suggested classroom activities and study questions, also in both languages. The activities and questions would be most appropriate for 4th-8th grade. For example: find charts of Earth’s wind currents. Is the Smiley journey plausible?
The illustrations are roughly drawn, almost as if they were drawn in pencil and colored in, but illustrator Araceli Casas has a unique style that can appeal to a very wide range of age groups. Small children would likely focus on the balloons and their cute expressions, but the pictures are not so childish that a preteen would reject them. I think the study questions and activities are the biggest strength and it is apparent that Lady Nefari Ydarb is an experienced teacher. The one weakness is that there is a lot of fudging on the meter and rhyming words. I can’t imagine the difficulty of translating a poem. The rhymes match up best in the Spanish version, but the meter seems to work better in English, so I have no idea which was the original language. However, the rhyming and metrical issues don’t really matter – this book has enough strengths to compensate and should appeal to both younger and older children. Highly recommended, especially for teachers.