A bilingual children's story is a fun way to experiment with another language or to practice one of the two languages included in it. Zooprise
Party/Fiesta Zoopresa offers this experience with a story written in both English and Spanish. The book is a family project with the story written by a zoo-keeping daughter and the illustrations and publishing done by the mother.This family sought to create bilingual books which they noticed were scarce.
Three elements were included in my review materials, including the storybook itself, an activity book, and a teacher's guide. The storybook is a soft-cover full-color book measuring about eight inches tall and six inches across and written primarily to early elementary age students. The activity guide is a twenty-page staple-bound book with full-size pages printed in black and white. The teacher's guide includes five sheets of informal photocopied pages bound with a brass fastener in one corner to hold it together.These items work together but the storybook could be enjoyed independently of the other materials. In addition, the book's website is referenced in numerous places, and a teacher's guide password allows access to activity guide answers online.
The storybook itself is the highlight of the package. Mori, an okapi who lives at a zoo, is celebrating his birthday, but there is no actual celebration and he is sad about this, longing for his friends to wish him a happy birthday. He recalls how the elephant had a party on his birthday and he feels forgotten. Meanwhile his animal friends are indeed preparing a party for him, though he doesn't realize it until nightfall when they surprise him by all sneaking into his exhibit. Woven into this plot are details about okapi, gerenuks, and king vultures who together make up the primary characters.
Each page follows the same pattern of full-page digital art image with text below in a white area. On the left page, the story is in English, and on the right, the same text is written in Spanish. The names of the animal characters are typed in bold letters of certain colors. An explanation of the colors is not included anywhere in the materials, but I came to realize that the type of animal matches the name of the animal, so that "Mori" and "okapi" are both in purple. Three other animals are given names and unique colors as well. The color-coding is done on both English and Spanish pages, bringing attention to those matching words across languages.
The story is simple and sweet, and the crisp art is colorful with excellent detail for the animals. At the end of the storybook, a few pages are dedicated to photos of the animals in the zoo which likely inspired the story. The animal photos are taken from a bit of a distance making it hard to really see the animal, but the bilingual descriptions are thorough and informative. The final pages include a map of the "V Zoo" where the story's animals apparently live.
This book is a fun way to practice language learning, even for the novice who might only pick up a few words. The accompanying activity guide doesn't provide any specific language-learning tools, but most pages are bilingual as well and include coloring pages, paint by number pages, word puzzles, and crosswords.
The third element of the package is the teacher's guide. It includes pre- and post-reading questions for discussion as well as activity ideas for different disciplines, including language arts, math, science, and art. Detailed questions and answers about zoo keepers and the story's three main animals are also included. It is in this packet where the website password can be found to access activity guide answers. The main website for the book offers various printable pages, online puzzles, and links to read more about the zoo and the authors.
Overall, my children have enjoyed the storybook and activity guide, and since this is only the first book and activity guide package the author and illustrator have published, there is much more to look forward to. Perhaps because it is their first book, I found a few areas where more information would have been helpful. For example, the bold color-coded words in the story could have been explained on an introductory page. I would have appreciated additional character development, especially gratitude on Mori's part when his friends do surprise him with a party. The activity pages are fun, but they don't really enhance language learning as much as I'd hoped. Finally, I was hoping for a translation page where key words are paired up to show the two languages side by side, since word placement within sentences alone doesn't account for differing grammatical structures. Without a dictionary tool, language learning relies on guesswork.
The efforts of the Delgado family to work together to produce meaningful bilingual materials is impressive, and this first collection of materials will likely be one of many in their future. As our knowledge of Spanish grows, we will likely turn to this story for reading practice and fun.