Come for the vocab, stay for the fun

The Piñata that the Farm Maiden Hung

By Samantha R. Vamos

(Children’s picture book, 2019)


The Piñata that the Farm Maiden Hung is so much fun to read! This bilingual story follows a young girl and her family as they work together — with the help of some farm animal friend — to make a piñata for a surprise birthday party. The illustrations are bright and beautiful, and the cadence of the text is mesmerizing. The story itself brings in themes of cooperation, family, farm life, celebration, and Mexican culture.

This is a “cumulative verse” story, meaning that each page repeats the information before it, then adds something new. It works a bit like the “Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly” song (she swallowed the cat to catch the bird, she swallowed the bird to catch the spider, she swallowed the spider to catch the fly…) Here, first term introduced is the piñata that the farm maiden hung. Then, we meet the boy (niño) who shapes the clay to make the piñata. By the story’s end, we’re following the niño, caballo, gato, ganso, oveja, campesino,and others as they work together to make and decorate the piñata that the farm maiden hung.

The structure of this story works on two levels. First, the repetition (as well as seeing new words in context) helps with learning new vocabulary. Secondly, it’s just plain fun. When I read this book aloud, I like to point to each item on the page as I say the Spanish word (e.g. I point to the horse when I say caballo). Toward the end of the story, there are so many characters to keep track of (and they all keep moving!) that it’s almost impossible not to devolve into giggles. It’s a Spanish lesson, but it feels like a game. Author Samantha R. Vamos includes a full glossary at the end of the book, as well as instructions for how to make your own piñata.

Final verdict: this is a light and engaging picture book for language learners of all ages. Come for the piñata and stay for the vocabulary. You’ll be glad that you did!

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Faithe Miller Lakowicz

Author: Insider Staff

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