A Song of Frutas by Margarita Engle. Illustrated by Sara Palacios

When a young Cuban American girl visits Abuelo—her grandfather—in Cuba, she helps him sell frutas by singing the names of each fruit as they walk along the street: “… our footsteps like drum beats, our hands like maracas, shaking bright food shapes while we chant with a rhythm: mango / limon / coco / melon / naranja / toranja / platano / piña.” 

As they encounter other singing vendors selling tamales, fragrant herbs, sweet potatoes and yams, roasted peanuts, and chocolates, Abuelo raises his voice to be heard over the clamor, and the girl rejoices because Abuelo’s song is “as powerful as an opera star’s glorious voice.” 

As grandfather and granddaughter make their way along the street, their voices are “bridges that reach up to windows, inviting strangers to look out and become friends.” Before leaving Cuba, the girl makes a New Year’s Eve wish for friendship between nations so she can visit Abuelo more often and so he can visit her in the United States. 

Back in America, the girl regularly sends letters to Abuelo, understanding that the distance from her grandfather would be much harder to bear if she couldn’t send rhymes and verses on paper—“all our hopeful poems flying like songbirds who glide and soar through wild sky, each syllable un abrazo, a hug made of words.” 

Illustrator Sara Palacios’ flamboyant, high-spirited pictures, which capture the energy and vibrancy of Cuban culture and the delightful relationship between the girl and Abuelo, are complemented by author Margarita Engle’s lyrical, joyful text. Author’s notes offer insights into the history of the singing vendors and the hardships faced by Cubans and Cuban Americans, living under travel restrictions, who are unable to visit family and loved ones at all, or only rarely. 

(Atheneum Books for Young Readers)

About the Author

Sonya VanderVeen Feddema is a freelance writer and a member of Covenant CRC in St. Catharines, Ontario.

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