Thursday, June 6, 2013

Picture book review: THE BAKERY LADY/la senora de la panderia, by Pat Mora, for LS 5603, TWU

Mora, Pat. 2001. THE BAKERY LADY/la senora de la Panadería. Ill. by Pablo Torrecilla.  Houston, TX.  Piῆata Books.   
ISBN 1-55885-343-X 
In this Spanish and English book, Mónica is determined to grow up and be a baker.  She helps her family in their bakery.  When Mónica finds the doll in the Kings’ Rings bread as she so desperately wanted, she gets to throw the party for the feast of The Three Kings Day, on January 6th, El Día de los Reyes Mago.  She wants to make her grandmother’s special lemon cookies all by herself, but learns that baking takes a great deal of hard work and that teamwork is best to create a wonderful feast. 

Mora’s writing is direct and clear.  The book is written in both English and Spanish, with some Spanish words still in the English portion.  In the story, the little girl Mónica is the narrator.  Plenty of dialogue keeps the story moving quickly and the images are large and colorful.  The descriptions of the smells in the bakery are vivid and luscious:  “the mountains of sugar, the cinnamon and anise, the steamy bread,” and “inside the kitchen smells yellow and lemony," which brings the setting to life.

The characters are drawn in a more cartoony style as opposed to realistic, with ink outlines and watercolor-like interiors.  There are small rectangular illustrations that separate the English and Spanish portions of the text, which give a closer look at the items related to the party, such as a piece of Kings’ Bread, or the little Christ child that she finds, or her invitations that she makes by hand.  The full-page, easy-to-see illustrations make this a natural book for sharing with students at storytime.  People unfamiliar with the Spanish language would be wise to practice several times first, perhaps finding an online reading of it first to make sure that the Spanish words and names within the English section are pronounced properly.  English Language Learners whose first language is Spanish will benefit from seeing the translated story. 


“Mora has once again succeeded in writing a warm family story that includes information about Mexican traditions and celebrations while appealing to the common elements that link people across cultures.”  -School Library Journal.  (Listed for grades 1-3)

This was the only professional review I found.


  •  This book could be paired with Tomie dePaolas’s The Night of Las Posadas (which describes another custom related to the Christmas season) and In My Family/En mi Familia by Lomas Garza (a Pura Belpré Honor book of 1996) to study Mexican and Mexican-American celebrations.
  • Pat Mora is well known for her book Tomás and the Library Lady, which could be paired with this one for an author study.  Mora has several other picture books available as well.
  • To play up the cooking theme while staying within the Mexican-American culture of The Bakery Lady, Mora’s book could be paired with Too Many Tamales by Gary Soto, which describes the Christmas tradition at Maria’s house of making tamales and shows middle-class Mexican-American life.


I found this book okay, but not nearly as delightful as Mora’s book Tomás and the Library Lady.  I am not sure why. I normally love stories about cooking and baking.  I enjoyed reading it to my children, but it is not one that I would go out and buy. However, I would definitely use it in a storytime setting to illustrate the holiday in question or to have fun with a cooking and culture series of books, moving around the globe, perhaps even serving a bit of the food prepared in each book. 

Other works Referenced:
dePaula, Tomie. 2002.  The Night of Las Posadas.  NY:  Putnam.  (PreK-3rd)

Lomas Garza, Carmen.  1996. In My Family/En Mi Familia.  Danbury, CT: Scholastic. (Gr 2-4)

Moras, Pat.  1997. Tomás and the Library Lady.  Ill. By Raul Colon.  Random House. (Gr 3-5)

Soto, Gary.  1993.  Too Many Tamales.  Ill. By Ed Martinez.  Putnam.  (Gr K-4.)

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