cover image My Abuelita

My Abuelita

Tony Johnston, , illus. by Yuyi Morales. . Harcourt, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-15-216330-3

Morales (Just in Case ), winner of this year's Pura Belpré Award, does some wonderful work with handmade puppets and digitally enhanced photography. In fact, the images are so vivid that Johnston's (Voice from Afar: Poems of Peace ) text is almost superfluous. The story follows the boy narrator as he helps his adored grandmother, a professional storyteller, get ready for a performance at a local school. Johnston conjures up a senior citizen of enormous creativity and indomitable spirit—Abuelita exercises her voice with “deep, boggy, froggy notes” and wraps herself in a striped towel that makes her look and hum like “a great big bee.” But Morales is already conveying all that through her impishly expressive puppets (in a scene where the rotund grandmother describes herself as being round “like a calabaza ,” her reflection in the mirror envisions her as a pumpkin), unpredictable perspectives (including a bird's-eye view of a bathroom) and a glowing palette drawn from Mexican folk art. The vignettes seamlessly knit together realism and fantasy, giving every spread a dreamy physicality. Ages 3–7. (Sept.)