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THE BEST MARIACHI IN THE WORLD / El mejor Mariachi del mundo

Author: J.D. Smith

Illustrator: Dani Jones

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Publisher: Raven Tree Press,

Material: hard cover

Summary: Everyone in Gustavo's family could play an instrument. He really wanted to be a mariachi like his brother, father, grandfather, and cousins. But no one would let him touch their instruments. Upset about being left out, Gustavo headed out to the desert. There, he could sing stories for the cacti. One morning, he woke the neighbors with his singing. Was he destined to be the worst mariachi? This is a bilingual story with Spanish words embedded in English text.

Type of Reading: bedtime story, playtime reading, read aloud book

Recommended Age: read together: 4 to 9; read yourself: 8 to 10

Interest Level: 5 to 10

Reading Level: 3.7

Age of Child: Started reading with girl nearly 7 years old.

Young Reader Reaction: Our daughter picked this out of a pile. At first she asked us to translate the Spanish text, but then she was caught up in looking at the pictures and listening to the story as it played out. After we were finished, she wanted to talk in Spanish and asked us about mariachi music.

Adult Reader Reaction: What a sweet story. Gustavo is a wonderful character that kids can relate to, and the illustrator did a beautiful job capturing his feelings. As novice Spanish speakers, books that embed the language and use repetition to demonstrate context and vocabulary are easier for us to read. The illustrations are a wonderful complement to the story and while colorful, do not overwhelm the reader.

Pros: Every child who has wanted to "belong" will enjoy this story about a boy who wants to be in a mariachi band. Colorful illustrations help make the story sing.

Cons: None.

Borrow or Buy: Borrow, at least. This is a sweet story that also happens to be a bilingual book. Kids will immediately relate to Gustavo and his big dreams.


Educational Themes: In addition to building vocabulary, explore Spanish music, music history, and culture. There is a strong story here, too, and you can talk about feelings, respect (not touching other people's things), and individual talent.

Notes: Flesch Kincaid reading level 3.7

This book is also available in English-only and Spanish-only editions.

Literary Categories: Fiction - picture book, music, bilingual, Spanish, family, cultures and tradition

Date(s) Reviewed: October 2008

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