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Paco and the Giant Chile Plant (Paco y la planta de chile gigante) Review by Maggi Beardsley

By Keith Polette
Raven Tree Press, a Division of Delta Publishing Company
1400 Miller Parkway
McHenry, IL 60050-7030

Paco and the Giant Chile Plant is a 32-page children's paperback storybook with beautiful full-color illustrations. When the bilingual characters use Spanish words instead of English, the words are written in a different color. The story begins with a "Jack and the Beanstalk" opening (a mother asking her son to sell the cow) but ends very differently. As a bilingual reader, I appreciated the rhythm that the book had with the combination of Spanish and English. I found that most of the time my English-speaking child could follow the story and even understand the Spanish words. Paco and the Giant Chile Plant was very suspenseful. The last page of the book has a Spanish-English vocabulary list.

The illustrator, Elizabeth Dulemba, includes extras on her website ( such as coloring pages and recipes that correlate with the book.

Paco and the Giant Chile Plant is a great story to have at home and read with your child. Pre-school and elementary-aged children would enjoy the color, the plot, and the adventure. Junior high and high school students studying Spanish would appreciate the thrill of comprehending a somewhat familiar story written partially in their second language without having to use a dictionary.

The book emphasizes the importance of family. This book would fit in well with a unit study on riches vs. poverty or an introductory unit on values.

I have used bilingual books and primary Spanish books in teaching high school Spanish for a number of years. It is an effective approach to learning a second language. What I appreciate about Paco and the Giant Chile Plant is that the story is original. This makes the reader truly read the story. The Spanish vocabulary is not simplistic, but an emerging Spanish learner would be able to understand the meaning of the words without using the vocabulary page. The illustrations are just as vibrant as the words, which make it a very pleasing book to have in the house.

Sometimes homeschoolers pass over books that do not fit into the core. Our budgets are only so big! Paco and the Giante Chile Plant is a book for the home, though, because each time you read it you will understand something new. You could even add on and conduct a viejo/joven unit study for contrasting concepts.

Product review by Maggi Beardsley, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, June 2008