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I Wish I Was Strong Like Manuel (Quisiera ser fuerte como Manuel); I Wish I Was Tall Like Willie (Quisiera ser tan alto como Willie) Review by Maggi Beardsley

By Kathryn Heling and Deborah Hembrook
Raven Tree Press, a Division of Delta Publishing Company
1400 Miller Parkway
McHenry, IL 60050-7030

These two paperback books, about 30 pages long, are picture books about young boys growing up and wanting to be like someone else. They celebrate the things about us that make us unique. The story is written in English and then translated into Spanish underneath the English text in the same size font. For example, Manuel says, "He looks like a famous basketball player!" And underneath the text it says, "¡Parece un famoso jugador de baloncesto!" Included in the books is an English-Spanish word list.

The cute thing about this pair of books is that Willie wants to be like Manuel and Manuel wants to be like Willie. The boys look a bit different from each other. I think that a young American boy could see himself as either one of the characters. The English story is written at a second-grade reading level in English. I found the Spanish to be for a higher grade level.

The expressions on the boys' faces are very vivid, and the illustrations add to the story. These books could be used effectively when children are voicing their dissatisfaction with themselves, or you could use them in a unit study on differences.

When I ordered these books I thought that I would be using them as read-alouds and readers for my elementary-aged children. However, I found that the books would be a much better fit for a high school level Spanish language study. I would use them with a high school student studying Spanish II, because they use the preterit and future tenses. (A student in Spanish I generally has not studied that part of the language.) The English text could be blocked out, and the student could practice Spanish reading comprehension.

These books would be ideal for a family with children studying at different levels. The very young would like the read-aloud and enjoy the illustrations. Second- and third-grade readers would enjoy reading the books by themselves. The high school Spanish language student would appreciate the language practice. The books do an excellent job of presenting higher-level Spanish in a manner that students can comprehend. They also do an excellent job of using English and Spanish in a natural way (not translating word for word). For example, "I'll never do that again!" is "¡No lo volveré a hacer jamás!"

Overall I Wish I Was Strong Like Manuel and I Wish I Was Tall Like Willie are good family books. Both books conclude with "Imagine that!" ("¡Imagínate!")--an inspiring ending. Imagine that the person you wanted to be wanted to be just like you!

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