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ONCE UPON A TIME (Traditional Latin American Tales)

Rayo-An Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers; 2010  




book jacket

By Rueben Martinez

Illustrated by Raul Colon




Book review by: By Craig MacDonald  


Well, it's about time! The first book by accomplished Santa Ana barber, bookstore owner, reading and literacy icon Rueben Martinez just came out and it's a winner from cover to cover. The caring man, who for decades gave books to his barbershop customers to take home and read to their kids, has hit the jackpot with this cleverly crafted, superbly illustrated bilingual book of Spain and Latin American folktales that's perfect for reading to and capturing the imagination of children. (Some children could even read it to adults.)   


Rueben MartinezThe seven very colorful tales, simply, yet sensationally told by storyteller Rueben, feature creative characters, ranging from a Coyote, King and Rooster to a Giant and "Mother of the Jungle." The work, full of tricksters and heroes, makes us think, and teaches valuable lessons on how we treat one another and nature. The oversize book is easy to read, with large print, plenty of whitespace and captivating artwork. Noted artist Raul Colon's lavish and intriguing illustrations demand attention, encouraging discussions about their subjects and stories.  


At the end of a chapter, Rueben shares the origin of each tale, i.e., the one about mischievous Pedro Urdemales came from Spain in the 18th Century. Pedro's adventures were so popular, great writers immortalized him in Chile, Agentina, Brazil and Venezuela. One of my favorites is the heartwarming story about "Martina the Cockroach and Perez the Mouse," the most popular version of which came from Cuba and Puerto Rico.  


"As you read these tales to a child, I hope you take the opportunity to talk about the characters and the feelings that the stories evoke," wrote Rueben, who has read books for years to his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. "I always told them, 'Read today, lead tomorrow,'" said the enthusiastic owner of the newly relocated Librerian Martinez Books & Art Gallery, 216 N. Broadway, Santa Ana.  


I hope this won't be the last time we see a book from Rueben, whose wonderful words of wisdom encourage readers of all ages to expand their minds and enjoy the journey called "life." The journey through life, and what you learn along the way, everyday, is "Rueben's Reward," for him and us.  


(Pulitzer Prize nominee Craig MacDonald is the author of 16 books.)




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