Alex is excited his family is coming to visit. First grandma arrives and Alex rearranges his room so she can fit. Then Aunt Celia arrives, and the cousins start to pile in. Yummy Cuban food smells up house and everyone is happy—except Alex. He can’t even find space to sit down and papa believes more can always fit. When mama announces Cousin Beto is arriving too, Alex has had it! “No one else can fit in this house!” What can Alex do?
K-Gr 3–A picture book in which each page welcomes readers into the home of a Cuban American family as it grows. Alex’s parents provide a loving and nurturing environment for the arrival of each family member. Cleverly they begin by showing Alex pictures of Abuela Juanita’s home in Cuba and retelling a story about her grand house there. Next, Mama is joyful over a phone call that announces that Aunt Celia and Alex’s cousins will arrive the next day. The charming illustrations are a colorful combination of various textures used in collage to depict the joy of family reuniting, the excitement of cousins playing, and women talking as they cook delicious foods. With every turn of the page the family grows, readers learn Spanish terms, and Alex and his papa count how many can fit into the house. Then comes the day when Alex’s hospitalitly wears thin and he announces there is no more room. And as quickly as everyone came, they’re gone. The cousins and their parents move away and Abuela, too. And just when Alex thinks things will return to normal, his parents announce the arrival of another family member—this time a sibling. The concept of change can be a challenging one to explain to young children and yet, this story makes the case in a simple, human way. This tale has tremendous potential for an engaging and fun read-aloud experience with students.VERDICT Based in one family’s culture, the themes of families helping each other and coping with change are universal and timeless. Highly recommended.
Mama bends over to consult with her son, Alex. “Alex, how would you like it if our family were bigger?” He’s delighted—his abuela is arriving from Cuba, and she’s going to share his room. Crisp draftsmanship by Archer (Daniel’s Good Day) seeds mixed-media artwork with diverting objects and patterns. In Alex’s room, which “looks like a planetarium,” his abuela sits on her bed leaning forward, fascinated by what Alex is telling her. The next day, there’s more news: his aunt and three cousins are coming from Cuba, too. “The bigger the better,” Alex says. The cousins tumble and play, and the smell of cooking food fills the house and “brings us all to the table hungry.” Another cousin appears. “Where eight can fit, nine can fit,” Papa proclaims. Then, just as suddenly, it’s over: “Tia Celia and your cousins are moving to their own apartment with Abuela,” Mama says, but she has some good news: she’s expecting, so a sibling is on the way. By showing how this family’s members help each other survive and thrive in a new country, Canetti (Rhyming Tongue-Twisters: Animals) fills a crucial niche with this affirming look at nonnuclear families. Ages 3–7. (Apr.)