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Sofi and the Magic, Musical Mural by Raquel M. Ortiz

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Sofi and the Magic, Musical Mural
Sofi y el Mágico Mural Musical
Author: Raquel M. Ortiz
Illustrator: Maria Dominguez
Published May 31st, 2015 by Piñata Books

Goodreads Summary: When Sofi walks through her barrio to the local store, she always passes a huge mural with images from Puerto Rico: musicians, dancers, tropical flowers and—her least favorite—a vejigante, a character from carnival that wears a scary mask.

One day on her way home from the bodega, she stops in front of the mural. Is one of the dancers inviting her to be his partner? “Okay, let’s dance,” Sofi giggles, and suddenly she’s in Old San Juan, surrounded by dancers and musicians playing bongos, tambourines and güiros. She begins to dance and sing with her new friends, but her pleasure turns to fear when the vejigante—wearing a black jumper with yellow fringe and a red, three-horned mask—spins her around and around! What does he want from her? How can she get away?

This story about an imaginative girl and a magical mural is an engaging exploration of Puerto Rico’s cultural traditions as well as an ode to public art and the community it depicts. Featuring Maria Dominguez’s lovingly rendered, colorful illustrations, this bilingual picture book introduces the topic of community art to children ages 4 to 8. After reading this book, children—and some adults too—will want to make and share their own artistic creations!

Ricki’s Review: While this book offers much enrichment due to the Spanish/English language, I most liked how it was a book about imagination. Sofía’s mind takes her to a great many places, and the Puerto Rican culture emanates from this text. I loved the beautiful illustrations and the ways the words danced from page to page. I am passing this book along to a Spanish teacher to use in her classroom because it has much to offer students.

Kellee’s Review: Sofía’s adventure is a great introduction to Puerto Rican culture. I loved being transported into Puerto Rico and learning about the music, mythology, and landscape of the U.S. territory. I learned so much reading this book, and I found myself rereading after visiting the glossary in the back of the book.  I also, as the daughter of an art museum director, loved the focus on community art. Maria’s story of the mural featured in the book shows how powerful art can be. 

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: After a class reads this book, the teacher might ask students to write their own picture book translations. They could pair with a Spanish class in the school to do an interdisciplinary unit. Additionally, teachers might ask students to find a famous painting and write a picture book or story about getting lost in that painting. There are many creative opportunities with this text.

Discussion Questions: Sofía visits different parts of Puerto Rico on her journey within the mural. Look at a map of Puerto Rico and map where she visited. Many different types of instruments and music are mentioned in the text. Listen to examples of the different instruments and styles of music then create a web describing what you hear.

We Flagged: “Suddenly, Sofía found herself in the middle of Viejo San Juan, on the island of Puerto Rico, surrounded by the music of tambourines, bongos, maracas, and güiros.

‘W-W-W-What’s going on?” stuttered Sofia.
‘Well, you said you wanted to dance!” her new friend said.

Sofía, too shocked to do anything else, began to dance.
Before she knew it, a group of musicians and dancers made a circle around them. They were singing a famous plena song:

The plena music that I know
is not from China, it comes from home.
Because the plena was born in Ponce
it’s from teh barrio of San Antón.”

Read This If You Loved: Magic Windows by Carmen Lomas Garza, Little Roja Riding Hood by Susan Middleton Elya

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**Thank you to Eloisa at Arte Público Press for providing copies for review!**