Why Are You Doing That? (2014), by Elisa Amando

This review was first published in Resource Links Magazine, “Canada’s national journal devoted to the review and evaluation of Canadian English and French resources for children and young adults.” It appears in volume 19.5.

Illustrated by Manuel Monroy.

Chepito is curious about his world, but instead of the stereotypic “why?” with its a never-ending series of responses, Chepito asks “Why are you doing that?” and “What for?” This more focused question forms the basis for his journey through his rural world, from breakfast to lunch, in a cycle that brings him back to where he started: with his mother providing food and affection in their home. Chepito has eggs and beans for breakfast, then sees his the hens in the yard, the beans on the vines, all tended by people he knows. He sees corn growing, the cow being milked, tortillas grilled on the hot comal (clay griddle). When he asks his “why?” and “what for?” he is told how the food becomes his meals, how tending the crops and animals provides for his family. His final encounter is with an unnamed man resting beneath the banana trees. “Help yourself,” he is told, so he takes two: one for himself, one for Rosita, his little sister. When he gives the banana to Rosita, he shares his knowledge, just as the adults have shared their with him: “you know what? They grow on trees!”

The repetition of Chepito’s questions and of the structure of the answers, creates a lilting pattern through the story that young readers will enjoy. The gentle coloured-pencil drawings accentuate the feeling of security that the story creates. The few Spanish words sprinkled through the text can be found in the short glossary on the last page. Why Are You Doing That? has all the elements of a very successful story to be read to pre-readers or enjoyed by very early readers on their own.

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