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Book Review: Taco Magician

The Taco Magician and Other Poems for Kids / El mago de los tacos y otros poemas para niños; by Diane Gonzales Bertrand; illustrations by Carolyn Dee Flores; Piñata Books, Arte Público Press, 2019; soft cover, 112 pp., $9.95; ages 8-12.

Reviewed by Carol Baass Sowa for Today’s Catholic

“Give a child / a taste for poetry. / Let him breathe letters and spaces,” says award-winning author Diane Gonzales Bertrand in the introductory poem of her latest book, The Taco Magician and Other Poems for Kids / El mago de los tacos y otros poemas para niños.A bilingual book of poetry for young readers, it is intended to inspire them to pen their own.

“A Poem to My Chanclas,” “Abuelita’s Kitchen Table” and “Fishing with Uncle Charlie,” are the titles of a few of the free-verse offerings of everyday life at home, in the neighborhood and, especially, time spent with family members.

Since the author is a native San Antonian whose writing skills developed at Little Flower Elementary, Ursuline Academy, the University of Texas at San Antonio and Our Lady of the Lake University, there are some references to familiar places, from her brother’s failed attempts to navigate Woodlawn Lake in his home-made boats, to the voice of her playmate’s mother that “boomeranged down Texas Avenue / bouncing from doorway to backyard / where we were playing dolls.”

And, of course, there is the “The Taco Magician” of the book’s title – Gonzales Bertrand’s father, the kitchen wizard of repurposed leftovers, who “wraps a tortilla around our wishes, bakes them in the oven.” Realistic black and white sketches by artist Carolyn Dee Flores, a graduate of Trinity University and a published author herself, capture the essence of childhood and accompany select poems.

Diane Gonzales Bertrand has authored more than twenty books for children and teens, among them, The Ruiz Street Kids / Los muchachas de la calle Ruiz, Upside Down and Backwards and Alicia’s Treasure. She is writer-in-residence at St. Mary’s University, where she teaches creative writing.