A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Uses and defines advanced vocabulary words. For example, "Doña Esmeralda had a voracious appetite. That means she was always hungry." It introduces foods and dishes that young readers can look up and learn more about like tikka masala, lumpia, and bulgogi.
Trying new foods can be pleasantly surprising. Greed and waste have negative consequences.
The story is a modern retelling of a Filipino folk tale. Mentions foods that may be unfamiliar to many readers and traditional Filipino dishes like kare-kare, pancit, and giniling, also lots of food and drinks kids are likely to know -- like broccoli, sweet potatoes, milkshakes. Kids depicted reflect a variety of ethnic backgrounds.
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Violence & Scariness
Doña Esmeralda begins to eat everything in sight -- food, tables and chairs, a bush and a tree, an elephant and a crocodile, and children and their parents, to name a few. Her tummy starts to rumble and there's a BOOM! Everything she ate comes out, and "That was the end of Doña Esmeralda." It can be inferred that she explodes, though nothing is shown. The people and animals are mildly injured in a cartoonish fashion.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Doña Esmeralda, Who Ate Everything! is the first picture book by bestselling author Melissa de la Cruz. De la Cruz, who grew up in the Philippines, pays homage to her Filipino culture by re-creating the classic folktale "Lilit Bulilit and the Babe in the Womb," by Nick Joaquin, a story that she loved as a child. She details her intentions in an author's note that follows the story, just before the recipe for her mom's lumpia. It may be helpful to read the author's note for context before reading the story. There are lots of food dishes mentioned in the book that may be unfamiliar to young readers, providing an opportunity to look them up and/or try new recipes.
Is It Any Good?
Author Melissa de la Cruz stays true to the storytelling of oral tradition in this unique story. Doña Esmeralda, Who Ate Everything! is a retelling of an old folktale, and it's told in a way similar to the way people passed down stories for years. It's conversational, often interrupting the storytelling with questions or defining words for those receiving the story. For example, "She was about the size of a toddler, but she was very, very old. Do you know the word 'ancient'? It means older than old, and that's how old Doña Esmeralda was." This helps readers young and old keep up with the story.
While this is a retelling of an old folktale, de la Cruz could have taken a bit more liberty to craft a tale more fitting for today's young readers. Simply constructing a clearer resolution or perhaps giving Doña Esmeralda some character strengths or a lesson learned could have easily done the trick, as it's unclear if Doña Esmeralda is a protagonist or antagonist for much of the story. Kids won't mind -- they'll be busy giggling at the outlandish tale, brought to life by Primo Gallanosa's hilarious illustrations.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.