Marta! Big & Small

Book review by
Monica Encarnacion, Common Sense Media
Marta! Big & Small Book Poster Image
Cute bilingual tale of animals, opposites, and clever girl.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Readers identify opposites and learn vocabulary and animal names in Spanish.

Positive Messages

Being curious is a good thing. It's fun to speak two languages. You may be small or slow compared to some animals, but tall and fast to others. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Marta is an ordinary girl: clever and curious! 

Violence & Scariness

Brief, mild tension when the snake looks like it wants to eat Marta, but she outsmarts the snake. 


What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Marta! Big & Small, by Jen Arena and beautifully illustrated by Angela Dominguez, is about a curious little girl name Marta. At a quick glance, you may think the book is just about animals, opposites, and learning new words in Spanish. But there's subtle evidence of Marta's cleverness, and a fun twist in one tense interaction she has with an animal that can be empowering to little girls and kids in general. New Spanish words are presented within the context of the story: "Marta is lenta. Slow, very slow." A Spanish-English glossary at the end of the book reinforces vocabulary words and introduces new ones by listing the Spanish names for the animals featured in the story.

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What's the story?

MARTA! BIG & SMALL is the story of an "ordinary girl" named Marta. Marta knows that she's bigger than a bug, smaller than an elephant, and faster than a turtle. When Marta meets a snake who thinks she's "sabrosa" or "tasty, very tasty," she must outsmart him. Marta brilliantly gets away because she is "ingeniosa" or "clever, very clever." The big lesson here is that Marta's identity isn't defined by one single characteristic -- big or small, fast or slow. The way we see ourselves is a matter of perception. Although Marta may think she's just an "ordinary girl" at the beginning of the story, by the end she proves to be quite extraordinary!

Is it any good?

This lively story of animals and opposites is a fun way to learn Spanish vocabulary. Although the text in Marta! Big & Small is minimal, author Jen Arena does a great job introducing Spanish words within the context of the story. Her use of repetition and context clues make the meaning of each new Spanish word very clear. For example, "To a horse, Marta is lenta. Slow, very slow. To a turtle, Marta is rápida. Fast, very fast."

Vibrant artwork by Pura Belpré Honor recipient Angela Dominguez further focuses the reader's attention on making comparisons between Marta and the different animals she encounters. Large, vivid illustrations on a white background offer little or no background distractions and help the readers see the similarities and differences between the main characters in the story.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the Spanish vocabulary in Marta! Big & Small. Which of the new words can you use to talk about opposites, compare sizes, and describe yourself and the people and things around you? For instance, what's the same or different between you and your dad?

  • What's your favorite animal? Can you name it in Spanish? How are you different or the same?

  • Marta is "ingeniosa." What does it mean to be clever? How are you clever?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love bilingual books and animal stories

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