'Twas Nochebuena

Book review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
'Twas Nochebuena Book Poster Image
Sweet bilingual tale of Latino Christmas Eve traditions.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Kids will learn a lot about the Latin American traditions of Nochebuena, particularly the customs (foods, songs, practices, games) of Mexican-American families who celebrate the holiday with extended family and friends.

Positive Messages

The book's message is that there's something extremely special and even magical about Christmas Eve when you have so much to celebrate with your family, from tortillas to a game of Lotería to presents after midnight.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The main character has a loving and supportive immediate and extended family; they have rich holiday traditions that bind siblings, cousins, grandparents, and neighbors together.

Violence & Scariness
Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that 'Twas Nochebuena is a bilingual (but mostly in English) homage to the classic poem "'Twas the Night Before Christmas," exploring the many traditions that accompany a Latino family's celebration of Nochebuena. Narrated by a young Latina girl who lives in a multigenerational household, the holiday picture book will teach readers about her favorite aspects of Christmas Eve, from cooking and decorating to playing games and opening presents.

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What's the story?

'TWAS NOCHEBUENA takes place on Christmas Eve, but this isn't any ordinary celebration -- it's Nochebuena, when Latin American families stay up late celebrating the holiday. The little girl narrating the story takes us on a Christmas Eve journey that includes her family's beloved customs, from making delicious tamales and playing Lotería to marching house to house for Las Posadas and attending a late mass. With her extended family close by, the narrator enjoys a special Christmas Eve that incorporates Spanish vocabulary (there's a glossary and author's note in the back of the book) but not so much that English-only speakers won't be able to follow along.

Is it any good?

Thong specializes in multicultural children's books, and this one proves her commitment to capturing the beautiful traditions of another culture while still making the story accessible. Latino parents who grew up celebrating Nochebuena will be particularly touched by the story (even if your family may have made slightly different cuisine or played different games), but all parents who celebrate Christmas should consider this a worthy addition to the holiday bookshelf. Using the same structure of Clement Moore's classic Christmas poem, Thong artfully weaves in Spanish words and traditions explaining why, in most Latino families, Christmas Eve and not Christmas Day is considered the main event of the holiday season.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what they learned about the Latino tradition (in this case, Mexican-American) of Nochebuena.

  • How does the celebration of Christmas Eve described in the story compare to yours (if you celebrate it) or ones you've read about?

  • Discuss your own holiday traditions. Which ones do you look forward to each year? Do you have favorite children's books that portray those traditions?

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