WOW Review: Volume XIII, Issue 2

Introduction and Editors’ Note

Ask adults what kept them reading as children and often the answer has to do with a book transporting them into new worlds of scenery, situations, and periods of history. This issue highlights books that transport readers into new languages, some more familiar like Spanish, some less so like Korean, Sanskrit or Vietnamese, and others very unique like Woiwurrung or Buli.

Authors, illustrators and publishers use various strategies when introducing languages to readers. Often words in other languages are inserted at key points with enough clues in the text or images to help readers make sense of unfamiliar words. The Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred strategically replaces an English word on one page for the Spanish word on the following page, slowly building Spanish vocabulary in an imperceptible way. Birrarung Wilam: A Story from Aboriginal Australia uses the opposite strategy, replacing the Woiwurrung words with the English equivalent only on the following page, challenging the reader to look carefully at the visual and textual clues. In Where’s Halmoni? Julie Kim uses dialogue, facial expressions and the protagonists’ questions to help the reader make meaning of the Korean Hanguel characters interspersed in the text.

Publishers will sometimes choose to include a full translation of a text, either one above the other, or one language on the left page and the second language on the right page, creating a bilingual book. But one critical question is which language is first, because position on a page subtly places higher value on one language over the other. Sometimes publishers instead position two languages as equal in value and publish a book in each language as separate editions, such as in Mi papi tiene una moto and My Papi Has a Motorcycle.

Two books feature unique ways to introduce readers to new languages. In Butterfly Yellow, newly arrived immigrant Hằng transcribes unfamiliar English words with Vietnamese pronunciations, giving readers a sense of how non-English speakers have to work to utter and understand new words. And in What a Wonderful Word: A Collection of Untranslatable Words from Around the World, readers are introduced to words that have no equivalent in English because of cultural differences.

Language learning is fun when new words are embedded in stories, and the books in this issue are simply fun to read! We invite you to learn some new food vocabulary as you follow Little Lobo and Bernabé making the rounds of the food trucks for their favorite Luche Libre star in ¡Vamos! Let’s Go Eat! Read the familiar story of goats crossing a bridge but with a twist as the goats solve their food problem but also figure out why the giant under the bridge is so grumpy in The Three Billy Goats Bueno. Finally, enjoy Evelyn del Rey is Moving Away as Daniella describes the special relationship she has with “my mejor amiga, my número uno best friend.”

Please consider submitting a review for our future issues. The editors welcome reviews of any children’s or YA book that highlights intercultural understanding and global perspectives around these themes:

Volume 13, Issue 4 – A Climate of Change (Summer 2021) – submission deadline: May 15, 2021. The editors welcome reviews of books with intercultural or global perspectives that feature a climate of change. The change can be literal (i.e., climate) or metaphorical in the sense of becoming more open or closed to changes in life, etc.

Volume 14, Issue 1 – Open theme (Fall 2021) – submission deadline: August 15, 2021. The editors welcome reviews of children’s or YA books that highlight intercultural understanding and global perspectives.

Susan Corapi and Prisca Martens, Co-Editors

Creative Commons License

WOW Review, Volume XIII, Issue 2 by World of Words is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Based on work at

WOW review: reading across cultures
ISSN 2577-0527