Mexican Folk Art Opposites in English and Spanish

By: Cynthia Weill
Illustrator: Quirino and Martín Santiago
Happy hand-painted animals from Oaxaca teach kids about opposites in two languages.


Teachers Guide to Opuestos by Cynthia Weill

Happy hand-painted animals from Oaxaca teach kids about opposites in two languages.

Cynthia Weill's book of Mexican folk art teaches kids about opposites in Spanish and English! These whimsical little animals from Oaxaca, carved and painted by hand, make learning about opposites fun. Up and down, tall and short, left and right——all inside a beautiful book.

Cynthia Weill is an educator and art historian whose expertise is the work of indigenous artisans from all over the world. She is the author of the very successful ABeCedarios: Mexican Folk Art ABCs in Spanish and English, the first book of her Folk Art for Teaching Kids series, and of Ten Mice for Tet (Chronicle Books, 2003). She lives in New York City.

Awards and Accomodations

Library Media Connection Editor's Choice Award / Spanish Language or Bilingual
Blue Ribbon Books of 2009, Bulletin of the Center for ChildrenÍs Books at the University of Illinois in Champaign

11 reviews for Opuestos

  1. Chicago Tribune
    It’s hard to take one’s eyes off this book, the wood sculptures are so appealing, so re-readings are probable. —Mary Harris Russell

  2. Publishers Weekly
    This bilingual companion to the alphabet book ABeCedarios also features images of Oaxacan sculptures (albeit from a different group of artists), but instead focuses on opposites. Wood statues of various animals face each other on each spread, colored with bright spots and stripes and set against equally vivid backgrounds. In a nod to Aesop, an orange hare (“Fast / Rápido”) is seen across from a turtle (“Slow / Lenta”), while a spotted dog and a black wolf both sit beside chalky images of the sun and moon to demonstrate day and night. Direct and charming.

  3. Kirkus Reviews
    This second work by one of the authors of ABeCedarios (2007) follows its predecessor’s highly praised concept and design. Pages on the left side introduce children to a word in English and Spanish, as pages on the right side present its opposite: Asleep/Dormido (a spotted dog snoozes)/AwakeDespierto (the same dog, eyes wide open and tail sticking up).

    Concepts are illustrated with photographs of unique hand-painted animal carvings created individually by Oaxacan artists Quirino and Martin Santiago. The contrast between the text colors and the bright background combines with the imaginary dialogue that children can establish with the vivacious folk-art figures to make this bilingual edition another outstanding entry in the First Concepts with Mexican Folk Art series. On some pages an external element-a sun or a moon, for instance-expands on such concepts as Day/Día and Night/Noche.

    A great selection for bilingual storytimes at preschools, elementary schools and public libraries. As a work of art, its display will enhance art exhibits and cultural programs as part of Hispanic Heritage Month or Children’s Day/Book Day celebrations.

  4. School Library Journal
    Oaxacan folk art in the form of hand-carved wood sculptures abounds in this bilingual concept book about opposites. Contrasting concepts include inside and outside, high and low, and left and right, to name a few. At the turn of each page, readers see brightly painted wood characters set against equally vibrantly colored background pages that effortlessly convey the concept the author sets out to teach. On each spread, the English and Spanish words for a single concept face the opposing concept. This attractive volume conveys the concept in a unique and inviting fashion and provides youngsters with an introduction to some Mexican art in the process.

  5. Midwest Book Review
    Opuestos: Mexican Folk Art Opposites in English and Spanish by Cynthia Weill (beautifully illustrated with wood sculptures from Oaxaca by Quirino and Martin Santiago) is a charming educational book that teaches opposites through pictures of colorful Oaxacan animal wood carvings.

    Each page presents a carefully photographed figure or figures to illustrate the opposite concept, which is a word written in both English and Spanish. Humorous animal expressions and brilliant use of color and detail heighten the impact of each page.

    Opuestos is cultural immersion education philosophy at its most creative level. Designed for preschool to kindergarten age levels, Opuestos will appeal to a wide variety of interests and tastes.

  6. San Antonio Express News
    A is for apple. Scratch that. Armadillo. That’s pronounced ar-ma-dee-yo in a set of vibrant books that use Mexican folk art to teach basic concepts of Spanish. The first book, AbeCedarios, published in 2007 by Cinco Puntos Press, focuses on the alphabet. Each letter is represented by an animal carved and painted by the Jiménez family of Oaxaca. In the process, English speakers can learn, for example, that P is for penguin, or el pingüino. —Steve Bennett

  7. Picnic Basket (A teacher and librarian forum. Check out all their glowing reviews of Opuestos)
    It is a beautiful little book and I loved flipping through the pages. I would recommend the book to all ages. I teach 5th grade and my students LOVED looking through it! A definite 5 out of 5 and a great multicultural addition to the class library! —Susan Appleton

  8. Tucson Citizen
    In this sequel to ABeCedarios, the first title in the First Concepts in Mexican Folk Art series, figures made from the wood of the flowering jacaranda tree are used as bilingual teaching tools. —Larry Cox

  9. Dwight Englewood School
    An art historian and Mexican folk art aficionada, this clever and highly creative D-E middle school faculty member came up with the notion of using the delicate carvings of Oaxacan artisans to teach early readers basic concepts; the end product, OPUESTOS, is a win/win for children and the Mexican artisans whose work she seeks to celebrate and promote.

    “OPUESTOS means opposites—right and left, up and down, asleep and awake,” says Cynthia, who explains that she traveled to La Union Tejalapan to collect work from brothers Quirino and Martin Santiago and others to illustrate the opposites that kids — and adults — experience in their every day lives. “I was fascinated by the whimsical carved alebrijes and instinctively knew children would be too; these colorful carvings have the power to delight both the new learner and the collector of Mexican folk art,” says the author.

    OPUESTOS is not the first time that Cynthia has used Mexican folk art to engage early readers; the first book in her “First Concepts in Mexican Folk Art” series, AbeCedarios: Mexican Folk Art ABCs in Spanish and English, featured magical hand-carved animals created by artisans from the town of Arrazola to represent the Spanish and English alphabets. It drew rave reviews as a colorful and inventive way to teach young children their ABCs.

    Cynthia says her love of Mexican folk art began more than a decade ago when she taught in Mexico City courtesy of the Fulbright exchange. Today, she says crafts are an economic lifeline for many Oaxacans, and she’s proud and delighted to have found an educational use for the work.

    “Ideally, my books will help promote the sustainability of the craft and aid in the overall economic well being of the artisans,” she says.

  10. Library Media Connection
    This exuberant bilingual book actually makes use of chunking, the cognitive learning theory that groups separate pieces of information into connected units to improve retention. Whimsical creatures carved by artisans in the Mexican state of Oaxaca demonstrate the meanings of each pair of opposites in Spanish and English. The pages are brightly colored with large easy-to-read print. The creatures, ranging from dogs and bulls to a moth, are cheerfully painted. The last page of the book shows a picture of the author with artisans from Oaxaca, which lends a sense of respect for the art that gives life to the words. Though this book clearly target the youngest of audiences, it could easily be used in a Spanish language classroom to teach vocabulary in a manner which would actually stick with the students. This book could also be used in an art class unit about folk art. This is the second in the series: the first was ABeCedarios. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

  11. De Colores: The Raza Experience in Books for Children
    Opuestos: Mexican Folk Art Opposites in English and Spanish depicts contrasting concepts on opposing pages (“asleep / dormido” and “awake / despierto”), sometimes depicting the same animal (“inside / adentro” and “outside / afuera” the frame) and sometimes showing a different animal or insect: The opposing concepts “high / alto” and “low / bajo,” show a butterfly on the upper left corner of the left page, while a dog, on the center of the right page, looks hungrily up at it; in another spread, two almost identical dogs, one with a “long / larga” tail faces one with a “short / corta” tail. —Beverly Slapin

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