Dutton Children’s Books/Penguin 1996 (for ages 6-9)
SUMMARY: Young Clara selects a dog-shaped piñata for her birthday but becomes attached to it, pretending it is a real pet, and doesn’t want to see it broken.
The writing in this story is realistic and well done. The author is able to make us understand how Clara feels when she knows that the dog-shaped piñata she has chosen for her party must soon be stuffed with candy and broken. She has taken the “dog” on her bicycle, into the sandbox, on rides in the car. She’s pretended to feed it and even named it Lucky, as if it were real. Clara’s friend Samson asks why she doesn’t get a real dog and she explains that dogs and cats make her mother sneeze. So Samson buys her an early present for her birthday, a huge thundercloud piñata so that she can keep “Lucky,” and really enjoy her party.
ILLUSTRATIONS: The illustrator of this book really went all out! Each page is a kaleidoscope of colors, from street vendors with fruits and bottles of juice and pizza and ice cream, to flashing lighted signs over shopkeepers’ doors. There are multi-colored flowers, houses, lights strung festively over bridges, and a multi-racial community in colorful clothes. At the end of the story, when the huge thundercloud piñata bursts open and sprays candies everywhere, you won’t be able to help but smile; it is an exciting, exultant culmination to this story!
1). The history of piñatas is fascinating. Piñatas were used first in Italy 500 years ago where they were made out of pineapple shaped pots called pignatte. They soon became popular in Spain and then in Mexico, where they are made in the shapes of animals, stars, and birds covered with bright paper and feathers. Explore the history of piñatas with your children or with your students, making sure to have your globe close at hand so the children can have fun finding the countries and cities associated with piñata history.
2). Borrow a book from the library on how to make piñatas. Help the children make a simple but large piñata out of papier-mâché, or, using birthday balloons for this project, allow each child to make his very own small piñata. Make sure you have plenty of brilliant tissue paper scallops, streamers, buttons, craft feathers, paint, and ruffles so the children have plenty of supplies with which to get creative! Fill the piñatas with candy, and have a party!
3). Ask the children if they ever had a toy that they thought was real. Have them talk about this, or write about it (depending on their age).
by Jean Foster Akin