Isabel and her Colores Go to School

English, with its blustery blues and whites, just feels wrong to Isabel. She prefers the warm oranges and pinks of Spanish. As she prepares for class at a new school, she knows she's going to have to learn--and she would rather not! Her first day is uncomfortable, until she discovers there's more than one way to communicate with friends. This is a universal story about feeling new and making new friends.

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$16.99 $16.99
$28.99 $28.99
Interest Level Kindergarten - Grade 3
Reading Level Grade 1
Dewey E
Lexile AD540L
ATOS Reading Level 2.7
Guided Reading Level S
Language English, Spanish
Publisher Sleeping Bear Press
Available Formats Hardcover (9781534110632), PDF (9781534192263), Hosted ebook (9781534192386)
Copyright 2021
Number of Pages 40
Dimensions 9 x 11
Graphics Full-color illustrations

School Library Connection - Isabel and Her Colores Go to School

This endearing first day of school story will be enjoyed by primary teachers, ESL teachers, and school librarians. Isabel loves to color. She even visualizes Spanish and English in different colors as they are spoken. Isabel is afraid to go to school because the colors of Spanish and English clash and she is fearful that she will not understand what others are saying. Her Mami tells her it is okay to be scared and tells her ″to bad times, have a good face.” As Isabel’s first day progresses, she decides she really doesn’t like school, especially since she doesn’t understand the word “friend.” Happily, after lunch, there is coloring time, her favorite activity. Isabel draws a picture of herself and Sarah, a girl who tried to make friends with her earlier. Sarah and Isabel both giggle as they realize “amigas” and “friends” have the same meaning. This provides a very satisfactory ending. This book is written in both English and Spanish, so children can read or listen to the text in either. Definitions for unfamiliar terms are placed throughout and illustrations are vibrant, colorful, and comforting. Author and illustrator do an excellent job of describing art and colors as a language of their own that everyone can understand regardless of their native tongue. There is a Spanish to English translation of salient words at the end of the story. This book will be a welcome addition to any school library, especially for those who have a high population of students who are not fluent in English.

School Library Journal - Isabel and Her Colores Go to School (Starred Review)

School Library Journal Starred Review!

Rojo, verde, azul, rosado, morado, violeta. Spanish-speaking Isabel, with brown skin and curly hair, loves coloring with her favorite crayons. What she does not like is that tomorrow is her first day of school where everyone will speak English. To Isabel, it “sounded wrong, like stormy blues and blizzard whites. Isabel preferred the pinks and yellows and purples” of her own language. Mami, also with brown skin and curly hair, drives Isabel to school where her racially diverse class begins the day with stretches. Her classmates stretch counting “one, two, three,” while Isabel counts “uno, dos, tres.” At story time, a Black girl named Sarah asks Isabel if she wants to be friends. Isabel does not understand the question, but at coloring time, with its familiar and comforting hues, she draws a picture for Sarah, visually explaining that she indeed wants to be friends. Dawson’s warm and radiant illustrations pulse with color as flowers and swirls weave through the backgrounds. This first day of school story beautifully serves as a mirror for children learning English and as a window into their experience for their classmates. Spanish words and phrases are sprinkled throughout the text with full Spanish translations on each spread. Back matter includes a glossary.

VERDICT A bilingual story sure to resonate with ELL students and instill empathy in their classmates.

Publishers Weekly - Isabel and Her Colores Go to School

In this bilingual picture book, Isabel, a tan-skinned Latinx child who loves coloring, feels prepared for the first day of school, except for one thing: “Isabel didn’t speak much inglés./ English sounded wrong, like/ stormy blues and blizzard whites. Isabel preferred the pinks/ and yellows and purples of español.” Once there, Isabel suffers a few language blunders and misunderstandings, including unintentionally declining proffered friendship from Black classmate Sarah—until a coloring session turns the day around. Alessandri melds Spanish and English in a narration filled with varying color words, and bubbles on each page offer the corresponding text entirely in Spanish. Dawson’s expressive digital art emphasizes the big-eyed characters’ emotions amid a classroom of students with differing skin tones. This synesthesia-inflected tale helps teach colors while simultaneously buoying those nervous about language barriers. Back matter includes a Spanish-English glossary.

Booklist - Isabel and Her Colores Go to School

“Isabel, with a halo of corkscrew curls, is nervous about going to her new school for the usual reasons, but especially because she’s worried she doesn’t know enough English. On her first day, she does her best to follow along, but making friends can be tricky without a shared language. Alessandri and Dawson fill the book with colors, both visually and in the words, which helpfully signal the emotions that Isabel, who loves to draw with an expansive palette, experiences over the course of the day. Her love of drawing helps her cross over the language barrier, too, when class coloring time gives her an opportunity to show her new classmates how she feels—and to make a friend. Spanish is neatly woven throughout the story, with the full text in Spanish included in insets on each page spread. The bold artwork features an appropriately vast palette of colors and folk art–like design elements, which helps convey Isabel’s artistic character. Pleasantly rounded characters add to the welcoming atmosphere, as does the message that art can bridge divides.”

Kirkus Reviews - Isabel and Her Colores Go to School

Isabel is anxious about her first day at Honeytree Elementary. Isabel speaks Spanish and doesn’t understand much English—she is scared of everything that could go wrong. Mami encourages her to be brave, and Isabel joins the class even though the swirl of language in her new classroom sounds harsh to her ears. Isabel compares the sound of English to the cold and stormy hues of her blue and white crayons, and Spanish to the more inviting pinks, yellows, and purples. A friendly student welcomes Isabel, but they have a hard time connecting across their language differences. Coloring time brings Isabel comfort and the realization that she might have a strategy for talking to her new friend that doesn’t require language at all. Isabel finds hope, and across the English that surrounds her begins to sound less intimidating. Spanish words punctuate the English narrative throughout, and the full text of the story in Spanish is included on each page in a bright box. True to the title of the book, the pages are filled with colorful and inviting illustrations. Isabel and Mami have brown skin and curly hair, and her new friend presents Black; Isabel’s teacher and other classmates are racially diverse. This story affirms the experiences of English language learners while encouraging empathy for others. Readers will root for Isabel and her colorful new beginning.

Isabel and Her Colores Go to School - Teaching Guide

Teaching Guide to accompany the book Isabel and Her Colores Go to School View →

Isabel and Her Colores Go to School - Activity Page

Activity Pages to accompany the book Isabel and Her Colores Go to School. View →

Author: Alexandra Alessandri

Alexandra Alessandri is a Colombian American poet, children’s author, and associate professor of English at Broward College. She lives in Miami, Florida, with her family.

Illustrator: Courtney Dawson

Author/Illustrator biography
Glossary of key words
Original artwork
Full-color illustrations