One thing I’ve known for a long time about being a mom is that I wanted my child to be exposed to multicultural picture books while growing up. If I was going to raise my child in a predominantly majority culture area, I wanted her or him (turns out he’s a him!) to be exposed to minority cultures. If we were living in a more culturally diverse area, I would want his books to reflect that. Now, I’ve made some progress in this area, but Daniel’s library is not nearly where I want it to be. It was partly in this spirit of diversification that I agreed to review “Rene Has Two Last Names.”
Rene was born in El Salvador where he reveled in the family history encompassed by his last names, Colato from his father, and Lainez from his mother. Each name brought to mind one side of his family, with all the things they meant to him. However, Rene is now living in the United States and is attending a new school, where his teacher calls him only Rene Colato, leaving off the Lainez. When he tries to add Lainez to his name tag, he is teased by the other children on the playground, who tell him “your name is longer than an anaconda.” Finally, Rene’s teacher gives the class an assignment to present a family tree and Rene has the opportunity to teach them all about what his last names mean to him.
I really enjoyed this picture book. The pictures are cute, visually interesting. I love that the class is made up of children of various ethnicities. I also enjoyed the story. The thing I liked the most was the story’s simplicity. This wasn’t some over the top story trying to teach white children about Latino children, it was simply the story of a little boy and his family, the little boy just happened to be from El Salvador.