Nino's Mask is a feast for the eyes and the imagination an action-packed picture book sure to intrigue readers on several different levels. Youngsters will enjoy finding out about Mexico's Fiesta of the Tigre (Jaguar) and learning some Spanish words. Jeanette Winter's art is a lively explosion of color, the perfect introduction to the spirit and culture of Mexico.

The story opens with a village mask-maker who explains that every year the Fiesta of the Tigre is celebrated with masked villagers playing the parts of hunters and dog (the Perro), all trying to capture the Tigre, whose spirit can destroy their crops. Young Nino yearns to join the celebration and wear his own mask, but his parents tell him he must wait until he's older. Undaunted,  Nino manages to wear the wooden mask of the Perro and a wild chase ensues over a high wire, over roofs, up and down hills, with masked festival-goers chasing the Perro and the Tigre. Ultimately,  Nino catches the Tigre, earning the adulation of the villagers, who lift him in the air and chant, "Olé  Nino!" and "Viva  Nino!"

The book's dialogue is set forth in comic-book-style balloons, adding to its easy-going charm. The last page also features a short but helpful glossary of the Spanish words used in the story, and a few details about Mexican masks and traditions. The mask-maker explains that this is a story of "one little boy who discovers the magic of masks," and, indeed, a magical aura envelops all. Jeanette Winter has beautifully blended diverse elements in a seamless, simple way. Her vibrant colors are indeed a Mexican fiesta (amazingly, all were created using felt-tip pens.) Look closely, at the very end, and you'll find a small self-portrait of the author, hidden behind a drawing of one of her own masks. Olé, Jeanette Winter you've created a winner!

 

Alice Cary writes from Groton, Massachusetts.

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