Skippyjon Jones and its sequels, by Judy Schachner. Puffin, since 2005.
Dr. V’s take:
So, look. Schools and children’s libraries love these books. And, like, I get it. The prose is ridiculously amusing to read; Schachner packs the alliteration, slant rhyme, and nonsense into every line so that the cadence has a Dr. Seuss-like infectiousness. And the protagonist is adorable! He’s a teeny tiny kitty! Who thinks he’s a ferocious dog! That’s so cute!
Less cute is the fact that these books are racist AF.
Because it’s not just that Skippyjon thinks he’s a dog. No. He thinks he’s a Chihuahua, specifically.
You guys see where this is going, right?
Since Skippyjon thinks he’s a Chihuahua, much of the books’ dialogue sounds like it was written for the Taco Bell dog of yore. Often, Skippyjon just adds –ito to the end of words, because Spanish. And he and his Chihuahua friends are obsessed with frijoles, or beans. Because Mexican.
“But I know this one Mexican kid and they liked it! So I guess you’re just a REVERSE RACIST!!”
Ok, you know what? Cool. I’m happy for you, and I am genuinely happy for that hypothetical kid you probably definitely know super well, because these books have been read in a lot of schools, and I sincerely hope that Spanish-speaking kids throughout the country have been delighted, rather than hurt, by the white-lady Spanglish in Schachner’s books. And like I said, there’s a lot that’s fun about these books.
But for me? If I want to read a book that includes Spanish words, I’ll go check out some of the books listed in Mamiverse’s 50 Latino Children’s Books You Should Know, for example. Schachner’s books, though perhaps the bestselling picture books that “feature” Spanish, are notably absent from the list.