Stories from Mexico/Historias de México : Genevieve Barlow and William N. Stivers

McGraw-Hill’s three collections of Spanish-language folk readings for beginning and intermediate learners have been around for a while: Stories from Mexico, Stories from Latin America, and Stories from Spain. I’ve had my eye on all of them for a couple of months now, but I didn’t actually sit down with any of them until this week…because I received the collection of Mexican tales as a present! I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for short, interesting writings that entertain while boosting your vocabulary.

The collection has sixteen Mexican legends that span almost 1,500 years of that country’s history. Included are stories from the pre-Columbian era through Spanish colonialism and beyond. Most are written using the present, preterite, and imperfect tenses, though an occasional subjunctive mood or complex tense sneaks in here and there. But I don’t think any of them are too difficult or will trip up a beginning reader that much. And like many of this type of book, the English translation is given on the facing page.

There are two things that I particularly like about the collection, which has me excited to read the other two volumes in the series. First off, more difficult or unusual vocabulary is generally mixed in with a load of common words. So instead of reaching for the dictionary every other sentence, I’ve found that I only need to look up about four per page. That leads to a much smoother reading experience, and it helps one more easily piece together meanings from context. The other thing I like is that the stories are all short; they usually run only about two or three pages. So I’ve been able to read a piece a night in bed just before going to sleep. It’s really nice to begin and end a story in one sitting. It makes me more willing to go back and reread again and again later. And the stories are certainly interesting and fun. The first selection, for instance, is about how the moon came to acquire its pockmark-like crater formations…they’re actually rabbit tracks!

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