Ancona, George. 1998. Barrio:
José's neighborhood. San Diego: Harcourt Brace and
Company. ISBN: 0152010491.
Using the life experiences of an actual child living in the barrio of
San Francisco, George Ancona gives readers a glimpse into life in this
unique neighborhood. Ancona touches on many subjects, such as the
history of the neighborhood, everyday life, and traditional
celebrations in the Hispanic culture.
The author uses a straightforward style and writes respectfully about
the ways and traditions of the people of the barrio. Ancona presents a
balanced text that shows ways in which José's life is like that
of every little boy in America and also ways in which it is very
different because of his culture and surroundings. Children will
particularly identify with José's daily routine at school. For
example, Ancona writes, "Like kids everywhere, José and his
schoolmates climb the jungle gym and play games during recess."
(Ancona, unpaged) Along with everyday activities and traditional
celebrations, Ancona also includes harsh realities about life in the
barrio, such as AIDS, issues of illegal immigration, and street gangs.
Ancona's closeness to his subjects allows the reader to feel how
authentic and real this photo-essay is. Ancona shares brief snippets of
conversation from his time with the family in both English and Spanish,
just as they speak in their home. Quotes such as "They don't make
piñatas like they used to," (Ancona, unpaged) by José's
Ancona's attention to small details like the fact that José's
eats after everyone else has finished make this more personal than just
a book about the history of the barrio.
As powerful as Ancona's words are his pictures of the barrio. Vibrant
color photographs take up much of the space of each double page spread.
Photos that are both posed and candid portray each aspect of the text.
The access granted to Ancona by José's family, school, and
neighborhood allow for an in-depth portrait. Sherman states in
her review, "Ancona's trademark photographs are clear and bright and
beautifully capture the many flavors and colors of the barrio." The
relatively short text on each page is printed in a large serif font.
Although some pages have more text than others, each page is dominated
by the large eye-appealing pictures.
The final page of the book is a glossary titled "Some Words Used in the
Barrio," and it includes both Spanish and English words used in the
text. The definitions are clear and simple. Spanish words are presented
in italics in both the text and the glossary. The
cataloging-in-publication page includes an acknowlegment of the artists
who created the murals shown in the pictures throughout the book. It
gives the name of each mural and the artist(s). There is also a long
list of "Thank You's" on the CIP page to all in the barrio who allowed
This book will be a valuable addition to any collection. It has
relevance to many areas of study, such as cultures, traditions, family
life or simply light reading.
Sherman, Dina. 1998. Preschool to grade 4: Nonfiction. School Library Journal 44(12). In
EBSCOHost (database online). Available
from http://search.epnet.com/login.asp. Accessed 24 March 2005.