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Home | LS5603 Children's and YA Literature | LS6643 Nonfiction for Children and YA
Barrio: Jose's Neighborhood

Barrio 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 father, and Ancona's attention to small details like the fact that José's mother 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 Ancona access.

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  Accessed 24 March 2005.

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