[review + giveaway] Bookjoy, Wordjoy by Pat Mora and Raul Colón

If ever there was a book that wholly lived up to the promise of its title, Bookjoy, Wordjoy by Pat Mora and Raul Colón (Lee and Low, 2018) is certainly it.

Every bit of this ebullient fourteen poem collection is pure, unabashed, glorious, spirit-lifting joy. Celebrating the rewards and pleasures of reading and sharing good books, as well as exercising one’s creative muscle to write original poems, it’s the perfect way to get kids excited about the wonder, beauty, and infinite possibilities of words.

Bookworms, word collectors, library lovers, literacy advocates, and budding poets will find much to love in Mora’s lyrical, open-hearted poems and Colón’s stunning, beautifully rendered illustrations. This is the third collaboration by this esteemed, multi-award winning Latinx team (Tomás and the Library Lady, Doña Flor: A Tall Tale About a Giant Woman with a Great Big Heart), and they’re in perfect sync here.

I confess Mora had me with her opening poem — a simple declaration of how vital and nourishing books can be:


We belong
books and me,
like toast and jelly
o queso y tortillas.
Delicious! ¡Delicioso!
Like flowers and bees,
birds and trees,
books and me.

Writing mostly in free verse with generous use of plucky diction, alliteration, onomatopoeia, and lively rhythms, she makes us want to visit the library (“a treasure house that’s free,” where once we open “the magic door,” we are free to “explore galore”); and revel in the cross fertilization of art forms like painting, singing, dancing, writing (“I create a great green parrot and me/singing and sashaying down a yellow street”).

In “Who’s Inside?” Mora challenges readers to look within for writing inspiration, to invoke their spirit animals:

Are you a lumbering bear inside, un oso,
shoving your big ole paw
into a honey hive and licking that gold
sweetness with your thick tongue?

.   .   .

With your magic wand, draw
your inside self, write
your inside poem, the song
of a bear, a cheetah, an eagle, a giraffe;

Mora also emphasizes that each of us possesses a unique vision. In “Writing Secrets” she encourages drawing on everyday specifics (“pictures you carry inside,” “your hobbies and pets,” “a splash in a pool”); engaging in full out creative wordplay by doodling, daydreaming, and imagining; and above all, remembering that “Writers begin again and again.”

I love how she seamlessly incorporates Spanish words and phrases in several poems, and the sheer musicality of her verses. Two poems in particular will get pulses racing and toes tapping: “Jazzy Duet/Dueto de jazz invites us to play with sounds, improvise, and “Slide into a river of music,” with English and Spanish phrases playing off each other in catchy, melodious riffs:

a duet

un dueto

with tree’s leafy rhyme,

con la frondosa rima del árbol,

with cricket’s castanet clicks,

con las castañuelas del grillo,

with coyote’s moon croon,

con la copla lunar del coyote.

I know what you’re thinking: you love “cricket’s castanet clicks” and “coyote’s moon croon,” right? And who doesn’t appreciate learning some Spanish via context? Win-win.

The other toe tapper is “¡Bravo! Hip-hop Book Day!” I’ll let you discover that one for yourself (read, rap, roar!). Suffice to say, it begs performance.

A word about Colón’s gorgeous art, which was inspired by Mexican muralists (particularly Rufino Tamayo). He captured the energy and heartbeat of each poem using a palette of dreamy blues and rich, warm earth tones. The illustrations were created with layers of blended colored pencil over watercolor on textured paper, enhanced with his signature etchings applied with a “scratcher.”

Some of his multiethnic figures levitate with happiness — free-floating, long limbed enthusiasts wholly enamored of the written word, the creative process, and the liberating feeling of exploring new worlds via books. Besides adding texture and definition, his etchings convey movement and fluidity, inviting us to enter each scene to experience the joy.

And need I mention how I swooned over his hand drawn letters? They appear in three illustrations (yes, I craved more) — like a gift within a gift. 🙂

In a word, artjoy.

Today I’m happy to share three additional poems in their entirety. Cool words! Tea and cookies! Fishing for sparkling stars! What’s not to love? 🙂



All day, I collect words,
words that move, like wiggle,
glowing words, candle,
drifting words, butterfly,
singing words, ding-dong.

I collect words that make me smile, like tiny,
that fill my mouth, bubble and bumblebee,
that float along, river,
that have a brown scent, cinnamon,
that sweetly stretch, car-a-mel.

I collect short, hard words, like brick,
soft words, lullaby,
cozy words, snug,
funny words, rambunctious,
scary words, sssssssssssssnake,
jumpy words, hic-cup,
big words, onomatopoeiaoink, oink.

I whisper, say, shout,

write, and sing my words.

What words will you collect today?




Cita and I like cookies,
Cita and I like tea.

Cito and I like whistling,
and inventing chocolate recipes.

The three of us like spying
a bunny under a pine tree.

The three of us like lizards
and yellow columbine.

I like to read us stories.
I sit in the middle of us three,

but best of all, best of all, best of all,
I like Cita and Cito to hug me!

We are the hugging three.




We can read, you and I
see letters become words
and words become books
we hold in our hands.

We hear whispers
and roaring rivers in the pages,
bears singing
happy tunes to the moon.

We enter spooky gray castles,
and in our hands, flowering trees climb
to the clouds. Bold girls fly;
boys fish for sparkling stars.

You and I read, round and round,
bookjoy around the world.


Enjoy this video of Pat reading “Collecting Words.”



written by Pat Mora
illustrated by Raul Colón
published by Lee and Low Books, August 2018
Poetry Picture Book for ages 6-9, 32 pp.
Cool Themes: Childhood Experiences and Memories, Cultural Diversity, Diversity, Education, Imagination, Multiethnic interest, Poetry
*Starred Review” from Booklist

♥️ Read this interview with both Pat and Raul at Lee and Low’s blog, The Open Book.



We are happy to offer a brand new copy of Bookjoy, Wordjoy for one lucky Alphabet Soup reader. For a chance to win, simply leave a comment at this post mentioning five of your favorite words, no later than midnight (EST), Wednesday, October 3, 2018. You may also enter by sending an email with “BOOKJOY” in the subject line to: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot) com. Giveaway open to U.S. residents only, please. Good luck!


The lovely and talented Jone MacCulloch is hosting the Roundup at DeoWriter. Waltz on over to check out the full menu of poetic goodness being shared in the blogosphere this week. Happy Weekend!


* Interior spreads posted by permission of the publisher, text copyright © 2018 Pat Mora, illustrations © 2018 Raul Colón, published by Lee and Low Books. All rights reserved.

** This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. When you purchase something using a link on this site, Jama’s Alphabet Soup receives a tiny referral fee at no cost to you. Thank you for your support!

Copyright © 2018 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

55 thoughts on “[review + giveaway] Bookjoy, Wordjoy by Pat Mora and Raul Colón

  1. I love this book. Pat’s books were very popular in the library where I worked in the Bronx, especially in April, National Poetry Month! Five words I love are 1. Mangia eating like an Italian; 2. Ora or pray in Latin, because we all need prayer; 3. Sincere, the art of being yourself; 4. Pizza, just because; 5. Grandchildren, I have four. Thanks for sharing with us, Jama.

    I pray, Ora, to the powers that be
    For my four grandchildren
    Jack, Juliet, Ava and Roman
    That they be sincere,
    In their love of Bronx pizza
    As they say in Napoli, Mangia!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the lovely comment, Joanne. Love your words and poem! I like picturing you eating pizza with your grandkids. Mangia is my favorite Italian word . . .


  2. Poems just for me and you today! Love the simple poems in this book. Convey all the warm and comfort I find when I read. Enjoy all the homecoming festivities this weekend and get some relaxation time in.

    My friend Joan went back in the hospital with a kidney stone on Sunday night by came back home yesterday. Her back issues seem to be mending very well but due to a long year of taking care of Hayden and George and then George’s death, she has neglected her own health and there are various issues that are long overdue for attention. I am sure you and your mom know how it is. However, I am quite happy to not worry about hospital issues for her at the moment. I am actually looking forward to cleaning my house again and wallowing in the comfort of my home tonight.

    Have a great weekend!


    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have read the book and a favorite poem is that “Collecting Words”, & Raul Colon’s illustrations are fabulous, too. Favorite words: mizzle, serendipity, periwinkle, love & books (of course!). Thanks Jama for a delightful review.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow–this looks gorgeous!! That art is just stunning!!

    It’s so hard to pick five favorite words, but here goes:

    Skedaddle–love the energy & feel of it

    Gekkering–a sound that foxes make

    The sound of mellifluous

    Cephalopod–because they’re cool

    Cantankerous–because its’ fun to say aloud 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, what wonderful, chewy, fun words, Maria. Gekkering is new to me — so thanks especially for that one, since we have a lot of foxes around here. Now I’m curious what gekkering actually sounds like (their hoarse “bark” or something else?).


  5. Thanks for giving us an inside look at the poems in Bookjoy. Digging the illustrations too, they look like they have a velvety feel to them! Alas I’m not in the U.S. but good luck to the other contest goers 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mora and Colon are a fabulous team — love all three of their collaborations. Check out IMAGINE, Raul’s latest solo book — gorgeous!!


    1. Zigzagging is such a great word. All your words are such fun to say aloud. I imagine I’ll use scuttling more in coming days to describe the dry leaves on our driveway . . .


  6. “I know what you’re thinking: you love “cricket’s castanet clicks” and “coyote’s moon croon,” right?” Yup. You read my mind, Jama. 😀 Thanks for the peek today. Such a beautiful book in art and words— and speaking of words. Here are five from the favorite word list I keep on my phone: curmudgeon, flabbergasted, snuggle, chrysalis, kindness.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ooh, I need to keep a word list on my phone too! Great idea. 🙂 I do love kindness and snuggle. Curmudgeon is a good one, too — made me think of the picture book C.R. Mudgeon by Leslie Muir and Julian Hector.


  7. oh i am still taken by the first poem – books & me like toast and jelly. it just touches my soul for some reason. it is just that reading and books to me are about sonance, safety, insight, wisdom, and love. I know you didn’t say the words should be about words but that is just what was coming up for me after reading your post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, she had me at toast and jelly — so basic, likes books are a given, a life giver, like air and water. Thanks for sharing your good words. 🙂


  8. You are so right — this book is the perfect combination of words, pictures, and a topic we all love! For my five words, I’ll pick from this post: sashay, castanet, columbine, CHOCOLATE, and bookjoy!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. CHOCOLATE in all caps — you are a person after my own heart (though I already knew that). Castanet isn’t something I use or read too often, but it is definitely a great word. And I do love sashay . . .


  9. I think more adults would read poetry if poems were paired with illustrations by Colon! A fabulous look inside of Bookjoy, Wordjoy. (You can remove my name from the drawing, since I’ve already been a lucky winner!)


  10. Thank you for sharing this delightful, gorgeous book! And yes, you read my mind if you think I want more and more and more of such joyful words and art!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Gobsmacked. That’s not one of my fab five, it’s just how I feel after enjoying this post. What an accessible, gorgeous book – can’t wait to see in person. Somehow that will happen! Thank you for this generous sharing.
    Let’s see, my favorite words change all the time. Today’s… lantana, sparkle, ephemera, persnickity, and crochet. (Among favorite names? Cornelius, of course!!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cornelius has a BIG smile on his face. You know just what to say to cheer him up.

      Great words, Robyn — sparkle makes me smile, crochet reminds me of my mom, persnickety describes me, and I love ephemera. 🙂


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