Learn more about CCRLS
Reading recommendations from Novelist
Online learning resources
Cover image for Dear Primo : a letter to my cousin
Dear Primo : a letter to my cousin
Publication Information:
New York : Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2009.
Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 29 cm
Two cousins, one in Mexico and one in New York City, write to each other and learn that even though their daily lives differ, at heart the boys are very similar.


Call Number
E Tonatiuh

On Order



From first-time Mexican author and illustrator Duncan Tonatiuh comes the story of two cousins, one in America and one in Mexico, and how their daily lives are different yet similar. Charlie takes the subway to school; Carlitos rides his bike. Charlie plays in fallen leaves; Carlitos plays among the local cacti. Dear Primo covers the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of two very different childhoods, while also emphasizing how alike Charlie and Carlitos are at heart. Spanish words are scattered among the English text, providing a wonderful way to introduce the language and culture of Mexico to young children.
Inspired by the ancient art of the Mixtecs and other cultures of Mexico, Tonatiuh incorporates their stylized forms into his own artwork.

F&P Level: M
F&P Genre: RF

Author Notes

Duncan Tonatiuh was born in Mexico City and grew up in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. He graduated from Parsons the New School for Design, where he studied writing and illustration. He divides his time between Mexico and New York City. This is his first picture book.

Reviews 5

School Library Journal Review

K-Gr 3-Tonatiuh compares and contrasts the daily lives of two cousins, or primos. Charlie is American, and Carlitos is Mexican. Charlie enjoys a slice of pizza after school, while Carlitos helps his mother make quesadillas. Charlie cools off in an open fire hydrant, while Carlitos jumps into a small rio. The writing is simple yet peppered with imagery that enhances it significantly: "Skyscrapers are buildings so tall they tickle the clouds" or "The subway is like a long metal snake and it travels through tunnels underground." Twenty-seven Spanish words are sprinkled throughout the text, easily understood from the context and explained in a glossary. Tonatiuh's hand-drawn, then digitally colored and collaged illustrations were influenced by the art of the Mixtecs, one of the major civilizations of Mesoamerica. While the pictures are attractive and carefully composed, one small problem might be that all the faces, young or old, male or female, are identical-only their hairstyles change, and at no time do any of the characters make eye contact. This accurately reflects Mixtec tradition, but may be a bit disconcerting for children unless put into context. Otherwise, this is an excellent tool for explaining how cultures connect.-Grace Oliff, Ann Blanche Smith School, Hillsdale, NJ (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publisher's Weekly Review

Carlitos lives in Mexico and his cousin Charlie lives in an American city. Though they have never met, they compare their daily routines through letters. "Every morning I ride my bicicleta to school," Carlitos writes. Charlie takes the subway, which he compares to "a long metal snake." Tonatiuh draws from ancient Mexican art for his collages-always shown in profile, Carlitos and Charlie have oversize hands and feet and stylized facial features, almost like stone statues-while skyscrapers and graffiti provide modern flair. It's a subtly reflective story about friendship and commonalities. Ages 4-8. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Horn Book Review

Two cousins, one in Mexico and the other in America, write letters to each other about their everyday lives. Facing pages demonstrate how their cultural differences are far less important than their commonalities. Take the boys' favorite foods, for example: it's quesadillas for Carlitos and pizza for Charlie. Side-by-side illustrations show similar images: both boys seated, with food in hand. A clever, well-executed conceit. (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.

Kirkus Review

In a story based on the author's childhood experiences, two cousins, Charlie and Carlitos, exchange letters. Charlie lives in the United States; his primo Carlitos lives in Mexico. They both write about the friends, games, foods, fiestas and holidays they know. Like the characters in "The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse," their lives are very different. But readers will discover that there are more than differences. There is something that unifies them: They both wish to meet each other someday. What sets this title apart are Tonatiuh's outstanding full-page illustrations, reminiscent of the aesthetic and style of the Mixtec codices. His clever use of colors, Mayan blue and Indian red for the Mexican setting and a variety of grays, blacks and browns mixed with bright colors for the U.S. urban scenes, the varying typefaces used on each side of the story and the inclusion of Spanish terms in Carlitos's letter all contribute to differentiate both cultural experiences but make them at the same time positive, attractive and special. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-8) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

This spin on the traditional tale of a city mouse and a country mouse explores the lives of Charlie, in urban America, and his cousin Carlitos, who lives in Mexico's countryside. As the two boys write snail-mail back and forth, they describe their respective homes (an apartment for Charlie, a farm for Carlitos), methods of transportation, favorite sports, food, and cultural traditions. The alternating letters are printed in distinct fonts, and Carlitos' messages integrate Spanish words, which are then helpfully duplicated next to a corresponding image and included with pronunciations in the appended glossary. The digitally enhanced collage illustrations are based on traditional Mixtec art, and show the characters posed in profile in simply composed scenes. This useful method of comparing and contrasting can serve as a fine general introduction to contemporary rural life in Mexico, while it also demonstrates the fun of having a pen pal and reinforces the sense that kids around the world are more alike than different.--Medlar, Andrew Copyright 2010 Booklist