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Spanish language Book Review: Las puertas retorcidas, by Kathie Dior

Las puertas retorcidas
by Kathie Dior

Rating: *****

Las puertas retorcidas: The Scariest Way in the World to Learn Spanish is a unique book aimed at upper beginning and intermediate students. In fact, it is so unique that it's rather difficult to categorize, because it's all of the following rolled into one:

  • Bilingual book (Spanish-English)
  • Grammar book
  • Audio book

The story relates the mysterious adventures of a girl and boy trapped in a scary house with twisted doors, and is illustrated with three dozen Victorian-like black-and-white illustrations. But there's much more to Las puertas retorcidas than just the story! Each chapter contains the following:

  1. Passage from the book, in Spanish and English
  2. Audio track of the Spanish passage
  3. List of tricky vocabulary
  4. Grammar lesson (mainly verbs and idiomatic expressions)
  5. Grammar quiz
  6. Answers to quiz

The first 12 chapters cover basic Spanish grammar in short, easy passages. From chapter 13 on, the story passages get progressively longer and more difficult, and the grammar lessons are very cleverly incorporated into the story itself. For example, in order to open locked doors, the protagonists have to recite certain vocabulary lists or verb conjugations that were discussed in earlier chapters. In the last chapters of the book, a thorough grammar and vocabulary review is woven into the story. Instructions within each chapter are written in a friendly yet distinctly professorial style. A Spanish-to-English vocabulary list and index completes the book.

On the audio CD, a native Spanish speaker dramatically recites the Spanish with a different voice for each character. The narrator's recitation is clear and fairly slow - intermediate students shouldn't have any trouble understanding.

Although Las puertas retorcidas is written for upper beginning- to intermediate-level students, with a little creative thinking it can be used by just about anyone: absolute beginners can practice listening while following along in the book, to get used to the sound and appearance of Spanish; teachers can use it during story time - listen to a chapter or two, review the grammar, lead a discussion, and then pass out photocopies of the text; etc.

The 150+ page book is available in your choice of a perfect or wire-o binding. The audio CD is just over an hour long and each chapter sits on one track, so it's easy to stop and start again right where you left off. You can hear some samples on this site: Las puertas retorcidas.

Las puertas retorcidas is self-published, so the only way to buy it is directly from the author. To learn more about Dr. Kathie Dior and order the book, please visit the Las puertas retorcidas website (or call 1-877-622-3176 or 1-765-471-2249) - but watch out for twisted doors! :-)


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