Book Giveaway: Tuesday Giveaways!

Good morning, everyone!

As you may have realized, I have been posting every Tuesday about books you can win simply by reading and commenting on the post!  This series of Tuesday Giveaways, made possible by Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy, is nine weeks long and truly offers something for every one of our readers!

Vamos a Leer | Tuesday Giveaways!

Some of the books are bilingual or have Spanish and English versions. Some are accompanied by an audio recording of the author’s reading of the stories or sing-along music. Not to mention that the books span a variety of age groups.  Here’s the schedule you can look forward to:

  1. September 8: Gathering the Sun: An Alphabet in Spanish and English, ¡Extra! ¡Extra! Noticias del Bosque Escondido, Ten Little Puppies/Diez perritos (Congratulations to Reina!)
  2. September 15: Vivir en dos idiomas and Yes! We are Latinos/¡Sí! Somos Latinos (Congratulations to Blanca!)
  3. September 22: Dancing Home/Nacer bailando (Congratulations to Emily!)
  4. September 29: Me llamo María Isabel/ My Name is María Isabel (happening now!)
  5. October 6: The Malachite Palace, Jordi’s Star, The Unicorn of the West, AND Alma Flor’s Narration of Them (CD)
  6. October 13: The Gold Coin AND Alma Flor’s Narration (CD)
  7. October 20: Arrullos de la sirena, The Rooster who went to his Uncle’s Wedding, The Three Golden Oranges, The Lizard and the Sun/La lagartija y el sol, Rosa Raposa
  8. October 27: Tales our Abuelitas Told/Cuentos que contaban nuestras abuelas
  9. November 24: Merry Navidad!

Each week, all you have to do is comment on the post, letting us know how the books could be useful to you either professionally or personally, and you are automatically entered to win!  These are great opportunities to expand your libraries.  We will even ship the materials right to you, at your preferred address!  We hope you’re as excited about this giveaway as we are and we look forward to hearing your comments on each post!

Check out the current giveaway before you go!


Sobre Octubre: Resources on Día de los Muertos, Remembering, and Celebrating

Sobre Octubre: Resources on Día de los Muertos, Remembering, and CelebratingHi, everyone,

I’m here to wrap up our September focus on “Resources to Honor and Understand Latin American Influences,” and introduce you to the themes we’ll be tackling in October: Día de los Muertos, remembering, and celebrating.

Before I talk about our upcoming month, I have to acknowledge that we’re still smack dab in the middle of Hispanic Heritage Month (HHM), and here at Vamos a Leer remain caught in a love-hate relationship with it.  Even while HHM promotes the discussion about Latin@/Hispanic culture, it minimizes the conversation to stereotypes and relegates the information to one month out of the year, effectively communicating to students that Latin@/Hispanic heritage offers a “break” from the real curriculum; it’s apart from authenticate knowledge. There are many, many reasons why this is problematic. Katrina has discussed some of them on the blog, joining other educators such as Enid Lee and Deborah Menkart who advocate for a “beyond heroes and holidays” approach to education. In short, she’s advocated for a classroom where discussions of other cultures are not limited to one month out of the year, but instead are integrated meaningfully throughout the curriculum.

But we’re not suggesting dismissing HHM completely. Instead, much like readers who responded to a recent poll on “How do you feel about Hispanic Heritage Month? Tell us” organized by LatinoUSA, we suggest that HHM is “what you make of it.” Let’s use this an opportunity to start (or better, continue!) meaningful conversations about Latin@/Hispanic heritage, but conversations unfettered by the arbitrary dates of Sept. 15 – Oct. 15.

This goal is one we emphasize throughout the entire blog. We do so by drawing attention to resources that are relevant and engaging to students across grade levels and subject areas. Over the next month, that effort translates into content that celebrates and acknowledges the personal histories of our families and communities. For inspiration, we’ll draw on the upcoming Día de los Muertos, a time in which many Latin American/Latin@/Hispanic people pause to remember and celebrate loved ones who have passed away. Even as we look at death through that positive lens, we’ll also look at another form of death and memory by examining the myths and traditions associated with La Llorona — a woman whom history has much maligned and appropriated. As a disclaimer, let us emphasize that we are not conflating the two; Día de los Muertos and La Llorona are linked here only because they both present an opportunity to look at story, history, and memory among families and within communities.

Our Vamos a Leer writers (including our newest contributor, Logan, whom we welcome this week!) will tackle these topics in the following ways:

  • Alice, our children’s book reviewer, will focus on books that explore Día de los Muertos and La Llorona in unique and memorable ways;
  • Charla, the writer behind WWW, will offer ideas for understanding Día de los Muertos in the context of oral histories and storytelling (and the Monarch butterflies’ migration!);
  • Kalyn, author of our recently launched “Reading Roundup” initiative, will highlight outstanding children’s books about Día de los Muertos;
  • Katrina, the educator behind En la Clase, will contribute to the conversation with apropos curricular resources; and
  • Logan, our newest blogger, will be chiming in with information on our next featured book, Enrique’s Journey, an epic and unforgettable non-fiction account of family and community.

Let us know, too, if you have ideas for topics for future months.  Vamos a Leer was created to serve you, so help us out by giving us suggestions for how we can best support your needs as multicultural educators and readers!


Image: Photograph of Día de los Muertos altar. Reprinted from Andrew Rollinger under CC ©.

Book Review: Lost City Radio

Loslcrt City Radio
Written by Da
niel Alarcón
Published by Harper Perennial
ISBN: 0060594810
Age level: Adult

As many of you may know, we are really excited to be reading adult books every other month in the Vamos a Leer book group. Although we love(!) young adult novels, choosing older books allows us to expand our reading list and discussions. These books draw on many of the themes that we discuss for younger readers, but tackle them in more complicated and nuanced narratives. Personally, this serves as our own form of professional development, contributing to our own background knowledge. In the end, these novels can allow us as educators to be more empathetic and understanding as we extend ourselves to really connect with some of the students and issues with whom and which we work.

Our first adult selection, and the book I will be reviewing today, is the 2008 novel Lost City Radio from Peruvian-American writer Daniel Alarcón. I first read Lost City Radio nearly three years ago after I had read his then newly-released novel At Night We Walk in Circles. I think I can speak for many when I say after you read Alarcón for the first time, you don’t stop. Instead, you find his other novel, his short stories, his podcast and his news articles fluttering through some of the most respected spheres on the internet, and you devour them. He is an intoxicating author and writes with such a beautiful simplicity, a created simplicity, that puts the reader directly into an experience and makes reading almost effortless.

Lost City Radio is set in an unnamed capital city in an unnamed Latin American country, and here we encounter Norma, the voice of the unnamed nation. Unlike the magical realism sometimes associated with fictional settings in Latin American literature, this novel is painfully realistic and political. Although set in an unnamed Latin American country, it represents Alarcón’s Peruvian homeland and draws on the country’s history of conflict and civil war. To read more about how Alarcón’s novel responds to history, see the Berkeley Review of Latin American Studies, Spring 2007. In some ways, we can read the novel as an intimate narrative of Peru.

But there’s a bigger landscape behind the novel as a whole. It’s certainly not limited to Peru. I would suggest, even, that the reason this book has been so well received is because of how it speaks universally to war’s aftermath and lingering effects. It resonates, in many ways, all of Latin American history, politics, dictatorship, struggle and collective consciousness. Instead of being about a single place or a history, it is about Latin Americans as a whole and the tragic dictatorships and civil wars that have torn apart so many of their countries.

In an interview with Bookpage, Alarcón admits that the experiences of his own family amid Peru’s civil war formed “the emotional framework of [Lost City Radio]… a somber, moving elegy to all souls similarly erased or displaced by war, poverty or ideology.” In the novel, he imagines a Sunday evening radio show, “Lost City Radio,” which attempts to reunite family members separated during the long and terribly violent civil war that has shaken the country to its very core.  As the Berkeley Review notes, even the “premise for the novel’s call-in radio show…came from a Peruvian program, “Busca Personas” (“In Search of People”), which functioned as a radio bulletin board for the country’s internally displaced and the people who missed them.” In this fiction/non-fiction setting, the novel’s protagonist, Norma, is the voice behind the radio, but she isn’t just the official sound piece for the disappeared and the lost; instead, we find that she is conducting her own search as well, for her husband, who disappeared into the jungle at the tail end of the war, nearly ten years before.

We enter the novel after the war is over, but in a period when the country is irreparably changed. For Norma, she is but a ghost in the capital city, her voice fluttering through the radio waves, searching for the lost, for her lost. The momentum and lamenting tone of the story changes with the arrival of Victor, an eleven year old from the jungle community of 1797 (the government has renamed all cities and villages to numbers) shows up with a list of lost people, including the name of the boy’s father, and one of the secret identities of Norma’s husband, Rey, a college professor turned insurgency supporter. The passages with Victor are important in their own right for the story’s momentum, but they have a particular resonance for us as writers and readers at Vamos a Leer. Here, we see a glimpse into a young person’s life. Although aged by his experiences, Victor is still only eleven and Alarcón, in writing his character, provides us with a glimpse into an experience that is all too familiar in the real world: children lost and displaced in the midst of larger conflicts and war’s endless deaths.

Yet Victor’s narrative is only a piece of the larger story. At the larger scale, the novel unfolds as Alarcón unravels the paths of his cast of survivors. At the beginning, we follow Norma through the capital streets in the urban world she has created for herself since the war ended. Using straightforward, almost removed language, Alarcón normalizes Norma’s experiences in the aftermath of war. Then, with disjunctive writing, he begins to force the reader into the personal terror and struggles of the post-conflict years. As the story progresses, Alarcón masterfully intertwines stories from separate landscapes (rural jungle villages and war-torn urban centers), and embraces more than twenty years and a variety of characters. The narrative structure becomes convoluted; chapters are no longer separated from one time period to the other, or limited to one regional location. As the book continues, sometimes one sentence is locally in the present, while the next one takes place ten years previously and a thousand miles away.

All of this shows Alarcón’s mastery, his ability to put us in a place and rip us out of it all at the same time, to show us that memory is fickle. Readers come to engage with the complications of the post-war civilization in which Norma and the rest of the characters reside. Certain questions come to mind as the novel progresses: What is truth amid so much deception? How can someone survive after such grief? What happens in the vacuum of war? What is community and love when we have been torn apart from one another?

There is much more to be said, but I’ll leave it with that emphasis and invite you to tell us your thoughts. Have you read Lost City Radio? What was your response? Has his hauntingly beautiful writing had a similar impact on you?

If you are interested in looking at what others have had to say about the novel, please see the other reviews below:

Thanks always y nos vemos pronto,

Introduction to New Writer: Logan

¡Buenos días a tod@s!10168167_10204519910572779_396355616523347837_n

I’m Logan and I will be joining you monthly here on the Vamos a Leer Blog as your insider for information on the upcoming adult novels and authors we will be reading for our book group. I come to you from rural Wisconsin, a graduate of the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse, in 2012, where I studied Literature and Creative Writing. Upon graduation, I accepted a nomination to volunteer for the United States Peace Corps in Panama. In Panama I lived in a rural, agriculture-driven community on the Costa Rican border and primarily worked in the sectors of youth development, sexual health education and English education. It was Panama that really got me interested in Latin America and more specifically, Latin American populations. The people I lived and worked with were so open, so sweet, so community-oriented that I was immediately attracted to the idea of studying about and working with Latin Americans, which has brought me to the Latin American & Iberian Institute (LAII) at the University of New Mexico.

As a graduate assistant at the LAII, I primarily work in event promotion and social media and will also be writing book reviews and featured author articles for this blog. I’m really excited to be a part of the blogging team, I know many of the books we will be reading throughout the span of the year are by great authors, some that I have read, and I can only say that it will be a serious pleasure to read, write and talk about them with all of you. As for my studies I’m a first year Master’s student, studying Latin American Studies and concentrating in History and Community Regional Planning. I hope to focus more specifically on social movements in Latin America, rural development and immigration patterns and nonprofit work in the United States (specifically, back in my homeland, the Midwest).

With that, I would like to thank you for reading. I hope you enjoy the work I will be sending out to you, and hope to discuss some of these spectacular works of literature with you in the future!

Mil gracias y mucho gusto.

Book Giveaway: Me llamo María Isabel/My Name is María Isabel

Good afternoon, everyone!

Congratulations to the winner of last week’s giveaway and thank you to all who commented!  TVamos a Leer | Book Giveaway: Me llamo María Isabel/My Name is María Isabelhis week, you can win Alma Flor Ada’s book, Me llamo María Isabel, and the English translation, My Name is María Isabel.  According to Alma Flor’s website, this book tells the story of “María Isabel, a Hispanic child growing up in the U.S., [who] begins having problems in her new classroom when her teacher changes her name to Mary. This compelling portrait of an experience common to many language minority children inspires discussions on self-identity and biculturalism.”  School Library Journal suggests this book for grades three and four.

There is also a lesson plan for this book, which can be accessed from the book’s description on Alma Flor’s website.  The lesson plan includes discussion topics for before reading, during reading, and after reading.  Additionally, the plan includes craft ideas and another brief synopsis of the storyline.  We think this book would make for a great classroom read-aloud and discussion that could help touch on immigration, respect, cultural competence, and self-identity.

Let us know how you can use these books at home or at school by leaving a comment below!  We will contact winners at the end of the week to collect shipping information.

Until next week,


Image: Photo of My Name is María Isabel. Reprinted from Alma Flor’s Website.

Book Giveaway: Enrique’s Journey

Vamos a Leer | Book GiveawayWe’re giving away a copy of Enrique’s Journey written by Sonia Nazario–our featured novel for November book group meeting!! Check out the following from Goodreads:

Enrique’s Journey recounts the unforgettable quest of a Honduran boy looking for his mother, eleven years after she is forced to leave her starving family to find work in the United States. Braving unimaginable peril, often clinging to the sides and tops of freight trains, Enrique travels through hostile worlds full of thugs, bandits, and corrupt cops. But he pushes forward, relying on his wit, courage, hope, and the kindness of strangers. As Isabel Allende writes: “This is a twenty-first-century Odyssey. If you are going to read only one nonfiction book this year, it has to be this one.”

Looks like yet another enriching novel for both adults and young adults! To be entered in the giveaway, just comment on any post on the blog by October 26th.  Everyone who comments between September 29th and October 26th will be entered in the drawing.  If your name is chosen, we’ll email you ASAP about mailing the book to you.

Don’t forget, we also raffle off a copy of the following month’s featured novel at each book group meeting.  So if you’re an Albuquerque local, join us for a chance to win!

Good luck!

¡Mira, Look!: Maria Had a Little Llama/ María tenía una llamita

¡Children's Book Review: Maria Had a Little Llama by Angela Dominguez | Vamos a LeerSaludos, todos! Here is our final book for this month, completing our theme of New Tellings/Versions of Familiar Stories with a Peruvian spin on the classic Mary Had a Little Lamb.

Maria Had a Little Llama/María tenía una llamita, written and illustrated by Mexican-American creator Angela Dominguez, takes us through the streets of rural Peru and enchants us with the beautiful friendship between a little girl, Maria, and her faithful llama. This picture book is bilingual and shows first the English text and then the Spanish translation underneath. The illustrations do an excellent job of exposing the reader to Peruvian geography, landscapes, clothing and even traditional musical instruments, and the concluding message, one of unfettered friendship between a schoolgirl and her llama, is truly heartwarming.Children's Book Review: Maria Had a Little Llama by Angela Dominguez | Vamos a Leer

As the little llama follows Maria through the streets of Peru, the illustrations show various images of Peruvian life. On one page, they even pass a large map of Peru, including Machu Picchu, the Inca Trail, Cuzco and the Andes. Maria’s llama is so attached to her that he follows her all the way to school, where the teacher makes him wait outside until class is over: “But still he lingered near/and waited patiently about…” The illustrations show a series of clocks, demonstrating the passing of time, and the llama patiently waiting in the grass.

Both English and Spanish words accompany the illustrations on each page, until we get to a two-page spread showing a bird’s eye view of the center of town, with no words to go along. As Elizabeth Bird states in a School Library Journal review, this was clearly done on purpose to draw specific attention to the images. We can see brown roofs, arched doorways, fruit stands in the street, and clusters of people playing traditional Children's Book Review: Maria Had a Little Llama by Angela Dominguez | Vamos a Leerinstruments, as well as the beautiful Andes mountains in the background.

On several pages Maria herself is also shown playing traditional instruments, such as maracas and wooden pipes. The book incorporates a theme of music, represented on nearly every page, reminding readers of the light-hearted, sing-song nature of the original nursery rhyme: “Maria had a little llama/ whose fleece was white as snow/ and everywhere that Maria went/ the llama was sure to go”. This theme of music also adds a pleasing tempo to the story, as we move from page to page, following Maria throughout her day. The same band of musicians that we see in the two-page spread of town, appears again in the background when Maria is finally let out of school and reunited with her llama. When she was in school no music played and her llama sadly waited outside, and it wasn’t until she was back out on the streets that the music took up again as she and her llama continued on their merry way.Children's Book Review: Maria Had a Little Llama by Angela Dominguez | Vamos a Leer

Deepening the storyline slightly, the scene in the school functions as a pause from the continuous rhythm and pace of the rest of the book. It gives readers the occasion to reflect on the relationship between Maria and her llama, as the teacher emphasizes a valuable lesson on comradery: “ ‘Why does the llama love Maria so?’/the eager children cried/ ‘Maria loves the llama, you know’/ the teacher did reply”. The teacher is a positive influence in the story, warmly spreading lessons on love and friendship. Her ultimate message is that loyalty and affection are based on mutual respect.

For those interested in learning more, here are some additional links and resources:

• Author website for Angela Dominguez
• Anti-bias curriculum on how to teach Maria Had a Little Llama

Stay tuned for next week’s book review, and the start of our October-inspired themes!
¡Hasta pronto!

Images: Modified from illustrations, Maria Had a Little Llama, pages 6, 15, 24.