October 20th | Week in Review


¡Hola a todos! I hope you enjoy this week’s resources.

– Check out Rethinking School’s New way of teaching Columbus: Putting him on trial for murder. “‘It begins on the premise that there’s this monstrous crime in the years after 1492 when perhaps as many as 3 million or more Taínos on the island of Hispaniola lost their lives,’ says Bill Bigelow, the curriculum editor of Rethinking Schools and the co-director of the Zinn Education Project. ‘It asks students to wrestle with the responsibility in this.’

— Also from Rethinking Schools: there’s a second edition of one of our favorite books: Reading, Writing, and Rising Up by Linda Christensen. To learn more about what prompted this re-release and its importance for education today, read this interview with Christensen “on the second edition…what role the classroom played in revision, and what needs to change in how we teach.”

– Thanks to an interesting initiative in Washington, DC, we can gain a quick glimpse into how third graders are coping with and processing current issues around the world. Check out how The World According to Washington’s Third-Graders to hear how the students “were generous, thoughtful and eager to talk about everything under the sun: personal experiences with racism, environmental policy, whether it’s a good idea to clone dinosaurs.” It’s a good reminder that young children think deeply about the same issues as adults.

–If you get a chance, you should read why when students are traumatized, teachers are too. One teacher expresses, “When you’re learning to be a teacher, you think it’s just about lesson plans, curriculum, and seating charts. I was blindsided by the emotional aspect of teaching—I didn’t know how to handle it.”

— There is a soft bigotry of having to change your name. “… There’s a difference between a name you can choose for yourself and a name that’s given to you because other people can’t be bothered with pronouncing it, even if the same sounds exist in the English tongue.”

-Lastly, here is a list of books to help kids understand the fight for racial equality, with an emphasis on the history of the US. Thanks to Penguin House for putting together these “resources to help us move beyond tokens and icons to a deeper understanding of our history and its legacy, toward our own marches for liberty and justice for all.

Alin Badillo

Image: A Splash of Color. Reprinted from Flickr username Tanguy Domenge under CC©.

¡Mira, Look!: Kusikiy: A Child from Taquile, Peru

kusikiy final

¡Buenos días! After having spent the past three months in Cusco, Peru learning the Quechua language and conducting research for my master’s thesis, I’ve decided to focus on Peru for the ¡Mira, Look! book reviews this month. I hope to share with you how my experiences in Peru have influenced my perception of these children’s books!

I’ll be kicking off the Peruvian children’s book reviews with Kusikiy: A Child from Taquile, Peru, written and illustrated by Mercedes Cecilia. The book is about a child named Kusikiy and his environment on Taquile Island of Lake Titicaca. The story begins with an introduction of the different family members’ household and societal roles, in addition to traditions situated on Taquile Island. The illustrations are colorful and filled with symbols and images integral to highland Peruvian life, such as potatoes, wool, looms, thatched roofs, hummingbirds and musical instruments like the quena. In the story, Kusikiy worries about the delayed arrival of the rains for the continuance of the agricultural cycle. Thus, he embarks upon a journey to help with the appearance of the Llama Constellation, which announces the yearly arrival of the rainy season in highland Peru.

Kusikiy draws attention to how the “trees are wilting, the birds are silent and the wind is hot and dry,” demonstrating the interconnectedness of all aspects of life and the environment with the agricultural cycle, which directs Andean life. The first person Kusikiy looks to for guidance in his search for the Llama Constellation is his great grandmother, Yatiri, emphasizing the necessary role of elders in the community as knowledge-keepers. He then looks to his great grandfather, Kuriwallpa, for help in finding the Llama Constellation. In the end, Kusikiy decides “to bring an offering to the APU, the Guardian Spirit of the Great Glacier” to ask him for rain. His mother suggests that he “bring an offering of flowers, potatoes and quinoa for the APU.”

After his fantastical journey to the glacier, Kusikiy is able help bring the rains to Taquile Island. With the coming of the Llama Constellation and the rain, community members spend the night dancing and playing music. The book highlights the importance of actions associated with the agricultural cycle, and how each being and element of the Taquile environment has a purpose in its continuance. It also demonstrates the importance of celebration with the changing of the seasons.

The drawings in the book are exquisite, accurately depicting the clothing worn by residents of Taquile Island as I remember it from my visit to the island in 2012. The bright colors and depictions of the weaving tradition are also a critical aspect of this book. I do, however, find it necessary to bring attention to the fact that people of Tequile generally use motor boats to move from the Island to the nearby city of Puno and other islands, rather than the traditional boats made from reeds that are depicted in the book. Furthermore, the boats made from reeds are actually more from the Uros people, who live on islands made of reeds closer to the mainland. Also, tourism is an extremely important industry on the island. When I visited the island, I saw many other tourists and artisan shops directed at tourism. In this way, it is important to view the book with a critical eye, as it depicts traditions more so than modern realities. Nonetheless, these traditions are an integral part of the modern reality of people from Tequile and other parts of the Andean highlands. They are present along with other modern technologies, such as goods brought from Puno, ideas transmitted through travelling and migration, and the international presence on the Island. My personal experience in the urban center of Cusco also demonstrated the importance of the agricultural cycle, spiritual connectedness with the Apus and the Pachamama (Mother Earth).

While teaching this book in the classroom, apart from highlighting Peruvian highland traditions and teaching about Lake Titicaca, often known as the highest navigable lake in the world, the story also touches on the effect that climate change has on communities in the Andes. The arrival of the rainy season is necessary for the maintenance of crops integral to Taquile life. The interruption of the agricultural cycle means both economic and cultural hardship. While I was living in Cusco, my Quechua class visited a community outside of the city to see traditional methods for freeze drying potatoes (making ch’uñu). The potatoes that had been left outside to freeze overnight were rotten because of the rain, and they could no longer be used to eat or sell, causing economic, cultural and health impacts on the community. At the Parque de la Papa outside of Pisac, Peru, I learned that many varieties of potatoes have to be grown at higher and higher altitudes because of rises in temperature, causing a loss in potato varieties.

Mercedes Cecilia posted a youtube video of select images from her book that go along with sounds she recorded on Taquile Island. This video could be used for thinking about the interconnectedness of life and the role of all the sounds and images throughout the community.

Here is a video of a dance done by high school children on Taquile Island. It is very typical for high school students from different communities in the Peruvian highlands to participate in traditional dances in public places throughout the year.

Here is a great video about a cooperative of female weavers from five communities across the Cusco region in Peru called Inkakunaq Ruwaynin. It demonstrates the step-by-step process of weaving and teaches about the importance of fair trade. I was able to meet individuals from this cooperative, which is concerned with the importance of passing down weaving knowledge from generation to generation. The Quechua language was never written until the arrival of the Spaniards, and weaving has always been an important way for Quechua people to record knowledge.






Our Next Good Read. . .American Street

Join us on Monday, November 13th at Tractor Brewing (1800 4th St NW) from American Street | Vamos a Leer | Ibi Zoboi5:00-7:00 pm to discuss our next book.  We are reading American Street (Grades 9 and up) by Ibi Zoboi.

Here’s a sneak peek into the book: (from Goodreads)

American Street is an evocative and powerful coming-of-age story perfect for fans of Everything, Everything; Bone Gap; and All American Boys. In this stunning debut novel, Pushcart-nominated author Ibi Zoboi draws on her own experience as a young Haitian immigrant, infusing this lyrical exploration of America with magical realism and vodou culture.

On the corner of American Street and Joy Road, Fabiola Toussaint thought she would finally find une belle vie—a good life.

But after they leave Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Fabiola’s mother is detained by U.S. immigration, leaving Fabiola to navigate her loud American cousins, Chantal, Donna, and Princess; the grittiness of Detroit’s west side; a new school; and a surprising romance, all on her own.

Just as she finds her footing in this strange new world, a dangerous proposition presents itself, and Fabiola soon realizes that freedom comes at a cost. Trapped at the crossroads of an impossible choice, will she pay the price for the American dream?

We hope to see you there!

We’ll also be raffling off a copy of December’s featured book, Like Water for Chocolate/ Como agua para chocolate (Adult)Join us that evening to be entered!


Happy Fall Break!

¡Hola a todas y todos!

Happy Indigenous Peoples’ Day! Just dropping in to give everyone an update. It’s Fall Break at the University of New Mexico, and we will be taking a break here on the blog as well. We hope everyone has time to enjoy the fall colors and changing of the seasons. On Monday I’ll be back with a ¡Mira, Look! post about Kusikiy: A Child from Taquile, Peru by Mercedes Cecilia. So stay tuned!

Photo by Kevin Eddy

¡Hasta la próxima!


October 6th | Week in Review


Hola a todos,

It is a hard week for many around the country. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families, and communities. For educators addressing this most recent violence in the classroom, please consider referring to Scholastic’s Resources for parents and educators for talking to children about the Las Vegas shooting. “No matter where you reside, it’s likely the young people you know will see the news headlines on television and online.” Like the quote says, it doesn’t matter where a person resides, children will be affected and classrooms should address this issue regardless of the subject being taught.

You might also consider this article addressing how to Harness Effects of Negative News on Young People using Literacy for Healing. “The right books and stories can open doors for meaningful conversations and propel young people toward civic engagement.”

And as we acknowledge Las Vegas, so we also acknowledge the ongoing recovery efforts in Puerto Rico and Mexico. For those who embrace this as a teachable moment, here is an excellent syllabus of essential tools for critical thinking about the Puerto Rican debt crisis.

Finally, for those who are turning the page to other conversations, here is a smattering of other recent resources and materials:

  • In a moment when traumatic stories and experiences are forefront, it’s important to take a moment and offer students a celebratory perspective of their cultures. Classroom Communities shared a personal note in this regard with their article on “Celebrating through Stories” during Hispanic Heritage Month.  “As a young African-American girl it was hard for me during the month of February when I felt that Black History month was spent learning about slavery and hardship. The celebratory aspect was often lost for me. As a teacher I have tremendous power over how students feel during these months of celebration. In our classroom community we choose to celebrate stories, authors, and people who represent this rich culture of beauty and strength.”
  • Remezcla’s 10 Books With Well-Developed, Complex Afro-Latino Characters.
  • Rethinking Schools shared how you can take the fight against white supremacy into schools. “…But more than that, we need a history that helps us learn how to move beyond tearing down statues and toward tearing down the racist system that those statues represent.”
  • For more resources for Hispanic Heritage Month, Colorín Colorado has a great book list for elementary schools.
  • If you would like to teach about Indigenous people, consider using animated shorts that celebrate 11 of Mexico’s Indigenous Languages.
  • Latinx in Kid Lit flipped the script and shared A Letter from Young Adult Readers to Latinx Writers About Race, Gender, and Other Issues. “I asked students to create suggestions of what they hoped to see in Latinx literature for youth. What follows is a list of suggestions gathered from our collective conversation and survey of Latinx literature for youth, including comments composed by my students for those who are currently writing and those who hope to write for young readers. Students also kept in mind those in publishing and award committees.”
  • And as a last note to send us with positive thoughts for the day, there are beautiful new books swirling around in the blogging world right now. A few that caught our eye:
    • From Latinx in Kid Lit, a book review of Martí’s Song for Freedom / Martí y sus versos por la libertad, written by Emma Otheguy and illustrated by Beatriz Vidal. “The back cover features an actual portrait of José Martí, and a quote: ‘And let us never forget that the greater the suffering, the greater the right to justice, and that the prejudices of men and social inequalities cannot prevail over the equality which nature has created’…beyond Cuba, Martí’s Song for Freedom/Martí y sus versos por la libertad comes at an important time when even young readers are thinking about how we might make the world a more just place.”
    • From LGBTQ Reads, an interview with Anna-Marie McLemore, author of Wild Beauty, of which the author writes that “Wild Beauty is my bi Latina girls and murderous, enchanted gardens book. It’s the story in which I gave myself permission to go all in with the feel and setting of a fairy tale, but with the focus on the kind of girls we often see left out of fairy tales.”

 Image: We Can End Gun Violence. Reprinted from PA PENN Live under CC©.


Tomás Rivera Book Award Recipients

¡Buenos días a todos y todas! Continuing with our 2017 Latinx children’s and young adult literature award winner announcements, which included the Américas Award and Pura Belpré Award recipients, today I will be announcing the winners of the 2017 Tomás Rivera Book Award Winners. The Tomás Rivera Book Award was established in 1995 by Texas State University College of Education, and was developed to honor authors, illustrators and publishers depicting the Mexican American experience. It was named after Dr. Tomás Rivera, poet, author, educator, and alumnus of Texas State University.

The 2017 Tomás Rivera Book Award Winners include one children’s book and one young adult book. If interested, you can follow the Tomás Rivera Book Award on Facebook, and you can also check out past awards on Texas State University College of Education’s website. We hope some of these titles make it to your classroom bookshelves!




2017 Award Winners

Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood
written by Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell and illustrated by Rafael López
. HMH Books for Young Readers, 2016. ISBN: 978-0544357693

Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood is the triumph of a community against the darker forces of social decay. What good can a splash of color do in a community of gray? As Mira and her neighbors discover, more than you might ever imagine!

Based on the true story of the Urban Art Trail in San Diego, California, Maybe Something Beautiful reveals how art can inspire transformation—and how even the smallest artists can accomplish something big.

The Memory of Light written by Francisco X. Stork. Arthur A. Levine Books, 2016. ISBN: 978-0545474320.

In The Memory of Light, Stork tells the story of 16-year-old Vicky Cruz and her experiences and recovery after an attempted suicide. When Vicky wakes up in the Lakeview Hospital, she knows one thing: After her suicide attempt, she shouldn’t be alive. But then she meets Mona, the live wire; Gabriel, the saint; E.M., always angry; and Dr. Desai, a quiet force. With stories and honesty, kindness and hard work, they push her to reconsider her life before Lakeview, and offer her an acceptance she’s never had. But Vicky’s newfound peace is as fragile as the roses that grow around the hospital. And when a crisis forces the group to split up, sending Vick back to the life that drove her to suicide, she must try to find her own courage and strength.

Inspired in part by the author’s own experience with depression, The Memory of Light is the rare young adult novel that focuses not on the events leading up to a suicide attempt, but the recovery from one – about living when life doesn’t seem worth it, and how we go on anyway.


September 29th | Week in Review


¡Hola a todos! With Hispanic Heritage Month upon is, our minds are percolating with the wealth of resources available to help teach about Hispanic heritage in the classroom.

– First and foremost, we’re proud to share an amazing resource produced by Teaching for Change: Teaching Central America. This website is dedicated to producing rich, nuanced content focused on Central America. It’s particularly useful right now as educators turn to this topic in their classrooms, but we also hope that it will be a tool to infuse Latin American content into the curriculum all year long. Full disclaimer: our office, the UNM Latin American and Iberian Institute, is a partner organization on this initiative.

– Next, to put some of these resources in context, here’s a lesson plan on “Latino Heritage” from Teaching Tolerance that introduces the topic of Latino Heritage and offers activities to help students gain a deeper understanding of past and present struggles for Latino civil rights.

– Scholastic has done some legwork in compiling lesson plans, book lists, crafts and biographies to help teachers looking for resources to Bring Hispanic Heritage Month to Life

– Here are 14 New Children’s and YA Books that Celebrate Hispanic Heritage.  This list includes our recently read (and loved!) book, Lucky Broken Girl by Ruth Behar.

— Embrace Race posted 26 Children’s Books to Support Conversations on Race, Racism, and Resistance. “Research from Harvard University suggests that children as young as three years old, when exposed to racism and prejudice, tend to embrace and accept it, even though they might not understand the feelings. By age 5, white children are strongly biased towards whiteness.” Many of the books on the list have been featured here before on the blog and we even have curriculum to go along with them, such as Separate is Never Equal by Duncan Tonatiuh.

–Share with your students 18 Major Moments in Hispanic History that All Americans Need to Know. This includes a series of accomplishments from major social justice movements to policy to demographics, and also includes deeply troubling moments like public health test trials.

-When considering short films about food, entertainment, and culture, you might want to check out PBS’s list of Videos that Celebrate Latino Heritage and Culture.

–Additionally, the National Education Association has K-12 resources dedicated to Hispanic Heritage Month.

– Lastly, we conclude this list with Teaching Resources from the Smithsonian Institute, which highlights materials on the Bracero Program, Latino music, Puerto Rican Carnival, and much more…

Alin Badillo

Image: La Lucha Sigue. Reprinted from Flickr user Daniel Lobo under CC©.