¡Mira Look!: Running the Road to A B C

Children's Book Review: Running the Road to A B C by Denizé Lauture | Vamos a LeerSaludos, todos! This week’s featured book is Running the Road to ABC, written by Haitian author Denizé Lauture and illustrated by Reynold Ruffins. With stunning illustrations and compelling lyrical prose, this wonderful picture book tells the story of six Haitian children and the miles they travel to get to school. In doing so, Lauture’s tale takes readers on a visual and poetic journey of Haiti’s various landscapes, both geographical and social. While exposing some of the present-day hardships in Haiti, such as running barefoot over rough terrain to get to school, Lauture proudly depicts values such as strength, determination, and a love of learning.

Children's Book Review: Running the Road to A B C by Denizé Lauture | Vamos a LeerLauture introduces his book by dedicating it “To all children who, smiling and laughing,/ laughing and singing,/ singing and smiling,/ stand tall at the golden thresholds of their lives/ and welcome learning and teaching,/ and teaching and learning,/ as the two most endearing experiences in life.” A love and dedication to learning is certainly at the crux of this tale. As Lauture openly embraces the beauty in teaching and learning, his lovely, undulating prose is in itself didactic. Throughout the tale Lauture makes ample use of repetition and symmetrical sentence structures (such as “learning and teaching,/ and teaching and learning”), which can help young readers remember new vocabulary, keep up with the story, and witness the flexibility and playfulness of words. In addition, his long, flowing sentences tend to continue on and on without punctuation, reflecting the long and persistent, yet melodically joyful journey of the schoolchildren. Moreover, the lack of punctuation may reflect the cadence of Haitian Creole, which is generally not a written language. As a result, Lauture’s prose suggests a melody that would make the story perfect for reading out loud—a treat for listeners, and a celebration of Haiti’s rich oral tradition.

The children leave for school at dawn before the sun rises. They run through villages and farmlands and pass by other community members waking up and starting their day. As they travel they rely on the creeping sunlight to give them a sense of time: “When they reach the main road, they all turn their sweaty necks and glance back. If the sun is still asleep, all of them smile, and keep the pace. But if they notice that the sky, and the hillcrests, and the treetops being to take the color of honey, they quicken the pace. Sunlight and shade are their only clocks.” When the kids injure their bare feet on rocks, they heal their injuries themselves using different leaves, plants and soil. As the kids journey along, readers will notice the way the schoolchildren depend on and interact with the natural environment.

Children's Book Review: Running the Road to A B C by Denizé Lauture | Vamos a LeerThe story ends with the children finally arriving at school. The narration gives readers a sense of wholeness and completion, not just to conclude the story, but also to evoke the necessary and integral part that education plays in the lives of children:

And up and down every day, morning noon evening star, morning star evening moon, running left and turning right, counting one and counting two, learning A and learning B, a hum today, a song tomorrow, they gaze at the heavens, rise before the sun, sail with the moon, and dream of stars to read and write and write and read each night and each morning, each morning and each noon, each noon and each day one more letter and one more sound, one more sound and one more word, one more word and one more line, one more line and one more page of their little songs…

Children's Book Review: Running the Road to A B C by Denizé Lauture | Vamos a LeerThrough Lauture’s prose, the process of going to school seems to be integrated with the natural environment, essential to daily life in Haiti. In addition, the sometimes tiring sensation associated with his long, breathless sentences reflects the incessant effort and toil of these children who go to such great lengths to arrive at school.

Moreover, Lauture refers to each child by their individual name, but also repeats “all are schoolchildren” multiple times throughout the story. In doing so, Lauture calls attention to a child’s right to education, a right just as fundamental as any other. According to a study run by The World Bank, “More than 200,000 children from Haiti remain out of school and several are too old for their grade level.” Additionally, “Most schools ask for tuition fees, a barrier for many.” According to USAID, “Surveys conducted by the UNDP indicate that Haitians who are 25 years and older received on average only 4.9 years of education and only 29 percent attended secondary school.” Lauture incorporates education for children into a tableau of Haitian life in order to emphasize its importance. This story can, thus, be read as a call for better school systems in Haiti, as well as a sincere portrait of a child’s love of education. Ultimately, education is the thread that weaves all other parts of life together.

This book’s wonderful way of emphasizing education could inspire a variety of lesson plans on education around the world, or education in the lives of students. As noted by Social Justice Literature for the Elementary Classroom, this book could inspire a lesson plan or discussion on the varying school systems from country to country, or the lack of free, public education in other parts of the world:

This book could be part of a social justice unit but it could also be integrated into a social studies unit. The students could examine the school and education systems in other cultures and explore the sometimes stark differences. The students could look at the conditions and environments of other schools. This book falls into the domains of social justice education because its major themes are education and Haiti. The book is also a great segue into a discussion about the value, role, and accessibility of education in different countries.

Children's Book Review: Running the Road to A B C by Denizé Lauture | Vamos a LeerEducators could also encourage kids to talk about their own experiences coming to school and why coming to school and learning is important to them. In addition, educators could ask kids to point out any plants, animals, or crops that are unfamiliar to them, as well as any other unfamiliar scenes, such as “donkeys bent under too-heavy loads.” This book provides a beautiful panorama of Haitian life, which could be used as an opportunity to compare and contrast differences and similarities between Haiti and the U.S. or maybe even Haiti and other parts of Latin America that students are familiar with. It could also provide the opportunity for students to reflect on their own daily lives in comparison and contrast with those of the children in the book.  Focusing on elements of compare and contrast (with a Venn diagram, or other model) could foster cultural awareness while instilling an understanding of differences.

For those of you looking to use this book in the classroom, here are some additional resources:

Stay tuned for more amazing books on Haiti!

¡Hasta pronto!

WWW: Reparations and Confronting the Legacy of Slavery in the Island Nation Known as the First Black Republic

¡Feliz viernes a todos!

Another week has gone by already! And just like that, we are into February. Thanks for reading again. Hopefully 2016 has gone smoothly for everyone reading! I know we are feeling the pace increase a bit here.

As February takes hold, and many classrooms turn to studies of Black History and the Civil Rights Movement, we at Vamos a Leer are turning our focus to the history of Afro-Latinos and Afro-Caribbean people. In this post in particular, I am addressing (very briefly) the widespread history of slavery and its implications particularly within Haiti and other Caribbean countries.

Besides open immigration flows, there are people of African descent in every country in the Western Hemisphere in large measure because Africans were taken forcibly as slaves and transported from Africa to the Americas from the 15th to the 19th century, used as human barter in exchange for goods, spices, and outright income. As slaves, Africans were treated as goods; they were bought, sold, traded, beaten and killed for disobeying unjust rules and regulations set by their owners. Side bar: we acknowledge that this is a difficult topic to teach, but also want to emphasize how necessary it is to have these conversations in our classrooms. For a brief overview of what to keep in mind when teaching about slavery writ large, see the article “Tongue-Tied” by Teaching Tolerance.

When Haitian slaves rebelled and stood up for their rights, overthrowing French colonial rulers and slaveholders in the process, their country became the First Black Republic. To examine the country’s amazing past in more depth, we recommend taking a look at Teaching for Change’s publication “Teaching About Haiti.” Another excellent resource is Nick Lake’s YA novel, In Darkness, which intertwines Haitian history with present-day narratives. We’ve written an Educator’s Guide to accompany it, if you’re interested in learning more.

Although this important historical period may seem long ago and far away, it has important ramifications in the contemporary world as people throughout the Americas continue to struggle with the legacy of slavery and resistance. This six-minute video by InHaiti shows a brief history of the island and explains why even after the revolution, Haiti hasn’t been able to “move on.”

And Haiti is not alone in its struggles to “move on.” In fact, many of the Caribbean countries are known to be under-developed and poverty-stricken. Since 1999, there has been talk of initiating “slavery reparations,” which would pay tribute to the descendants of slaves. The reparations could help develop infrastructure in the countries where slaves made up a majority of the population, helping them to progress and move away from such high rates of poverty and crime. However, though some political leaders have apologized for their country’s role in the trade, none of the attempts have been successful in obtaining reparation as of present. Some political leaders, for example, the Prime Minister of the UK in this video, claim that slavery is a thing of the past. But the Jamaican Slavery Reparations Commission does not see it as such.

The conversation about the ongoing legacy of slavery is a meaningful one to bring to the classroom, and our hope is that the discussion can be broadened to include experiences beyond just those of the United States. With these resources, students can learn that the mistreatment of hundreds of thousands of Africans took place in many parts of the Americas. Yet we don’t only want to highlight the trauma of this era; we also want to use it to contextualize the present day, and to use it to open a space for learning about how underdevelopment and poverty are directly correlated to the brutality that was enacted on the slaves. Moreover, in the spirit of activism and civil rights, we hope that these materials can guide students toward thinking about how actions in the present day can help redress or acknowledge the injustices perpetrated through the Atlantic Slave Trade.

With warmest wishes,


En la Clase: Teaching About Love Through Immigration

Love GenerationWith Valentine’s Day just a little over a week away, today’s post focuses on how to teach about love and social justice. It may not be the typical Valentine’s Day themed lesson, but I think it’s a powerful way to expand upon the ways in which we frame our conversations about love in the classroom. As we think about the ways in which we can guide our students to think about love in terms of love for the world and the societies in which we are a part, I can imagine no better way to talk about love than as a form of compassion, empathy, and activism through knowledge of the lived realities of those with whom we share this world.

Today’s post highlights a piece of the Rethinking Schools curriculum The Line Between Us: Teaching About the Border and Mexican Immigration. The connection to Valentine’s Day may not be immediately clear, but just bear with me for a bit. The Line Between Us is a book we highly recommend at Vamos a Leer. I used it as the basis for a semester long study when I taught 7th grade Social Studies and it was one of my most successful units (for both my students and myself as a teacher). If you’re not familiar with the book, here’s a quick overview:

The Line Between Us explores the history of U.S-Mexican relations and the roots of Mexican immigration, all in the context of the global economy. And it shows how teachers can help students understand the immigrant experience and the drama of border life.

But The Line Between Us is about more than Mexican immigration and border issues. It’s about imaginative and creative teaching that gets students to care about the world. Using role plays, stories, poetry, improvisations, simulations and video, veteran teacher Bill Bigelow demonstrates how to combine lively teaching with critical analysis.”

Much of the curriculum guide is inspired by a series of trips to Mexico made by a group of U.S. teachers. As part of these trips, the group visited the Casa del Migrante, a shelter in Tijuana run by the Scalabrini Order of the Catholic Church. Many of the residents of the shelter are migrants on their way to the U.S., but increasingly many are men who have been deported from the U.S. One of these visits to Casa del Migrante fell on Valentine’s Day. This was when Bob Peterson, an elementary school teacher and editor of Rethinking Schools, met Juan.

Juan had been arrested by the San Jose police for driving without a license. Without papers, he was turned over to the Immigration and Naturalization Service. He was held for two days then flown with 200 other deportees to San Diego and bused to Tijuana. It had been 12 years since Juan had been in Tijuana. Left behind in the U.S. were his two daughters, 9 year-old Cinthia and 8 year-old Karely.  Having no place to go in Tijuana, he found an abandoned car to sleep in before he found Casa del Migrante.

As a result of meeting Juan, Peterson wrote the following poem.

“Valentine’s Day at Casa del Migrante” by Bob Peterson
February 14, 2004

Saint Valentine
was not looking over
Juan Torres today
as he landed in
downtown Tijuana
dropped off by la migra
after getting pulled over
a few days earlier by
San Jose police for
driving without a license
— a license he cannot get
because he is undocumented —
leaving his construction job
to go home to his two daughters
Cinthia aged 9 in fourth grade
Karely aged 8 in third grade
both citizens of the U.S.A.
born in California,
the police zapped their
computer connections with the INS
and Juan was no longer
staring down the headlights
of a San Jose cop
but rather turned over
to bright lights of the
Border Patrol
where he was
imprisoned for two days,
then flown to San Diego
with 200 other deportees
and finally bused to
downtown Tijuana
and dumped
in a place he’d not been
for 12 years
when he first crossed over
having left his home in Michoacan
at age 20 “to get a better life.”
Pushed off the bus
in the middle of the night
cold, hungry
Juan climbed into an
abandoned car in a futile
attempt to stay warm
shivering he abandoned
the car and sneaked into a church
resting a few hours
until the sun came up
when he learned from someone about
la Casa del Migrante
where he now sits
telling me
his story over a plate of
frijoles, papas, carne asada y arroz
saying how he talked by phone
to his daughters
and they said.
“We miss you, Papi…
so much!”
Juan looks down at his plate
and then into my eyes
and says “I miss them so much too.
I’m going back
but now you have to walk
for two straight days and one night
to get there.
“Good luck,” I say
and shake his hand.

I was struck by the poem and the possibilities for using it to reframe conversations we have around Valentine’s Day. As we ask our students to consider love this Valentine’s Day, perhaps we move them beyond chocolates and red heart shaped balloons. Maybe we ask them to think about love in terms of empathy and compassion. We encourage them to see love as the commitment to imagine what it is like to live in someone else’s reality. I think that’s what Peterson has done with his poem.

The Line Between Us suggests using Peterson’s poem as a part of an activity where students perform brief improvs based on real life situations connected to the border and immigration. After the improvs students each write their own interior monologue (see pages 28-33 of The Line Between Us for more information). Too many times the immigration discussion comes from a place of “us” and “them” where it lacks both a critique of privilege and the dehumanizing discourse used. The use of improv, role play, and reflective writing attempts to counter all this. Here students are asked to really consider what the lives of immigrants are like.

If time allows, I’d suggest creating an entire unit based on the resources in The Line Between Us. If that’s not possible, use a short story such as Pancho Rabbit and Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale by Duncan Tonatiuh or Pam Muñoz Ryan’s chapter in First Crossing to help students imagine the reality of immigration. Discuss the readings as a class. Ask students to write their own poem from a point of view they can imagine based on the readings. Read Peterson’s poem to give students a sense of the kinds of things they can communicate in their own poem. Or perhaps your class is studying another social justice issue that could be further explored through writing a poem like Peterson’s. Any topic that asks students to consider humanity with compassion and empathy while recognizing the agency of those involved could work with this writing activity.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on how you’ll teach about Valentine’s Day this year. If you’re looking for other resources for teaching about love, Rethinking Schools has provided a roundup of many of their relevant materials here: https://rethinkingschoolsblog.wordpress.com/2014/02/14/resources-for-teaching-about-love/

Image: Photo of Love Generation. Reprinted from Flickr user diegofornero (destino2003) under CC ©.

Our Next Good Read: Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings

Join us March 7 at Enchanted airBookworks from 5:00-7:00 pm to discuss our next book.  We are reading Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings  by Margarita Engle.

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

In this poetic memoir, Margarita Engle, the first Latina woman to receive a Newbery Honor, tells of growing up as a child of two cultures during the Cold War.

Margarita is a girl from two worlds. Her heart lies in Cuba, her mother’s tropical island country, a place so lush with vibrant life that it seems like a fairy tale kingdom. But most of the time she lives in Los Angeles, lonely in the noisy city and dreaming of the summers when she can take a plane through the enchanted air to her beloved island. Words and images are her constant companions, friendly and comforting when the children at school are not.

Then a revolution breaks out in Cuba. Margarita fears for her far-away family. When the hostility between Cuba and the United States erupts at the Bay of Pigs Invasion, Margarita’s worlds collide in the worst way possible. How can the two countries she loves hate each other so much? And will she ever get to visit her beautiful island again?

Be sure to get entered in our drawing for a free copy of the book!! All you have to do is comment on any blog post by February 29!

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 in March for a chance to win April’s featured book, Claire of the Sea Light by Edwidge DanticatJoin us that evening to be entered.

We hope to see you on March 7!

¡Mira Look!: Eight Days, A Story of Haiti

Children's Book Review: Eight Days: A Story of Haiti by Edwidge Danticat | Vamos a Leer Saludos, todos! This week marks the beginning of our February theme on Haiti. As Keira explains in her Sobre Febrero post, we’ve decided to celebrate Black History Month by focusing on Afro-Caribbean narratives: “When we’ve discussed Black History Month in the past, we’ve broadened the conversation by looking at resources related to the vast African diaspora of Latin America, which in itself is a worthwhile endeavor because African history is deeply entwined with Latin American history. This year we want to go deeper by focusing on the Afro-Caribbean experience specifically.” To this end, I have decided to focus this month’s children’s books on Haitian authors and Haitian narratives: “...in February our writers will turn their attention to Afro-Caribbean cultures and specifically Haiti, a country whose people are of predominantly African descent and whose complicated history is frequently overlooked or simplified. Our hope is that these resources will contribute to teaching and learning about this remarkable country.” Some of this month’s book reviews will continue to dialogue with last month’s themes on civil rights and human rights. Across it all, we will also celebrate the spirit of Valentine’s day by emphasizing themes of love (love of self, love of community) through our conversations about Haiti. As Keira beautifully put it, this month’s theme “continues our earlier focus on social justice and activism, both of which can be seen as outpourings of love for the world and society around us.

Our book for this week is Eight Days, A Story of Haiti written by Edwidge Danticat and illustrated by Alix Delinois. Last month we also featured a book by Edwidge Danticat, Mama’s Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation, in recognition of our themes on civil rights. We have previously featured other educator’s guides and reviews on books about Haiti, including Serafina’s Promise by Ann E. Burg, Krik? Krak! also by Edwidge Danticat, and In Darkness by Nick Lake. This last book, In Darkness, is a Young Adult novel that follows a very similar story line to that of Eight Days, A Story of Haiti. This may be useful for educators interested in pursuing these themes with older students.

Children's Book Review: Eight Days: A Story of Haiti by Edwidge Danticat | Vamos a Leer Eight Days, A Story of Haiti tells the story of a young boy who is trapped under his house for eight long days following Haiti’s 2010 earthquake. In order to keep his spirits high and make the time pass, he daydreams of running and playing in the sunshine, scenes which have been beautifully illustrated by Delinois to “reflect the beauty of Haitian life before the earthquake, and what is possible for the future.” Despite living through a terrifying experience, the child protagonist embodies hope and potential.

Danticat is originally from Haiti and frequently writes children’s, young adult and adult books on themes of Haiti or Haitian-Americans. Many of Danticat’s stories often include autobiographical elements, as well as contemporary, sociopolitical information about Haiti. Thus, Danticat’s Eight Days, A Story of Haiti, as well as many of her other books, would be a perfect way to teach a lesson on Haiti’s 2010 earthquake, or other more current events and conditions in Haiti.

Children's Book Review: Eight Days: A Story of Haiti by Edwidge Danticat | Vamos a Leer At the back of Eight Days, A Story of Haiti, Danticat includes a note from the author where she explains how she found out about Haiti’s earthquake on January 12, 2010, including her frantic worries for friends and family back home, and the concern of her two young daughters, who visited Haiti every year of their young lives. At this moment, Danticat reflects on the differing versions of Haiti that she and her daughters will remember, one before the earthquake and one after. This story beautifully and tragically captures both perspectives. (Image to the left: The statue of the unknown maroon, also known as the “Neg Maron”, a landmark in Haiti. The statue survived the earthquake, but instead of remaining a familiar site for relaxation and play in the middle of a public plaza, as illustrated in this image, the space became full of makeshift shelters for people who lost their homes during the earthquake.)

Children's Book Review: Eight Days: A Story of Haiti by Edwidge Danticat | Vamos a Leer Danticat’s author’s note, as well as the story itself, portrays the magic and promise of young children, and the tragedy of their potential cut short:

“They are everywhere, Haiti’s precious and beautiful children. You see them on rooftops—where there are rooftops—flying kites. You see them gathered in small groups on the ground—where the ground is not muddy—playing marbles. You see them link hands and run in a circle while singing the song associated with the won, the Haitian equivalent of ring-around-the-rosy. You see them twirl a bicycle wheel with a bent rope hanger, and in that act you can see the dream of one day actually driving the rest of the bike, or a motorcycle, a car, or an airplane.”

These joyful acts of play are described and illustrated on each page of Danticat’s story, as the male protagonist waits to be rescued from the rubble and envisions Haiti before the earthquake.

Children's Book Review: Eight Days: A Story of Haiti by Edwidge Danticat | Vamos a Leer The illustration on the first page of the book shows the young boy after having been pulled out of the rubble, being interviewed by foreign reporters and television crew, many of whom are Caucasian.  This calls attention to the international reaction that Haiti’s 2010 earthquake prompted, and particularly to the predominance of Western interventions. For older students, this could inspire a discussion about the implications of outside interventions.

After being interviewed by reporters, the protagonist tells his story through a first-person narration, describing what happened on each day that he was trapped. This format contributes to the child protagonist’s agency, despite his helpless situation, as he recounts his own experience. Additionally, this narrative timeline, starting in the present and reflecting on the past, also sets a tone of nostalgia for the rest of the story, nostalgia for a Haiti before the earthquake.

As the story progresses, readers will notice a striking juxtaposition between the bright, sunny images and the devastating contextual reality behind them. The narration uses a string of euphemisms for the terrifying experience that the unnamed protagonist endured. For example, on the second day, the protagonist and his friend, Oscar, who is trapped under the house with him play hide and seek with the protagonist’s family: “When they came close to finding us, Oscar and I popped up and yelled, ‘Alarive!’ Surprise!” The image of playing hide and seek serves as a symbol for the two boys who had to scream and yell waiting and hoping for rescue workers to find them, and for their family who was frantically searching. On the sixth day, the protagonist runs and plays in the rain with his sister catching rain water in his mouth; in the real world, catching trickles of rain water while trapped enabled him to survive eight days without food or water. These euphemisms and symbols not only add sophistication to the narration, but may also help young readers and students ease into these more difficult topics.

Ultimately, Danticat’s unnamed protagonist represents all of Haiti’s children who were affected by the earthquake. Her first-person narration through the perspective of a child also shows the infinite hope and magic of a child’s imagination.

Although this book is best for grades K-3, many of its topics, themes and narrative devices could be interesting for older students as well.

For those of you interested in using this book in the classroom, here are some additional resources:

For those interested in learning more about Haiti’s 2010 earthquake, and how to teach Haiti in the classroom, here are some additional resources:

Stay tuned for more wonderful books about Haiti!

¡Hasta pronto!


Images modified from Eight Days: A Story of Haiti: pages 11, 15, and 17

Sobre Febrero: Resources to Teach About Haiti and Afro-Caribbean Cultures

Vamos a Leer | Resources for Teaching About Haiti and Afro-Caribbean CulturesDear all,

As with Hispanic Heritage Month, Black History Month is often used as part of a “heroes and holidays” approach to education, limiting classroom discussions of African and African diaspora histories only to the month of February and then, moreover, primarily focusing on famous individuals. It is a missed opportunity, to say the least, to confine this information only to one month and to provide it such superficial coverage. Here at Vamos a Leer, although we’re only one small voice among many, we hope to contribute to an effort to think more expansively and inclusively in the classroom – regardless of the topic at hand, but particularly so when considering how to incorporate narratives generally omitted from textbooks and canonical literature.  Teaching Tolerance, a Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, is another advocate for teaching beyond the “heroes and holidays” approach. Ideal for this month, they even provide a concise overview of “Do’s and Don’t’s of Teaching Black History” – effectively drawing this conversation down to the concrete level. 

Here at Vamos a Leer, we’re using this moment as a chance to tie into other conversations happening around Black History Month, but we hope to avoid generalizations and repetitions. We also hope that this information resonates with topics we’ve covered throughout the year, such as Alice’s recent post on the amazing children’s book Mama’s Nightingale.

In the past when we’ve discussed Black History Month, we’ve tried to broaden the conversation by looking at resources related to the vast African diaspora of Latin America, which in itself is a worthwhile endeavor because African history is deeply entwined with Latin American history. This year we want to go deeper by focusing on the Afro-Caribbean experience in particular.

To this end,  several of our writers will turn their attention to Afro-Caribbean cultures and specifically Haiti, a country whose people are of predominantly African descent and whose complicated history is frequently overlooked or simplified. Our hope is that these resources will contribute to teaching and learning about this remarkable country.

–Alice, our ¡Mira, Look! author, will highlight the strength and perseverance of the Haitian people

–Charla, our WWW writer, will share complementary resources that enrich discussions on Haiti

–Kalyn, our Reading Round-Up contributor, will compile exemplary Afro-Caribbean children’s and young adult literature

Throughout these conversations, we’re embedding themes of love to tie in with the spirit of Valentine’s Day: love of self, love of family, and love of community. This continues our earlier focus on social justice and activism, both of which can be seen as outpourings of love for the world and society around us. To focus more on this important aspect, Katrina will share En la clase ideas that continue our January discussion about deepening opportunities for activism and awareness in the classroom.

p.s. Although most of our work emphasizes children’s and young adult literature, we realize you may want to read an age-appropriate book from time to time. Last summer the Vamos a Leer book group read Isabel Allende’s beautiful and moving novel Island Beneath the Sea / La isla bajo el mar. It’s a sprawling work of historical fiction set in Haiti. Here’s a Democracy Now segment with Allende discussing the book, among other things.

Image: Photograph reprinted via CC © from Flickr user Universal Pops, who attributes to the painting to a contemporary Haitian artist by the name of Wilner Cadet.

Book Review: Shadowshaper

Shadowshaper | Daniel Jose Older | Vamos a Leer BlogShadowshaper
Written by Daniel José Older
Published by Arthur A. Levine Books, 2015
ISBN: 0545591619
Age Level: 12 and up

Paint a mural. Start a battle. Change the world.

Sierra Santiago planned an easy summer of  making art and hanging out with her friends. But then a corpse crashes the first party of the season. Her stroke-ridden grandfather starts apologizing over and over. And when the murals in her neighborhood begin to weep real tears… Well, something more sinister than the usual Brooklyn ruckus is going on.

With the help of a fellow artist named Robbie, Sierra discovers shadowshaping, a thrilling magic that infuses ancestral spirits into paintings, music, and stories. But someone is killing the shadowshapers one by one — and the killer believes Sierra is hiding their greatest secret. Now she must unravel her family’s past, take down the killer in the present, and save the future of shadowshaping for generations to come.

Full of a joyful, defiant spirit and writing as luscious as a Brooklyn summer night, Shadowshaper introduces a heroine and magic unlike anything else in fantasy fiction, and marks the YA debut of a bold new voice.

My Thoughts:

Older’s Shadowshaper has received wide-acclaim, and after reading it, it’s easy to see why. There aren’t many books out there that do what this one does. I’m not sure I’ve ever read an urban fantasy book, certainly not for young adults. I also can’t think of a single fantasy book whose characters are based almost entirely on a group of urban youth of color. As we talk more and more about the need for authentic and quality diverse literature in the classroom, it’s easy to see why a book like this is so important.  Continue reading