Hello readers! Here in these last few days of Women’s History Month, we wanted to squeeze in one more biographical children’s book that highlights inspirational Latinas. This week I am delighted to present A Library for Juana: The World of Sor Juana Inés, written by Pat Mora and illustrated by Beatriz Vidal, a book that tells the story of an important and prolific literary figure, self-taught poet, scholar and nun, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz.
Here is a description from Goodreads:
Juana Inés was just a little girl in a village in Mexico when she decided that the thing she wanted most in the world was her very own collection of books, just like in her grandfather’s library. When she found out that she could learn to read in school, she begged to go. And when she later discovered that only boys could attend university, she dressed like a boy to show her determination to attend. Word of her great intelligence soon spread, and eventually, Juana Inés was considered one of the best scholars in the Americas–something unheard of for a woman in the 17th century. Today, this important poet is revered throughout the world and her verse is memorized by schoolchildren all over Mexico.
We follow Juana’s life and discover that she was a curious child, always asking questions and wondering what was written in the books of her grandfather. She loved letters and rhyming. She started school at an early age, eager to learn. Once she found out that women could not attend university, she dressed as a boy to practice for when she would go to their library.
Juana never gave up; at the age of just 8 she won a poetry contest and at the age of 10 she went off to Mexico City to study. Juana gains access to palace libraries, filling her head with languages, names, numbers, poetry and music. After facing questions from 40 scholars, she became recognized as a respected scholar herself. The book ends beautifully with a moment in which Juana gets to add her own book of poems to her treasured library.
The book is filled with positive messages that promote intelligence over appearance. “She cared more about her books than about her looks, tapping her head, she said ‘Why decorate the outside of my head if the inside is empty?’” Young Juana can inspire other female readers through phrases such as “Yes, girls can do more than spin and sew. We can study and prove all we know.”
Included is a short glossary of Spanish words scattered throughout the text, an author’s note about Sor Juana, and an excerpt of one of her poems.
Here are some resources to go along with the book:
- Author Pat Mora has listed some great ideas for classroom activities.
- Teacher Guide from Hampton-Brown High Point
- Student Journal from Hampton-Brown High Point
Our celebration of Sor Juana is also the perfect transition into April, when we will turn out attention to National Poetry Month, among other themes such as environmental justice. Stay tuned!
Images: Modified from A Library for Juana: The World of Sor Juana. Illustrator: Beatriz Vidal.