10 Latinx Children’s Books on Food as Culture and Heritage

2016-food-as-cultural-heritage1

Buenos días a todas y todos,

I hope this day finds you each doing well!

As the holidays near, we are invited to reflect on the significance that such days play in our own lives and in the lives of others.  We are reminded that the way we experience holidays differs from those around us: from one family to the next, one culture to the next, and from one generation to the next.  Notwithstanding these differences, there remains a constant and a uniting force: food.

The important role that food plays in cultural heritage is without a doubt something to which we each can relate.  What dishes are common in your culture and that of your students?  What experiences and memories do you and your students have in cooking those dishes?  Can you recall gathering the ingredients?  The smells?  The flavors?  This month’s Reading Roundup list will celebrate farms, water, mercados, ingredients, the act of cooking, and the joys of sharing meals with family, friends, and community al estilo latinoamericano.

Lastly, if you are interested in American Indian literature that touches on the theme of Thanksgiving, visit the American Indians in Children’s Literature blog, which offers a list of recommended books!

I hope you enjoy this month’s selection and feel motivated to use the books with your own children and/or students!

Mis saludos,
Colleen

El gusto del mercado mexicano/A Taste of the Mexican Market
Written and Illustrated by Nancy María Grande Tabor
Published by Charlesbridge, 1996
ISBN: 978-0-88106-820-7
Age level: 3-7 years old

Description (from Goodreads):

Let’s visit a Mexican market!

Along the way you can compare, weigh, count, and learn about culture and customs. From bunches of hanging bananas and braids of garlic to pyramids of melons and baskets of sweet cheese, this Mexican market is full of fun and surprises.

Colorful cut-paper art sets the scene for a creative way to build new vocabulary for beginning readers of Spanish or English.

My thoughts:

This bilingual book, written and illustrated by Nancy María Grande Tabor, is enjoyable.  For me, El gusto del mercado mexicano stuck out because its focus is not only on common foods (vegetables, fruits, and meats) used in Mexican cooking, but because it invites us to experience the mercado.  By showing how ingredients are weighed and gathered, as well as the many items beyond food that can be found in the mercado, we learn about this essential and vibrant place. There is an interactive component to this book as well, which makes it all the more fun.  This book would likely be an effective way to learn both English and Spanish vocabulary also, as it is simply written and the words are all accompanied by illustrations. If you’re intrigued, be sure to keep an eye out for Alice’s coming review of this book!

Anna Carries Water
Written by Olive Senior
Illustrated by Laura James
Published by Tradewind Books, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-896580-60-9
Age level: 4-8

Description (from Tradewind Books):

Anna fetches water from the spring every day, but she can’t carry it on her head like her older brothers and sisters. In this charming and poetic family story set in Jamaica, Commonwealth Prize-winning author Olive Senior shows young readers the power of determination, as Anna achieves her goal and overcomes her fear.

My thoughts:

How can one talk about food as cultural heritage and not include water?  For this reason, I am pleased to have come across Anna Carries Water, written by Olive Senior and illustrated by Laura James.  The book’s tone was set after reading the author’s dedication: “For all the little water carriers of the world.”  For me, it inspired an immediate appreciation for what the following pages held.  The imagery and emotions that are expressed through simple and subtle language make this book all the more unique.  We get to follow Anna in her journey of traversing Mister Johnson’s field, confronting the scary cows, joining the neighborhood children, and learn about this Caribbean community’s relationship with water.  This book can also help our students or children to think about our relationship with water: Where does the water that we use come from?  How is it used?  Do the characters in the book use water the same way we do?  What different and what’s the same?

I really enjoyed this book and hope you do as well.

The Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred
Written by Samantha R. Vamos
Illustrated by Rafael López
Published by Charlesbridge, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-58089-242-1
Age level: 5-11

Description (from Charlesbridge):

A bilingual celebration with a delicious ending.

This is the story of how the farm maiden and all the farm animals worked together to make the rice pudding that they serve at the fiesta. With the familiarity of “The House That Jack Built,” this story bubbles and builds just like the ingredients of the arroz con leche that everyone enjoys. Cleverly incorporating Spanish words, adding a new one in place of the English word from the previous page, this book makes learning the language easy and fun.

Rafael López covers each page with vibrant, exuberant color, celebrating tradition and community.

Back matter includes a glossary of Spanish words and a recipe for arroz con leche—perfect for everyone to make together and enjoy at story time

My thoughts:

Written by Samantha R. Vamos, The Cazeula That the Farm Maiden Stirred is a rhythmic cooking tour of the delicious dessert, arroz con leche.  Although a common dessert throughout Latin America, this dish can be found worldwide with regional variations.  And for those of us familiar with the yummy pudding, this book provides a warm reminder of its sweet aroma and sounds of bubbling, boiling goodness!  The illustrator, Rafael López (also of Yum! ¡MmMm! ¡Qué Rico!) does an exquisite job of adding layers of life, color, and texture to this already fun book.  A few of the highlights from this book are its effortless use of Spanish vocabulary and the arroz con leche recipe in the back.  I suggest sharing this recipe with a little one, or sharing your own family’s rice pudding recipe!

¡Bien provecho!

Green is a Chile Pepper: A Book of Colors
Written by Roseanne Greenfield Thong
Illustrated by John Parra
Published by Chronicle Books LLC, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-4521-0203-0
Age level: 4-7

Description (from Chronicle Books):

Green is a chile pepper, spicy and hot. Green is cilantro inside our pot. In this lively picture book, children discover a world of colors all around them: red is spices and swirling skirts, yellow is masa, tortillas, and sweet corn cake. Many of the featured objects are Latino in origin, but all are universal in appeal. With rich, boisterous illustrations, a fun-to-read rhyming text, and an informative glossary, this playful concept book will reinforce the colors found in every child’s day!

My thoughts:

Green is a Chile Pepper: A Book of Colors delightfully adds Spanish vocabulary into the theme of food as cultural heritage.  This fun book, written by Roseanne Greenfield Throng, touches not only on common ingredients in Latin American cooking, but incorporates holidays, music, family, and fiesta.  John Parra’s illustrations are lively, colorful, and create a vivid portrayal of the community.  This book can be used as a way to explore how our students or children celebrate special days or holidays.  Are there traditional foods that are eaten?  What is their favorite dish?  What sorts of decorations are used?  With whom are these special days celebrated?  How would they illustrate their holidays or parties?  This simple book allows for an enjoyable reflection of our own celebrations and can be a fun sharing activity!

You are also invited to check out Roseanne Greenfield Throng’s, Round is a Tortilla.  Lorraine has a very nice review on it and it is equally as enjoyable! Katrina has also featured these two books in an En la Clase post from last year, when she discussed “Gratitude, Awareness, and Poetry for the Classroom.”

Guacamole
Written by Jorge Argueta
Illustrated by Margarita Sada
Translated by Elisa Amado
Published by Groundwood Books
ISBN: 978-1-55498-133-5
Age level: 5-7

Description (from Goodreads):

Following on the success of Sopa de frijoles / Bean Soup and Arroz con leche / Rice Pudding is Jorge Argueta’s third book in our bilingual cooking poem series — Guacamole — with very cute, imaginative illustrations by Margarita Sada.

Guacamole originated in Mexico with the Aztecs and has long been popular in North America, especially in recent years due to the many health benefits of avocados. This version of the recipe is easy to make, calling for just avocados, limes, cilantro and salt. A little girl chef dons her apron, singing and dancing around the kitchen as she shows us what to do. Argueta’s gift in seeing beauty, magic and fun in everything around him makes this book a treasure — avocados are like green precious stones, salt falls like rain, cilantro looks like a little tree and the spoon that scoops the avocado from its skin is like an excavating tractor.

As in the previous cooking poems, Guacamole conveys the fun and pleasure of making something delicious and healthy to eat for people you really love. A great book for families to enjoy together

My thoughts:

Jorge Argueta is an author whom Vamos is very proud to showcase and whose work has been featured several times on the Vamos blog.  Keira’s 2012 ¡Mira Look! post provides some general information on him, however, if you’re interested in learning more about this award winning author, check out his website.

His numerous cooking poems are a perfect fit for this month’s theme.  I chose Guacamole for two reasons in particular:  1) who doesn’t enjoy a yummy helping of guacamole?  One might argue it can accompany any dish! 2) I relished in Margarita Sada’s artwork!  This bilingual book is an excellent way to share a cooking experience with any child.  With skillful crafting, the directions to make guacamole are surprisingly clear and easy to read.  Jorge Argueta also thoughtfully marks the sections that require adult help with an asterisk.  Are there any other ingredients that you would like to add to the guacamole that you’ll make?  You can be as creative as you’d like!

It’s Our Garden: From Seeds to Harvest in a School Garden
Written and photographed by George Ancona
Illustrated by Students of Acequia Madre Elementary School
Published by Candlewick Press, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-7636-5392-7
Age level: 5-7

Description (from Goodreads):

At an elementary school in Santa Fe, the bell rings for recess and kids fly out the door to check what’s happening in their garden. As the seasons turn, everyone has a part to play in making the garden flourish. From choosing and planting seeds in the spring to releasing butterflies in the summer to harvesting in the fall to protecting the beds for the winter. Even the wiggling worms have a job to do in the compost pile! On special afternoons and weekends, neighborhood folks gather to help out and savor the bounty (fresh toppings for homemade pizza, anyone?). Part celebration, part simple how-to, this close-up look at a vibrant garden and its enthusiastic gardeners is blooming with photos that will have readers ready to roll up their sleeves and dig in.

My thoughts:

This was a very special book for me.  As a native of Santa Fe and a proud New Mexican, I was thrilled to see our rich agricultural tradition on display in, It’s Our Garden: From Seeds to Harvest in a School Garden.  This non-fiction work takes readers through the seasons and highlights just how fun gardening can be!  Despite the lack of colorful illustrations typically found in children’s books, this book will still be a joy to read with a young child; the artwork from the Acequia Madre Elementary School students as well as the photography of author, George Ancona, are important for a different reason – they make the story truly feel grounded and real.  By exploring the photographs and encouraging curiosity in the gardening process, this book can serve as a fun way to engage with readers.  I found this book to be a unique way to foster interest and excitement about growing food, learning about the environment, and eating nutritiously.

Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale
Written and Illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh
Published by Abrams Books for Young Readers,
ISBN: 9781419705830
Age level: 5-7 years old

Description (from Goodreads):

In this allegorical picture book, a young rabbit named Pancho eagerly awaits his papa’s return. Papa Rabbit traveled north two years ago to find work in the great carrot and lettuce fields to earn money for his family. When Papa does not return, Pancho sets out to find him. He packs Papa’s favorite meal—mole, rice and beans, a heap of warm tortillas, and a jug of aguamiel—and heads north. He meets a coyote, who offers to help Pancho in exchange for some of Papa’s food. They travel together until the food is gone and the coyote decides he is still hungry . . . for Pancho!
Duncan Tonatiuh brings to light the hardship and struggles faced by thousands of families who seek to make better lives for themselves and their children by illegally crossing the border.

My thoughts:

Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale, is an award winning children’s book written and illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh.  Simply put, it is outstanding.  Unlike the other books in this month’s list, this selection does not overtly related to the theme, as it truly is a “migrant’s tale.”  However, when thinking upon the theme of food as cultural heritage, I found this book to fit right in.  Without a doubt, this book strengthens the relationship between food and home.  I am not referring to “home” as a location, but rather the bonds and emotions that are evoked; that of family, friends, culture, heritage, memories, smells, and all of the other links that keep us connected, even when we are literally, far from home.  This simple book is really quite profound.  It is beautifully illustrated and thoughtfully written.  Please check out Katrina’s, En la Clase post discussing the book in more detail and offering ideas for classroom use.

Tamalitos
Written by Jorge Argueta
Illustrated by Domi
Translated by Elisa Amado
Published by Groundwood Books, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-55498-300-1
Age level: 4-7 years old

Description (from Goodreads):

In his fourth cooking poem for young children, Jorge Argueta encourages more creativity and fun in the kitchen as he describes how to make tamalitos from corn masa and cheese, wrapped in cornhusks. In simple, poetic language, Argueta shows young cooks how to mix and knead the dough before dropping a spoonful into a cornhusk, wrapping it up and then steaming the little package. He once again makes cooking a full sensory experience, beating on a pot like a drum, dancing the corn dance, delighting in the smell of corn . . . And at the end, he suggests inviting the whole family to come and enjoy the delicious tamalitos “made of corn with love.” Domi’s vivid paintings, featuring a sister and her little brother making tamalitos together, are a perfect accompaniment to the colorful text.

My thoughts:

I couldn’t help but include another one of Jorge Argueta’s cooking poems. Tamalitos, colorfully illustrated by Domi, is a stunning representation of food as cultural heritage.  This is especially notable in the first few pages when he speaks about the importance of corn: “Our indigenous ancestors ate/tamalitos made from corn. / It also says in the Popol Vuh, /the sacred book of the Maya, /that the first men and women were made of corn.”  This simple ingredient provides an enduring link from past to present and remains an integral part of cultural identity.  And fortunately for us, we also learn how to make tamales through Argueta’s beautiful Spanish and English prose.  Lorraine wrote a thoughtful and more detailed review on Tamalitos, please read it here.    And then, check out the book for yourself!

What Can You Do with a Paleta?/¿Qué puedes hacer con una paleta?
Written by Carmen Tafolla
Illustrated by Magaly Morales
Published by Dragonfly Books, 2009
ISBN: 978-0385-75537-5
Age level: 3-7 years old

Description (from Goodreads):

Where the paleta wagon rings its tinkly bell and carries a treasure of icy paletas in every color of the sarape…

As she strolls through her barrio, a young girl introduces readers to the frozen, fruit-flavored treat that thrills Mexican and Mexican-American children. Create a masterpiece, make tough choices (strawberry or coconut?), or cool off on a warm summer’s day–there’s so much to do with a paleta.

My thoughts:

This bilingual book, written by Carmen Tafolla and illustrated by Magaly Morales, celebrates the joys of the paleta while we journey through the neighborhood.  This book truly is a delight to read!  In fact, I had a big smile on my face while reading.  I may have been unconsciously smiling back at all the wonderfully illustrated faces.  The artwork lends dimension to the text and helps create a lively community filled with activity, laughter, and play.  The punctuation and short sentences also encourage a cheerful and energetic flow to the reading, which any kiddo will be sure to enjoy!

Yum! ¡MmMm! ¡Qué Rico! Americas’ Sproutings
Written by Pat Mora
Illustrated by Rafael López
Published by Lee & Low Books, 2007
ISBN: 978-1-58430-271-1
Age level: 5-8

Description (from Lee & Low Books):

Smear nutty butter,
then jelly. Gooey party,
my sandwich and me.

Peanuts, blueberries, corn, potatoes, tomatoes, and more — here is a luscious collection of haiku celebrating foods native to the Americas. Brimming with imagination and fun, these poems capture the tasty essence of foods that have delighted, united, and enriched our lives for centuries. Exuberant illustrations bring to life the delicious spirit of the haiku, making Yum! ¡Mmmm! ¡Qué rico! an eye-popping, mouth-watering treat. Open it and dig in!

My thoughts:

We at Vamos really love this book!  In fact, it was featured last November in Alice’s ¡Mira Look! post.  In her thorough and thoughtful review, she writes, “…Pat Mora takes us on a gastronomic journey of the Americas through a series of fun haikus. Each poem focuses on a crop native to these continents, culminating in a full harvest of celebration and praise. The descriptions of food and cuisine alongside the bright, multicolored illustrations at once awaken the senses while guiding readers through the history of agriculture in the Americas.”  It is clear how this delightful book effortlessly fits into the theme of food as cultural heritage.  And for those of us that are fans of Rafael López’s artwork, we are in for another visual adventure!

 

 

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