Book Review: Sophie Washington | Mission: Costa Rica

Happy New Year! It’s been ages since I’ve had the opportunity to stop in here on Vamos a Leer! I’ve really missed you all.  Being back in the classroom full time and continuing to help facilitate all of our local k-12 outreach programming for the LAII has kept me busier than I expected!

As you saw in Kiera’s post yesterday, this Friday (tomorrow!!) is Multicultural Children’s Book Day! What a wonderful initiative.  If you missed our earlier post, be sure to check it out.  There are so many wonderful resources and opportunities being created around this event.  Today’s post is our first review as part of Multicultural Children’s Book Day.   I’m very excited to introduce you to Tonya Duncan EllisSophie Washington Mission: Costa Rica (Ages 7-12).  Ellis very kindly sent me a copy of the book to review for this special event.   

Before I get into a more detailed discussion of Sophie Washington Mission: Costa Rica, I want to write more broadly about why books like this one are so important.  Last spring, I came across Denene Millner’s NYT Opinion Piece, “Black Kids Don’t Want to Read About Harriet Tubman All the Time.” I’ve found myself continually referring back to it ever since.  So often, the majority of books with black protagonists are limited to slavery, the civil rights movement, or famous biographies about an “overcomer.” In other words, they focus on themes of oppression and resistance.  These are obviously important stories that must be told, but they can’t be the only stories featuring people of color that our students are exposed to.  This is a disservice to everyone.  

As Millner writes, “Meanwhile, stories about the everyday beauty of being a little human being of color are scarce. Regardless of what the publishing industry seems to think, our babies don’t spend their days thinking about Harriet Tubman, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and black bodies swinging; they’re excited about what the tooth fairy will leave under their pillows, contemplating their first ride on the school bus, looking for dragons in their closets.

They want to read books that engage with their everyday experiences, featuring characters who look like them. Just like any other child. White children, too, deserve — and need — to see black characters that revel in the same human experiences that they do.”

Ellis’ Sophie Washington series does just that.

sophie_washington_book_6_ebookSophie Washington Mission: Costa Rica is the sixth book in a seven book series.  Here, readers will follow Sophie through her adventures in Costa Rica.  The publisher’s summary offers a quick overview: “Sixth grader Sophie Washington, her good friends, Chloe and Valentina, and her parents and brother, Cole, are in for a week of adventure when her father signs them up for a spring break mission trip to Costa Rica. Her dreams of lazing on the beach under palm trees are squashed quicker than an underfoot banana once they arrive in the rain forest and are put to work, hauling buckets of water, painting and cooking. Near the hut they sleep in, the girls fight off wayward iguanas and howler monkeys, and nightly visits from a surprise “guest” make it hard for them to get much rest after their work is done. Then Sophie and friends take a wrong turn in the jungle and things get even more wild…”

 

It is a fun, light-hearted read, that still alludes to more serious social issues such as immigration, family separation, and natural disasters, yet it remains appropriate for early chapter book readers.

Sophie and her family and friends are tourists in Costa Rica.  One of the things that I really appreciate about the story is the way it models a more responsible way to experience a new country and how to be a respectful tourist.  The family is respectful to the artisans at the market, the children are open minded to new experiences, and everyone enjoys trying new foods.  Younger readers are exposed to the flora and fauna of Costa Rica in a way that is woven throughout the story, without being overly obvious or superficial.

It is a short novel, but it still avoids overly simplifying or universalizing Costa Rican life.  The father’s volunteer work through the dentistry office speaks to the poverty that some people in Costa Rica experience. Yet, when the girls get the chance to know another student their age, the story highlights an educational system that successfully encourages bilingualism and a family’s commitment to college. I also appreciate the way the importance of volunteer work and contributing to the community is encouraged.  While there is some grumbling amongst Sophie, her brother, and her friends (would it be entirely believable if there weren’t?), in the end, they’re all appreciative of the experience.

I’d recommend it to readers who enjoy series such as Lola Levine, Jasmine Toguchi, Jada Jones, or Dyamonde Daniel. It’s certainly a great addition to any classroom or school library! It could be a perfect independent reading selection to accompany a unit on the rain forest.  

If you or any of your students have read it, we’d love to hear your thoughts below!

For more information on Multicultural Children’s Book Day, keep reading! Below we’ve shared information on sponsors, free resources, and the annual Twitter party (with tons of giveaways!) on Friday!!

 

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MCBD 2019 is honored to have the following Medallion Sponsors on board!

Honorary: Children’s Book CouncilThe Junior Library GuildTheConsciousKid.org.

Super Platinum: Make A Way Media

GOLD: Bharat BabiesCandlewick PressChickasaw Press, Juan Guerra and The Little Doctor / El doctorcitoKidLitTV,  Lerner Publishing GroupPlum Street Press,

SILVER: Capstone PublishingCarole P. RomanAuthor Charlotte RiggleHuda EssaThe Pack-n-Go Girls,

BRONZE: Charlesbridge PublishingJudy Dodge CummingsAuthor Gwen JacksonKitaab WorldLanguage Lizard – Bilingual & Multicultural Resources in 50+ LanguagesLee & Low BooksMiranda Paul and Baptiste Paul, RedfinAuthor Gayle H. Swift,  T.A. Debonis-Monkey King’s DaughterTimTimTom BooksLin ThomasSleeping Bear Press/Dow PhumirukVivian Kirkfield,

MCBD 2019 is honored to have the following Author Sponsors on board!

Honorary: Julie FlettMehrdokht Amini,

Author Janet BallettaAuthor Kathleen BurkinshawAuthor Josh FunkChitra SoundarOne Globe Kids – Friendship StoriesSociosights Press and Almost a MinyanKaren LeggettAuthor Eugenia ChuCultureGroove BooksPhelicia Lang and Me On The PageL.L. WaltersAuthor Sarah StevensonAuthor Kimberly Gordon BiddleHayley BarrettSonia PanigrahAuthor Carolyn Wilhelm, Alva Sachs and Dancing DreidelsAuthor Susan BernardoMilind Makwana and A Day in the Life of a Hindu KidTara WilliamsVeronica AppletonAuthor Crystal BoweDr. Claudia MayAuthor/Illustrator Aram KimAuthor Sandra L. RichardsErin DealeyAuthor Sanya Whittaker GraggAuthor Elsa TakaokaEvelyn Sanchez-ToledoAnita BadhwarAuthor Sylvia LiuFeyi Fay AdventuresAuthor Ann MorrisAuthor Jacqueline JulesCeCe & Roxy BooksSandra Neil Wallace and Rich WallaceLEUYEN PHAMPadma VenkatramanPatricia Newman and Lightswitch LearningShoumi SenValerie Williams-Sanchez and Valorena Publishing, Traci SorellShereen RahmingBlythe StanfelChristina MatulaJulie RubiniPaula ChaseErin TwamleyAfsaneh MoradianLori DeMonia, Claudia Schwam, Terri Birnbaum/ RealGirls RevolutionSoulful SydneyQueen Girls Publications, LLC

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also works tirelessly to spread the word of this event.

Co-Hosts and Global Co-Hosts

A Crafty ArabAgatha Rodi BooksAll Done MonkeyBarefoot MommyBiracial Bookworms, Books My Kids Read, Crafty Moms ShareColours of UsDiscovering the World Through My Son’s EyesDescendant of Poseidon ReadsEducators Spin on it Growing Book by BookHere Wee Read, Joy Sun Bear/ Shearin LeeJump Into a BookImagination Soup,Jenny Ward’s ClassKid World CitizenKristi’s Book NookThe LogonautsMama SmilesMiss Panda ChineseMulticultural Kid BlogsRaising Race Conscious ChildrenShoumi SenSpanish Playground

TWITTER PARTY Sponsored by Make A Way Media:

MCBD’s super-popular (and crazy-fun) annual @McChildsBookDay Twitter Party will be held 1/25/19 at 9:00 pm.E.S.T. TONS of prizes and book bundles will be given away during the party ( a prize every 5 minutes!). GO HERE for more details.

FREE RESOURCES from MCBD:

Free Multicultural Books for Teachers: http://bit.ly/1kGZrta

Free Empathy Classroom Kit for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians and Educators: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/teacher-classroom-empathy-kit/

Hashtag:

Don’t forget to connect with us on social media and be sure and look for/use our official hashtag #ReadYourWorld.

Reading Recomendaciones: February 15, 2018

Hello everyone!! I hope your year is off to a wonderful start! I’ve missed you all at Vamos a Leer and I’m so excited to be back! I finally finished my PhD over the summer and I’m back in the classroom teaching.  After six years away, it’s taken me awhile to get my teaching legs back under me, but I think I’ve (sort of) got things under control now.  I’m hoping to contribute here far more regularly again, along with Alin, Santiago, and Kalyn, the wonderful bloggers who’ve kept us going over the last year.

As you all know, as a project supported by the UNM Latin American and Iberian Institute, our focus here at Vamos a Leer is on sharing books and resources to help encourage a broader engagement with Latin America in classrooms.  At the same time, we’re always striving to encourage a greater depth in multicultural content across all area studies.  As a teacher myself, I’ve found that one of the greatest challenges in implementing curriculum that reflects the diversity of our world is simply in finding books and resources.  With this in mind, we’ll be starting a new thematic series of posts on “Reading Recomendaciones” that highlight various reading lists, thematic book compilations, or curated book suggestions from around the web.  Many of these lists will include suggestions that go beyond just Latin American or Latinx themes, so we will highlight those books that are specific to our blog focus.

One of the first resources I want to share is Mind/Shift’s 20 Books Featuring Diverse Characters to Inspire Connection and Empathy based on a list of recommended titles created by the San Francisco Public Library.  The list was first shared in 2016, but many of the books are just now gaining the popularity they deserve, making them more readily accessible on bookstore and library shelves.  I was really excited to see some of our favorite authors like Meg Medina, Matt de la Peña, Duncan Tonatiuh, Tracey Baptiste, Pam Muñoz Ryan, and Edwidge Danticat on the list.  For those of you not familiar with Baptiste, her book The Jumbies came out in 2016, and she just recently released the sequel, The Rise of the Jumbies.  One of my third graders read The Jumbies earlier this year and is anxiously awaiting the sequel I ordered for her out of our most recent Scholastic book order. I’ll let you know what she thinks of it.

Another amazing resource is Gathering Books’ Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Bookshelf —a collection of multicultural/international picture book text-sets across the five SEL competencies.  This is quite an undertaking! Understandably, they are adding one competency at a time.  Currently, both the Self-Awareness and Self-Management sections are available.  I’ve added so many books to my classroom wish list as a result of this resource!

Last, but certainly not least, I’d like to recommend that we all spend some time thinking about Angie Manfredi’s blog post “The Message of Your All White Booklist.” She makes some significant observations about access to diverse books even as the “We Need Diverse Books” movement gains more and more traction.  A New Mexico librarian, Manfredi’s discussion of the New Mexico Battle of the Books list hit close to home for me.  I also think her blog post offers a useful framework from which to move forward in our “Reading Recommendations.”

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Feel free to share in the comments below.  I’m really looking forward to being a regular around here again!

Until next week!

Katrina

Our Next Good Read. . .The Only Road

Join us on Monday, March 12th at Red Door Brewing (400 Gold Ave SW #105) from 5:00-7:00 pm to discuss our next book.  We are reading The Only Road (Grades 3-7) by Alexandra Diaz.

Here’s a sneak peek into this award-winning book: (from Goodreads)

Twelve-year-old Jaime makes the treacherous and life-changing journey from his home in Guatemala to live with his older brother in the United States in this gripping and realistic middle grade novel.

Jaime is sitting on his bed drawing when he hears a scream. Instantly, he knows: Miguel, his cousin and best friend, is dead.

Everyone in Jaime’s small town in Guatemala knows someone who has been killed by the Alphas, a powerful gang that’s known for violence and drug trafficking. Anyone who refuses to work for them is hurt or killed—like Miguel. With Miguel gone, Jaime fears that he is next. There’s only one choice: accompanied by his cousin Ángela, Jaime must flee his home to live with his older brother in New Mexico.

Inspired by true events, The Only Road is an individual story of a boy who feels that leaving his home and risking everything is his only chance for a better life. It is a story of fear and bravery, love and loss, strangers becoming family, and one boy’s treacherous and life-changing journey.

We hope to see you there!

We’ll also be raffling off a copy of April’s featured book, How I Became a Nun by César Aira.  Join us that evening to be entered!

 

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Our Next Good Read. . .The Inexplicable Logic of My Life

Join us on Monday, February 12th at Red Door Brewing (400 Gold Ave SW #105) from The Inexplicable Logic of My Life | Vamos a Leer | Benjamin Alire Saenz5:00-7:00 pm to discuss our next book.  We are reading The Inexplicable Logic of my Life (Grades 7 and up ) by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

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

Everything is about to change. Until this moment, Sal has always been certain of his place with his adoptive gay father and their loving Mexican-American family. But now his own history unexpectedly haunts him, and life-altering events force him and his best friend, Samantha, to confront issues of faith, loss, and grief.

Suddenly Sal is throwing punches, questioning everything, and discovering that he no longer knows who he really is—but if Sal’s not who he thought he was, who is he?

We hope to see you there!

We’ll also be raffling off a copy of March’s featured book, The Only Road (Grades 3-7). Join us that evening to be entered!

 

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Our Next Good Read. . .Maximilian & the Mystery of the Guardian Angel: A Bilingual Lucha Libre Thriller

Join us on Monday, January 8th at Tractor Brewing (1800 4th St NW) from Maximilian and the Mystery of the Guardian Angel | Vamos a Leer | Xavier Garza5:00-7:00 pm to discuss our next book.  We are reading Maximilian & the Mystery of the Guardian Angel: A Bilingual Lucha Libre Thriller (Grades 2 – 7) by Xavier Garza.

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

Margarito acts like any other eleven-year-old aficionado of lucha libre. He worships all the players. But in the summer just before sixth grade, he tumbles over the railing at a match in San Antonio and makes a connection to the world of Mexican wrestling that will ultimately connect him—maybe by blood!—to the greatest hero of all time: the Guardian Angel.

We hope to see you there!

We’ll also be raffling off a copy of February’s featured book, The Inexplicable Logic of my Life (Grades 7 and up). Join us that evening to be entered!

 

Our Next Good Read

Join us on Monday, December 11th at Tractor Brewing (1800 4th St NW) from Like Water for Chocolate/ Como agua para chocolate | Vamos a Leer | Laura Esquivle5:00-7:00 pm to discuss our next book.  It’s another adult novel month! This month we decided to do a “fan favorite” and our book group chose Like Water for Chocolate/ Como agua para chocolate by Laura EsquivelThis book is available in both English and Spanish (each version is hyperlinked above)!

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

A sumptuous feast of a novel, it relates the bizarre history of the all-female De La Garza family. Tita, the youngest daughter of the house, has been forbidden to marry, condemned by Mexican tradition to look after her mother until she dies. But Tita falls in love with Pedro, and he is seduced by the magical food she cooks. In desperation, Pedro marries her sister Rosaura so that he can stay close to her, so that Tita and Pedro are forced to circle each other in unconsummated passion. Only a freakish chain of tragedies, bad luck and fate finally reunite them against all the odds.

We hope to see you there!

We’ll also be raffling off a copy of January’s featured book, Maximilian & the Mystery of the Guardian Angel: A Bilingual Lucha Libre Thriller (Grades 2 – 7)Join us that evening to be entered!

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!