Hey there readers, this week I am honored to introduce Judith Ortiz Cofer, the author of our last featured YA book for this academic year, The Meaning of Consuelo. Ortiz Cofer was born in Hormingueros, Puerto Rico, where she spent her formative years until her father’s job in the Navy had them move to Paterson, New Jersey. Ortiz Cofer, though, returned repeatedly to the island, often staying for months at a time with her grandmother. Her passion for story telling was inspired by the many stories she heard from her grandmother during these visits.
In her writing, she deals with issues that have been themes in her own life, such as having experienced the opposing world views of her parents who disagreed about living on the island. While her mother wanted to maintain strong ties to her tradition and heritage, her father wished to disassociate himself and his children from the stigmas and lack of opportunity of being from the island. In an interview done by the Annenburg Foundation, she states, “I now know that it was my heritage; this is my material, this is what I can write about because I have intimate knowledge of it. So in a lot of my books, beginning with my early poetry and then on to my novels…my theme is: When you are always between cultures and between languages, how do you negotiate the world? And I think that is a very contemporary theme because America is constantly being populated and repopulated by new immigrants, and that is what makes this country unique.” This theme is evident throughout our featured novel, The Meaning of Consuelo, in particular.
Hey there readers! This is a special review of a series of books sent to us for consideration. The series, titled Pumpkinheads, is a collection of books for toddlers and preschool-age children. Here is a description from the author Karen Kilpatrick:
“As the mother of three multi-racial children, I felt it was important to develop books that help kids learn from and interact with others, while encouraging acceptance of self and the celebration of their unique strengths and talents. Children learn about themselves, the world and others through storytelling and play, and these new books invite them to explore important social and emotional themes appropriate to their age in a fun way.”
Take a ride in a long submarine or fly away in a hot air balloon. Whatever you do, just be sure to bring your favorite book! Rafael López’s colorful illustrations perfectly complement Pat Mora’s lilting text in this delightful celebration of El día de los niños/El día de los libros; Children’s Day/Book Day. Toon! Toon!
Saludos, readers! In light of Earth Day (April 22) and National Poetry Month I am delighted to present to you a very special book that perfectly celebrates a child’s relationship to nature through bilingual poetry. Call Me Tree/Llámame árbol, written and illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez, is a beautiful book that manages the unique achievement of being gender neutral.
In this spare, lyrically written story, we join a child on a journey of self-discovery. Finding a way to grow from the inside out, just like a tree, the child develops as an individual comfortable in the natural world and in relationships with others. The child begins “Within/ The deep dark earth,” like a seed, ready to grow and then dream and reach out to the world. Soon the child discovers birds and the sky and other children: Trees and trees/ Just like me! Each is different too. The child embraces them all because All trees have roots/ All trees belong. Maya Christina Gonzalez once again combines her talents as an artist and a storyteller to craft a gentle, empowering story about belonging, connecting with nature, and becoming your fullest self. Young readers will be inspired to dream and reach, reach and dream . . . and to be as free and unique as trees.
Hey there readers! One of the great things about Vamos is that we get to showcase books and authors that may not otherwise get the attention that they deserve. I had this in mind while reviewing a unique and delightful children’s book, El día de Ana/Ana’s Day the debut book of author Eileen Wasow.
Ana’s Day is about a four year old girl who accompanies her mother on a series of errands in a small town in Mexico. Ana’s world comes to life through the colorful clay sculptures made by artisans living in Ocumicho in the state of Michoacán, México.
This lovely bilingual picture book is illustrated with clay figures. In it, we follow the daily activities of young Ana, who lives in Mexico. Ana runs errands with her mother. Together, they take her brother to school, watch children play jump rope and hopscotch, and listen as the principal encourages the students to study well and respect their teachers. Ana can’t wait to go to school herself, but she’s not quite old enough, so for now she accompanies her mother.
They visit the mill of Mr. Gonzalez, where Ana and her mother bring a bucket of corn kernels to grind. We get to learn more about this process, such as how the ground corn is made into dough, and how loud the machine can get. The story ends with Ana’s excitement that “Today we will eat hot tortillas!”
Tomatoes laugh, chiles explode, and tortillas applaud the sun! With joy and tenderness, delight and sadness, Alcarcon’s poems honor the wonders of life and nature: welcoming the morning sun, remembering his grandmother’s songs, paying tribute to children working in the fields, and sharing his dream of a world filled with gardens. Artist Maya Christina Gonzalez invites us to experience the poems with her lively cast of characters including a spirited grandma, four vivacious children, and playful pets who tease and delight. Follow them from page to page as they bring each poem to colorful life. Laughing Tomatoes and Other Spring Poems is a verbal and visual treat, giving us twenty opportunities to see everything for the first time.
The book celebrates an appreciation of nature’s resources: a boy wakes up to the morning sun warming his bed, there is an ode to corn, and a prayer for a fallen tree. There is a poem about strawberries that recognizes children who work in the fields, followed by a poem that describes how the children planted an oak tree “more bountiful with time” that had “open arms for grown up’s and children” with the features and spirit of Cesar Chavez, planted on his birthday.
Join us May 4th from 5:00-7:00 pm to discuss our next book. Instead of meeting at Bookworks, however, we will celebrate the end of the year at Tractor Brewing Company (1800 4th St NW). We are reading The Meaning of Consuelo by Judith Ortiz Cofer.
Here’s a sneak peek into the book: (from Goodreads)
The Signe family is blessed with two daughters. Consuelo, the elder, is thought of as pensive and book-loving, the serious child-la niña seria-while Mili, her younger sister, is seen as vivacious, a ray of tropical sunshine. Two daughters: one dark, one light; one to offer comfort and consolation, the other to charm and delight. But, for all the joy both girls should bring, something is not right in this Puerto Rican family; a tragedia is developing, like a tumor, at its core.
In this fierce, funny, and sometimes startling novel, we follow a young woman’s quest to negotiate her own terms of survival within the confines of her culture and her family.
This month we are featuring Ann E. Burg and her YA novel-in-verse, Serafina’s Promise (ages 10 and up). This is her second novel-in-verse after the highly acclaimed All the Broken Pieces.
Burg’s parents were artists, thus her childhood was enriched with music and poetry, setting up a foundation for her creative form of writing. She started exploring her local libraries at a young age, and knew that she wanted to write books since she was four years old. Burg worked as an English teacher for ten years before shifting the majority of her attention to writing novels, though she wrote many poems and stories before her first publication in 2003.
We’re giving away a copy of The Meaning of Consuelo written by Judith Ortiz Cofer–our featured novel for May’s book group meeting!! Check out the following from Macmillan:
“‘La niña seria’, the serious child. That’s how Consuelo’s mother has cast her pensive, book-loving daughter, while Consuelo’s younger sister Mili, is seen as vivacious–a ray of tropical sunshine. Two daughters: one dark, one light; one to offer comfort and consolation, the other to charm and delight. But something is not right in this Puerto Rican family.
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.
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.