¡Mira, Look!: Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales

As you may have noticed, throuviva fridaghout the month of March we have been celebrating inspiring Latinas. This week I’d like to draw your attention to another biographical book – this one by award-winning author and illustrator, Yuyi Morales. In 2014, Morales added to the growing set of children’s biographies by creating a multimedia book about an important inspirational influence of hers, Frida Kahlo. Viva Frida is a book that stands out as extremely unique in its artistic qualities.

Awarded the 2015 Pura Belpré Illustrator Award and recognized as a 2015 Caldecott Honor Book, here is a description from Goodreads:

Frida Kahlo, one of the world’s most famous and unusual artists, is revered around the world. Her life was filled with laughter, love, and tragedy, all of which influenced what she painted on her canvases.  Distinguished author/illustrator Yuyi Morales illuminates Frida’s life and work in this elegant and fascinating book.

Frida FigurineThe book takes us through various images of Frida in different scenes with multiple objects. In the beginning of the book we see our protaganista as a delicate ceramic figurine. Frida evolves into two-dimensional form, floating through the pages, and then becomes more and more texturized until we eventually see her on canvas as a painting of herself.Frida Canvas

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¡Mira, Look!: My Name is Gabriela/Me llamo Gabriela

gabbyHello again readers! After a bit of delay due to spring break, we are back with another great recommendation for a biographical children’s book about an inspiring Latina. My Name is Gabriela/Me llamo Gabriela: The Life of Gabriela Mistral/la vida de Gabriela Mistral written by Monica Brown and illustrated by John Parra, is a bilingual homage to poet, teacher, and the first Latina to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, Gabriela Mistral.

Here is a description of the book from Google Books:

Gabriela Mistral loved words and sounds and stories. Born in Chile, she would grow to become the first Nobel Prize-winning Latina woman in the world. As a poet and a teacher, she inspired children across many countries to let their voices be heard. This beautifully crafted story, where words literally come to life, is told with the rhythm and melody of a poem. My Name is Gabriela/Me llamo Gabriela is beautiful tribute to a woman who taught us the power of words and the importance of following our dreams. The story of Gabriela Mistral will continue to inspire children everywhere.

Gabby ReadingThe story begins with Gabriela’s childhood and an explanation of her pen name. “It is a name I chose myself because I like the sound of it.” It goes on to describe her home and village located near the Andes Mountains in Chile, and different experiences that she had while growing up. Gabriela taught herself to read so that she could read other peoples’ stories and also so that she could tell her own. As a little girl she would play school with other children and she always pretended to be the teacher. Continue reading

¡Mira, Look!: Celia Cruz, Queen of Salsa

celiaHello there readers and Vamos fans! This month we are proudly celebrating Latina and Latin American women! I am delighted to present to you this week a wonderful book that celebrates the life of one of the most influential females in the history of Cuban music: Celia Cruz. The book, Celia Cruz, Queen of Salsa, written by Veronica Chambers and illustrated by Julie Maren, is, of course, about the late, great Cuban-American salsa singer and performer, Celia Cruz.

Here is a description from Goodreads:

Everyone knows the flamboyant, larger-than-life Celia, the extraordinary salsa singer who passed away in 2003, leaving millions of fans brokenhearted. Now accomplished children’s book author Veronica Chambers gives young readers a lyrical glimpse into Celia’s childhood and her inspiring rise to worldwide fame and recognition. First-time illustrator Julie Maren truly captures the movement and the vibrancy of the Latina legend and the sizzling sights and sounds of her legacy. 

Beginning with childhood anecdotes, the book spans most of Celia’s life. We learn that she grew up in a crowde20150218122356480_Page_05d home in a poor section of Havana with a very close family. From a young age she would sing to her younger siblings, by which she would gain the affection of her neighborhood. We learn that Celia was initially shy, but that it did not keep her from singing.

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Our Next Good Read. . .Serafina’s Promise

book.Serafinas-PromiseJoin us April 6th at Bookworks from 5:00-7:00 pm to discuss our next book.  We are reading Serafina’s Promise (ages 10 – 14) by Ann E. Burg.

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

Serafina has a secret dream. She wants to go to school and become a doctor with her best friend, Julie Marie.But in their rural village outside Port-au-Prince, Haiti, many obstaclesstand in Serafina’s way–little money,never-ending chores, and Manman’s worries. More powerful even than all of these are the heavy rains and the shaking earth that test Serafina’s resolve in ways she never dreamed.

At once heartbreaking and hopeful, this exquisitely crafted story will leave a lasting impression on your heart.

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 March 29th!

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¡Mira, Look!: Featured Author: Benjamin Alire Sáenz and A Perfect Season for Dreaming

Writer, poet, young adult novelist, and children’s book author Benjamin Alire Sáenz was born in 1954 in a farming village outside of Las Cruces, New Mexico, close to the U.S. -Mexico border. Author of this month’s Vamos a Leer featured novel, He Forgot to Say Goodbye, Sáenz was brought up in a traditional Mexican-American family.

As a child Sáenz grew up speaking only Spanish until he entered elementary school. As a way of obtaining educational opportunities, he became a Catholic priest, a calling that lasted only three years. His future belonged to writing. His education eventually took him to the St. Thomas Seminary in Denver, Colorado; the University of Louvain in Louvain, Belgium; the University of Texas at El Paso; the University of Iowa; and Stanford University. He has studied philosophy, art history, theology, creative writing, and literary studies with a focus on twentieth century American poetry.

In 1993, he resettled in the border region between Texas and New Mexico to teach in the bilingual MFA program at The University of Texas at El Paso. Themes and issues involving this region, immigration, and the Mexican-American experience remain central to his writing.

Sáenz’s writing career blossomed earlier with his award-winning poetry collections, but has received wide commendation most recently for his novels, and short stories.

PerfectSeasonforDreaming_cover_72dpiHis first young adult novel, Sammy & Juliana in Hollywood, won the 2004 Américas Book Award. He Forgot to Say Goodbye, his second young adult novel, won the Tomás Rivera Mexican-American Children’s Book Award in 2009. His most recent and celebrated work, YA novel Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, tackles issues of identity and homosexuality. Saénz has also published four bilingual children’s books, one of which is A Perfect Season for Dreaming/Un tiempo perfecto para soñar.

Even as we feature his young adult work this month with He Forgot to Say Goodbye¸ we also want to draw your attention to A Perfect Season for Dreaming/Un tiempo perfecto para soñar as an example of his children’s literature. Whether he’s writing for younger or older readers, Sáenz always narrows in on our common humanity and the beauty of our world. Continue reading

Book Giveaway!! Serafina’s Promise

Book-Giveaway-Seal_DraftWe’re giving away a copy of Serafina’s Promise (ages 10 – 14) written by Ann E. Burg.–our featured novel for April’s book group meeting!! Check out the following from Kirkus Reviews:

Eleven-year-old Serafina has a dream: to go to school and become a doctor. Yet her life outside of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, is filled with urgent chores and responsibilities. A natural healer, Serafina has already witnessed the loss of baby brother Pierre to disease and hunger, wishing she could have done more to save him. Now Manman is about to have another baby. How will her family ever do without Serafina’s help or afford her school uniform? Burg uses gentle language and graceful imagery to create the characters that make up Serafina’s loving family—Papa, Manman and Gogo, her wise grandmother. (Sadly, Granpè was taken away long ago by the Tonton Macoutes.) Told in first-person verse appealing to both reluctant and passionate readers, the novel is woven with Haitian history, culture and Creole phrases. Readers will root for this likable heroine as she overcomes obstacles—poverty, family obligations, the catastrophic 2010 earthquake—in her effort to emulate her mentor, Antoinette Solaine, the physician who tried to save Pierre. The spirit of the text’s celebration of the power of determination, family, friendship and love is ably captured in Sean Quall’s delightful cover art. Lilting, lyrical and full of hope.

It looks like another interesting read–a great addition to any personal or classroom library! To be entered in the giveaway, just comment on any post on the blog by March 29th.  Everyone who comments between February 23rd and March 29th will be entered in the drawing.  If your name is chosen, we’ll email you ASAP about mailing the book to you. Continue reading

¡Mira, Look!: I love Saturdays y domingos

I love saturdays y domingosHello there readers! This month we have highlighted themes of civil rights, love of community, love of oneself, and now this week-love of family and heritage. We present to you, I Love Saturdays y Domingos written by Alma Flor Ada and illustrated by Elivia Savadier.

Here is a description from Goodreads:

Saturdays and Sundays are very special days for the child in this story. On Saturdays, she visits Grandma and Grandpa, who come from a European-American background, and on Sundays — los domingos — she visits Abuelito y Abuelita, who are Mexican-American. While the two sets of grandparents are different in many ways, they also have a great deal in common — in particular, their love for their granddaughter. While we follow our narrator to the circus and the pier, share stories from her grandparents’ pasts, and celebrate her birthday, the depth and joy of both cultures are conveyed in Spanish and English. This affirmation of both heritages will speak to all children who want to know more about their own families and ethnic backgrounds.

20150219120739641_Page_2The story is written in first person from the perspective of a young girl who shares with the reader how she spends her weekends: Saturdays with her father’s parents and domingos with her mother’s (-her abuelos!) Both sets of grandparents love her very deeply and enrich her weekend with food and fun.

With her grandparentssitting with abuelos she eats scrambled eggs and pancakes; plays with a cat, Taffy; admires an owl collection; watches a movie about a circus; and looks at her grandfather’s aquarium. With her abuelos she eats huevos rancheros and drinks papaya juice; plays with the dog Canelo in the garden; feeds and counts baby chicks; visits the circus; sits on the pier and walks along the seashore.

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¡Mira, Look!: Dalia’s Wondrous Hair/El cabello maravilloso de Dalia

daliaHello there readers! February is a month to celebrate love. Last week I reviewed a book about desegregation that helps to teach kids to love others in their community. This week I bring you a book that emphasizes community love along with the theme of loving oneself. Dalia’s Wondrous Hair/El cabello maravilloso de Dalia, written and illustrated by Laura Lacámara with a Spanish translation by Gabriela Baeza Ventura, is the story of a young Cuban girl with remarkable hair.

The book was selected by School Library Journal as one of the top ten Latino books of 2014.

Here is an excerpt from Kirkus:dalia running

One magical morning, Dalia awakes to find her hair has grown up toward the sky, “tall and thick as a Cuban royal palm tree.” Throughout the day, to the shock of her neighbors, Dalia covers her wondrous hair with natural material from the environment around her in order to do something truly special, making for an imaginative story. She stuffs and squishes wild tamarind, coontie leaves and mud into her hair, turning it into a butterfly garden overnight….A bilingual author’s note provides further information about the plants and animals referenced and presents instructions for creating one’s own butterfly garden.

The story builds Dalia mudsuspense as the reader is guided through Dalia’s day as she takes her wondrous hair and sets off on a mission to do “Something Big” with it. She begins by entering the forest and adding natural elements into her hair. As her hair grows and gets messier, she repeatedly runs back to show her mother, asking her to guess what kind of tree she is. Along the way she encounters different plants, animals, unamused neighbors, and other surprises.

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¡Mira, Look!: Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation

Separate is Never EqualIn light of Black History Month, with a film like Selma in theaters and massive protests against racial profiling occurring across the country, we here at Vamos feel it is a good time for educators to have their students reflect upon civil rights achievements of the past in order to take lessons learned from the successes and apply them to ongoing struggles of today.

Many of you, I’m sure, have heard of Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark Supreme Court case that outlawed segregation of public schools. What you may not know is that seven years before a case involving the segregation of Mexican-American students in California laid the groundwork for that significant decision. The case, Mendez v. Westminster, is brought back to life through the story and illustrations of Duncan Tonatiuh in his children’s book Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation. And we cannot recommend it highly enough.

If our applause isn’t loud enough, then we’ll let others convince you. Just recently, the book was recognized as a 2015 Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor Book and as a Tomás Rivera Mexican-American Award for Younger Readers.

Here is an excerpt from Kirkus:Mexican Schhol

Most associate the fight for school integration with the landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education. However, seven years earlier, Mexican-American students in California saw an end to discrimination there. The little girl at the center of that case, Sylvia Mendez, was the daughter of parents who looked forward to sending her to the school near their newly leased farm. When her aunt attempted to register the family children, they were directed to the “Mexican school,” despite proficiency in English and citizenship. No one could explain to Mr. Mendez why his children were not allowed to attend the better-appointed school nearby. Despite the reluctance of many fellow Mexican-Americans to cause “problems,” he filed a suit, receiving the support of numerous civil rights organizations. Tonatiuh masterfully combines text and folk-inspired art to add an important piece to the mosaic of U.S. civil rights history.

The story takes placeTrial over the period of three years. It begins with Sylvia being bullied on her first day as an integrated student and shoots back in time to tell the story of how hard her family fought to get her to that point. The story invaluably outlines the legal process of civil rights cases, taking us through each step that the Mendez family went through, even including trial scene dialogue taken directly from court transcripts. Continue reading

Our Next Good Read. . .He Forgot to Say Goodbye

he forgot to say goodbyeJoin us March 2nd at Bookworks from 5:00-7:00 pm to discuss our next book.  We are reading He Forgot to Say Goodbye (ages 12 and up) by Benjamin Alire Sáenz.

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

Ramiro Lopez and Jake Upthegrove don’t appear to have much in common. Ram lives in the Mexican-American working-class barrio of El Paso called “Dizzy Land.” His brother is sinking into a world of drugs, wreaking havoc in their household. Jake is a rich West Side white boy who has developed a problem managing his anger. An only child, he is a misfit in his mother’s shallow and materialistic world. But Ram and Jake do have one thing in common: They are lost boys who have never met their fathers. This sad fact has left both of them undeniably scarred and obsessed with the men who abandoned them. As Jake and Ram overcome their suspicions of each other, they begin to move away from their loner existences and realize that they are capable of reaching out beyond their wounds and the neighborhoods that they grew up in. Their friendship becomes a healing in a world of hurt.

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