My Day with the Panye

Written by Tami Charles

Illustrated by Sara Palacios

(Candlewick Press 2021)

Who? What? Where?

Fallon is a young girl living in the mountainous region of Haiti. Her story begins with a an eagerness and insatibale desire to carry the Panye. To carry the Panye is a tradition that dates back hundreds of years and is done around the world, it is the act of carrying and holding important items in the Panye on top of the head, as such it is practically a rite of passage for young girls like Fallon. On a visit to the market, wit her mother, Fallon keeps wanting to prove that she is ready to carry the panye without much success, her mother however has some lesson to teach Fallon first. Carrying the Panye is more than a method of transporting important goods it is also about grace and strength, and along the way Fallon learns the meaning of her mothers XX “Pitit, pitit, build your nest.”

Principle Themes:

Fallon, is taught patience throughout My Day with the Panye, she is eager to carry the basket all at once and carry barely contain her excitement, and her mother has to teach her the virtue of taking it one step at a time, “pitit, pitit, build your nest.” A rite of passage is another theme in the book, Fallon is so eager to learn in part because she sees so many other young girls and their mothers’ carrying the Panye so gracefully, yet Fallon learns that she too will be ready in her own time.

Discussion Questions:

Why is it important for Fallon to carry the Panye?

What message do you think “Pitit, pitit, build your nest” is trying to convey?

Can you think of any other rites of passage?

Additional Resources:

Tami Charles’ Website

Candlewick Press Teacher Tips

Region: Caribbean (Haiti)

Age: 3-7


The Grief Keeper

By: Alexandra Villasante published by Penguin Randomhouse (2019)

Who? What? Where?

Marisol and her younger sister, Gabi, are seeking asylum in the United States. The book begins with Marisol’s credible fear interview at an unnamed detention center. The two have fled El Salvador, leaving behind  their family, their home and the lives they once knew in search of refuge. The burden of ensuring Gabi’s safety weighs heavily on Marisol. Marisol fears they won’t be granted asylum, securing their future in the U.S. becomes ever more precarious, that is until she is offered a deal. Marisol must participate in a new experimental study in exchange for asylum. The experiment requires Marisol hold the grief of another, but the study never intended for her to meet the beneficiary. As Marisol navigates the grief of another as well as her own in this new and unfamiliar place, a relationship between her and the beneficiary of the experiment deepens. The Grief Keeper is a story of immigration as much as it is a story of love, and the depths to which Marisol will go to protect the ones she loves most.

Principle Themes

The Grief Keeper explores the many facets of trauma. Trauma impacts the main characters in different ways. At times it drives them a part, and at others it creates a shared bond. Love is a theme as central to the book as trauma. It is Marisol’s love for her sister that drives her to persist despite all that Marisol has already endured. The Grief Keeper explores these themes in tandem, unearthing how love and trauma inform each other.

Additional Resources:

An interview with Alexandra Villasante

Teaching the Grief Keeper

Review of the book by Latinxs in Kid Lit Blog

Region: North America/United States

Age: High School

Maxy Survives the Hurrican / Maxy Sobrevive el huracán

By/Por Ricia Anne Chansky &/y Yarelis Marcial Avecedo

Illustrations by/Ilustraciones de Olga Barinova

Who? What? Where?/¿Quién? ¿Qué? ¿Dónde?

Maxy the dog lives with Clarita and her family in Puerto Rico. Maxy has a great life with Clarita and the two of them spend their days with each other. On a day in September however Maxy notices a change in Clarita and her family, they all seem to be preparing for something, putting belongings on high shelves, collecting water and canned food and flashlights. Not long after Hurricane Maria makes land in Puerto Rico causing destruction of the land and its infrastructure. Maxy was terrified. After the hurricane was gone Maxy continued to be terrified of the rain, afraid it would bring the next Hurricane. Clarita and her family explain why rain and water are good, and that “not every rain is a hurricane.” Maxy Survives the Hurricane/Maxy sobrevive el huracán was written for the children of Puerto Rico whom in the wake of the hurricane were afraid of the rain and the dark caused by the power outtages. “The authors hope that Maxy helps children around the world who have had similar experiences with natural disasters.” 

Maxy el perrito viva con su family en Puerto Rico. Maxy tiene una gran vida con Clarita, los dos pasan su días juntos. Pero un día en Septiembre Maxy se nota un cambio en Clarita y su familia, todos parecen estar preparando para algo, poniendo sus pertenencias en sitios altos, recogiendo agua y aliementos enlatados y linternas. Poco después huracán Maria destruyendo tierra y infraestructura. Maxy estaba aterrorizada. Despues de que se fue el huracán Maxy seguio aterrorizada de la lluvia, pensando que iba a traer el próximo huracán. De repente, Clarita y su famili le explica que la lluvia es buena cosa y que “no todas las lluvias son huracanes”. Maxy sobrevive el huracán fue escrito para los niños de Puerto Rico quienes como resultado del huracán tenían miedo de la lluvia y la oscuridad a causo por las cortes de energía. “Las autores esperan que Maxy ayude a los niños alrededor del mundo quien han tenido experiencias parecidas con desastres naturales”.

Principle Themes/Temas principales

Fear is one of the principle themes in Maxy Survives the Hurrican, Maxy has to learn how to cope with his fear after the hurrican and with the help of his family is able to overcome it. Family is another principle theme in the text. Family comes together in preparation of the hurricane and is there after to support one another. Lastly, Resiliency is an apparent theme in the book as Clarita’s family perseveres after the devastation and continues to work towards rebuilding their communities and lives.

El temor es uno de los temas principales en Maxy sobrevive el huracán, Maxy tiene que aprender como enfrentarse con su miedo después del huracán, y con la ayuda de Clarita y su familia lo supera. Familia es otro tema principal en el texto. La familia se une en preparación para la huracán y se apoyan mutuamente después del desastre natural. Ultimamente, resistencia es aparente en el libro por la manera en que la familia de Clarita se reconstruya la comunidad tras el impacto del huracán María.

Discussion Questions/Preguntas de discusión

Why is Maxy scared of the rain after the Hurricane? Por que Maxy tiene miedo de la lluvia después del hurracán

How does Maxy overcome his fear of the rain? ¿Cómo supera Maxy su miedo a la lluvia?

Additional Resources/Recursos adicionales

A profile on one of the authors, Yarelis Marcial Acevedo:

A list of books that help children understand natural disasters:





Hold Tight Don’t Let Go

Laura Rose Wagner (Abrams Books 2015)

Wagner’s book details the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, through the experience of two teenage girls. Magdalie and Nadine, are cousins turned twin sisters, who rely on each other as they try to re-build their lives. When Nadine is presented with the opportunity to leave Haiti the sisters’ bond is tested. The book details the grief and anger Magdalie faces surviving in the capital and among the tent cities as she attempts to save up enough money to buy a plane ticket to the United States. Hold Tight Don’t Let Go captures the complex experiences of life in Port-Au-Prince, from the ingenuity and tenacity of making ends meet to the belief in a better future and a stronger nation. Hold Tight Don’t Let Go is as much of a coming of age story as it is about not giving up.

Principle Themes:

Kinship is a principle theme. As old familial bonds are strained, and new kinship ties are forged, Magdalie creates community and family in the tent cities all the way to the countryside of Jeremie, relying on both old and new connections to sustain her spirit and keep her moving.  Hope, is a contradictorily fleeting and consistent aspect of Magdalies life after the earthquake. Magdalie is able to continue hoping despite the multitudinous obstacles she faces. Lastly, tenacity is a key theme, for when hope fails Magdalie tenacity is what propels her forward despite her the uncertainty of the future.

Language: English

Age: High School Reading Level (YA reading topics)

Region: Caribbean

Discussion Questions:

What are some of the challenges Magdalie faces in the wake of the earthquake?

How does Magdalie’s sense of community change?

Educator Questions:

Do you include Haiti in your Latin American Curriculum? Why or why not?

What are some ways to create intentional space for histories, culture, language (etc.) in your classroom when discussing Latin America? 

More Resources:

The authors website

Podcast Episode with the Author: “Bringing Back Radio Haiti, A Station That Told The Overlooked Stories.” Interview on WUNC’s The State of Things with Frank Stasio about the Radio Haiti Archive. With Michèle Montas and Laurent Dubois. (February 2015)

New York Times Book Review

Undocumented: A Worker’s Fight

By: Duncan Tonatiuh

Published by: Abrams Comicarts (New York)

Age: 9-12

Region: United States

Language: English

Who? What? Where? Why?

The picture book is about a young person named Juan, who comes to the United States from his small town in Mexico, to help support his family. Staying with his tío and other men who migrated to the United States Juan gets a job at restaurant working twelve hours a day, seven days a week for less than minimum wage. Until the day that co-worker and him discuss the unfairness of their pay for the work they do. Juan becomes involved in a Workers Right center and starts to organize his co-workers, after several months of organizing they are finally able to take legal action to challenge their bosses exploitation. Undocumented: A Worker’s Fight, is wonderfully illustrated, read from front to back, and then back to front in an accordion style layout, it is a must read and would be a wonderful addition to any educator’s classroom. Undocumented: A Worker's Fight: 9781419728549: Tonatiuh,  Duncan: Books

Principle Themes

Undocumented, a central theme of the book is Juan’s undocumented status and how it impacts his job security and the types of recourse at his disposal that won’t jeopardize his life in the United States. Despite the hurdles that Juan faces he challenges the labor violations his boss has been capitalizing on and asserts his rights to a fair wage. Workers’ rights, as we have seen in other texts, workers’ rights continues to play an important role in the fight for equity and justice. Collective Action, lastly, collective action is a tenet principle of the book. Juan believes that workers’ rights is based in collective action, and that the commonality of facing the same hardships and the fight for fair labor practices is what unites people in this struggle. Furthermore when Juan’s boss tries to pay him off Juan declines because he recognizes this struggle is not only about him it’s also about everyone else at the restaurant who aren’t being paid their fair wages.

Discussion Questions

What is the message of this book?

What hardships do Juan his co-workers face as they try to organize for better wages?

How does documentation status intersect with labor rights?

How do fair wages and labor protections impact workers?

Educator Questions we would love to hear your feedback in the comments section!

Do you have a book like this in your classroom already? If not why not? What other texts could you supplement with Undocumented: A Worker’s Fight?

How do you teach the intersection of labor rights and documentation status in your classroom?

With the Fire on High

By Laura Acevedo

Who, What, Where?

Laura Acevedo tells the story of an aspiring Afro-Boricua chef and teen mom in the heart of Philadelphia, in With the Fire on High.  Emoni, in her senior year of high school faces one of life’s toughest challenges, growing up and learning how to continue following her passion. Emoni juggles parenting, working and being a full time student when she takes a leap of faith and joins a cooking class as her senior elective, with the opportunity to travel to Spain. This book is a wonderful coming of age story that portrays its protagonist as a capable, loving and independent young woman who need a little help from her friends and family along the way. With the Fire on High (Audible Audio Edition): Elizabeth  Acevedo, Elizabeth Acevedo, Hot Key Books: Audible Books & Originals

Principle Themes

Some of the principle themes in the book are (1) cooking as a form of connection (2) family, and (3) Afro-Boricua identity. Emoni’s biggest passion is cooking, and throughout the book the dishes she makes are not only a way to connect with people but to also express and evoke emotions. Family is an important theme in Emoni’s intergenerational household, from being a mom herself to living under Abuela’s roof and a father back on the island of Puerto Rico, family relationships and their dynamics are a central part of With the Fire on High. The last principle theme is Afro-Boricua identity, and how Emoni navigates through different spaces in a world that’s quick to put is into boxes.

Discussion Questions

  1. Describe Emoni’s relationship to cooking? How does it define her life? What does it add to her life?
  2. Where is home for Emoni and how does she describe it? What does home mean to her?
  3. What is the difference between chosen family and nuclear family? Do you consider anyone part of your chosen family? Who does Emoni choose as her family? How do these people contribute to her life?
  4. How does young motherhood shape and change Emoni’s life? What kind of challenges does she face and how does she work to overcome them?

Age: 13-17 years old

Region: USA: Philadelphia

Language: English

Additional Resources

  1. Check out the author’s website:
  2. Sample lesson for teaching With the Fire on High:
  3. Reading guide questions:

Postcolonial Love Poem

Natalie Diaz (Graywolf Press 2020)

Who? What? Where?

Natalie Diaz, a queer Mojave poet, creates work of art in her latest publication, Postcolonial Love Poem. Her poems seamlessly move from realism to the fantastic, she writes about love in all its forms. What it means to love and unlove. The Mojave or Aha Makav, have experienced a double colonization, that of the Spanish and later the Anglo settlers of the United States. In Postcolonial Love Poem, colonialism is a constant specter, for all things have been impacted by its logic. She explores the body as a place of life and simultaneously the site of the colonial wound. Diaz encourages simultaneous readings throughout the text, incorporating multiple languages without fanfare, she works along the borderlands of language. She calls the reader into the text through her vivid imagery and range of emotions her words evoke. Below are some of my personal favorites from the collection:

“These Hands, If Not Gods”

“American Arithmetic”

“They Don’t Love you Like I Love You”

“Like Church”

“10 Reasons Why Indians are good at Basketball”

Principle Themes:

Among the most impactful theme’s of the book are Diaz’s: exploration of the body, wound(s), and translation. The body is a recurring theme throughout her poems, featured as a place of love, a site of nature, and heavily focuses on the hip and all its purposes. The concept of wound surfaces throughout, in connection to colonialism as well as in relation to her brother. Lastly, translation is used to create polysemic meanings throughout. Diaz unearths that which is untranslatable, combines the use of words from multiple languages, and situates the body within these translations. One example of her translations is her use of the song Maps by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs in her poem “They Don’t Love You Like I Love You”. Diaz lifts the lyrics from the song and translates them in a new context, specific to her experience, creating a palimpsest of new meanings. Diaz’s whole collection is largely a palimpsest, creating and recreating love and its meanings in the postcolonial.

More Resources:

Check out the Author’s website:

A conversation with the author about her work:

Diaz reads “Manhattan is a Lenape Word”:

Spirit Run

by Noe Alvarez

Who, What, Where?

Spirit Run is a non-fiction book written by Noe Alvarez. It takes places on The Peace and Dignity Journey throughout the Americas, a sacred Indigenous run as a way to honor ancestors, create connection amongst indigenous communities of the Americas, and as a form of healing. The run poses more than a few challenges for Noe along the way, but his persistence propels him through the United States and into Mexico. Raised in the farming town of Yakima, Washington, as the child of immigrants, Noe’s poignant and honest memoir of his youth and upbringing paints a vibrant picture of a first-generation youth unsure of where he belongs and in search of himself. Spirit run is a miraculous journey about a young mans’ leap of faith and the relationship he makes with himself and others along the way.

Principle Themes

Some common themes throughout the text were first generation identity, both as a U.S. citizen and in higher education, and working-class community and experiences in rural Washington. Noe’s parents work hard jobs that are physically demanding and don’t offer benefits or pay that their work deserves, Noe’s class identity is a central theme throughout that informs his perspective on justice and why he runs in the first place. Noe is the first in his family to attend higher education and is the first in his family to be born in the United States, these identities surface throughout the book, and could not be described in a nutshell more astutely than, “We create pacts over french fries and tacos, and stack onto our shoulders the kinds of promises that weigh on first-generation youth: to be the ones who save our families from things like poverty, deportation, and harsh labor conditions”.

Discussion Questions:

How do we see labor rights and immigrants’ rights intersect in this book?

What are some of the non-corporal challenges Noe faces along his journey?

What inspired you about this book?

More Resources:

Peace and Dignity Journeys:

Spirit Run Website:

La Bruja Azul

Escrito por Alane Adams (Sparkpress 2021)

¿Quien? ¿Dónde? ¿Qué?

La Bruja Azul se enfoque en el cuento de una joven bruja huérfana Abigail y su búsqueda para convertirse en una de las mejores brujas de su época. Mientras tanto Abigail tiene que enfrentarse con la matona Endera y sus amigas quienes quieren verla fracasar. Sin embargo, Abigail y su amigo balfin, Hugo, tienen otros asuntos mas importantes en que enfrentar, los dos están intentando a aprender el porque detrás del fuego azul de Abigail y la historia misteriosa de su familia. De repente encuentran que Abigail estará en grave peligro si los demás se dan cuenta del color de su magia, pero el porque aun no lo saben.  La Bruja Azul esta lleno de aventura, misterio y bestías fantásticas. Es el primer libro en la serie de Las brujas de Orkeney, así que la aventura no tiene que acabar al final del primer libro.

Temas principales:

Los temas principales del libro son (1) la amistad, (2) el descubrimiento del ser y (el coraje). La amistad es uno de los temas principales, Abigail se hace amiga con Hugo quien le acompaña en sus aventuras y cree en las habilidades de ella, los dos apoyan al otro en momentos de necesidad, demuestran lo importante es de tener amigos quien creen en ti. Otro tema es el descubrimiento de ser, Abigail tiene que no solo creer en si misma pero también sus habilidades, en sus aventuras Abigail aprenda mas sobre ella y como quiere ser de persona y bruja. El ultimo tema es el coraje, a lo largo del libro Abigail y Hugo tiene que usar coraje para hacer lo bueno y para enfrentarse a las bestias, las matonas y lo malo en el mundo de las brujas. Es una habilidad que aumenta en cada desafío que Abigail tiene que superar.

Más recursos

Amazonia: Indigenous Tales from Brazil

Retold by Daniel Munduruku (Groundwood Books, 2013)

Who? What? Where?

Amazonia: Indigenous Tales from Brazil retold by Daniel Munduruku, is an anthology of myths from the Amazonia region, featuring the tales of the Bororo, Manao, Anambé and many more. The myths help us make sense of central themes and mysteries to humanity such as: love, family, greed, and the origin stories of the world we all inhabit. Amazonia centers on the various sets of knowledge of indigenous people of the region and offers insight into new ways of seeing and making sense of the human experience. Illustrated by Nikolai Popov, the Amazonias come to life in the illustrations of serpents, leopards and bat-people. These myths will not only inspire you but will cause you to marvel at the wonder and beauty of this earth, and of those who inhabit it.

Amazonia: Indigenous Tales from Brazil seeks to get close to and reconnect the different types of knowledge that have been suppressed from people’s imaginations. It reminds us of the importance of bringing together humankind, offering each and every reader one end of the thread that binds us to each other to the great web of life” (Munduruku 9).

Principle Themes:

The anthology opens with the origin story of the Munduruku, a father and son who emerge from the darkness, and soon discover the rest of humanity. This however, is not the only origin story throughout the text, there are many others, ones that tell the beginning of how reptiles came to be, the tobacco plant, and how the Manao learned to make Tapioca flower from the cassava root. Greed is a recurring trope, from Ceuci, the Witch who Ate a Lot, an Anambé myth, to the Parrot Who Sings Kra-Kra-Kra, a Bororo myth. Stories of love and vengeance are featured prominently as well. Two brothers, the children of a woman and a jaguar, seek revenge for their mother’s death. Another features the story of a jealous husband in the Pequi Tree myth when he discovers his wives are having an affair with the Alligator. These myths locate emotions of the human experience and turn them into opportunities of understanding more about ourselves, they locate us amongst the animals and environments we know and live in, teaching us of our place in the world in relation to everything around us.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What are some common themes you see throughout the book?
  2. What kind of relationships did you see between humans and animals?
  3. What animals were new to you? What do you picture them to look like?
  4. Which myth was your favorite and why?

More Resources:

  1. Facts about the Amazon:
  2. Teachers guide to teaching about Native American storytelling (lesson plans included):
  3. Lesson plan on bringing Native American legends and myths to the classroom through art: