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

City of the Beasts

By Isabel Allende

Age: 13+

Region: South America

Language: Available in English and Spanish

Who? What? Where?

Alexander Cold is a boy from northern California. The oldest of 3 children and the only boy, Alex is close to his father and looks after his younger sisters especially since his mother Lisa was diagnosed with cancer and undergoing treatment. As his mother’s condition worsens, his father’s attention is increasingly focused on his wife, forcing him to make the difficult decision of sending his children away to stay with family members until the worst of the treatment is over. Alex’s two younger sisters Andrea and Nicole are sent to stay with their grandmother Carla while Alex is sent to his dad’s mother Kate. Kate Cold is a bold, independent women who doesn’t coddle her grandson. She is a writer/explorer who works for the National Geographic who has assigned her a mission in the Amazon. Alex will accompany her there unaware of the magical and harrowing adventure awaiting him and his grandmother.

Once in the Amazon Kate and Alex are connected with the group they will be traveling with. They are on a mission to find the purported Beasts who are deadly, seem invisible, and leave an intoxicating stench wherever they go. No outsiders to the region have witnessed the Beast so Kate is eager to be the first to see it and write about it. The group includes the pompous professor Leblanc, a few soldiers, a Venezuelan doctor tasked with vaccinating the elusive Indigenous groups living deep in the Amazon, a local father and his daughter Nadia, and a few others. Nadia and Alex become fast friends. Nadia opens Alex up to his power within that enables him to connect to nature and help Nadia “save” the Indigenous people who are called the People of the Mist because they have never been contacted by outsiders. Through their connection to nature and the trust the Indigenous people come to have in the duo, Alex and Nadia uncover the mystery of the Beast and the intentions of certain members of their crew, both growing immensely in the process.

This is a fantastical adventure tale taking readers deep into the Amazon as they follow Alex as he grows out of the boy he was when he embarked on the journey with his grandmother Kate, and into the young man who understands the interconnectedness of humans and nature, leaving fear behind to find strength in love for the world around him.

My issues:

While reading City of the Beasts I couldn’t help but notice several elements of Isabel Allende’s story that were problematic. The most glaring issue was her use of the word ‘indian(s)’ to describe the Indigenous people of the Amazon. Why is the word ‘indian’ problematic? The word was first used by European colonists when they arrived in the Americas to describe the Indigenous populations. They erroneously believed they had landed in the Indies therefore the word ‘indian’ seemed appropriate at the time but would later be revealed to be a misnomer. This term is considered offensive as it perpetuates the power of colonists, is a reflection of a complete misconception of the Americas, and groups many diverse people into a single category robbing Indigenous people of their individuality and distinct cultures. As a tool for discussing peoples who do share some commonalities, we still group them into distinct categories that may be beneficial at times and harmful at others.

‘“Indigenous peoples’ is considered a safe general term for many differed groups. ‘Amerindian’ can be used to refer to Indigenous people from North and South America… When possible, it is preferable to be specific about which group you are referring to, as there are distinct differences to each group.”

– “No Offense? Some Terms and Phrases to Become Aware of, Potentially Avoid, and Why” Compiled, written, and edited by Paula R. Curtis and Jacquiline D. Antonovich. (link below)

My second issue is rooted in the depiction of the People of the Mist, the uncontacted Indigenous group of the Amazon that Nadia and Alex save. Allende illustrates this group of people using rich descriptions of cultural practices and norms with no apparent research or prior knowledge about them. Their religious dedication to the Beasts who are a group of large, smelly, and extremely slow sloths could be offensive and promote misconceptions about Indigenous groups of the Amazon. It seems irresponsible to depict a group of people potentially falsely and from a position of her own power and privilege. Further, the idea that the Indigenous people of the Amazon, in particular the People of the Mist, need Alex as their savior is a tired and harmful narrative that we should question and avoid.

City of the Beast was an enjoyable novel to read but it is a good reminder that we should always read critically and look within ourselves and to our communities to question, research, understand, and explore topics, words and depictions that appear harmful and promote misconceptions and prejudices.

Discussion questions for educators: (Please post any responses in the comment box so together we can open up discussion)

Is it beneficial to introduce students to literature that may be problematic?

What lessons can be learned from books like City of the Beasts?

How do you confront difficult topics in your classroom? What are some strategies for teaching students the harm of using certain words and promoting misconceptions about marginalized groups?

Did this review bring up books you have read in the past? If so, which ones?

Additional Resources:

“No Offense? Some Terms and Phrases to Become Aware of, Potentially Avoid, and Why”

“Rethinking the Brazilian Amazon: A Conversation with Indigenous Poet Márcia Wayna Kambeba”

Isabel Allende’s Website

Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela

By Alexandra Alessandri illustrated by Addy Rivera Sonda

Age: 4-6

Region: Colombia

Language: Bilingual

Who? What? Where?

Ava Gabriela and her parents are in Colombia visiting relatives for the holidays. When they first arrive at Abuelita’s finca, Ava Gabriela is very shy and reserved. She has a hard time speaking up and enjoying her family members who do their best to make her feel comfortable and pull her out of her shell.

When her Tía Nena asks Ava if she wanted to make buñuelos Ava agrees and enjoys the quality time she spends with her primos while doing so. As her time at the finca progresses, Ava slowly becomes more comfortable allowing for more opportunities to connect with her relatives and participate in the festivities of the new year. She bonds further with her primos when they create Año Viejo and pop him together during the new year festivities. Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela reminds us that new situations can be hard for all of us. Through the kindness of her family and her own bravery and interest in the world around her, Ava breaks free of her fear and is able to fully enjoy herself.

Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela is a wonderful book that could be incorporated into any classroom. It would be great for Spanish language learners as the book includes many Spanish words. It is a great resource for teaching about Colombian culture and includes a glossary of terms including translations and explanations of customs.

Discussion questions for students:

  1. Does your family have a particular holiday they celebrate together? What kinds of things does your family do to celebrate?
  2. Can you think of a time you felt shy or scared? How did you overcome those feelings? What made you feel more comfortable?
  3. What new words did you learn? What do they mean?

Additional Resources:

Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela read aloud:

Chat with the author:

Author’s website:

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?

Ignacio Zaragoza Seguin: Mi Version de Cinco de Mayo / Ignacio Zaragoza Seguin: My version of Cinco de Mayo

Written by Jose Angel Gutierrez

(Book review by Pablo Arias-Benavides)

Age: 6th Grade

Region: Texas / Mexico

Language: Bilingual Edition with separate English and Spanish texts

Who? What? Where?

This is the story of Mexican General and Minister, Ignacio Zaragoza Seguin, well known for his victory over a French Army at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. It is written in an autobiographical style which will make the history approachable for students who are beginning to read longer narratives. The text deals with mature issues such as slavery, war, forced migration, gendered violence, and epidemic disease, so it is not appropriate for lower elementary grades.

The Hero of Cinco De Mayo/ El Héroe De Cinco De Mayo: Ignacio Zaragoza  Seguín (English and Spanish Edition): José Angel Gutiérrez, Stephen  Marchesi, Stephen Marchesi: 9781558858985: Books

Ignacio details his life from his birth in 1829 to his death from typhoid fever shortly following his victory in Puebla. As one of several children of a Mexican Army officer, Ignacio experienced mid-19th century life in various parts of Texas and Mexico. His narrative gives readers a window into rural, small village, and city life of the place and period as well as a small glimpse of Mexico City. He describes both everyday life and the larger political struggles of the age; in particular, he is affected by the Texan war of independence, civil wars within Mexico, and the Franco-Mexican war of the early 1860s. Ignacio became the youngest General of Mexico in 1857 at the age of 28, and in 1862 was appointed as the Minister of Army and Marina. That year, his fame was cemented by an insightful strategic victory over superior French forces at the Battle of Puebla, which is now commemorated as the US and Mexican holiday of Cinco de Mayo.

This volume is a combined English-Spanish edition: the reader can finish the story in one language, then flip the book over and start again from the other side. This makes it a useful learning tool as it can be read first in the reader’s primary language and then again in the second language, although facing translations may have been a more convenient choice.

Discussion Questions

  1. How did Texas become a US state after being a Mexican territory?
  2. How was the dispute between Texas and Mexico related to the later war between the United States and Mexico?
  3. Why did France attack Mexico?
  4. Ignacio says that his success came from reading widely. Why do you think he says this?
  5. What is the job of a General?

Additional Resources

Cinco de Mayo: All About the Holiday. PBS

Factsheet for Cinco de Mayo. History Channel

Historical Context. Mexican History. Scholastic

Aqui era el Paraiso / Here Was Paradise

Written by Humberto Ak’abal with Illustrations by Amelia Lau Carling

(Book review by Pablo Arias-Benavides)

Age:  6 and up

Region: K’iche’ Maya

Language: Spanish with facing translations in English

Who? What? Where?

Aqui era el Paraiso is an anthology of poetry by Humberto Ak’abal, presented in an attractive bilingual edition and complemented by watercolor and pastel illustrations of the K’iche’ Maya world. The poems are categorized by topic, including “Water,” “500 years,” “Village Mornings,” and the perennial theme of “Love.” Ak’abal also writes of the other lives (and un-lives) surrounding him: “Birds,” “Bugs,” and “Ghosts.”

Aquí era el paraíso / Here Was Paradise – House of Anansi Press

This poetry conveys comfort:

“Ponchos of pure goat’s wool / Woven in Momostenango. // Dreaming wrapped in them / is as if you were falling asleep in the woodlands.” (In the Woodlands)

The ambivalence of eternity:
“It’s not that the stones are mute: / they just keep silent.” (Stones)

And the persistent struggles of time and society:
“It’s not that we Indigenous people / are old; / it’s the weight of poverty, / of indifference, / of injustice, / that makes us age. // and this goes back / a little farther than / 500 years.” (500 years)

This is an indispensable collection of work by “one of the great contemporary poets of the Spanish language, and one of the greatest Indigenous poets of the Americas.” Its content and form are appropriate for readers of all ages, and like many poems, these are wonderful when read aloud. English translations of the Spanish originals are presented on facing pages, making this volume a useful tool for learners of either language.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Can you come up with some poetic themes based on your surroundings?
  2. Where did you grow up? Do your memories of that place evoke words, images, or other sensations?
  3. What do you know about the Maya cultures of Mesoamerica?
  4. Ak’abal calls the Jaguar a Ghost. What is the relationship between animals and spirits?
  5. Is there anything you would like to write a poem about? Perhaps to remember it later?

Additional Resources:

The poet’s official website:

Reading at the Festival de Poesía: Lenguas de América 2012:

February is Black History Month!

This month we honor the adversity and triumphs experienced by African Americans not only throughout North America but in of all the Americas. While we honor Black history this month it is important to remember that we should elevate Black histories, Black voices, Black realities every month. Additionally, this month should not be understood as a separate part of the history of the Americas, but as integral to the history of the Americas. Afro-Latinxs have influenced and created the Latin America we know today.

Contra todas as expectativas - Ciência Hoje
“Sonia Guimarães is a Brazilian Professor of Physics at the Instituto Tecnológico de Aeronáutica. She was the first black Brazilian woman to earn a doctorate in physics and has dedicated her career to improving the representation of black Brazilians in academia.” Click here to explore our lesson plan about Sonia!

Afro-Latinidad describes members of the African diaspora who were brought to Latin America and have since migrated all over the world, bringing their culture with them. There are many culturally distinct practices and characteristics of Afro-Latinidad, each region having a diverse and rich manifestation of this cross-cultural identity. African cultural traditions have permeated Latin America for hundreds of years, some being obvious and others more subtle. Only recently have many countries begun to start the process of officially recognizing Latin Americans of African descent. Teaching about Afro-Latinidad is essential when teaching about Latin America.

To the source of Buena Vista Social Club
Buena Vista Social Club is a group of Cuban musicians who were virtually forgotten in Cuba’s past until they were reunited in 1996. The group is World famous, bringing Cuba’s African roots across the globe. Click here to explore our film guide for the Buena Vista Social Club documentary!

During the 2020-21 school year, the LAII hosted the Institute’s first-ever teacher workshop series on Afro-Latinidad! Throughout the series, we discuss a variety of Afro-Latinx cultures across Latin America, a range of spiritual and cultural Afro-Latinx traditions, and a diverse selection of historical Afro-Latinx figures. Please visit Afro-Latinidad :: Latin American & Iberian Institute | The University of New Mexico ( to find more activities.

Literature is a wonderful way to learn about Afro-Latinx cultures and histories. Today’s book review provides us with a great opportunity to celebrate Black History Month!

Halsey Street

By Naima Coster (Little A, 2018)

The Paris Review - Owning Brooklyn: An Interview with Naima Coster

Who? What? Where?

Penelope Grand decides to return to her childhood home on Halsey Street in BedStuy New York to be closer to her aging father. Once home Penelope is forced to bear witness to the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood as she struggles to confront both past and present, as well as her complicated family relationships. Halsey Street captures the feeling of what it means to return home when you never wanted to and the complexity of dysfunctional family dynamics between an absent mom Mirella, and an emotionally unavailable father, Ralph. This beautifully written novel weaves memory seamlessly between the pages in rich detail as Penelope tries to decide whether she will continue to let the past decide her present. 

Principle Themes:

Motherhood is a constant theme throughout the book as Mirella attempts to mother Penelope and the complexities their dynamic engenders. Coster is able to create a character for whom mothering has never been easy, and of a woman who struggles to understand her daughter. A second theme is gentrification, a process that has now gripped many major U.S cities and displaced many long term residents, gentrification changes the home Naima once knew and makes her wonder if this is place she can still call home.

Discussion Questions:

What type of tensions do you see in the book between Penelope, Ralph and Mirella?

What themes related to belonging and community did you notice?

What are the intersectional experiences of diaspora and gentrification/displacement in BedStuy?

Age: 14+

Region: US: New York

Language: English

More Resources:

Interview with the author:

The author’s website:

General book guide discussion questions:

Feb 2016 Afro-Caribbean Narrative
For additional books centering Black experiences visit our book review collection of Afro-Caribbean Children’s and YA books

La Princesa Zanahoria

Escrito por / written by Paulina Jara, Ilustrado por / illustrated by Carmen Cardemil

¿Quién? ¿Qué? ¿Donde?

Esta es una historia de cuento de hadas de una boda vegetal, ilustrada con papel recordado al estilo de Henri Matisse. El cuento sigue a la Princesa Zanahoria mientras escapa de un matrimonio que no quiere y encuentra el amor verdadero con la ayuda de su madrina mágica. Si bien la historia les resultará familiar a los niños que han escuchado o leído otros cuentos de hadas, los lectores más jóvenes probablemente concentrarán más en las imágenes animadas y creativas de este libro. También pueden servir como inspiración para un proyecto de arte, como dibujar las verduras que más le gustan al lector.

La princesa zanahoria – Lorito Books

Este libro es apropiado para lectores principiantes, así como para leer en voz alta a niños que están comenzando a reconocer palabras, formas y colores. Además, este libro sería apropiado para estudiantes de todas las edades que están comenzando su viaje de aprendizaje del idioma español.

Who? What? Where?

This is a fairytale story of a vegetable wedding, colorfully illustrated with cut paper in the style of Henri Matisse. The characters are abstract enough to be silly and recognizable enough to point out and name while reading with a child. The back of the book includes a spread of the vegetable characters with some of their common names in Spanish, making it a fun way to learn and remember them.

The plot involves Princess Carrot escaping a marriage she does not want and finding true love with the help of her magical godmother. While the story will be familiar to kids who have heard or read other fairy tales, the youngest readers will probably be most focused on the lively and creative pictures in this book. They can also serve as inspiration for an art project – such as drawing the vegetables that the reader most enjoys as shapes, names, or as food.

La princesa zanahoria – Lorito Books

This book is appropriate for early readers, as well as for reading aloud to children who are beginning to recognize words, shapes, and colors. Additionally, this book would be appropriate for students of all ages who are begging their Spanish-language learning journey.

Preguntas de discusión:

  1. ¿Cuál es tu fruta o verdura favorita? ¿Cuál es su nombre en español? ¿Cuál es su nombre en inglés?
  2. ¿Qué verduras comes cocidas? ¿Cuáles comes crudo?
  3. ¿Cuál es tu forma favorita de comer verduras?
  4. ¿Conoces alguna de estas frutas o verduras con otros nombres?

Discussion Questions:

1. What is your favorite fruit or vegetable? What is its name in Spanish? What is its name in English?

2. Which vegetables do you eat cooked? Which do you eat raw?

3. What is your favorite way of eating vegetables?

4. Do you know any of these fruits or vegetables by other names? 5) Can you make a paper cut-out of your favorite fruit or vegetable?

Age group: 3-6 years old

Region: N/A (author from Chile)

Language: Spanish, also available in English

Recursos Adicionales:

“La princesa Zanahoria ” por Juan Cornejo Coo – Biblioteca Regional de Antofagasta (libro animado leído en voz alta en Youtube )

“La princesa Zanahoria ” – Adaptación Los Fi (re-narración animada de la historia)

Charla del autor: La princesa Zanahoria Paulina Jara (evento con la autora del libro)

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: