¡Mira, Look!: Ada’s Violin

¡Buenos días!

Today’s book fits in perfectly with our theme of love for community. Ada’s Violin, written by Susan Hood and illustrated by Sally Wern Comport, tells the true story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay. The story is told through the eyes of Ada Ríos, a young girl living in the town of Cateura, Paraguay. In 2017, this book won the Américas Award for its engaging representation of Latin America and its usefulness for K-12 classrooms.

Cateura is the home of the largest landfill in Paraguay; it is the place where the trash of the country’s capital, Asunción, isdumped. Most of the inhabitants of Cateura make a living bygathering recyclables and treasures from the landfill. The story tells about how Ada’s abuela registers Ada and her younger sister for music classes with señor Favio Chávez. Favio came to Cateura as an environmental engineer to teach safety measures to those working in the landfill. During his time in Cateura, he took an interest in the children of the workers and began a music class. When the class did not have enough instruments for everyone who signed up, Favio creatively decided to enlist a local carpenter, Nicolas Gómez, for help. Together, they made instruments from objects they found in the landfill. Thus, the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay was born.

This book demonstrates how a community is able to make the best of a difficult situation, and even thrive. It teaches the importance of dreaming big and believing in oneself. Furthermore, it shows the importance of support and coming together. Lastly, throughout it all, it contradicts stereotypes of impoverished communities as lacking agency.

The author’s note tells of the amazing successes that the Recycled Orchestra has had, in addition to the way that its community has remained at the center of that success. The money that the orchestra makes has gone back into the community to better the lives of the musicians’ families. And this grassroots-driven success continues to grow, with the orchestra starting out as a class of 10 and now consisting of some 200 students.

Wern Comport’s illustrations accompany the descriptions of daily life in Cateura beautifully. The colors and texture reflect the complex, textured, day-to-day of the characters. Furthermore, Wern Comport’s use of torn pieces of paper simulates the recycled nature of the orchestra itself.

This book could be accompanied by a number of different lessons in the classroom. It depicts the concept of recycling in a unique way, showing kids that what we throw in the trash has to go somewhere and that it always affects somebody. Our choices and actions matter! For slightly older students, that conversation can segue into deeper discussions about environmental racism – leading to larger-scale implications of how societies and countries choose where to leave their refuse, why, and what happens to it after it’s “abandoned.” On this topic, educators might appreciate watching Vic Munoz’s documentary, Wasteland, which documents a community’s efforts in Rio de Janeiro to recapture the garbage there, much as the people do in Cateura.

The book can also be accompanied by the documentary about The Recycled Orchestra, titled Landfill Harmonic.

At the end of the book, Hood lists a few websites, including that of The Recycled Orchestra Exhibit at the Musical Instrument Museum, in addition to the website of the actual Orchestra: Orquesta de Reciclados de Cateura.

The book also lists three videos to check out:

Saludos,

Kalyn


Images Modified from: Ada’s Violin: Pages 1, 18, 22, 31

¡Mira, Look!: Yo soy Muslim

¿Hablas un poquito de español? ¿Por qué no acompañarme en nuestras series mensuales de literatura infantil? Desde ahora nuestras críticas literarias en el blog ¡Vamos a leer! se van a hacer también en la lengua de Cervantes, que tantos de nuestros seguidores dominan. Como reza el dicho, hay que profesar con el ejemplo; y con la inclusión del español pretendemos llegar a una audiencia más diversa pero, sobre todo, es una declaración de intenciones.

Book_Page_01En la serie de literatura infantil dedicada a la temática del amor por la comunidad este mes, vamos a introducir el libro Yo soy Muslim, una sugestiva colaboración entre el escritor Mark Gonzales y la ilustradora Mehrdokht Amini. Grosso modo Yo soy Muslim es una tierna carta de amor y empoderamiento de un padre hacia su hija, animándole a celebrar su riqueza cultural musulmana, hispanoamericana e indígena. Esta conexión no pasa inadvertida, pues es de amplia aceptación el que los padres, por una razón no del todo conocida, tengan una relación especial con sus hijas, en la misma medida en que las madres la tienen con sus hijos. Ahora vamos a escuchar el susurro paternal, que lentamente ofrece un desfilar de palabras que no hacen sino expresar su amor por nosotros y la idea de que polvo de estrellas fuimos y en polvo de estrella nos convertiremos:

Hay preguntas que nos hacemos cuando estamos aprendiendo qué significa ser humano… hay preguntas que este mundo te hará… ese día diles: yo soy musulmana, soy de Alá, de los ángeles y de un sitio tan antiguo como el tiempo. Yo hablo español, árabe y sueños.

Book_Page_04

Imaginemos por un momento, todavía con los ojos cerrados, que papá también nos da la llave de nuestra ascendencia familiar, digna de respeto y admiración como todas aquellas que confluyen en este mundo que compartimos. Y nos hace ver que detrás de esa ascendencia familiar y sentimiento de orgullo y pertenencia a la misma, está mamá y los abuelos, que a su vez tendrían a sus mamás y papás y abuelos y abuelas. Y de esa bella destilación humana provenimos nosotros, que debemos ser la mejor versión posible; una de la que nuestros ancestros puedan estar orgullosos también, cerrando el círculo en un abrazo familiar.

Yo soy Muslim viene a compartir el orgullo de un padre por lo que representa su hija, un cruce de culturas en el que Alá, la lengua española y actitudes forjadas con perseverancia, respeto e integridad, han hecho posible y merecedor de la más alta estima el camino recorrido. Un padre que anima a su hija a reír y a soñar de forma inocente, sin dejarse vencer por aquellos que no lo hacen.Book_Page_11 Gonzales afirma que el libro fue escrito antes de la era Trump, y sin embargo es totalmente pertinente en un ambiente de xenofobia creciente; porque fomenta el respeto por la diferencia. La periodista Tasbeeh Herwees, de la publicación Good Education, lo califica como una auténtica defensa identitaria. Porque ser uno mismo manteniendo una firme sonrisa, en un ambiente ciertamente crispado por la intolerancia de unos pocos, se torna indispensable y un acto de resistencia de máxima valía. Hagamos caso a esta sugestiva fábula y abracemos, por encima de todo, una personalidad propia y no exenta de diálogo con los demás. Seamos uno y todos a la vez.

Recursos relacionados:

Simon & Schuster, el publicista, describe a su autor Mark Gonzales como un padre futurista y uno de los narradores de historias más innovadores de nuestro tiempo. Su portafolio abarca 20 países e incluye apariciones en TED Talks, HBO, la Universidad de Stanford y las Naciones Unidas. Yo Soy Muslim es su primera aventura en la literatura infantil. Actualmente el autor trabaja entre California y el norte de África.

Para conocer más acerca de este libro, incluyendo las ilustraciones de Mehrdokht Amini, visitar  las siguientes páginas web:

Recursos educativos relacionados con la diversidad e integración del mundo musulmán:

  • Rethinking School’s Rethinking Islamaphobia: poderoso artículo y plan lectivo de un educador musulmán y un desarrollador de currículo que cuestiona hasta qué punto la educación religiosa es efectiva para combatir la intolerancia arraigada en los EEUU. Este recurso puede ir ligado a What Is Islam?, un artículo que recopila nociones básicas sobre el islam y el mundo musulmán.
  • PBS LearningMedia: el islam en América, un plan lectivo que anima a los estudiantes a explorar la diversidad religiosa y cultural dentro del islam.
  • Teaching Tolerance: Debunking Stereotypes About Muslims and Islam: actividad que busca derribar estereotipos sobre el islam.

 

¡Espero que te haya gustado la recomendación de hoy!

Sigue atento a nuestra serie del mes.

Santi

 

¡Mira, Look!: Malaika’s Costume

Buenos días!

We are excited to be back with our book reviews. Throughout the semester we will be interweaving book reviews in both English and Spanish, between our new blog member, Santi, and me. Santi will be writing reviews in Spanish, and I will be writing them in English. Since it’s February, the month of love, we will start by bringing you book reviews surrounding the theme of love for community.

Today we are excited to bring you a review of Malaika’s Costume, written by Nadia L. Hohn and illustrated by Irene Luxbacher. This book is an Honorable Mention recipient of the 2017 Américas Award. It tells the story of Malaika, a young girl in Jamaica living with her granny while her mummy works in Canada to provide for them. In the story, Malaika is struggling with not having a costume for carnival, one of the most exciting festivals in her town. Malaika’s worries and frustrations with the costume are interwoven with missing her mummy, struggling to allow her granny to fill that motherly role, and optimistic expectations of no longer having financial issues since her mummy is working in Canada. In the end, Malaika and her granny find a resolution and Malaika dances beautifully in Carnival.

Luxbacher’s illustrations are absolutely breathtaking. I appreciated Malaika’s imaginative rendering of cold and snowy Canada, and how it contrasts her warm and colorful Jamaican hometown. The imaginative aspect of the illustrations mirrors Malaika’s personality. Hohn’s book as a whole explains important issues that countless children face with parents working from afar to provide for their families.

Also, her description of complex relationships from a child’s perspective is refreshing and necessary within today’s multicultural society. Furthermore, Malaika’s day-to-day interactions with neighbors and extended family members give us cultural insight to life in small-town Jamaica. Hohn includes definitions of different words she uses for understanding the cultural context of the text, including explanations of different types of music, instruments, characters and foods. Although the story is told from Malaika’s point of view, the last page’s illustration allows us to place her mother within the story, and better understand her love for her daughter.

I highly recommend checking out Nadia Hohn’s biography on her website. Nadia’s passion for children’s book diversity led her to publish Malaika’s Costume.

She teaches French, music, and the arts at the Africentric Alternative School where she has been an inaugural staff member since its opening in 2009.  She has taught in Toronto public schools since 2003. Out of her classroom and personal experiences, Hohn crafted edited two literary resources for teaching about Black heritage to grades 4-8, titled SANKOFA, which could be great for teaching this month, given that we are entering Black Heritage Month. Out of the resources in the guide, the SANKOFA Music book would pair well with Malaika’s Costume. While the music book must be purchased, Hohn also offers a number of free strategies for how to engage students with Malaika’s story.

Teachers interested in using this book with their students might also turn to the Smithsonian’s educator materials, particularly their lesson plan (grades 3-5), titled “The Sounds of an Island: Jamaican Music for the Classroom.” You can also explore excerpts of calypso rock songs by the famous Jamaican calypsonians, Horace Johnson & The Eagle Star, on the Smithsonian Folkways site. For quick reference, here is a full audio recording of Horace Johnson’s music. These resources pair with Malaika’s Costume given that this colorful children’s book is as much about music and dance as it is about family. During the Carnival celebrations that inspired the book, the street is full of soca and calypso – musical traditions that are explained on the website for the Trinidad and Tobago’s National Library and Information System.

If you enjoyed this book, we recommend that you check out the sequel, Malaika’s Winter Costume. Here is a promotional video for the sequel, which shows photos of Carnival in Jamaica.

Saludos,

Kalyn

 


Images Modified From Malaika’s Costume: Pages 3, 7, 29, 30

¡Mira, Look!: Topilitzkuintli/El perro topil

¡Buenos días! Today we will continue our Indigenous Peoples book reviews with Topilitzkuintli/El perro topil. The story is written in Spanish by Elisa Ramírez Castañeda, translated to Nahuatl by Miguel Ángel Tepole, and illustrated by Francisco Toledo. Toledo is a significant Zapotec artist and activist from the Tehuantepec peninsula, and Ramírez Castañeda is a poet, sociologist and translator who works to spread the importance of indigenous cultures in both Native and non-Native communities. She is also author of the book titled La educación indígena en México, where she writes extensively about indigenous peoples of Mexico and their inclusion/exclusion in the Mexican nation and education. Toledo and Castañeda are also married with two children.

This Nahuatl story tells the tale of why dogs always smell each others’ rear-ends when they first meet one another. Kids will find this story silly and entertaining. In the story, dogs have been continually mistreated by humans. To resolve this, they decide to bring a message to the region’s leader, Señor Tlalocan, so that he will punish the humans. They choose one dog that would deliver the message, and name this dog the Perro Topil. Since the Perro Topil will be crossing rivers and mountains, the dogs carefully consider a safe place to keep the message during his journey. In the end, they decid to put it in the Perro Topil’s rear-end. Time goes by, and the message never reaches Señor Tlalocan.  We are to surmise that this explains why, even today, when dogs first meet, they smell each others’ rears in search of the Perro Topil and the message he carries.

I am happy to see the inclusion of Nahuatl in the text, especially since the story itself is from the Nahuatl people. If you are interested in the Nahuatl language and culture, you can check out a post I wrote a few weeks ago about The Princess and the Warrior by Duncan Tonatiuh. This post contains various links about the Nahuatl language, along with other indigenous languages in Mexico.

The paintings in this book are exquisite and exemplary of Francisco Toledo’s painting style. Each turn of the page reveals a new painting extending across two pages. These illustrations provide an opportunity to discuss the Mexican muralist movement, which greatly influenced Francisco Toledo’s work. For those unfamiliar with Mexican muralism, the Art History Teaching Resources (AHTR) website provides useful background information and lesson plans. PBS also has a lesson plan, “The Storm That Swept Mexico | Lesson Plan: Revolutionary Art,” that accompanies a video about the Mexican Revolution; however, the materials can stand alone in regards to their discussion of Mexican muralism. Apart from these lesson plans, students might also benefit from having the chance to discuss the similarities/differences between Toledo and other Mexican muralists.

Saludos,

Kalyn

¡Mira, Look!: La Gran Canoa: Leyenda Kariña

¡Buenos días! I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving weekend! As we continue with our Indigenous Peoples book reviews, I want to highlight a resource recently shared by Alin, an Indigenous Reads by Indigenous Writers list. Although this list focuses on North America, we hope you will find this to be a useful resource when teaching about all of Indigenous America (North, Central, South and beyond). We intend for these books and resources to extend not only through Native American Heritage Month, but all year round.

Today we will be travelling to Venezuela with La Gran Canoa: Leyenda Kariña, retold by María Elena Maggi and illustrated by Gloria Calderón. This book illustrates the Kariña people’s legend of the great flood. It is written in Spanish and Calderón’s illustrations are breathtaking. She paints light-colored lines onto a black background, giving the illustrations an etched look, and bringing the different scenes to life with movement. It’s a technique that appears reminiscent of sgraffito painting. Continue reading

¡Mira, Look!: Napí

¡Buenos días! Today we will move further south in Mexico to a small Mazateca village in the state of Oaxaca with the children’s book, Napí,  written by the Mexican muralist/activist Antonio Ramírez and illustrated by Mazateca artist/activist Domi (Domitila Domínguez). The two have worked together as partners and activists, particularly within the context of indigenous activism and the Zapatista movement in Mexico, and together founded the Colectivo Callejero (the Streetwise Collective) in 1982.

Napí tells the story of a Mazateca girl of the same name. In the story, Napí introduces herself and takes us into her world of home, life, family and dreams. She carefully and intimately shows us different elements of her village; these elements are normal parts of her day to day life, however, her descriptions, accompanied by Domi’s captivating illustrations, demonstrate that there is nothing mundane about them. Napí moves along through the pages, illuminating the beauty of plants, animals and other elements of nature.

Napí describes her family, plants and animals with love and warm respect, and her depictions portray how the elements of nature, such as the large ceiba tree outside of her home, take care of her, and she trusts in them to do so. It is the ceiba tree that brings Napí dreams. Napí cherishes her dreams and explains them with excitement. Throughout the book we get the overall feeling that Napí is in a familiar, loving and supporting environment. As De Colores reviewer Bevery Slapin explains, “She [Napí] says she is poor, but that is belief by the richness of her land, her culture, and the community of which she is a valued part.”

The simple and direct language in the book is well-accompanied by Domi’s expressive, deep and colorful illustrations. Continue reading

¡Mira, Look!: The Princess and the Warrior

¡Buenos días!

November is Native American Heritage Month.  Typically, this means that the internet is flooded with underwhelming and endless lists of books highlighting “Indians and Pilgrims” – using this as the only opportunity throughout the year to discuss indigenous peoples of the US, and typically through a distorted lens.

We’re taking a different route, one that will celebrate the lesser-told stories of individual cultures and stories among Indigenous peoples of the Americas.

A brief aside: There are amazing educators out there who are debunking, challenging, and critiquing how to teach Native American Heritage Month in the classroom. A few of them offer resources that we wanted to put at your fingertips: Check Your Curriculum? Are Native Americans in the Past Tense? by Zinn Education Project; Some Thoughts About Native American Month and Thanksgiving by Debbie Reese of the American Indians in Children’s Literature blog; and the Rethinking Columbus guide from Rethinking Schools. These are just a few. As you find others, please add them to the comments below.

Since we at Vamos a Leer have been engaging in this conversation every November for the past few years, we’ve compiled other resources that may be useful to you. You might consider checking out our content on teaching about Indigenous Peoples, as well as our related materials on Rethinking Thanksgiving. And finally, you might refer, too, Reading Roundup of “10 Books About Indigenous Peoples of Latin America” – some of which we’ll cover in more depth in this month’s reviews.

We begin our reviews this month with the children’s book, The Princess and the Warrior, written and illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh. This title is an Illustrator Honor Book of the 2017 Pura Belpré Award and a Commended Title for the 2017 Américas Award, among others.

In this book, Tonatiuh tells his own version of the legend of Iztaccíhuatl and Popocatépetl, which are the two volcanoes southeast of Mexico City. Tonatiuh recounts the legend of how these volcanoes came to be, but adds his own twist to this well-known Mexican story.

The book is a love story about the beautiful princes Itza, who falls in love with a warrior, Popoca. Itza’s father, the emperor, prefers that Itza marry a powerful tlatoani, or ruler, rather than a simple soldier. However, he concedes that if Popoca is able to defeat Jaguar Claw of the neighboring area, with whom they have been at war, Itza and Popoca can marry. Although Popoca fights bravely and eventually triumphs over Jaguar Claw, a twist in the plot leads Itza to believe that Popoca has actually been defeated. In her grief, Itza drinks a special octli (fermented beverage) and cannot be awoken. Popoca, grief stricken, lays her on a bed of flowers and remains by her side throughout time. And that is how the two volcanoes came to be. As Kirkus Reviews writes, it’s a story “equal parts melancholic and transcendent – a genuine triumph.” Continue reading