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: https://www.natgeokids.com/uk/discover/geography/physical-geography/amazon-facts/
  2. Teachers guide to teaching about Native American storytelling (lesson plans included): https://www.pbs.org/circleofstories/educators/index.html
  3. Lesson plan on bringing Native American legends and myths to the classroom through art: https://teachers.yale.edu/curriculum/viewer/initiative_17.01.06_u

Caravan to the North: Misael’s Long Walk  

By: Jorge Argueta Illustrated by: Manuel Monroy

Who? Where? What? Misael Martinez is a Salvadoran boy who is leaving his home with his family to head North in search of a better, safer life. Misael’s life in El Salvador was centered around family and the land. They took pride in cultivating corn and connecting to the earth. Things became tainted when the violence and the gangs began to penetrate their world. It was no longer safe for children in their barrio. Misael and his family are joined by many others in the caravan north. Families, children traveling alone, women and men, all on a journey together for the same reasons. They start out their journey from Plaza Divina Salvador del Mundo and head north through Guatemala and on to Mexico. They encounter many kind folks along the way and some who are not so kind.  The caravan arrives in Tijuana with high hopes. As they approach the wall it becomes clear that getting to the other side is impossible, leaving many with broken dreams of the north and a longing for their homes back in El Salvador.

Jorge Argueta paints the picture of the experience of those migrating in the caravan to the north in verse. Each part of the journey is described from the point of view of Misael. We follow his experience as it reflects those of the migrants he is traveling with. The reader is yanked along the rollercoaster of emotions from excitement and hope to sadness and despair. Caravan to the North is an important story that underscores the reality of many people from Latin America today. The book provides valuable insight into the reasons people migrate and the harrowing journeys they endure to seek safety, opportunity, freedom, and well-being for themselves and their families.  By using the point of view of a boy on the journey, Jorge Argueta presents the complicated theme of migration in an approachable way for middle school and high school students.

Primary Themes: migration, family, community, expectations vs reality, current events

Resources for using Caravan to the North in the classroom:

https://www.teachingbooks.net/tb.cgi?tid=68278 Teaching books has comprehensive activities and info about Caravan to the North.

http://jorgetetlargueta.weebly.com/ For more information about the author Jorge Argueta including his other works and resources for the classroom.

https://www.ilctr.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Teaching-Immigration-with-the-Immigrant-Stories-Project-FINAL_opt.pdf The University of Minnesota Immigration History Research Center’s “Teaching Immigration with the Immigration Stories Project.” A great resource for ideas on how to incorporate immigration topics into the classroom.

The Titanosaur

By Dr. José Luis Carballido and Dr. Diego Pol

(Orchard Books, 2019)

Who What Where?

One day a gaucho, a term for the cowboys of Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay, comes across an usual mound in the earth. On his next day in town the gaucho informs a paleontologist at a museum of his discovery. A team of experts quickly assemble to help uncover the largest dinosaur ever found, the Titanosaur. Readers will learn key terms as they venture back in time, a 100 million years to be precise, and learn about the profession of paleontology. This is a story of the teamwork and collaboration necessary to bring the fossil to the surface, and share it with the world. Find out what it took in the Titanosaur: Discovering the World’s Largest Dinosaur.

Principle Themes

While the subject of the book is foremost about the Titanosaur, readers learn several other important topics as well. Teamwork is a powerful force throughout the story, as everyone needed to come together to get this 70-ton fossil uncovered and safely delivered to a museum before Winter set in. Additionally, the text familiarizes the reader with the field of paleontology. The reader learns about a little-known career that unearths information about past civilizations and periods in the Earth’s history. Lastly, the book emphasizes the value of societal contribution, everyone involved in the dig and discovery knew it was such an astounding find that it deserved to be shared with everyone, it was a contribution to society, and thus highlighted the value of sharing. Now you can witness the greatness of the Titanosaur in a museum, where everyone can learn about The Age of the Dinosaurs.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Why was teamwork important during the dig?
  2. What challenges did the team face?
  3. What does a paleontologist do? Would you want to be a paleontologist someday?
  4. Why do you think it’s important to learn about the dinosaurs?

More Resources:

Lesson plans to teach about the age of the dinosaur’s: https://www.amnh.org/learn-teach/curriculum-collections/dinosaurs-activities-and-lesson-plans

Here is the museum’s website for the titanosaur they uncovered in the book: https://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/permanent/orientation-center/the-titanosaur

Paleontologist related activities for kids (at the bottom of the page): https://blocksrock.com/news-and-learning/stem-career-inspiration-for-kids-paleontologists

21 Primos

“Altos, bajos, grandes, pequeños, atléticos, artísticos…puede que los primos no se parezcan y que tengan diferentes intereses y habilidades,  ¡pero eso sólo los convierte en una familia extrodinaria! Ya sea por las aptitudes de Maricela para deletrear en dos idiomas o por las destrezas tecnológicas de Mario, ningún primo es igual a otro…  ¡y a ellos les parece muy bien que sea así! Todos están muy entusiasmados por la sorpresa que recibirán al concluir su reunión familiar.”

“Con ingenio, Diane de Anda destaca la hermosa diversidad de las familias Latinas y mestizas a medida que presenta a los lectores cada uno de los primos. Las imaginativas ilustraciones de Isabel  Muñoz están llenas de detalles, y les ofrecen a los jóvenes lectores una cornucopia de color. 21 primos es una lectur adeliciosa que, a través de los diversos tonos de piel, personalidades y habilidades que muestra, invita a los niños a apreciar la rica herencia de la cultura Latina.”   

Temas principales:

Los temas principales de 21 Primos son 1) la diversidad de familias latinas. Diane de Anda enfatiza el carácter único de las familias latinas al incorporar su naturaleza mestiza. 2) Relaciones familiares. Cada uno de los primos tiene una relación especial con el otro. A pesar de sus diferencias, todos forman una gran familia de la que todos están orgullosos de estar de parte. 3) Cada uno de los primos se ve diferente, tiene habilidades diferentes, pasatiempos distintos, cuerpos diferentes y personalidades únicos. Al presentar tal diversidad dentro de una familia, Diane de Anda invita al lector a considerar el valor de la diversidad.4) Las descripciones de los detalles y las observaciones son fundamentales para la historia. Las ricas ilustraciones complementan las descripciones de Anda, dando a los estudiantes un marco para la escritura descriptiva.

Incorporación de 21 Primos al aula:

· Aproveche la oportunidad para alentar a los estudiantes a considerar la diversidad de sus propias familias. Esto podría presentarse como una discusión en el aula donde los estudiantes comparten sobre sus propias familias o los estudiantes podrían trabajar en un proyecto ilustrado similar al libro.

· Como mencionó arriba, Diane de Anda utiliza ricas descripciones para acompañar las ilustraciones. 21 Primos podría utilizarse como ejemplo que los estudiantes siguen para trabajar sus habilidades observacionales y descriptivas. Asigne una página del libro a cada estudiante o grupo de estudiantes. Cubra la escritura y permita que los estudiantes presenten sus propias descripciones de lo que ven.

· 21 Primos podría ser utilizado como un recurso complementario sobre unidades sobre la cultura Latinx. Los estudiantes podrían embarcarse en sus propios proyectos de investigación sobre las diferentes culturas que contribuyen a América Latina.

Más recursos:

 Refiere a los siguientes recursos para apoyar el uso de este cuento lindo y desarrollar las conversaciones acerca de los temas principales.

Visite el sitio web de la editorial para obtener más información sobre el libro, informacion sobre la escritora, y más ideas para usar el libro en la aula: https://starbrightbooks.com/index.php?id_product=750&rewrite=21-cousins&controller=product

Para más información sobre el ilustrador, Isabel Muñoz, echa un vistazo a este sitio web:  https://thebrightagency.com/us/publishing/artists/isabel-munoz

The Invisible

By Alcides Villaça

(Tapioca Stories, 2020)

Who What Where?

The Invisible written by Alcide Villaça, features a mischievous young boy who enjoys the wonders of invisibility in this playfully illustrated book. The result of this unusual gift is the young boy’s ability to walk through life fulfilling his greatest desires. He is never scolded, reprimanded, or found out, and thus experiences a sense of freedom, but is there something out there that’s better than being invisible? Is being invisible fulfilling if there is no one to share it with? If no one knows it’s you, but you? Maybe being unseen is not all that it seems.  

Unearthing the relationship between the invisible and visible, while masterfully illustrating the young boy’s imperceptible state, the reader joins the narrator on his journey of self-discovery. The text pays homage to the author’s childhood, and his superpower of invisibility, a story that readers of all ages will enjoy.

Principle Themes:

Two of the themes throughout the text include human connection and internal growth. In the beginning invisibility means the narrator can do whatever he wants. However, invisibility doesn’t end up being as fulfilling as one might think, “if someone is never seen, do they know they exist?”Invisibility creates a barrier between the narrator and those with whom he interacts. The young boy craves human connection and in order to achieve that he wants to be seen and known. Thus, the young boy grows towards a different superpower, imagination. This internal change within the narrator is a great example of his growth, it doesn’t always have to mean growing up, but rather growing into different interests and new skills.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Is imagining the invisible better than being invisible?
  2. Why do you think the narrator tires of his superpower?
  3. What would you do if you were invisible?
  4. What are your superpowers?

More Resources:

If you’d like to see more of the illustrators unique and playful literary artwork, check out his website: http://www.andressandoval.com/projetos/books/

Freedom Soup

By: Tami Charles (Candlewick Press, 2019)

Who? What? Where?

Did you know that New Year’s Day not only celebrates the start of the New Year, but is an important holiday in Haitian history? New Year’s Day is also Haitian Independence, and in Tami Charles’ book Freedom Soup, Belle and Ti Gran, a granddaughter and grandmother duo, celebrate by making the delicious dish.

Making Freedom Soup is a way for Ti Gran to teach Belle an important family tradition and is a conduit for learning about Belle’s heritage. The dish represents freedom and the end of slavery for Black Haitians who fought the French colonizers for freedom and independence and won. Afterwards, the free Haitians were able to eat what they pleased, and they ate freedom soup. The two chop, boil, stir, and stew all day in preparation to celebrate the nights festivities.  

Today, Freedom soup is both a cultural and familial tradition, and cooking it together is a joyous occasion for Belle and Ti gran. That evening the two share Freedom soup with their family and friends, and one day Belle will pass it on herself.

Principle Themes:

Freedom Soup has several themes, among them are: (1) the importance of cultural traditions, (2) family, (3) freedom. In regard to the first theme, the book denotes the powerful role of cultural traditions as a way to connect to history, family, and identity in the diaspora. Freedom Soup brings family together to celebrate and is dish that will be passed down for generations to come. Lastly, the subject of freedom is a prevalent one, not only because of the name of the delicious soup but for what the soup itself represents to Haitians. Freedom was fought for by Black Haitians and is celebrated all over the world in different ways, but on New Year’s Day its celebrated by sharing freedom soup with family. 

Additional Resources:

Learn more about the author at her website: https://tamiwrites.com

Tips on incorporating the book in your classroom: https://www.scribd.com/document/431324058/Freedom-Soup-Teacher-Tip-Card

For how to teach the book, check out: https://www.nea.org/professional-excellence/student-engagement/read-across-america/find-your-book/freedom-soup

How to teach the French Revolution to kids (worksheets included): https://kidskonnect.com/history/haitian-revolution/

Without Separation

By Larry Dane Brimner (Calkins Creek, 2021)

Who? What? Where?

On an early January day, Roberto Alvarez, is turned away from Lemon Grove Grammar School in San Diego, California. The year is 1931, and Roberto is not the only student turned away that day, all his Mexican American peers are. The principal informs the students they will be learning in a separate building from now on.

Not long after the parents of Roberto and of the other Mexican American students formed the Comité de Vecinos de Lemon Grove — the Lemon Grove Neighbors Committee. These concerned community members knew that the school board was attempting to segregate the children, a practice of separating people based on skin color. The Committee knew this was wrong and enlists some help and are able to bring the case before the court.

Roberto and his friends and family all use their voice to stand up for what they believe in, and for what they think is just. Without Separation by Larry Dane Brimner is a captivating story about a communities fight for equal access to education and defiance in the face of prejudice and discrimination. Roberto and his classmate’s courage impacted America’s education system in ways that can still be felt today. This book is an excellent case study to help educate children on the United States long and troubled history around school segregation, and a community’s fight to ensure a better future, for all.

Principle Themes:

The book had many excellent themes throughout. However, the most prominent were (1) standing up for what you believe in (2) the power of community and, (3) education rights. Roberto Alvarez uses his voice to speak out about the injustice of segregation, an inspiration and encouragement for readers that you must do what is right even when you face resistance. Although Roberto was an important figure in this fight, he did not do it on his own. Roberto received the support of parents, neighbors and his fellow students, and thus the text demonstrated the true power of community organizing, unity, and resistance. Lastly, the United States has a long and horrible history of school segregation and racial exclusion, and this small but not insignificant town of Lemon Grove took a stand against these forces, to ensure that all children have access to a fair and equal education, under the same roof.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What did Roberto fight for? What did he believe in when he found out he was no longer allowed to attend Lemon Grove Grammar School?
  2. When have you stood up for something you believe in?
  3. What is prejudice? What is discrimination?
  4. How is this story similar to other stories of school segregation you may have learned about?

More Resources:

To find more of the author’s work check out his website: https://www.brimner.com/

A site to help teacher’s create inclusive classrooms when explaining the difficult topic of prejudice and discrimination: https://secure.understandingprejudice.org/teach/elemtips.htm

Activities to help elementary level students learn about the harms of prejudice: https://secure.understandingprejudice.org/teach/l.htm

A lesson plan by PBS on civil rights: https://nm.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/osi04.soc.ush.civil.lp_stand/taking-a-stand/

Book guide: Sembrando historias

New Book Guide: Sembrando Historias: Pura Belpre, bibliotecaria y narradora de cuentos

Click here to learn more about this read and to add Anika Aldamuy Denise’s book to your collection.

In Sembrando Historias, Anika Aldamuy Denise shares Pura Belpre’s story. Belpre was the first Puerto Rican librarian in New York who was dedicated for sharing her passion for reading and storytelling with readers of all ages. Throughout the story, illustrator Paola Escobar depicts Belpre’s experiences starting in Puerto Rico and then shifting to New York beautifully. Learn more about Belpre’s experiences as she fought to get Puerto Rican folklore represented and celebrated in the States through this great read and our book guide on it. click here to access the guide in Spanish.

Look at the contrast in the images below that depict Puerto Rico and New York, and are featured in this text.

Book Review: Luna dentro de mí

Book Review of Luna dentro de mi

Aida Salazar’s Luna dentro de mi shares Celi Rivera’s story of growing into her womanhood and her experiences that her friends have discovering their identities. This time in every youth’s life is full of questions and unbearable challenges; however, Celi shows us how we can rely on our friends, family, and our own voices to uncover our true selves. This read rivals Are you there God? It’s Me, Margaret by promoting cultural diversity along with gender and sexuality awareness. In Luna dentro de mi, Celi’s mom wants to host a traditional celebration to celebrate the beginning of Celi’s cycle despite Celi feeling unsure about the celebration. Will she find her voice and identity? Check out our book guide to learn more.

New STEM Guide: The Legend of Lupe Hernández

The Legend of Lupe Hernández

We’ve created a new STEM guide to explore the Legend of Lupe!

image from: https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.nextgov.com%2Fcio-briefing%2F2020%2F03%2Fyou-might-be-buying-hand-sanitizer-wont-work-coronavirus%2F163624%2F&psig=AOvVaw0kFs1kZfcCBSVbjQEW1U1J&ust=1615054076455000&source=images&cd=vfe&ved=0CAMQjB1qFwoTCICl9MLfme8CFQAAAAAdAAAAABAE

It’s 2021. Hand sanitizer is essential along with face masks and keys when you go out. But, do you know who created hand sanitizer, why hand sanitizer was created, or who hand sanitizer was originally invented for?

According to Laura Barton’s 2012 article published in The Guardian, Lupe Hernández, a nursing student in Bakersfield, California in the late ’60s, invented hand sanitizer to help doctors keep their hands sanitized while going room to room to visit patients. However, prior to this article, there is no previous mention of Hernández nor has she or her family been located in Bakersfield. So, does Lupe Hernández even exist? Did Hernández invent hand sanitizer?

Check out the latest STEM guide to uncover this mystery and to teach students how to identify credible sources. Click here for the full guide, and share your thoughts below on the Legend of Lupe.