¡Mira Look!: Conoce a Gabriela Mistral/ Get to Know Gabriela Mistral

Image result for conoce a gabriela mistralSaludos todos! This week we are starting our March theme of women in children’s literature, in celebration of Women’s History Month. Our book for this week is Get to Know Gabriela Mistral, written by Georgina Lazaro Leon and illustrated by Sara Helena Palacios. This bilingual book is part of a series of “Conoce a…/ Get to Know….” books that provide children with biographies of well-known, and sometimes lesser-known, Hispanic heroes.

Gabriela Mistral was a Chilean author and poet and she was the first Latin American author to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1945. Although Mistral is indeed very well-known within the literary community, outside of the literary community she is often eclipsed by some of her twentieth century male contemporaries, such as Pablo Neruda and Jorge Luis Borges. This informative story traces Mistral’s life, both her childhood and her work as a writer, and even introduces readers to some of her lovely poetry, ultimately putting the spotlight on a timeless woman, a Latin American hero and literary icon.

Gabriela Mistral was the Chilean author’s pseudonym and the story refers to the protagonist by her original name, Lucila. Young Lucila grew up in a small Andean village and at a young age her father “disappeared,” walking out on her mother and the family. Lucila lived with a sadness in her heart. She was timid, but pensive, sweet and always reading or writing: “And that’s how Lucila grew up: solitary, quiet and sometimes sad.” She started writing at a very young age, which when she adopted her pseudonym, Gabriela Mistral.

After her father’s disappearance, Lucila and her mother went to go live with her grandmother for a while. Lucila’s grandmother was a great inspiration to her, a strong and independent woman who served as her role model and even her muse for many of her poems: “This grandmother was a big, strong woman, strange and silent. She read the future in the stars and was very religious. She supported herself by embroidering ornaments for the church.” Growing up without her father, Lucila derived most of her support, guidance, and encouragement from the women in her life— her sturdy, inspirational grandmother, her compassionate mother, and her sharp older sister, who worked as a teacher in her town.

Each paragraph or page of this book is complemented by a quote or section from one of Gabriela Mistral’s poems. This wonderful narrative style not only exposes readers to examples of Mistral’s poetry, but also shows how her poetry was deeply influenced by and intertwined with her personal life. Leon pairs each paragraph with a section of Mistral’s poetry that bares similar themes to the part of her personal life being narrated in that moment. As a result, Mistral’s life experiences and identity, and her art are inseparable.

This narrative focuses primarily on Lucila’s childhood, the parts of her life that are most relevant and understandable for young readers. Readers can identify with her quirkiness, her solitude and even her early and persistent sadness. The story ends with Lucila all grown up working as a teacher: “She was a girl who was a teacher before she was a woman; a woman who without children of her own became the mother of all the children she taught, writing for them with such tenderness, sharing her message of love, peace, brother- and sisterhood. She was a woman who wrote for you and for all children, in the hope that you would learn to love words and enjoy them just as she did from a very young age.” Much of Mistral’s work reflected both her love of children and her strong feminist values. As Leon’s narrative also reflects, Mistral defined herself and her life primarily by her work, her craft, her intellect, and her dedication to helping children, rather than the gender roles that were expected of her as a woman.

This story makes a point of focusing most specifically on the ways in which Mistral’s life related to children, her own childhood and her work as a teacher, rather than on the other more esoteric aspects of Mistral’s life, her award-winning work, her political engagement in Chile and abroad, and her literary colleagues and collaborators. As such this story presents Mistral’s life and work as sources of inspiration and motivation for young children, an objective that many of us educators and bloggers here at Vamos a Leer can relate to: “She was a woman who wrote for you and for all children, in the hope that you would learn to love words and enjoy them just as she did from a very young age.”

For those of you interested in learning more about the author/illustrator, here are some additional links:

Stay tuned for more great reads about wonderful women!

Hasta pronto!

Alice


Images Modified from: Conoce a Gabriela Mistral/ Get to Know Gabriela Mistral, pages 4, 8, 11, 17

March 3rd | Week in Review

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¡Hola a todos! Happy beginning of March! Here are various resources that I am glad to share.

– Just for kicks, I thought you might enjoy Remezcla’s compilation of recipes for perros calientes: Journey Through Latin America’s Weird and Wonderful Hot Dog Creations. My mouth was watering!

– Also by Remezcla, here is an Intimate Look at Las Patronas, the Mexican Women Who Feed Migrants Traveling on La Bestia.

– Check out Teaching For Change’s initiative to provide A Book Every Day in honor of Women’s History Month and to “highlight grassroots women’s history.”

– The Children’s Cooperative Book Center (CCBC) recently released their “Multicultural Statistics for 2016.” As with most years, the breakdown is a reminder that the world of publishing. “Two broad categories–Asian/Pacifics and Latinos–saw a notable jump in numbers this year for both ‘by’ and ‘about.’ The numbers for African and African Americans and First/Native Nations remained disappointingly static or dropped. Those mixed numbers reflect our mixed feelings: It’s both an exciting and frustrating time for multicultural literature advocates.”

Bustle revealed the cover of Celia C. Pérez’s forthcoming novel, The First Rule of Punk. We’re excited by the accompanying book description, which reads “novel about a 12-year-old Latina girl who causes anarchy at her middle school when she forms a punk band book” and equally hyped to learn that the publication was the result of an entirely Latina creative group – from author to cover illustrator and everyone in between!!

– Given the conversation on “fake news,” this Teaching Tolerance post on Learning How to Know in 2017 from Teaching ToleranceLastly, from Teaching Tolerance seems apropos. “The devaluing of shared truth, deepening political polarization and the mainstreaming of hate have created a steeper climb toward the goal of helping students evaluate and think critically about the content they consume. Educators thus need to better understand how students access and integrate information, and how media works.”

-If you are teaching about immigration you might want to share NY Time’s publication of Vizguerra’s piece on Why She Will Not Leave. “Last week, Immigration and Customs Enforcement refused to extend my stay of deportation. I sought sanctuary in the church because, like that of millions of other immigrants, my future in this country was thrown into doubt.”

– Finally, we’ve just now heard about the #OwnVoices hashtag and social movement effort started last year. It’s a movement that complements We Need Diverse Books. You can read more about it via Kayla Whaley’s piece, #Own Voices: Why We Need Diverse Authors in Children’s Literature, on the Read Brightly blog, where she writes that “Given the history of marginalized groups being spoken about, and for, in all areas of society, it’s especially important that we don’t ignore diverse voices by focusing only on diverse content.”

Abrazos,
Alin Badillo


Image: #NiUnaMenos. Reprinted from Flickr user Laura Moraña under CC©.

¡Mira Look!: Martina the Beautiful Cockroach

Image result for martina the beautiful cockroachSaludos todos! This week we are concluding our monthly theme of love with Martina the Beautiful Cockroach, an adaptation of an old Cuban folktale, written by Carmen Agra Deedy and illustrated by Michael Austin. This book won recognition as a Pura Belpré Honor Book. According to the introduction of the book, this folktale is one of the best known in Latin America, but versions of this classic tale also exist in other regions of the world. Nonetheless, Deedy takes this traditional tale, and its familiar themes, and intertwines it with her own creative twists and childhood memories. This in itself is one of the beautiful things about traditional folktales—their themes and plots have become so familiar to most people that they can be retold and adapted across countries, cultures and individual experiences to reflect both common sentiments of society, and the particular lives of individuals. Martina the Beautiful Cockroach deals primarily with themes of romantic love, but also of familial love, as young Martina relies on the advice of her wise abuela in choosing a future spouse. This charming story conveys themes of respect, compatibility, and family love, and is bound to make any reader smile as they follow the journey of Martina the beautiful cockroach.

martina-1 martina-2The story begins with a scene of the young Martina with her family inside their lamp post home. The warm hues of the illustrations evoke feelings of comfort and good company, while also accentuating witty details, such as a sofa made of a can of beans, a staircase made of books, and a stamp as a wall-hanging portrait. Martina has just turned 21 years old, and her family thinks that it is now time for her to find a husband. Her wise abuela tells her to go up to the balcony to await her suitors. Since Martina is stunningly beautiful, the entire town is abuzz with talk about marrying her: “Soon all Havana—from the busy sidewalks of El Prado to El Morro castle—was abuzz with the news.” However, her abuela also tells her to use the famous “coffee test” to pick the right suitor. When a suitor comes to speak to her, Martina must “accidentally” spill coffee on their shoes, and watch how they react. Based on their reaction, she will see how they will act towards her when they are angry. If they lose their temper and act disrespectfully, then they are not the right suitor. Although Martina is skeptical of her abuela’s eccentric advice, she follows it nonetheless.

martina-3 martina-4The first to come speak to Martina is Don Gallo, the rooster. The rooster has “splendid shoes,” and exclaims, “Caramba! You really are a beautiful cockroach. I will look even more fabulous with you on my wings!” But when Martina “accidently” spills coffee on his shoes, he erupts in a fury, insulting her and her “clumsiness”: “Clumsy cockroach! I will teach you better manners when you are my wife!” Alas, Don Gallo has failed the coffee test. Martina tells him cooly, “A most humble offer, senor, but I cannot accept. You are much too cocky for me.” These little play on words continue throughout the story, adding a layer of humor to an already charming and endearing story. While portraying the all-too-human sensations of searching for love and finding love, this story also self-consciously highlights the witty absurdity of the anthropomorphized characters: “Daintily, she sat down/ and crossed her legs,/ and crossed her legs,/ and crossed her legs.” As one suitor comes after the next, Martina grows more and more appreciative of her abuela’s unique advice.   Many of her suitors do not react kindly to having coffee spilt on their shoes, and this little experiment enables her to see each suitor’s true colors.

martina-5Finally, Martina spots a cute little mouse who’s been waiting in the bushes below the whole time. Martina, instantly drawn to him, goes to speak to him, but not before her abuela brusquely reminds her, “Don’t forget the coffee!” The little mouse blushes while speaking to Martina and tells her that although she is very beautiful, his eyes are not very good; his ears, however, are very sharp and he knows that she is “strong and good”: “Then he squinted sweetly. ‘Who cares if you are beautiful?’” Although this old folktale relies on old traditions of courting suitors, the values that it conveys—mutual respect, kindness, and a focus on internal values rather than external appearances—are timeless and remain important for any couple to this day. Although Martina is reluctant to try the coffee test this time, she does as her abuela says. Just as she is about to spill the coffee on the mouse’s shoes, though, he surprises her by doing something none of the other suitors have done. So as not to ruin the ending, which is my favorite part of the story, I will leave it at that. But in the end, Martina ends up falling in love with the most unassuming suitor, while also realizing how important her Cuban roots and family traditions really are.

For those of you interested in using this book in the classroom, here are some additional resources:

Stay tuned for an introduction to our March themes and for more great reads!

Hasta pronto!

Alice


Images modified from: Martina the Beautiful Cockroach, pages 3, 7, 9, 11, 18

February 24th | Week in Review

2017-02-24-01.png¡Hola a todos! I hope these resources are of use. I know with recent current events it may seem like the future of education is bleak, however, we must remain strong and stay in solidarity. Together we can get through these dark times!

– Check out why these librarians are protesting Trump’s executive orders on Reforma.

— Additionally, Reforma shared about Talk Story Together- Sharing Stories, Sharing Culture. This is a great joint literacy project from the American Indian Library Association and the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association that celebrates and explores the stories of children and their families. Story telling is embedded in culture, and it’s a meaningful way to learn about each other.

– Our Teaching for Change friends shared resources on how to Teach Students to Question the President. They offer some great advice: “We need to remind students that this country has been at its best when people have organized to question and challenge presidents — opposing presidential support for slavery, war, invasion, segregation, and injustice of all kinds. Our students need stories of this resistance to inform and inspire their own activism in the years ahead.”

We Need to Start Telling the Truth About White Supremacy in Our Schools. “If we would start telling the truth in schools, we would not have racism. We could cure racism in this country,” says Jane Elliott in Discriminology.

Teaching Tolerance explored an important question this week: Have We Lost Sight of the Promise of Public Schools? What do you think? Is it true that “We began moving away from the ‘public’ in public education along time ago”?

–Here are Animated Shorts that Celebrate 11 of Mexico’s Indigenous Languages shared with you by Remezcla. Resources like this are a powerful way to counter oppressive misconceptsions: “Consciously or unconsciously, indigenous tongues are often viewed as backward and those who speak them stigmatized, relegated to the margins of official society for refusing to adapt to rules set by colonizers through violence and subjugation.”

Here is why Teaching People’s History is More Urgent. The Zinn Education Project is more relevant now than ever. It’s encouraging to know that “More than 65,000 teachers are helping students learn the truth, and teach outside the textbook.”

— Also from Remezcla is a post on A Journey Through the Empanadas of Latin America which encourages us consider the ways we can teach about identity through food. The author writes, “Empanadas are one of the few foods that unite all of Latin America. Though they come in myriad regional variations – with different doughs, fillings, and cooking methods – at their core they do have a (mostly) common origin story.”

– Lastly, Rethinking Bilingual Education announced the release of their new children’s book, When a Bully is President. “Playful ink and watercolor illustrations support a powerful journey that touches on bullying in the founding history of the US, how that history may still be impacting kids and families today, and ways to use creativity and self-respect in the face of negative messages for all marginalized communities.”

Abrazos
Alin Badillo


Image: Inner time flow resistance. Reprinted from Flickr user ioannis lelakis under CC©.

¡Mira Look!: Under the Lemon Moon

Image result for under the lemon moonSaludos todos! This week we are continuing our monthly theme of love with an especially heart-warming book, Under the Lemon Moon, written by Edith Hope Fine and illustrated by Rene King Moreno.  This lovely story specifically focuses on themes of forgiveness, generosity and personal growth, expanding our theme of love to include other feelings, values, and personal goals.

This book takes place in the Mexican countryside and the English narration is interspersed with Spanish vocabulary words. Fine has provided an index at the beginning of the book to help non-Spanish speaking readers puzzle through the Spanish interjections.  Not only will students learn lessons on patience, forgiveness, and compassion, but they‘ll also get exposure to new vocabulary, while practicing using an index as a tool for comprehension.

lemon-1The story starts by introducing the female protagonist, Rosalinda, who has started to grow her very own lemon tree in the backyard. One night she hears something rustling outside.  When she goes with her pet hen, Blanca, to investigate, she sees a “man with hunched shoulders” picking all the lemons off her tree and stuffing them into a sack before scurrying away into the night. Rosalinda is furious: “Her lemons. From her tree.” As Rosalinda is learning to take care of her plants and her pets, reinforcing feelings of pride, care and responsibility, her sense of possession also starts to get the best of her.  In portraying this delicate balance, Fine shows how important it is for children to have things that they can take care of on their own, that they can be proud of and responsible for, while also showing how this is in itself a learning experience and an opportunity for growth: Rosalinda asks herself, “Who is the Night Man? Why does he take my lemons?”

lemon-2The next morning Rosalinda finds that not a single lemon is left on her tree. The branches are bare and the leaves have a yellow, sickly tinge to them: “Rosalinda crooned a sad song as Blanca brawked along. She loved her lemon tree almost as much as she loved Bianca.” As the week goes by Rosalinda notices that the leaves on her precious lemon tree are turning more yellow, and starting to fall off, and she begins to worry that the tree is dying. When she goes to her parents for comfort they suggest that maybe a friend or a neighbor could help, or her dear abuela. Rosalinda’s parents are kind and compassionate and try their best to soothe her worries, while also encouraging her to find a creative solution on her own.Throughout the story, Rosalinda’s agency and independence are consistently reinforced: “Rosalinda set out.” Ultimately, the story culminates in Rosalinda resolving her own predicament in a way that is both gratifying for herself and compassionate towards others.

lemon-3As Rosalinda talks to various people in her neighborhood they each give her tips on how to care for a tree, watering it and even talking to it to make it feel better. But Rosalinda has already done all of these things and nothing has worked. Rosalinda takes good care of her plants and has already tried everything that she can think of. Finally, though, she goes to speak to her wise abuelita. Her abuela tells her that she’ll light a candle for her tree, something Rosalinda has not tried yet, and that maybe the candle will summon La Anciana, a wise old spirit known for making things grow. Abuela “eased the worries from Rosalinda’s forehead with her warm palm,” and proceeds to lovingly tell her the legend of La Anciana. Little does Rosalinda know, as she awaits La Anciana and her powers to make her tree grow, she also awaits her wise words and her powers to make her, Rosalinda, grow and mature.

lemon-4As Rosalinda makes her way back home she stops by the local market. As she walks by all of the stands she notices the Night Man. He’s sitting in front of a stand selling lemons, her lemons! Just as Rosalinda begins shivering with rage and fear, La Anciana appears, “her wrinkles deep, her eyes gentle.”  After listening to Rosalinda’s predicament, La Anciana agrees, “to take your lemons was wrong,” but then adds, “Perhaps he had a need.” Indeed, when Rosalinda goes back to the market the next day she notices that the Night Man’s hands are rough and hardened by tough work, and his family beside him looks hungry and disheveled.

Before leaving, La Anciana tells Rosalinda how to cure her tree, and, after following her instructions, Rosalinda wakes up the next day to find her tree overflowing with big, juicy lemons. She loads them up in a crate and takes them to the market, generously handing them out to everyone she sees, her neighbors, her friends, and even complete strangers. Finally, she stops by the Night Man’s stand. Rosalinda hands him her last lemon. She tells the night man to “siembra las semillas,” or “plant the seeds,” so that he can grow a lemon tree of his own. The Night Man thanks her and when Rosalinda leaves, her feelings of anger and worry from a week prior are now replaced by feelings of love and joy: “Rosalinda felt content, too. Except for one fat hen, Rosalinda’s cart was empty, but her heart was as full as a lemon moon.”

lemon-5This beautiful story shows readers the power of forgiveness and generosity, and how sometimes, by taking care of others, we ultimately take care of ourselves. With Moreno’s stunning illustrations, this book exudes a calming tone that encourages readers and young children to reflect upon their feelings and the feelings of others. Moreno’s illustrations have also appeared on our blog before with my book review of Uncle Monarch and the Day of the Dead, which is also a lovely, calming story about the flourishing wisdom of young children. In Under the Lemon Moon, the protagonist embarks on a journey of personal growth and maturity that ultimately teaches her to care not only for her own plants and pets, but also for her neighbors and for the people around her. In the end, the best way to feel as round and full as a lemon moon or a shimmering lemon tree is to spread kindness and generosity to the people around us.

For those of you interested in using this book in the classroom, here are some additional resources:

Stay tuned for more great books!

Hasta pronto!

Alice


Images Modified from Under the Lemon Moon: Pages 9, 14, 17, 21 and 26

February 17th | Week in Review

2017-02-17-WWW-Image-01.png¡Hola a todos! I hope everyone had a wonderful Valentine’s Day. Below are numerous resources that touch on identity, family, and testimony. I know I’ve shared a lot, but there were just so many to choose from this week! I hope these are of use to everyone. Have a wonderful weekend.

Rethinking Schools shared Tackling the Headlines: Teaching Humanity and History. One of the main takeaways: “The best antidote to Trump’s xenophobia, racism, misogyny, and fossil-fuel soaked future is critical thinking.”

– Our Lee & Low Books friends shared Valentine’s Day Children’s Books that Celebrate Familial Love. Even if it is no longer Valentine’s Day, it is important to stress the value of familial love. It’s a theme we’re talking about all month long.

— Also, Teaching for Change shared a great list of Afro-Latino Books for Children and YA. We were excited to see Margarita Engle’s Silver People on the list. It’s one of our recent Americas Award winners. If you are interested in learning more about it, check out the book review by our colleague Katrina.

– When talking about testimonios and identity, author Mia García questions How Do I Keep My History? How Do I Honor It? courtesy of Latinos in Kid Lit. “M. García was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She moved to New York where she studied creative writing at The New School… Her debut novel, Even If the Sky Falls, from Katherine Tegen books …is out now.”

–Here are 13 Books to Teach Children About Protesting and Activism shared by Raising Race Conscious Children. With the complicated state we’re in as a nation, we can’t stress how important we believe it is for young children to learn about activism.

PBS NewsHour shared A Mexican-American Artist On Why More Brown Faces Are Needed in Children’s Books. In the interview, PBS News Hour spoke with award-winning author Duncan Tonatiuh on “how he chose his style, what children have said about his work, and why there ought to be more brown faces in children’s books.”

— If you are looking for potential grant funding, Reforma shared the Día Grant– from the Center for the Study of Multicultural Children’s Literature (CSMCL). This grant will award $500.00 in selected multicultural children’s books to a library with families who will have a Día program.

– For Black History Month, Celebrate Afro-Latino Music With Smithsonian Folkways. “The music of West Africa, where a majority of those enslaved in the Americas came from, was diffused through both an indigenous and Spanish filter to become the distinct sounds and rhythms that we know today.” This is a great resource to provide students with different narratives that can often be overlooked during Black History Month.

-Last week I shared a lot of resources on the meaning of teaching. Continuing this theme, Teaching Tolerance shared a testimony of how ‘Homegoing’ Has Changed through the teaching of Jeremy Knoll. He writes, “Teaching in a relatively affluent, largely white high school, I have always been troubled by a lack of empathy I see in some of my students. Too often in conversations about injustice or unfairness that spring up from the books we read, my students seem unwilling to acknowledge the advantages they have been given over so many others in our society.”

–Lastly, Remezcla shared a post on a documentary about the Black Immigrant Experience in Mexico. Highlighting the experience of both Haitian migrants and expat African artists, this is a great film for students to learn about different immigrant narratives.

Abrazos,
Alin Badillo


Image: Peace Flag. Reprinted from Flickr user Randal under CC©.

 

Our Next Good Read: Dancing in the Rain

Join us March 13 at Tractor Brewing (1800 4th Street NW) from 5:00-7:00 pm to discuss our next book.  We are reading Dancing in the Rain by Lynn Joseph.

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

Twelve year-old Elizabeth is no normal girl. With an imagination that makes room for mermaids and magic in everyday life, she lives every moment to the fullest. Yet her joyful world crumbles around her when two planes bring down the Twin Towers and tear her family apart. Thousands of miles away, yet still touched by this tragedy, Elizabeth is swimming in a sea of loss. She finally finds hope when she meets her kindred spirit in 8 year-old Brandt and his 13 year-old brother, Jared.

Brandt and Jared, two boys as different as Oreo and milk and just as inseparable, arrive on the island to escape the mushroom of sorrow that bloomed above their lives in the wake of the tragedy. Elizabeth shows them a new way to look at the world and they help her to laugh again. But can Elizabeth and Brandt help their families see that when life brings showers of sadness, it’s okay to dance in the rain?

Set against the dazzling beauty of the Dominican Republic, Dancing in the Rain explores the impact of the tragic fall of the Twin Towers on two Caribbean families. It is a lyrical, well-crafted tale about finding joy in the face of loss.

Dancing in the Rain won a Burt Award for Caribbean Literature (2015) prize.

Be sure to get entered in our drawing for a free copy of the book!! All you have to do is comment on any blog post by March 6!

We’ll also be raffling off a copy of April’s featured book, The Head of the SaintJoin us that evening to be entered!

We hope to see you on March 13!