Saludos todos! This week I will be reviewing Moví la mano/ I Moved my Hand, written by Argentinian author Jorge Lújan and illustrated by French artist Mandana Sadat, as our last January book on “unsung heroes.” So far this month I’ve reviewed children’s books that focus on heroic and fearless parents, lesser-known cultural icons, like Tito Puente, who were also active humanitarians, and brave firefighters whose invaluable work sometimes goes unnoticed. However, this week’s “unsung heroes” are children themselves.
Moví la mano/ I Moved my Hand tells the story of a young girl whose imagination, creativity and drive hold the power to change the world around her: “When a little girl moves her hand, she discovers the world and her power to change and create it anew.” Lújan’s story reads as a bilingual Spanish/English poem, complemented by Sadat’s stunning illustrations. Every one of the female protagonist’s actions, moving, shaking, stirring and swirling, to name a few, is met by a magical effect, the creation of a lake, finding the moon, and soaring through the sky. This fantastical narrative and its equally enchanting illustrations serve as a metaphor for the infinite potential at the hands of young children: “an empowering and inspiring tribute to children’s magical possibilities.” As a result, this beautiful book helps us honor and celebrate the infinite potential and imagination of young children, the “unsung heroes” of the future, as well as their magical ability to find and create beauty in the world around them.
Saludos todos! We are continuing our theme of “unsung heroes” this week with Fire! ¡Fuego! Brave Bomberos!, written by Susan Middleton Elya and illustrated by Dan Santat. This heartwarming and inspiring story celebrates the courageous firemen and women who put their lives at risk every day to keep their neighborhoods safe. As the fire squad rushes to attend to a burning house, and to rescue a gato (cat) from the menacing flames, the entire neighborhood crowds around, cheering and supporting their local firefighters, emphasizing themes of community, camaraderie and support.
As Kirkus Reviews notes in a review of the book, the theme of firefighters is not especially unique among children’s books; however, Elya’s story diversifies this common narrative by interspersing her rhythmic poetic prose with Spanish words. The context clues and illustrations help non-Spanish-speaking students understand the meaning of the Spanish vocabulary, but Elya has also included a glossary at the back of the book to further facilitate a novice reading of the text.
Saludos todos and welcome to the start of our November-themed book reviews! Our themes for this month will focus on food and the cultural importance of food, topics that seem to fit well with the harvest season that is upon us and the subsequent winter holidays for which food plays such a significant role. Along with traditional practices, food is an important cultural element that can awaken the senses, harken back to fond memories and seasonal associations, and bring people together though collection, preparation, and shared enjoyment.
Our book to start this exploration is The Cazuela that the Farm Maiden Stirred, written by Samantha R. Vamos and illustrated by Rafael López. This fun and engaging book tells the story of a young farm maiden who, by enlisting the help of various farm animals and the farmer boy, makes a steamy, delicious pot of arroz con leche. The book has a lively, festive tone and the cooking process is described as a fun, unifying celebration, emphasizing the cultural and communal importance of food. In preparing the arroz con leche, everyone at the farm, including the anthropomorphized animals, must do their part and contribute. This not only exemplifies good team work, but also shows how everyone has a valuable skill or asset to contribute.
As more and more people begin to talk about the need for diversity in our classroom curricula and literature, we must remember that diversity can’t exist just for diversity’s sake. Conversations in our classrooms around diversity can intentionally or unintentionally lead to the perpetuation of stereotypes and labels. As Colleen pointed out in last week’s post identity is complex. She asks an important question: How does one meaningfully capture the range of cultural practices, traditions, languages, religions, geography, race, and ethnicity – just to name a few – of those who identify as Latinx? While we want to teach about the multitude of cultures, ethnicities, and races that make up our classroom, our nation, and our world, we also want to make sure that we are providing the space for our students to express and identity both their cultural background and their own uniqueness.
One way to accomplish this is to build a strong classroom community. It won’t happen overnight, but in the long run it’s always worth the time and effort. Lee and Low Books just shared a free unit on “Building Classroom Community Unit for Kindergarten.” Based on eight different read-aloud books, the lessons provide in-depth literacy engagement while also encouraging students to connect through sharing about themselves and learning about others. The lessons can be easily adapted for older children as well.
Saludos todos, and welcome to my first book review of the year! I’m thrilled to be back writing for the blog, and I’m especially excited for all of this year’s amazing books.
This month we will be celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month while also drawing special attention to the renowned Pura Belpré Award, which recognizes outstanding works of Latinx children’s literature, and is celebrating its 20th year in 2016. The Pura Belpré Award is named after Pura Belpré, the first Latina librarian at the New York Public Library. In our celebration of this prestigious award and its recipients, we will also be celebrating Pura Belpré herself.
I hope everyone is having a great week! Beginning this month, we will be bringing you our Reading Roundup list at the beginning of the month, so that you’ll have more time to include them in your classroom themes. Nonetheless, we hope you are able to incorporate these books into your classes all year long! As Keira explained in her Sobre Marzo post, we are celebrating Women’s History Month and I therefore present to you books with strong Latin American and Latina female characters While this list cannot possibly encompass all of the wonderful books out there with positive women role models, we hope that it can be a start. In addition, if you have any relevant books to suggest, please comment and let us know! In this Reading Roundup, we aim at encompassing a mix of both well-known and everyday women’s narratives. In addition, all of the authors are women. While the majority of these books do not delve deeply into the complexity of gender, gender roles and expectations are addressed in a few of the young adult books listed, like in Gabi, A Girl in Pieces and Under the Mesquite. We hope that you enjoy these books and find them valuable for your classrooms!
Kalyn Continue reading
I realize it’s still November, but based on our search statistics, many of you are already looking for books, lesson plans, and resources for teaching about winter celebrations like Christmas and Las Posadas. I’m impressed! You all are far more organized than I was when I was in the classroom. You’ll definitely want to check out this week’s giveaway of Merry Navidad! In previous posts we’ve discussed our philosophy for how to approach teaching about cultural celebrations and traditions in a way that’s authentic and meaningful. Many of those same ideas are relevant here as well.
First, I thought I’d share some of the ideas I’ve written about in past posts on teaching about winter celebrations. This time of year was always one of my favorites times to be in the classroom because the possibilities for engaging and interesting lessons were endless. When I taught third grade, at the beginning of each December I began a unit on three winter celebrations: Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Las Posadas. As a child, I remember talking about Hanukkah in school, but the extent of what we learned seemed to be limited to eating latkes and learning a song and game about dreidels. I wanted to go beyond that. I wanted my students to have a deeper understanding of cultural traditions that may be different from the ones they or their families personally observe. Continue reading
Good afternoon, everyone!
Can you believe that the holidays are upon us! I cannot! Although we are sad to say that this is our last week of the Tuesday Giveaways for this semester, we are happy to have given out so many great books thanks to Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy’s gracious donation and we want to encourage you to look out for some more giveaways in the spring! Our final giveaway of the semester will be Merry Navidad!, co-authored by Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy, illustrated by Viví Escrivá, and translated into English by Rosa Zubizarreta. This book is described as a “warm and vibrant collection of traditional Spanish Christmas carols, or villancicos, [in which] authors Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy bring to life the holiday traditions of Latin America and Spain. The creative English adaptations by Rosalma Zubizarreta both capture the spirit of the originals and add a new dimension to the songs. And Spanish illustrator Viví Escrivá‘s spirited illustrations are perfect backdrops for the lyrics, adding rich holiday flavor.” It would be a great addition to classroom holiday activities for all age groups. Are you ready for a sing-along? Comment below and let us know! Have a happy and safe holiday season and don’t forget to check back in the spring for more giveaways!
Image: Photo of Merry Navidad! Reproduced from Alma Flor’s website.
In last week’s En la Clase I talked about using Round is a Tortilla and Green is a Chile Pepper as the basis for a poetry activity based on gratitude, gratefulness, and awareness. This week I’m highlighting Gracias ~ Thanks, another beautiful book illustrated by John Parra and written by Pat Mora. As the title suggests, thankfulness is the main theme of the book, making it the perfect book for this time of year. The publisher’s description writes, “There are so many things to be thankful for. . .Straight from the heart of a child flows this lighthearted bilingual celebration of family, friendship, and fun. Come share the joy, and think about all the things for which you can say, ¡Gracias! Thanks!” Like last week’s books, Gracias ~ Thanks is a book written with young children in mind, so it’s great for your pre-school or early elementary students. But, with such an important and universal theme, it’s great for encouraging a mindfulness of the everyday things for which we can be thankful in older and younger students alike. Plus, each page is written in English and Spanish, so it’s great for English, Spanish, or bilingual classrooms.
In all of our busyness, it’s easy to take for granted the people or things that make our lives so special. Mora’s poetic words and Parra’s beautiful illustrations turn the very commonplace things in our lives into reasons to celebrate. They highlight the ways in which the ordinary actions of family and friends can make our lives such lovely experiences. Not only is it a fun book to read, but it easily lends itself to writing activities. Continue reading
¡Saludos, todos! Our book for this week is a perfect addition to our November themes of food, abundance, and thanks. I will be reviewing Don’t Say a Word, Mamá/ No digas nada, mamá, by Joe Hayes and illustrated by Esau Andrade Valencia, an amusing tale of two loving sisters, an appreciative mother and a garden overflowing with tomatoes, corn and peppers. The story is written in both English and Spanish and is best for ages 4-8.
The story begins by introducing two sisters, Rosa and Blanca, who “loved each other very much” and were always eager to help the other with her chores. Their mother is immensely grateful for such wonderful daughters: “She would always say ‘My daughters are so good to each other! I must be the luckiest mother in this town. No. I’m the luckiest mother in this country. No. I think I’m the luckiest mother in the whole wide world!’” These character descriptions are heartwarming and remind readers of the gratitude and appreciation that a loving family deserves. This passage also begins to show the various techniques through which Hayes slows down his language in a way that is more accessible to younger readers. Mamá measures her gratitude for her daughters in intervals, a slow crescendo, claiming to be the luckiest mother in the town, then the country, and then the entire world. Continue reading