¡Mira Look!: Moví la mano/ I Moved my Hand

movi-la-manoSaludos 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.

la-mano-1Moví 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.

la-mano-2The first two pages create a spread of two side-by-side illustrations showing the little girl standing in the middle of the living room in her pink tutu and her parents watching lovingly from the couch. The illustrations are done in black, white and gray hues with just a small splash of color for the girl’s tutu, her ballet slippers, and Lújan’s text. Already, this use of color and contrast shows how two distinct forms of art, the little girl’s dance and Lújan’s poetry, can light up a room, alter the ordinary, and dazzle an audience.

The meta-fictional dynamic found within this text— the parents portrayed as audience members for their daughter’s dance performance, and the story’s readers as audience members of Lújan’s narrative— exemplifies the ways in which children can be part of the audience, readers of this text, but also part of the performance, as dancers, writers, artists, or whatever they choose. On the following page, the protagonist’s imaginative journey and artistic performance take center stage, and the detailed, “real life,” black and white world starts to fade as additional splashes of color start to emerge. The image of her parents sitting on the couch, which previously occupied the entire first page, now appears as a silhouette in the distant corner of the next page. The presence of the girl’s parents in this story shows them as loving and supportive but also respectful of her independence and her ability to create things of her own.

la-mano-3As the story progresses, readers will notice more and more splashes of color as bright orange fish and rainbow unicorns appear against the black backdrop. As noted by Kirkus Reviews, the black backdrop serves as a canvas, a stage or a blank sheet of paper, waiting for the artist’s hand to take control: “Digitally collaged creatures done in colored pencil, ink and crayon interact with the precocious ballerina, who creates a universe with a wave of her hand…” All three forms of art found within this wonderful story— Lújan’s poetry, Sadat’s illustrations, and the protagonist’s dance— interact to create an enchanting mix of color, rhyme and movement.

Kirkus Reviews also notes the existentialist undertones of this picture book: “A tutu-clad child encounters existentialism through movement in this 47-word poem by award-winning Argentine poet Luján.” Although the basic tenets of existentialism—that one’s destiny is not predetermined, but, rather, reliant on one’s own independent actions—are surely too abstract for young children, when simplified and synthesized, as they are in this picture book, they serve as empowering reminders that children are in la-mano-4control of their lives, and capable of dreaming big. In addition, some of the actions described in the book appear rather simple and mundane, yet their reactions are grandiose and fantastical: “Toque la la luna y rodo en el cielo./ I touched the moon/ and it rolled through the night.” Just a gentle touch can set the moon traveling throughout the starry night. Again, this is a reminder of the infinite magic and potential waiting at the hands of children. A child’s actions, creations or ambitions don’t have to be monumental and sensational for their effects to be meaningful and magical.

la-mano-5The story ends with another two page spread mimicking the one found at the beginning of the book. After the protagonist’s journey she is welcomed home by the loving embrace of her two parents and her world has returned to its black and white palette. The following pages show the same living room, but now the lights have been turned off (the room is mostly shades of black and gray) and the family has presumably gone to bed. Out of the corner of the room emerges a rainbow unicorn who skips off across the black canvas, presumably in search of its own destiny. These final illustrations are shown without words, but they speak volumes nonetheless, reminding young readers that even once the day is done and they’ve gone to bed, the magic and beauty that they’ve contributed to this world lives on.

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

Stay tuned for more great reads and an introduction to February’s themes!

¡Hasta pronto!

Alice


Images Modified from Moví la mano/ I Moved my Hand: Pages 2, 3, 8, 12, 13

¡Mira, Look!: Fire! ¡Fuego! Brave Bomberos!

bomberosSaludos 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.

bomberos-1In addition, this story’s lead firefighter, the person who ultimately saves the gato from the house, is a firewoman, showing readers that women, too, can be firefighters and, more specifically, can be strong, brave and unafraid of getting their hands dirty: “Gato safely on the ground,/ kitty besos all around./ ‘You’re our hero!’ cheer los niños/ as they give the cat cariños./ Says Carlota, caked with grime,/ ‘At your service, any time.” The illustration shows Carlota beeming with pride at the center of a group of elated children. Her firefighter colleagues, both men and women, are shown in the background smiling proudly at Carlota’s success. This noticeable dynamic empowers women in more ways than one, showing readers that women can also be firefighters, but also showing readers how the work environment and the dynamics amongst colleagues in male-dominated professions don’t have to be filled with hostility or subtle forms of oppression. In other words, Carlota’s heroism shines through the community and the narrative, and is acknowledged and encouraged by her male colleagues. Furthermore, before Carlota begins climbing up the later to save the kitten, her male colleagues are excitedly volunteering for a chance to be a hero: “I’ll go. I’ll go. Let me try!” But Carlota interjects—“Hey, compadres, momentito! Let me save that poor gatito.” Again, Elya skillfully evokes a work dynamic where men and women work respectfully and successfully side by side, and women are offered equal opportunities at success.

bomberos-3 bomberos-2Kirkus Reviews also comments upon the success of Santat’s illustrations: “Santat’s illustrations also help to set this firefighter book apart. From the first page, he thrusts readers into the action with up-close views created with colored pencil, water on ink print, fire and Photoshop. His firefighters are real people with needs, interests and fears, who sweat and get dirty.” Indeed, Santat’s detailed illustrations humanize these brave firefighters who are sometimes overlooked or whose work is sometimes underestimated in our daily lives. Santat’s aesthetic details show readers the physical labor and strain of fighting fires, as well as the range of emotions—fear, adrenaline, pride—that run across the faces of these brave men and women as they keep their neighborhoods safe.

bomberos-4The final scene of the book also emphasizes the reality of work as a firefighter. Although the story focuses on a heart-warming moment of heroism, the daily life of firefighters is not always so thrilling, and often involves late-night calls, strange hours, and sleep-less nights: “Just as todos drift to sleep,/ Dispatch makes its noisy bleep./ Late-night fire call has begun. / ¡EMERGENCIA! 911!/ Off they go to fight un fuego–/ Brave bomberos. Hasta luego!” While this closing scene reminds readers of the tireless work of the brave bomberos, it is also a nice way to close the narrative—although the story has ended, the hard work of the bomberos continues on.

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

For more information about the author and illustrator, here are some additional links:

Stay tuned for more great reads!

¡Hasta pronto!

Alice


Images Modified from Fire! ¡Fuego! Brave Bomberos!: Pages 5, 8, 9, 16

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¡Mira Look!: The Cazuela that the Farm Maiden Stirred

cazuela

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.

cazuela-1

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.

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En la Clase: Super Cilantro Girl/La Superniña del Cilantro

Super Cilantro Girl | Juan Felipe HerreraAs 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.

The LAII also has a curriculum unit on “Educating Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students.”  These lessons focus on teaching younger students about race, culture, difference, acceptance, and respect, all things that can contribute to a stronger classroom community.

The literature we use in our classrooms is such an important tool for ensuring that we provide portrayals of identity that show how complex it really is.  Keira mentioned in her Sobre Septiembre post that as we highlight Hispanic Heritage Month, we’re also looking to diversify and expand beyond the stereotypical or superficial conversations that can be associated with any heritage month.

With this in mind, in today’s En la Clase, I’m sharing some ideas on how to use the Super Cilantro Girl | Juan Felipe Herrerachildren’s book Super Cilantro Girl/La Superniña del Cilantro with your students.  This bilingual book was written by Juan Felipe Herrera, the 2015-2016 US Poet Laureate, and illustrated by Honorio Robledo Tapia.  It was published a number of years ago, but I just came across it a few weeks ago.  In case it’s new to you as well, here’s a short description:

“What happens when a small girl suddenly starts turning green, as green as a cilantro leaf, and grows to be fifty feet tall? She becomes Super Cilantro Girl, and can overcome all obstacles, that’s what! Esmeralda Sinfronteras is the winning super-hero in this effervescent tale about a child who flies huge distances and scales tall walls in order to rescue her mom. Award-winning writer Juan Felipe Herrera taps into the wellsprings of his imagination to address and transform the concerns many first-generation children have about national borders and immigrant status. Honorio Robledo Tapia has created brilliant images and landscapes that will delight all children.”

Not only is it a book that I think students will really enjoy, but it provides a number of opportunities for discussing themes relevant to identity and community.  When we talk about the purpose of diverse literature, we highlight the ways in which literature is like a door, a window, or a mirror.  It can allow students to see a world different than their own, provide them some way to experience it, and/or act as a mirror in which they see their own reflection.  Super Cilantro Girl/La Superniña del Cilantro can provide all of this.  For students who have experienced what it’s like to have families separated by borders and immigration, the book will speak to all of the emotions they’ve felt as they’ve worried about far-away family members.  For those who’ve never experienced this, the book allows them to begin to think about what this may be like, providing the means to understand a different point of view and practice the skill of empathy.

Super Cilantro Girl | Juan Felipe HerreraAll of this is done through the story of a young girl who becomes her own superhero.  Comic books have been critiqued for their largely white, male protagonists, but in this one, our superhero is a young Mexican American girl whose superpower comes from a plant indigenous to Mexico.  This undoes so many stereotypes, and it’s essential that these aspects of the book be discussed with students.

Too often literature portrays children as if they have no agency or power.  Herrera’s Super Cilantro Girl/La Superniña del Cilantro reinforces the idea of student agency and empowerment, and shows how Esmeralda creates something beautiful with her power when she transforms the border.

While the book can obviously be used in a unit exploring immigration or the U.S-Mexico border, I think it’s also a perfect book for exploring identity and diversity. . .and what student doesn’t want to turn themselves into a superhero?

After reading and discussing the book, ask students to think about the kind of superhero they would want to be.  Esmeralda’s transformation is triggered by her mother’s situation.  Encourage students to think about an issue or situation they wish they had a superpower to fix.  In many superhero stories, the superpower comes from a scientific lab or something otherworldly, but Esmeralda’s comes from an everyday plant.  What commonplace item from their own lives could give them a superpower?  Give students time to brainstorm and discuss their ideas with a partner, small group, or the whole class.  Then, have each student create an illustration of himself or herself as a superherSuper Cilantro Girl | Juan Felipe Herrerao.  This could even be a fun twist on the self-portraits we often have students do at the beginning of the year for Open House displays.  Once they’ve created their visual representation, ask them to write their own superhero story based on the theme or problem they brainstormed earlier.  If time allows, students can create their own comic book or graphic novel.

If you get the chance to do this with your students, I would LOVE to see their superheroes! I know I’ve only scratched the surface of what could be done with this book.  If you’ve read the book or used it in your classroom, I’d love to hear your thoughts (and so would our other teacher readers).  Just leave a comment down below.

For other suggestions on great children’s literature that explores identity, check out Colleen’s Reading Roundup of 10 Books with Diverse Latinx Perspectives and Alice’s İMira, Look! posts highlighting Pura Belpré winners.

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¡Mira, Look!: The Storyteller’s Candle/La velita de los cuentos

the storytellers candleSaludos 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.

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Reading Roundup: 10 Books about Latin American and Latina Women

 

Reading Roundup March

 

¡Buenos días!

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!

¡Saludos!
Kalyn  Continue reading

En la Clase: A Piñata in a Pine Tree

A Pinata in a Pine Tree | Teaching Holidays and Celebrations | Vamos a Leer BlogI 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