¡Mira, Look!: Dreamers/Soñadores

Queridos lectores,



In February we celebrate different kinds of love, and we can think of no better way to do it than by reading Dreamers by Mexican author, Yuyi Morales. This beautiful children’s book, which is available in Spanish as well as Soñadores, tells Morales’ own history of immigrating from Xalapa, Mexico, to the United States.

The book centers around a young mother and her infant son who struggle to understand the new place in which they find themselves, and the language – which they do not speak. From the first page, love of self, of family, and of language compel the characters forward. A poetic voice and striking imagery guide the reader through new beginnings and discovery.

The illustrations are much like the story, captivating and bittersweet. Through the contrast of colorful drawings depicting culture and identity, over a grey and brown background, we can experience the feeling of traveling to a new, unfamiliar, and at times unwelcoming world, while carrying our own.

One of Morales several gifts for her readers is that she shows us both the light and darkness embedded in immigration stories. She does not shy away from hardship and struggle, which does come with parting ways with our homes or with our country. However, Morales also draws on her own story’s resiliency and agency.

One of the illustrations show a young mother in a colorful dress and her son entering an unfamiliar and opaque city, while the clouds above them reveal hidden messages: “Say something,” “What?” “Speak English.” Messages that the mother stares at in sadness. Under the same sky, a banner with the letters “Give thanks” stand in front of them, making the reader feel a tension between what is publicized and portrayed in society vs what immigrants experience in their everyday lives.

Nevertheless, light emerges at the end of this metaphorical tunnel when both characters make a life changing discovery: the public library. A place where books become their guiding friends and a source of wonder. Color starts returning to the pages until it becomes prominent. Images, drawings, animals, and books share the page happily in front of mother and son enjoying the magic of a written world. The background is still brown and grey, but color becomes a protagonist. Closing the story with a message of agency and hope of having found a home and a voice in two languages.

“We are stories. We are two languages. We are lucha. We are resilience. We are hope.”

Morales concludes the book with an author’s note to provide young readers with the parallels to her own history. In sharing so openly, she calls upon her readers to share their own stories, urging them to recognize the value in their own voices:

 “Now I have told you my story. What’s yours?”

We hope that this book might encourage young readers to do just that: to relish their own stories and to speak their own truths. It is with our warmest recommendation that we encourage you to make space for this book front and center on your shelves.

For those who may want to know more about Morales and this work:

 Nos vemos pronto,

Carolina


Citation: All the above images have been included and modified from the book Dreamers by Yuyi Morales.

Introduction to New Writer: Carolina Bucheli

Queridos lectores,
I am very excited to tell you that I will be reviewing children’s books for ¡Vamos a Leer! My name is Carolina Bucheli and I am currently in my second semester of my MA in Latin American Studies. I am a Teaching Assistant for the Spanish and Portuguese department and a Graduate Assistant for the Latin American and Iberian Institute, where I will be assisting with this blog. Last semester I was the communications coordinator for the Student Organization for Latin American Studies, where among other responsibilities I oversaw the redesign of their website.

I am originally from Quito, Ecuador, and I came to the US in 2015 for my undergraduate program. I graduated in 2018 with a BA in English Studies and Spanish, and a minor in Communication and Journalism from the University of New Mexico (UNM). During this time I took several literature, creative writing, film, and multimedia classes that enriched my academic and creative work.

Books and writing have always played an important role in my life. In college I was able to explore the creative side of my work even further and I was able to work on a project called Voids of Ink, which combined my poetry and my multimedia skills. I presented my videos and my written poetry and photography in events promoted by the Spanish and Portuguese department, which were attended by UNM students and faculty. I have also published a poem and a couple of photographs, the latest one being an image of a laser from a lab in the Physics and Astronomy department which was selected as image of the week by the international magazine Optics and Photonics News (OPN).

I hope you enjoy my blog entries and I look forward to working in this wonderful literary world of ¡Vamos a Leer!

Nos vemos pronto,

Carolina

Book Review: Sophie Washington | Mission: Costa Rica

Happy New Year! It’s been ages since I’ve had the opportunity to stop in here on Vamos a Leer! I’ve really missed you all.  Being back in the classroom full time and continuing to help facilitate all of our local k-12 outreach programming for the LAII has kept me busier than I expected!

As you saw in Kiera’s post yesterday, this Friday (tomorrow!!) is Multicultural Children’s Book Day! What a wonderful initiative.  If you missed our earlier post, be sure to check it out.  There are so many wonderful resources and opportunities being created around this event.  Today’s post is our first review as part of Multicultural Children’s Book Day.   I’m very excited to introduce you to Tonya Duncan EllisSophie Washington Mission: Costa Rica (Ages 7-12).  Ellis very kindly sent me a copy of the book to review for this special event.   

Before I get into a more detailed discussion of Sophie Washington Mission: Costa Rica, I want to write more broadly about why books like this one are so important.  Last spring, I came across Denene Millner’s NYT Opinion Piece, “Black Kids Don’t Want to Read About Harriet Tubman All the Time.” I’ve found myself continually referring back to it ever since.  So often, the majority of books with black protagonists are limited to slavery, the civil rights movement, or famous biographies about an “overcomer.” In other words, they focus on themes of oppression and resistance.  These are obviously important stories that must be told, but they can’t be the only stories featuring people of color that our students are exposed to.  This is a disservice to everyone.  

As Millner writes, “Meanwhile, stories about the everyday beauty of being a little human being of color are scarce. Regardless of what the publishing industry seems to think, our babies don’t spend their days thinking about Harriet Tubman, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and black bodies swinging; they’re excited about what the tooth fairy will leave under their pillows, contemplating their first ride on the school bus, looking for dragons in their closets.

They want to read books that engage with their everyday experiences, featuring characters who look like them. Just like any other child. White children, too, deserve — and need — to see black characters that revel in the same human experiences that they do.”

Ellis’ Sophie Washington series does just that.

sophie_washington_book_6_ebookSophie Washington Mission: Costa Rica is the sixth book in a seven book series.  Here, readers will follow Sophie through her adventures in Costa Rica.  The publisher’s summary offers a quick overview: “Sixth grader Sophie Washington, her good friends, Chloe and Valentina, and her parents and brother, Cole, are in for a week of adventure when her father signs them up for a spring break mission trip to Costa Rica. Her dreams of lazing on the beach under palm trees are squashed quicker than an underfoot banana once they arrive in the rain forest and are put to work, hauling buckets of water, painting and cooking. Near the hut they sleep in, the girls fight off wayward iguanas and howler monkeys, and nightly visits from a surprise “guest” make it hard for them to get much rest after their work is done. Then Sophie and friends take a wrong turn in the jungle and things get even more wild…”

 

It is a fun, light-hearted read, that still alludes to more serious social issues such as immigration, family separation, and natural disasters, yet it remains appropriate for early chapter book readers.

Sophie and her family and friends are tourists in Costa Rica.  One of the things that I really appreciate about the story is the way it models a more responsible way to experience a new country and how to be a respectful tourist.  The family is respectful to the artisans at the market, the children are open minded to new experiences, and everyone enjoys trying new foods.  Younger readers are exposed to the flora and fauna of Costa Rica in a way that is woven throughout the story, without being overly obvious or superficial.

It is a short novel, but it still avoids overly simplifying or universalizing Costa Rican life.  The father’s volunteer work through the dentistry office speaks to the poverty that some people in Costa Rica experience. Yet, when the girls get the chance to know another student their age, the story highlights an educational system that successfully encourages bilingualism and a family’s commitment to college. I also appreciate the way the importance of volunteer work and contributing to the community is encouraged.  While there is some grumbling amongst Sophie, her brother, and her friends (would it be entirely believable if there weren’t?), in the end, they’re all appreciative of the experience.

I’d recommend it to readers who enjoy series such as Lola Levine, Jasmine Toguchi, Jada Jones, or Dyamonde Daniel. It’s certainly a great addition to any classroom or school library! It could be a perfect independent reading selection to accompany a unit on the rain forest.  

If you or any of your students have read it, we’d love to hear your thoughts below!

For more information on Multicultural Children’s Book Day, keep reading! Below we’ve shared information on sponsors, free resources, and the annual Twitter party (with tons of giveaways!) on Friday!!

 

new logo

MCBD 2019 is honored to have the following Medallion Sponsors on board!

Honorary: Children’s Book CouncilThe Junior Library GuildTheConsciousKid.org.

Super Platinum: Make A Way Media

GOLD: Bharat BabiesCandlewick PressChickasaw Press, Juan Guerra and The Little Doctor / El doctorcitoKidLitTV,  Lerner Publishing GroupPlum Street Press,

SILVER: Capstone PublishingCarole P. RomanAuthor Charlotte RiggleHuda EssaThe Pack-n-Go Girls,

BRONZE: Charlesbridge PublishingJudy Dodge CummingsAuthor Gwen JacksonKitaab WorldLanguage Lizard – Bilingual & Multicultural Resources in 50+ LanguagesLee & Low BooksMiranda Paul and Baptiste Paul, RedfinAuthor Gayle H. Swift,  T.A. Debonis-Monkey King’s DaughterTimTimTom BooksLin ThomasSleeping Bear Press/Dow PhumirukVivian Kirkfield,

MCBD 2019 is honored to have the following Author Sponsors on board!

Honorary: Julie FlettMehrdokht Amini,

Author Janet BallettaAuthor Kathleen BurkinshawAuthor Josh FunkChitra SoundarOne Globe Kids – Friendship StoriesSociosights Press and Almost a MinyanKaren LeggettAuthor Eugenia ChuCultureGroove BooksPhelicia Lang and Me On The PageL.L. WaltersAuthor Sarah StevensonAuthor Kimberly Gordon BiddleHayley BarrettSonia PanigrahAuthor Carolyn Wilhelm, Alva Sachs and Dancing DreidelsAuthor Susan BernardoMilind Makwana and A Day in the Life of a Hindu KidTara WilliamsVeronica AppletonAuthor Crystal BoweDr. Claudia MayAuthor/Illustrator Aram KimAuthor Sandra L. RichardsErin DealeyAuthor Sanya Whittaker GraggAuthor Elsa TakaokaEvelyn Sanchez-ToledoAnita BadhwarAuthor Sylvia LiuFeyi Fay AdventuresAuthor Ann MorrisAuthor Jacqueline JulesCeCe & Roxy BooksSandra Neil Wallace and Rich WallaceLEUYEN PHAMPadma VenkatramanPatricia Newman and Lightswitch LearningShoumi SenValerie Williams-Sanchez and Valorena Publishing, Traci SorellShereen RahmingBlythe StanfelChristina MatulaJulie RubiniPaula ChaseErin TwamleyAfsaneh MoradianLori DeMonia, Claudia Schwam, Terri Birnbaum/ RealGirls RevolutionSoulful SydneyQueen Girls Publications, LLC

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also works tirelessly to spread the word of this event.

Co-Hosts and Global Co-Hosts

A Crafty ArabAgatha Rodi BooksAll Done MonkeyBarefoot MommyBiracial Bookworms, Books My Kids Read, Crafty Moms ShareColours of UsDiscovering the World Through My Son’s EyesDescendant of Poseidon ReadsEducators Spin on it Growing Book by BookHere Wee Read, Joy Sun Bear/ Shearin LeeJump Into a BookImagination Soup,Jenny Ward’s ClassKid World CitizenKristi’s Book NookThe LogonautsMama SmilesMiss Panda ChineseMulticultural Kid BlogsRaising Race Conscious ChildrenShoumi SenSpanish Playground

TWITTER PARTY Sponsored by Make A Way Media:

MCBD’s super-popular (and crazy-fun) annual @McChildsBookDay Twitter Party will be held 1/25/19 at 9:00 pm.E.S.T. TONS of prizes and book bundles will be given away during the party ( a prize every 5 minutes!). GO HERE for more details.

FREE RESOURCES from MCBD:

Free Multicultural Books for Teachers: http://bit.ly/1kGZrta

Free Empathy Classroom Kit for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians and Educators: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/teacher-classroom-empathy-kit/

Hashtag:

Don’t forget to connect with us on social media and be sure and look for/use our official hashtag #ReadYourWorld.

¡Mira Look!: My Tata’s Remedies/ Los remedies de mi tata

my tata's remediesSaludos todos! This week we are kicking off our February themes of love, including romantic love, love of self, love of community, and love of country by featuring My Tata’s Remedies/ Los remedios de mi tata. This wonderful story emphasizes themes of love through community and family support, but also of self love and care by showcasing various natural remedies that have been passed on through various generations of a young boy’s family. Aside from this unique and engaging narrative, My Tata’s Remedies/ Los remedios de mi tata also won the 2016 Pura Belpre Honor Book for Illustration. This bilingual story, written by Roni Capin Rivera-Ashford and illustrated by Antonio Castro, is a sequel to its precursor, My Nana’s Remedies/Los Remedios De Mi Nana, now narrating the herbal remedies and natural medicinal recipes of the young protagonist’s grandfather rather than his grandmother. This informative tale is best for ages 4-11, though its abundant, non-fictional information may also be interesting for older readers.

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January 27th | Week in Review

2017-01-27-01.png¡Hola a todos! Happy Children’s Book Day! I hope that the resources this week are of use to you.

– For those of you in higher education teaching about social movements, check out Remezcla’s article, What the Women’s March on Washington Meant For Young Latinx. “Only time will tell. I, for one, will be holding on to the hope and the magic that Saturday gave me.”

Watch 6-Year-Old Sophie Cruz Give One of the Best Speeches of The Women’s March provided to us by Rethinking Schools. “Let us fight with love, faith and courage so that our families will not be destroyed. … !Si se puede! Si se puede!…”

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September 30th | Week in Review

2016-09-30-01

¡Hola a todos! The month has passed by very fast. As we end September, think about the accomplishments and hard work people have done in just this one month to advocate for diverse literature and how much work still remains.

Blood Orange Press has begun a campaign to publish books where “people of color and Native communities can tell their own story.” If you want to support them, their project is titled #ReadInColor.

— Our Facebook friends Latinos in Kid Lit just shared the cover reveal of The Chupacabra Ate the Candelabra. The release date is March 7, 2017. Keep your eye out for this book that’s expected to “crack up kids and grown-ups.”

–Our friends at Lee & Low Book celebrated their 25th anniversary this year, so we would like to congratulate them for encouraging diversity in kids literature.

— Congratulations to Sandra Cisneros and Rudolfo Anaya for receiving a National Medal from President Obama for their contribution to Latino Literature. Check out the rest of NBC News’s list of all the Latinos Who Were Honored With National Medals for Diverse Art, Humanities.

– Lastly, in Facebook, Rethinking Schools encourages us to find out more about the Zinn Education Project- Teaching A People’s History. “Zinn’s work offers an alternative perspective that students need in order to think more critically about key issues in history,” expressed commenter William Thomas.

 


Image: Esperanza. Reprinted from Flickr user JoelleW under CC ©.

Book Review: Silver People: Voices from the Panama Canal

Vamos a Leer | Featured Book | Silver People by Margarita EngleHere’s our review of this month’s featured novel, Silver People: Voices from the Panama Canal.  I’m really looking forward to discussing it with our book group next Monday. If you’re an Albuquerque local, we’d love to have you join us!

Silver People: Voices from the Panama Canal
Written by Margarita Engle
Published by HMH Books For Young Readers, 2014
ISBN: 978-0544109414
Age level: 12 years and up

Book Summary

One hundred years ago, the world celebrated the opening of the Panama Canal, which connected the world’s two largest oceans and signaled America’s emergence as a global superpower. It was a miracle, this path of water where a mountain had stood—and creating a miracle is no easy thing. Thousands lost their lives, and those who survived worked under the harshest conditions for only a few silver coins a day.

From the young “silver people” whose back-breaking labor built the Canal to the denizens of the endangered rainforest itself, this is the story of one of the largest and most difficult engineering projects ever undertaken, as only Newbery Honor-winning author Margarita Engle could tell it.

My Thoughts

Without fail, one of the most striking aspects of Engle’s work is her commitment to bringing little or unknown historical figures and periods to life.  Since Engle often writes about Cuba, I was surprised when I heard she had written a book about the Panama Canal. But as I learned more about the story, the choice in topic made perfect sense. Admittedly, I knew very little about the history of the Panama Canal.  Unfortunately, I don’t think I’m alone in that. On Vamos a Leer we frequently reference the idea of the ‘rewriting’ of history. Having now read Silver People, I believe the minimal attention given to the creation of the Panama Canal in our k-12 curricula is an example of one such rewriting.

During the fall students across the U.S. often learn about exploration, conquest, and colonization. They study explorers such as Columbus, de Gama, Cortes, and Lewis and Clark — who are all portrayed as courageous heroes. We’ve talked a great deal on Vamos a Leer about ways in which to provide a more balanced account and understanding of Conquest and Colonization. As I read Engle’s Silver People I realized how relevant her book is to that same conversation. The conquest and colonization of the Americas didn’t stop 500 years ago. It’s been a continual and ongoing process, and Silver People calls attention to this. The construction of the Panama Canal represents some of the most problematic and troublesome aspects of U.S. foreign policy. More than likely, this is one reason why it’s so often glossed over in our textbooks.

This is exactly why a book like Silver People is so important and necessary. Engle brings to life the flora, fauna, and people of a historical period many would prefer not to delve into too deeply. Often, if the Panama Canal is mentioned in textbooks at all, it’s in reference to what a miraculous accomplishment it was. It’s heralded as a pivotal point in the transformation of trade and travel between the U.S. and Latin America. Yet we fail to question what it cost to create such a feat. Engle’s novel offers an answer to this question.

Told from multiple points of view, Silver People recounts the story of the building of the Panama Canal. Engle gives voice to Jamaican and Cuban laborers, overseers, Panamanians, American politicians, and the animals, insects, and plants of the Canal zone. Everyone and everything’s experience is considered. Through the use of both fictional and historical characters, the book provides an excellent example of the ways in which primary source documents and historical and scientific research can be used in creative writing.

In Dr. Laura Harjo’s introduction to the LAII’s recent screening of the film Tambien la Lluvia, she talked about how the effects of colonialism can be seen through the commodification of human beings (such as through the use of slave labor and slave wages) and the deadening of land as it became property that could be owned. I can’t help but connect these ideas to Silver People. Through the voices of the laborers, overseers, engineers, and politicians, Engle brings to light the racism and White privilege that drove the construction of the Panama Canal. Consider the following told from Theodore Roosevelt’s perspective: “All around me, workers with shovels/ are making the mud fly, the white/ Americans supervising while black/ islanders dig, on hillsides/ so steep/ and unstable/ that it would be a real/ waste to risk wrecking valuable machines” (p. 96).  The value of one’s life was determined by a racial hierarchy that sounds very similar to sociologist Eduardo Bonilla-Silva’s contemporary work on the tri-racial system. The darker one’s skin, the more expendable his or her life was. The Canal laborers were further commodified as they became a tourist attraction: “Towering trees are chopped down/ to build more and more railroad tracks,/ and more gold houses, silver barracks,/ and fancy hotels, so that tourists/ can stare down in elegant safety/ from the high, sturdy rim/ of our danger” (p. 111).  In the Author’s Note, Engle discusses the similarities between Canal Zone Apartheid and Jim Crow Laws. This is an important connection, as it not only contextualizes the Panama Canal through a (hopefully) more well-known US historical period, but also points to the way in which the US exports its racism.

One of the more unique pieces of Engle’s book is the very vivid way in which she shows the living nature of the land of Panama. I know my students would have really enjoyed reading from the point of view of the howler monkeys, the three-toed sloth, or the trees.  The nature-based voices show the ecological devastation of the Canal’s construction. The wilderness areas of the country survived, but, as Engle shows, they suffered great harm in the process.

The hope is that when we use books like Silver People, where multiple points of view and perspectives are considered and given voice, we are creating opportunities for our students and readers to both reflect and develop empathetic responses as they increase their understanding of the complexities of our history. I’m also hopeful that the experience of reading books like Silver People helps our students to see the truth in statements like that of Augusto, who writes: “No one cares because no one knows.  If our history is ever to be told, we must tell it ourselves.  Like howlers in the forest, we must lift our voices about the noise of thunder and dynamite.  Dear friends, amigos queridos, write your memories; help me howl our wild truth” (p. 250).

If you’ve had the chance to read Silver People, I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Just leave a comment below.

If you’re an educator, our Educator’s Guide Page has resources for using the book in the classroom.

We also have Educator’s Guides available for each of Engle’s books that we’ve featured as part of our book group.  The links below will take you to the classroom resources.

Until next week,

–Katrina

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