¡Mira, Look!: Danza! Amalia Hernández and El Ballet Folklórico de México

¡Buenos días! In honor of Women’s History Month, throughout all of March we will be writing posts featuring strong female characters and authors! Today I will review Duncan Tonatiuh’s book, Danza! Amalia Hernández and El Ballet Folklórico de México. This book tells the true story of Amalia Hernández (1917-2002), founder of the world-renowned dance company, Ballet Folklórico de México.

In Hernández’s era, it was assumed that most women would become schoolteachers, if they chose a profession at all. Hernández, however, chose to follow her passion and instead became one of the world’s most recognized dancers and choreographers. Sh­­e was also a researcher, manager, and dance teacher. Born in Mexico, Hernández’s was versed from a young age in formal ballet and Spanish flamenco. Unsatisfied with these early teachings, she then went on to learn about Mexico’s many traditional and indigenous dances. Afterward, she melded this breadth of experience into a new form of dance known as ballet folklórico, fusing ballet and modern dance techniques with the movements and costumes of Mexico’s traditional dances. Finding her initial performances to be well received, she went on to found her company, the Ballet Folklórico de México, in 1952.

Photograph by JT

While it would be easy to focus solely on Hernández and her iconic imagery, Tonatiuh does more. He offers an homage to the broader collective knowledge and history of dance in Mexico, and pays close attention to the indigenous history underlying Hernandez’s work.

“The danzas y bailes [Amalia] saw in the villages were for ceremonial purposes, like celebrating a patron saint or hoping for a good harvest. Other times, the dances happened so people could have fun and meet new friends. However, the dance pieces Ami was creating were meant to be performances, for audiences to watch in a theater. Ami used her skills as a choreographer and her knowledge of both ballet and modern dance to make the pieces innovative and beautiful.”

In the Author’s Note, Tonatiuh places Hernández’s rise to fame within the context of Mexico’s Indigenismo period, when the Mexican government encouraged recognition of indigenous peoples and Mexico’s indigenous past.Tonatiuh also brings up the question of appropriation and misrepresentation of folkloric dances, an issue which Hernández was forced to face with her rise to fame.

In addition to emphasizing the historical complexities of the Ballet Folklorico, Tonatiuh also draws attention to its worldwide influence by noting that Mexican dances are performed today in the United States and elsewhere. Young readers are thus encouraged to recognize the fluidity of culture, tradition, and peoples across geographic borders.

With his signature style of illustrations and meticulous research, Tonatiuh has brought to life this captivating herstory of a woman of color whose life’s work has become iconic around the world. It is a fitting tribute to a woman whose legacy is tremendous, and can be seen in practice every week and weekend at the famous Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City, where her company, the Ballet Folklórico de México, continues to perform.

En fin, we highly recommend putting this book into the hands of young readers who will be inspired by Hernández’s perseverance and creativity!

 

To learn more about this art form as a whole, consider visiting:

For those who might want to use the book in the classroom, here are lesson plans to accompany Danza!:

On a similar note, given that Hernández was a contemporary of the Mexican muralist movement, it might be interesting to discuss her life in relation to the work of the painters of that time, from Diego Rivera to Frida Kahlo and others. Here are a few resources to help in that comparison:

Lastly, if you find Tonatiuh’s work as captivating as we do, you might enjoy our review of his book, The Princess and the Warrior, and our educator guides to Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote and Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation. Fellow Vamos blogger, Hania, also posted an interview with Duncan Tonatiuh to discuss his work and its importance in the classroom.

Saludos,

Kalyn


Images Modified From: Danza!

 

¡Mira, Look!: Ada’s Violin

¡Buenos días!

Today’s book fits in perfectly with our theme of love for community. Ada’s Violin, written by Susan Hood and illustrated by Sally Wern Comport, tells the true story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay. The story is told through the eyes of Ada Ríos, a young girl living in the town of Cateura, Paraguay. In 2017, this book won the Américas Award for its engaging representation of Latin America and its usefulness for K-12 classrooms.

Cateura is the home of the largest landfill in Paraguay; it is the place where the trash of the country’s capital, Asunción, isdumped. Most of the inhabitants of Cateura make a living bygathering recyclables and treasures from the landfill. The story tells about how Ada’s abuela registers Ada and her younger sister for music classes with señor Favio Chávez. Favio came to Cateura as an environmental engineer to teach safety measures to those working in the landfill. During his time in Cateura, he took an interest in the children of the workers and began a music class. When the class did not have enough instruments for everyone who signed up, Favio creatively decided to enlist a local carpenter, Nicolas Gómez, for help. Together, they made instruments from objects they found in the landfill. Thus, the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay was born.

This book demonstrates how a community is able to make the best of a difficult situation, and even thrive. It teaches the importance of dreaming big and believing in oneself. Furthermore, it shows the importance of support and coming together. Lastly, throughout it all, it contradicts stereotypes of impoverished communities as lacking agency.

The author’s note tells of the amazing successes that the Recycled Orchestra has had, in addition to the way that its community has remained at the center of that success. The money that the orchestra makes has gone back into the community to better the lives of the musicians’ families. And this grassroots-driven success continues to grow, with the orchestra starting out as a class of 10 and now consisting of some 200 students.

Wern Comport’s illustrations accompany the descriptions of daily life in Cateura beautifully. The colors and texture reflect the complex, textured, day-to-day of the characters. Furthermore, Wern Comport’s use of torn pieces of paper simulates the recycled nature of the orchestra itself.

This book could be accompanied by a number of different lessons in the classroom. It depicts the concept of recycling in a unique way, showing kids that what we throw in the trash has to go somewhere and that it always affects somebody. Our choices and actions matter! For slightly older students, that conversation can segue into deeper discussions about environmental racism – leading to larger-scale implications of how societies and countries choose where to leave their refuse, why, and what happens to it after it’s “abandoned.” On this topic, educators might appreciate watching Vic Munoz’s documentary, Wasteland, which documents a community’s efforts in Rio de Janeiro to recapture the garbage there, much as the people do in Cateura.

The book can also be accompanied by the documentary about The Recycled Orchestra, titled Landfill Harmonic.

At the end of the book, Hood lists a few websites, including that of The Recycled Orchestra Exhibit at the Musical Instrument Museum, in addition to the website of the actual Orchestra: Orquesta de Reciclados de Cateura.

The book also lists three videos to check out:

Saludos,

Kalyn


Images Modified from: Ada’s Violin: Pages 1, 18, 22, 31

Reading Recomendaciones: February 15, 2018

Hello everyone!! I hope your year is off to a wonderful start! I’ve missed you all at Vamos a Leer and I’m so excited to be back! I finally finished my PhD over the summer and I’m back in the classroom teaching.  After six years away, it’s taken me awhile to get my teaching legs back under me, but I think I’ve (sort of) got things under control now.  I’m hoping to contribute here far more regularly again, along with Alin, Santiago, and Kalyn, the wonderful bloggers who’ve kept us going over the last year.

As you all know, as a project supported by the UNM Latin American and Iberian Institute, our focus here at Vamos a Leer is on sharing books and resources to help encourage a broader engagement with Latin America in classrooms.  At the same time, we’re always striving to encourage a greater depth in multicultural content across all area studies.  As a teacher myself, I’ve found that one of the greatest challenges in implementing curriculum that reflects the diversity of our world is simply in finding books and resources.  With this in mind, we’ll be starting a new thematic series of posts on “Reading Recomendaciones” that highlight various reading lists, thematic book compilations, or curated book suggestions from around the web.  Many of these lists will include suggestions that go beyond just Latin American or Latinx themes, so we will highlight those books that are specific to our blog focus.

One of the first resources I want to share is Mind/Shift’s 20 Books Featuring Diverse Characters to Inspire Connection and Empathy based on a list of recommended titles created by the San Francisco Public Library.  The list was first shared in 2016, but many of the books are just now gaining the popularity they deserve, making them more readily accessible on bookstore and library shelves.  I was really excited to see some of our favorite authors like Meg Medina, Matt de la Peña, Duncan Tonatiuh, Tracey Baptiste, Pam Muñoz Ryan, and Edwidge Danticat on the list.  For those of you not familiar with Baptiste, her book The Jumbies came out in 2016, and she just recently released the sequel, The Rise of the Jumbies.  One of my third graders read The Jumbies earlier this year and is anxiously awaiting the sequel I ordered for her out of our most recent Scholastic book order. I’ll let you know what she thinks of it.

Another amazing resource is Gathering Books’ Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Bookshelf —a collection of multicultural/international picture book text-sets across the five SEL competencies.  This is quite an undertaking! Understandably, they are adding one competency at a time.  Currently, both the Self-Awareness and Self-Management sections are available.  I’ve added so many books to my classroom wish list as a result of this resource!

Last, but certainly not least, I’d like to recommend that we all spend some time thinking about Angie Manfredi’s blog post “The Message of Your All White Booklist.” She makes some significant observations about access to diverse books even as the “We Need Diverse Books” movement gains more and more traction.  A New Mexico librarian, Manfredi’s discussion of the New Mexico Battle of the Books list hit close to home for me.  I also think her blog post offers a useful framework from which to move forward in our “Reading Recommendations.”

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Feel free to share in the comments below.  I’m really looking forward to being a regular around here again!

Until next week!

Katrina

¡Mira, Look!: Malaika’s Costume

Buenos días!

We are excited to be back with our book reviews. Throughout the semester we will be interweaving book reviews in both English and Spanish, between our new blog member, Santi, and me. Santi will be writing reviews in Spanish, and I will be writing them in English. Since it’s February, the month of love, we will start by bringing you book reviews surrounding the theme of love for community.

Today we are excited to bring you a review of Malaika’s Costume, written by Nadia L. Hohn and illustrated by Irene Luxbacher. This book is an Honorable Mention recipient of the 2017 Américas Award. It tells the story of Malaika, a young girl in Jamaica living with her granny while her mummy works in Canada to provide for them. In the story, Malaika is struggling with not having a costume for carnival, one of the most exciting festivals in her town. Malaika’s worries and frustrations with the costume are interwoven with missing her mummy, struggling to allow her granny to fill that motherly role, and optimistic expectations of no longer having financial issues since her mummy is working in Canada. In the end, Malaika and her granny find a resolution and Malaika dances beautifully in Carnival.

Luxbacher’s illustrations are absolutely breathtaking. I appreciated Malaika’s imaginative rendering of cold and snowy Canada, and how it contrasts her warm and colorful Jamaican hometown. The imaginative aspect of the illustrations mirrors Malaika’s personality. Hohn’s book as a whole explains important issues that countless children face with parents working from afar to provide for their families.

Also, her description of complex relationships from a child’s perspective is refreshing and necessary within today’s multicultural society. Furthermore, Malaika’s day-to-day interactions with neighbors and extended family members give us cultural insight to life in small-town Jamaica. Hohn includes definitions of different words she uses for understanding the cultural context of the text, including explanations of different types of music, instruments, characters and foods. Although the story is told from Malaika’s point of view, the last page’s illustration allows us to place her mother within the story, and better understand her love for her daughter.

I highly recommend checking out Nadia Hohn’s biography on her website. Nadia’s passion for children’s book diversity led her to publish Malaika’s Costume.

She teaches French, music, and the arts at the Africentric Alternative School where she has been an inaugural staff member since its opening in 2009.  She has taught in Toronto public schools since 2003. Out of her classroom and personal experiences, Hohn crafted edited two literary resources for teaching about Black heritage to grades 4-8, titled SANKOFA, which could be great for teaching this month, given that we are entering Black Heritage Month. Out of the resources in the guide, the SANKOFA Music book would pair well with Malaika’s Costume. While the music book must be purchased, Hohn also offers a number of free strategies for how to engage students with Malaika’s story.

Teachers interested in using this book with their students might also turn to the Smithsonian’s educator materials, particularly their lesson plan (grades 3-5), titled “The Sounds of an Island: Jamaican Music for the Classroom.” You can also explore excerpts of calypso rock songs by the famous Jamaican calypsonians, Horace Johnson & The Eagle Star, on the Smithsonian Folkways site. For quick reference, here is a full audio recording of Horace Johnson’s music. These resources pair with Malaika’s Costume given that this colorful children’s book is as much about music and dance as it is about family. During the Carnival celebrations that inspired the book, the street is full of soca and calypso – musical traditions that are explained on the website for the Trinidad and Tobago’s National Library and Information System.

If you enjoyed this book, we recommend that you check out the sequel, Malaika’s Winter Costume. Here is a promotional video for the sequel, which shows photos of Carnival in Jamaica.

Saludos,

Kalyn

 


Images Modified From Malaika’s Costume: Pages 3, 7, 29, 30

Winter Celebration Resources

¡Buenos días! As everyone prepares for the holiday season, we thought we’d wrap up our posts for this year by sharing some winter and holiday literature resources.

Two years ago we put together a Reading Roundup of 10 Children’s Books About Latino Winter Celebrations, which you might reference if you’re looking for engaging books for your young ones in the coming weeks. Some of these books have been reviewed in more depth by Alice and Katrina: The Miracle of the First Poinsetta, José Feliciano’s Feliz Navidad, A Piñata in a Pine Tree, ‘Twas Nochebuena, and La Noche Buena: A Christmas Story.

In addition, if you visit our Las Posadas/Winter Celebrations tab, you can find more posts related to Latin American/Latinx holiday celebrations. Also, Colleen wrote a Reading Roundup about Latino/a Children’s & YA Books Honoring Immigrant Experiences in the Winter Season, which I recommend checking out. Although not all of them are holiday related, most are. Finally, Katrina has written several En la Clase posts about the holiday season, including one about literature for teaching about Las Posadas, and another that highlights 3 books for teaching about the holiday season.

We hope you are able to use these resources in the classroom as the winter holidays approach!

Saludos y felices fiestas,

Kalyn

¡Mira, Look!: Topilitzkuintli/El perro topil

¡Buenos días! Today we will continue our Indigenous Peoples book reviews with Topilitzkuintli/El perro topil. The story is written in Spanish by Elisa Ramírez Castañeda, translated to Nahuatl by Miguel Ángel Tepole, and illustrated by Francisco Toledo. Toledo is a significant Zapotec artist and activist from the Tehuantepec peninsula, and Ramírez Castañeda is a poet, sociologist and translator who works to spread the importance of indigenous cultures in both Native and non-Native communities. She is also author of the book titled La educación indígena en México, where she writes extensively about indigenous peoples of Mexico and their inclusion/exclusion in the Mexican nation and education. Toledo and Castañeda are also married with two children.

This Nahuatl story tells the tale of why dogs always smell each others’ rear-ends when they first meet one another. Kids will find this story silly and entertaining. In the story, dogs have been continually mistreated by humans. To resolve this, they decide to bring a message to the region’s leader, Señor Tlalocan, so that he will punish the humans. They choose one dog that would deliver the message, and name this dog the Perro Topil. Since the Perro Topil will be crossing rivers and mountains, the dogs carefully consider a safe place to keep the message during his journey. In the end, they decid to put it in the Perro Topil’s rear-end. Time goes by, and the message never reaches Señor Tlalocan.  We are to surmise that this explains why, even today, when dogs first meet, they smell each others’ rears in search of the Perro Topil and the message he carries.

I am happy to see the inclusion of Nahuatl in the text, especially since the story itself is from the Nahuatl people. If you are interested in the Nahuatl language and culture, you can check out a post I wrote a few weeks ago about The Princess and the Warrior by Duncan Tonatiuh. This post contains various links about the Nahuatl language, along with other indigenous languages in Mexico.

The paintings in this book are exquisite and exemplary of Francisco Toledo’s painting style. Each turn of the page reveals a new painting extending across two pages. These illustrations provide an opportunity to discuss the Mexican muralist movement, which greatly influenced Francisco Toledo’s work. For those unfamiliar with Mexican muralism, the Art History Teaching Resources (AHTR) website provides useful background information and lesson plans. PBS also has a lesson plan, “The Storm That Swept Mexico | Lesson Plan: Revolutionary Art,” that accompanies a video about the Mexican Revolution; however, the materials can stand alone in regards to their discussion of Mexican muralism. Apart from these lesson plans, students might also benefit from having the chance to discuss the similarities/differences between Toledo and other Mexican muralists.

Saludos,

Kalyn

December 1st | Week in Review

2017-11-28-image.png¡Hola a todos! It is super exciting that we are now in December, one of my favorite months. I hope you all enjoy this week’s resources.

– Latinxs in Kid Lit recommend the book Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos by Monica Brown. In addition to the book review, they have shared a coloring activity sheet, book trailer, and discussion guide.

– When talking about media and identity in your class, you might want to share 20 Latina Superheroes and Villains by Hip Latina. Firebird or Bonita Juarez, born in Taos, New Mexico, is a woman who came into contact with radioactive meteorite fragments walking in the deserts around Albuquerque. She has appeared in West Coast Avengers and even in some Avengers storylines.

American Indians in Children’s Literature highly recommend the children’s book, The Water Walker, by Joanne Robertson. This is a story about a grandmother and her actions in saving water for future generations.

– Lastly, from the wonderful writer, Pat Mora, check out the book La Hermosa Señora: Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe/ The Beautiful Lady: Our Lady of Guadalupe. With her birthday coming up (December 12), this is a great book to talk about religion and culture. She even shared activities to accompany it.

Abrazos,
Alin


Image: Familias productoras en el salvador. Reprinted from Flickr user Mesoamérica Sin Hambre FAO-AMEXCID under CC©.