April 7th | Week in Review

2017-03-0-image-01.png

¡Hola a todos! This week I found interesting resources, I hope you enjoy!

– You might appreciate Mexican author Valeria Luiselli’s book-length essay, Tell Me How It Ends, if you are teaching about Central American migration, and especially about child migrants. “Until it is safer for undocumented folks to share their own stories, to argue on their own behalf, Luiselli makes for a trusted guide.”

— Check out these three authors shortlisted for the Burt Award for Caribbean Literature. “The finalists were selected by a jury administered by the Bocas Lit Fest and made up of writing, publishing and educational professionals with expertise in young adult literature.”

–In this era of technological advancement you would expect children to use technology for reading but here are the reasons why children prefer to read books on paper rather than screens. “But young people do not have a uniform set of skills, and the contention that screens are preferred is not backed up by research.

– Here is a book review of the new YA novel Lucky Broken Girl by Ruth Behar. Highly recommended by Latinos in Kid Lit, the reviewer expressed, “I read this book and couldn’t put it down and then gave it to my 11-year-old son to read and he couldn’t put it down.”

– Look at these 10 Exciting New Middle Grade Books with Latinx Main Characters (including the now familiar Lucky Broken Girl).

Lee and Low Books shared advice on how you can save federal funding for libraries and help teens.

-Also, if you are in search of a new game for class, try Compound it All: The Compound Building Game. The game is meant to “expand your vocabulary, critical thinking skills, and even your math skills” and “is equally fun to play with friends and family.”

–As they do every year, the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) has released its statistics on diversity in children’s and YA lit. Check out the latest ” This year, the number jumped to 28% – the highest year on record since 1994 (and likely the highest year ever). 2016 also marked a number of important award wins for authors of color…”

–In related news, the CCBC has also released their list of recommended books for 2017. Check out their 2017 compilation for “a fully annotated listing of 246 books published in 2016 for birth through high school and recommended by the CCBC professional staff.”

– Ever wondered if your school has a plan for bias incidents? Teaching Tolerance draws on schools in California as examples for how to respond.

– Lastly, if you’ve ever wandered what’s up with the recent appearances of the term “Latinx,” you might want to share Arianna Davis’ self-reflective piece on coming to terms with “Latinx.”

Abrazos,
Alin Badillo


Image: fist pump. Reprinted from Flickr user mike nerl under CC©.

 

¡Mira, Look!: Con el sol en los ojos/ With the Sun in My Eyes

Image result for with the sun in my eyes jorge lujanSaludos todos! This week we are kicking off April with a wonderful, spring-timey book. Our themes for April are the Earth and nature in celebration of Earth Day and also poetry in celebration of National Poetry Month. Although not all of my books for this month will be able to combine both of these themes so nicely, this week’s book indeed does. Con el sol en los ojos/ With the Sun in My Eyes, written by an Argentinian poet, Jorge Lujan, and illustrated by an Iranian artist, Morteza Zahedi, is a lovely story (written as a collection of poems) about a young boy and girl who discover the world and all of its natural beauty: “In this book of short poems, a young boy and girl find wonder, magic, beauty and humor in everything around them.” Although this book at first glance may seem sweet and simplistic, the poetry can be difficult to understand for younger children and the degree of artistic license and creativity used in this book might make it more interesting and enriching for older children (years 9-12).

The book opens with a quote by Walt Whitman that can guide readers in their subsequent readings of the poems: “There was a child went forth every day,/ And the first object he look’d upon, that object he became.” This quote expresses the beautiful way in which children can become absorbed by their surroundings, and how the details of our environment, which sometimes allude us busy adults, are not lost on children and their wonderful creativity and imagination.

The first poem is told from perspective of one of the children as he describes the street where he lives and the trees surrounding his home: “My street is like the trunk of an almond tree/ that blossoms somewhere else./ Who knows if its roots reach down/ into the eastern sky./ Who knows if this house is a nest/ built between trunk and branch./ Who knows if at the tips of its branches/ mysterious fruits are ripening…/ Does anybody know?/ Who knows.” This short and sweet poem emphasizes themes of interconnectedness, as well as the supreme unknown about nature and its complex systems. This element of mystery emphasizes the awe of young children, but also the grandeur of the natural world. The comparison between a street (that is man-made) and an almond tree also shows how we cannot remove ourselves from the natural world, but must learn to live alongside it with respect.

Like with many poetry books for children, this book could be used in a lesson on poetry and writing poetry. However, this particular book could also be used with themes of nature, climate change, and eco-friendly habits. As our earth is consistently breaking record-high temperatures, ice caps are melting, and air pollution is affecting the health of people, especially children, it is important to teach our kids eco-friendly habits early on, and to raise awareness about how our everyday actions impact the earth. While this may be a somewhat difficult topic, using interesting and fun activities such as poetry and illustrations could be a way to render it more palpable for young children.

Zahedi’s simplistic but beautiful illustrations could also inspire lessons on art, such as illustrations to accompany the students’ poems. According to a review from Goodreads, “Once again Jorge Luján brings young readers a lyrical and joyful collection of poems. Morteza Zahedi’s powerful illustrations in densely saturated colors perfectly complement the poems’ subtle explorations.” Both the poetry and the illustrations in this lovely collection invite creativity, daydreams, imagination, and self-reflection. This collection is perfect for teachers looking to inspire the creative instinct of their students, while also teaching them about the natural world and the importance of preserving it.

For those of you interested in using this book in the classroom, and finding ways to teach eco-friendly habits to children, here are some additional links:

Stay tuned for more great reads!

Hasta pronto!

Alice


Images Modified from: Con el sol en los ojos/ With the Sun in My Eyes pages 4, 7 9, 13, 14

¡Mira, Look!: Letters Forever/ Cartas para siempre

Saludos todos! This week we are concluding our March theme of women and Women’s History Month with another great read. Last week I featured the Coleccion Antiprincesas, which provides readers with biographies of underrepresented and under-studied historical Latina heroines. This week, however, we are switching gears a bit, focusing more on the courage and determination of young girls in our everyday lives. The book for this week is Letters Forever/ Cartas para siempre, written by Tom Luna and illustrated by Laura Alvarez. This wonderful story focuses on a young, female protagonist who has to learn how to navigate her complicated emotions in a difficult situation. Not only does this book show young readers how to cope with separation and heartache, it also counters stereotypes and challenges negative representations of women and girls by portraying a young girl whose empathy and emotional sensibility is not a flaw or a nuisance, but, ultimately, one of her greatest virtues.

This book tells the story of young Camila and her beloved abuelo, Felix, who lives far away in Veracruz, Mexico: “It had been two years since he left San Antonio to return home to Veracruz.” Camila reflects on the bittersweet memories of her grandfather playing his favorite guitar, the requinto, and how he would sing her lullabies when she was a little baby: “He had a deep beautiful voice and played the requinto with an almost angelic touch.” Although the plot following the female protagonist challenges typical, negative representations of women and girls, the character description of the grandfather also challenges expectations of men and boys. The grandfather is sensitive, artistic, loving and participates actively in caring for his grandchild, taking her on outings to the zoo and the park, to name a few, all the while singing or whistling tunes from Veracruz.

Although Camila misses her grandfather greatly, her parents say that they do not have enough money to afford a trip to Veracruz to visit him. However, one day, deciding to take matters into her own hands, young Camila hops on her bike determined to ride the 938 miles to Veracruz to see her dear grandfather: “‘I’m going to see Grandpa Felix in Veracruz,’ said Camila with a defiant stance.” As one would imagine, Camila’s mother quickly intervenes and tells her to come back home, that she can’t ride her bike all the way to Veracruz, but that one day they’ll have enough money saved up for a visit. Although Camila’s immediate solution to her grandfather’s absence is, of course, not one that I or parents and educators would likely recommend to their students, this scene does illustrate Camila’s determination and her willingness to try to solve her problem independently. This scene also serves as a contrast to Camila’s eventual, more reasonable solution to her feelings, showing readers Camila’s learning curve and her progress in figuring out both what her feelings are and what to do about them.

After her failed attempt at biking 938 miles to Veracruz, and her mother’s brief scolding, Camila decides that a more appropriate response might be to write a letter to her grandfather and ask him to be her pen pal. This solution is also one arrived at entirely by Camila herself, further emphasizing her independence and her ability to learn and navigate tough situations on her own: “She went into her room, pulled out her diary and decided then and there that she would write to her grandfather and ask him to write her back.” What I also particularly love about this scene is the mention of Camila’s journal-writing as a catalyst for her emotional development and decision-making. As an avid writer and “journaler” myself, I, too, have found this to be a very useful strategy in coping with tough situations, sorting out my thoughts and feelings, and figuring out how to proceed. Moreover, as the story continues in a somewhat epistolary format, composed of letters between Camila and her grandfather, teachers could conduct various lessons based on two forms of writing: first, letter-writing and the epistolary novel form, and, second, journal writing. As an exercise in writing and verbal expression, teachers could ask their students to write in a journal every day. Teachers could also conduct exercises in letter-writing and, especially for foreign language students, teach their students proper opening and closing statements, such as “Querido abuelo/ Dear grandpa.” This story is entirely bilingual, which is especially useful for comparing the letter-writing format between English and Spanish. In addition, the simplistic illustrations found within this book could also inspire students to create drawings of their own to accompany their journal entries or letters. As noted by a School Library Journal review, “Rough-hewn, heavily brushed paintings tracking Camila’s progress to adulthood and Grandpa’s to gray-haired old age accompany narrative passages of English over Spanish.” In this story, the prose is just as important as the illustrations in conveying the passing of time, and both Camila’s physical and emotional growth.

Towards the end of the story we see Camila grown up to be a young, 18-year-old woman. Her family still has not been able to save enough money to go to Veracruz, but Camila is determined to go nonetheless: “On the day Camila turned 18, she was in her room with photos of her grandfather all around. She was working now and saving her money. Her family never did go to Veracruz but Camila was saving to go on her own.” This scene again reinforces Camila’s agency and independence, her ability not only to work hard towards a self-determined goal, but also to eventually travel on her own.What I find especially powerful about this scene is the way in which it emphasizes “ambition” as not only working towards professional and academic goals, but also towards emotional and interpersonal goals. Oftentimes “emotional labor,” or the work that one puts into emotionally supporting others, is unconsciously expected of women while also being undervalued, unrecognized and unremunerated, in both the home and the workplace. This heartwarming scene emphasizes the hard work that Camila put into sustaining a relationship with her grandfather over the years, as well as her grandfather’s boundless joy and appreciation upon finally seeing her arrive in Veracruz (belated spoiler alert!).

All in all, this book is a wonderful resource for teaching a variety of subjects from writing and correspondence, to emotional development and maturity.  Letters Forever/ Cartas para siempre challenges typical representations of gender roles through children’s literature, empowering both young girls and boys.

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

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

¡Hasta pronto!

Alice


Images Modified from Letters Forever/ Cartas para siempre: Pages 7, 9, 14, 15, 21

¡Mira, Look!: Colección Antiprincesas

Image result for coleccion antiprincesasSaludos todos! I’m back with my weekly Mira, Look posts after a short time off for Spring Break. This month we have been celebrating Women’s History Month by featuring books about the wonderful women found throughout history and within our personal lives as well. This week I’ll be reviewing three books from the Colección Antiprincesas. This collection is meant to feature “grandes mujeres,” or prominent women in history, in order to show that women don’t have to be your typical “princess”; in fact, many of these women were so formidable precisely because they went against gender norms and fought for what they believed in.

The Colección Antiprincesas has received a lot of media attention, specifically through channels (blogs, magazines, etc.) that focus on Latinx literature for children, such as Remezcla’s post, These Anti-Princess Books Give Young Girls Badass Latina Heroines to Look up to. Since these new releases have been talked about so much within the children’s literature community, I thought it was a good idea to contribute my views and join in the discussion. Needless to say, we also greatly welcome the input of our readers in fostering a larger, dynamic discussion about this collection and Latinx children’s books in general!

The first book in the Colección Antiprincesas features Frida Kahlo, a timeless Mexican artist known for her captivating art, but also for her bold, individualistic style and her candid honesty in expressing the most personal aspects of her life, including chronic physical pain and heartbreak. Kahlo was also known for marching to her own beat and has turned into a renowned icon in Latin America and across the world for challenging beauty standards and social norms. Kahlo has been featured many times already on the blog, including Katrina’s Teaching about Frida Kahlo post, Lorraine’s book review on Viva Frida, and Neoshia’s book review on Frida Kahlo.

Although it would seem difficult to bring something new to the discussion after so many resources and books have already been published about Kahlo, the Colección Antiprincesas manages to do just that, thanks in large part to their unique format. Each double-page spread has an illustration that caters to the eyes of younger readers, along with more detailed historical information, discussion questions, and black and white archival photographs. The unusual format of this book makes it a bit difficult to use with younger readers or students reading independently; however, these books are perfect as a resource for teachers. Teachers could draw on the information from these books to teach about these prominent historical figures, incite discussion about the lives and work of these figures, and show images to attract the attention of students of a variety of ages. In addition, these books are monolingual and are written exclusively in Spanish, which means they serve a valuable purpose for bringing Latin American heroines to Spanish speaking audiences. A review by School Library Journal also comments upon this as an attribute of these books—they’re Spanish language books that are easy to get a hold of here in the U.S: “VERDICT An excellent choice for libraries seeking works in Spanish for elementary students, especially where biographies are needed.”

Although the multimedia, patch-work style of the book might make it hard for students reading or working independently, the varied information could lead teachers on a variety of lesson-plan trajectories. For example, one page of the Frida Kahlo book includes the definition of the art term, “surrealism,” along with examples of Kahlo’s work. This could lead teachers to a lesson plan on surrealist art where they compare Kahlo’s work to other surrealist artists, such as Salvador Dali. Another part of the book focuses on Kahlo’s activism fighting for the rights of workers in Mexico. This, too, could lead to an expansive lesson plan on the rights of workers throughout Mexican history, and of Mexican-American workers here in the U.S.

The second and third books of the collection feature Violeta Parra, contemporary Chilean composer and songwriter, and Juana Azurduy, Bolivian guerilla military leader born in the late 1700s. The format for these two books is the same as the first, with simplistic illustrations, historical information and educational definitions, such as “arte popular” (popular art), and “colonias” (colonies). Like with the first book, this information could lead to other related lessons on popular art in the Americas or the history of colonialism and liberation.

One of the wonderful things about these books is that, with the exception of Kahlo, they focus on Latina heroines who are not typically discussed and certainly not included in the classroom – even when discussing Latin American history! Admittedly, I had not heard of Violeta Parra or Juana Azurduy before reading these books. These books also don’t sugarcoat the hardships that these women went through in their lifetimes. Part of the “anti-princess” perspective of these books is precisely that they do not portray women as perfect and pretty; rather these books are straight forward when talking about their hardships, and the illustrations don’t “beautify” the women with western standards of beauty. School Library Journal also comments upon Saá’s illustrations: “The often graphic novel–like art—vibrant, bold colors outlined in black—depicts scenes from the text and enhances the view of the subjects as strong heroines.

Ultimately, these books are an excellent contribution to Spanish-language children’s books accessible here in the U.S., and to any collection of biographies of powerful Latina role models. Putting aside the critique that the unusual formatting could be a challenge for young readers, these books prove an excellent resources for educators looking to teach their students more about underrepresented Latina heroines.

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

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

Stay tuned for some more great reads!

¡Hasta pronto!

Alice


Images modified from: Coleccion Antiprincesas pages 4, 6, 7, 8, 13

Save

¡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

2017-03-03-image-01.png

¡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