¡Mira, Look!: Alma y cómo obtuvo su nombre.

Queridos lectores,

Para celebrar el mes de la historia de la mujer en Marzo, escogimos un libro que resalta la importancia de las historias y vivencias de las mujeres en su familia y sus comunidades y y la determinación con la cual labran su propio destino.

Alma y cómo obtuvo su nombre fue escrito por la autora e ilustradora peruana Juana Martinez-Neal. Este excepcional libro fue merecedor de la Medalla Caldecott, el cual es uno de los premios estadounidenses más prestigiosos para libros infantiles ilustrados.

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Esta maravillosa historia tiene como protagonista a una pequeña niña de 6 nombres: Alma Sofia Esperanza José Pura Candela. Tener más de un nombre no es inusual en la cultura Latinoamericana. Sin embargo, al inicio, Alma considera que el suyo es demasiado largo.

Al escuchar el recelo de su hija por la extensión de su nombre, su padre decide contarle la historia detrás de cada uno de ellos. Además añade que al final de su relato, Alma puede elejir si ella comparte o no una conexión con sus nombres. Cabe recalcar, que esta es una de las razones por las cuales este libro es tan valioso, la importancia que se le otorga al poder de decisión de los niños y a la valoración sus sueños.

Como mencioné previamente, esta historia también resalta las vivencias de las mujeres en sus comunidades y el impacto que este tiene sobre sus familias. Cinco de los nombres de Alma fueron escogidos en honor a sus parientes, de los cuales cuatro pertenencen a mujeres. El nombre Sofia y Candela fueron elegidos en honor a sus abuelas, Esperanza en honor a su bisabuela, José a su abuelo, y Pura por su tía abuela. Sin embargo, sus padres no escogieron estos nombres simplemente porque sonaban bonito o porque compartían un vínculo de familia con ellos. Si no que cada una de estas personas tenía una característica única que las destacaba y las hacía valiosas. Características tales como amor por la lectura y el arte, anhelo de aventura, conexión con nuestros antepasados y la lucha y defensa de causas justas.

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Todas ellas eran parte de personas fascinantes con las cuales Alma se da cuenta de que comparte gustos y esperanzas. De esta manera, Martinez-Neal no sólo hace énfasis en la importancia de la conexión con nuestra familia, si no también de mostrar a los niños los distintos caminos que pueden tomar y las distintas fortalezas y cualidades que los definen. Y que además para un niño es de suma importancia sentirse respaldado por sus padres. Una idea que es resaltada por las hermosas ilustraciones que acompañan la historia. Junto a su padre, Alma descubre todas las historias que forman parte de su identidad. Las imágenes usualmente comienzan con su padre contándole una historia, seguida de Alma compartiendo un instante con sus antepasados y de ella dándose cuenta de sus propias características.

Lo cual me lleva a la parte más especial de esta historia, la razón detrás de su primer nombre. Alma es la primera y única persona en su familia en llevarlo. La familia de Alma juega un papel importante en su vida, y de una manera, siempre la acompañan. No obstante, es ella quién debe construir su historia y encontrar su propio camino. Esta hermosa historia termina para los lectores con el sentimiento de ilusión de que Alma siga descubriendo quién es. Alma no es solamente las personas que vinieron detrás de ella si no también el camino que se revela prometedoramente delante suyo.

-Para más información sobre esta y otras obras, y sobre la autora, visita la página oficial de Juana Martinez-Neal

-Para escuchar a la autora hablar de Alma y cómo obtuvo su nombre, mira esta entrevista por Candlewick press

Alma y cómo obtuvo su nombre está disponible en español y en inglés

Nos vemos pronto,

Carolina


Cita: Todas las imágenes usadas en este post pertenencen al libro Alma y cómo obtuvo su nombre por Juana Martinez-Neal.

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

¡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