¡Saludos a tod@s! We hope everyone is hanging in and doing well in this crazy time.
This month’s *virtual* book group discussed Juana & Lucas (grades k-3; lexile 870L) by Juana Medina. This heartwarming story takes place in the magical city of Bogotá, Colombia and mimics a Junie B. Jones or Judy Moody -esque style. The story focuses on Juana, who struggles with seeing a value in learning English as a second language. In addition to this dilemma, Juana also faces social and academic challenges as the new school year begins; however, fortunately for Juana, she has a superb support team that includes Lucas (her loyal perrito), Juli (her best friend), Mami and her abuelos.
The main themes that we identified in this fun read were: friendship, the importance of language learning, and expressing emotions. Despite the challenges that Juana faces throughout the text, her relationships with Lucas and Juli are admirable and help readers to cherish the important relationships in their own lives. One of Juana’s most prominent struggles is mastering the strange sounds that make up the English language, which leads Juana to wonder whether it is even important to learn another language. These struggles are very relatable for language learners of all ages! They also provide the opportunity to reflect upon why it is so important to learn another language. Like many kids her age, Juana experiences many feelings that vary from the disappointment she feels with her struggles to the excitement Juana experiences on her way to Astroland. Juana expresses her emotions in English and Spanish, which can serve as an example for learners and speakers of both languages. Check out the guide we created for ideas on how to promote language learning to your little readers, click here!
For this week, we chose a very special book that came out this year, “Planting Stories: The Life of the Historian and Librarian Pura Belpré.” This story is the result of a beautiful collaboration between American author Anika Aldamuy Denise and Colombian illustrator Paola Escobar, and it is also available in Spanish. For some of you the name Pura Belpré sounds familiar, whether it is because you read her stories that talk about Puerto Rico’s folklore and oral tradition, or because of the prestigious award named in her honor. Organized since 1996 by the American Library Association, the prestigious Pura Belpré award is given annually to Latinx authors and illustrator.
Pura Belpré was the first Puerto Rican librarian at the New York public library. This book tells us her inspirational story, and the way in which she planted in New York the seeds of all the stories she heard on the island where she grew up. These stories were told to her “under the shade of a Tamarind tree, in Puerto Rico.” The seeds she plants in the library are an extension of this tree, transplanted in New York City and for all the boys and girls who wanted to hear these stories. Belpré wrote the first book on Puerto Rico’s folktales for the city’s public library. She saw the importance of having access to books in our maternal language and to having representation of our own culture and imagery.
The detailed and colorful illustrations show us this rich world in which Belpré lived. The 1920s in New York City is shown in detail, building our understanding of this place she went to visit temporarily and where she decided to stay permanently given the opportunities and the promise of the American dream.
Belpré was not only an author but also a storyteller. She would tell and perform Puerto Rico’s stories to children at the library and travel to different places to tell them. Children and families came to the library to hear her bilingual folktales represented with puppets on a stage. This tradition had an impact other storytellers who then continued to create a rich imaginary world for kids at the NY library.
We recommend this wonderful book not only because of her inspirational story, but also because of how important it is to know who she was, where she came from, and the everlasting impact she had in her community.
“The seeds she has planted, the roots that grew shoots into the open air of possibility, have become a lush landscape into which she steps, as though she has never left.”
For more information on her prestigious award and to the list of authors and illustrators who have won it, visit the Pura Belpré Award website.
To dive into a bit of her legacy among the world of children’s literature, visit the Latinx in Kid Lit blog, which ran a series of commemorative posts in 2016 when the award celebrated its 20th year.
Finally, to bring Belpré a bit more to life, check out this trailer for a documentary created by the Center for Puerto Rican Studies.
Nos vemos pronto,
Citation: The above image was done by Paola Escobar, and is from the book Planting Stories: The Life of the Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré.
Thanks again for joining me this week! Last week, I featured Ana Teresa Fernández’s work in my post describing how activism can be practiced in different forms; art being one of them. This week, I will expand on the idea of activism in different forms, focusing more specifically on children as activists. As Keira noted in her Sobre Enero post, January is about focusing not only on how to teach young people about injustices, but also offering ideas for how they can take a stand against them. So, this week, I will provide online resources to introduce some really important young activists who have made a big difference in their country, Colombia, since they spoke up.
There were more than 4,000 child deaths in Colombia in 1996 due to civil war and La Violencia, which had already been underway for more than 30 years. Graça Machel, a well known humanitarian sent to study the impact of civil war and violence on children, visited Colombia that same year. When 15-year-old Farlis Calle Guerero heard the call for children’s testimony at her school, she organized as many of her classmates and friends as she could to present testimony to Graça Machel on how the war had impacted them. Bringing these students together to create this presentation led Farlis to the realization that they (her classmates and the rest of the youth) could be the solution to the violence. After the presentation, Graça reported back to the U.N. while Farlis and about two-dozen of her classmates got to work organizing and participating in peace meetings, which led to the creation of “peace zones” and “peace carnivals.” The movement, which turned out to have the participation of more than three million Colombian children, became known as the Children’s Peace Movement. Farlis and her classmates were able to start a movement, with the help of UNICEF, that created an international voice for children’s rights in all countries. Continue reading →