¡Mira, Look! The Patchwork Garden/ Pedacitos de huerto and It’s Our Garden

Saludos todos! This week we are celebrating Earth Day with two wonderful books, which I will be reviewing side by side. The first book, The Patchwork Garden/ Pedacitos de huerto, written by Diane de Anda and illustrated by Oksana Kemarskaya, is a bilingual, fictional picture book that tells the sweet and inspirational story of a young girl who, with the help of her dear Abuela, learns to cultivate a garden and grow her own vegetables in the middle of her urban neighborhood. The second book, It’s Our Garden: From Seeds to Harvest in a School Garden, written by George Ancona, is a non-fictional book equally sweet and inspirational, that tells the story of a group of children right here in New Mexico who grew and took care of their own vegetable garden. Together these two books can inspire readers of all ages to grow their own vegetables in a sustainable and eco-friendly manner. And, just as Abuela says in The Patchwork Garden, “‘They taste much sweeter than the ones you buy in the store.’”

The Patchwork Garden/ Pedacitos de huerto, tells the story of a young girl whose wise Abuela teaches her how to cultivate a healthy and fruitful garden, despite some modern-day challenges: “‘I wish I could have my own vegetable garden,’ replied Toña, ‘but there’s nothing but cement around our apartment building.’” Abuela reassures her, telling her that all you need is a small plot of land– a garden can be beautiful, no matter how small. With this information, Toña realizes that there is a little patch of dirt behind the neighborhood church that might be suitable for her garden, so she goes to ask Father Anselmo for permission to use it, adding that he can take as many colorful, sweet vegetables as he’d like: “‘Ah,’ said Father Anselmo, thinking of the fresh salads and steamed vegetables, ‘beautiful and healthy.’” As Toña and her Abuela embark on their journey of organizing a plan for their garden, they enlist the help and support of the community, simultaneously teaching others about sustainable living and healthy eating, while also fortifying their community bonds.

Under Abuela’s guidance, Toña, along with her brother and father, start digging the dirt and preparing the soil for their plants.  Along the way,  readers will share in Abuela’s wisdom and learn some tips and steps for preparing a garden. When Toña goes to the store with Abuela to pick out the seeds for their vegetables, the cashier hands them a pamphlet with the nutritional information for their new crops, reminding readers yet again of the health benefits of growing your own vegetables, and including more produce in your diet: “The lady at the cash register handed Toña cards on small sticks with pictures of the vegetables she had bought. ‘This tells you all the vitamins you will get from the different plants in your garden,’ she explained with a smile.” As the family continues with their project, Abuela teaches Toña (and young readers) even more lessons on safe and healthy living, including how you should always wear a sun hat when gardening outside, to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays.

As the weeks go by, and Toña’s garden starts to grow (thanks to her after school ritual of watering the little seeds), more and more people start to notice the beautiful, colorful vegetables growing from the soft dirt: “‘I wish we could have a garden,’ sighed many of the children. ‘I wish we had a place for a garden,’ the parents sighed back.” But Toña explains to them that, although she was discouraged at first too, thinking that gardening was not a possibility for urban-dwellers like herself, it is indeed possible for anyone to grow a garden as long as they have just a tiny piece of land. Once again moved and inspired, Toña decides to help her discouraged friends. As she reflects on her Abuela’s beautiful patchwork quilt (another idea for a fun and creative project!), Toña decides to create a patchwork garden throughout her neighborhood, inspiring friends, neighbors and community members to use their little, vacant plots of land for gardens to create one big garden “quilt”. While this lovely conclusion shows readers how the ideas and initiative of one can inspire others and create a brilliant, collaborative project, it also opens the eyes of readers of all ages to the real, present-day challenges and innovation of urban agriculture. As more and more people live in urban areas, one important way to challenge both environmental change and degradation, as well as issues of food justice, is to find ways to make urban areas more green and ecofriendly, and also to give people living in urban areas easier access to food (especially healthy food).

In It’s Our Garden, we see how Abuela and Toña’s inspirational story can be actualized in real life, with another inspirational (but this time non-fiction) story about the students at in Santa Fe, New Mexico, who grew a large and plentiful garden right in the backyard of their elementary school. Ancona’s story is organized as a sort of ethnography for young children, explaining to readers what he observed and learned during his year spent shadowing this school and observing its garden chores. The book is composed of photographs of the children happily watering their plants, turning the soil, and harvesting their beautiful crops, as well as illustrations by the children themselves of some of their favorite plants.

Filled with great, technical detail, this book is a useful guide for teachers and parents trying to start their own garden with students or children. Ancona’s thorough observations outline many of the steps needed for both creating a fruitful garden and effectively engaging children in the process. Ancona also observes how some children use leaves that fall off the trees during the fall to make leaf prints and other works of art, providing teachers with even more ideas for fun projects to do with their students: “There are lots of things in the garden to write and draw about. An easel in the middle of the garden invites anyone to draw what they see or write down their thoughts and experiences. Some students use leaves to make leaf prints. Their art decorates the greenhouse and the outdoor classroom.” In addition, “The harvest becomes a chance for Miss Sue to quiz the students on the variety of crops the garden has produced. She makes a game of the quiz, placing the answers facedown on slips of paper under each fruit, vegetable, or herb.” This fun learning activity could also be especially useful for foreign language teachers, trying to teach their students new food vocabulary.

As in the story of Toña and her Abuela, this Santa Fe school garden becomes a place for community engagement and participation: “On special afternoons and weekends, the garden becomes a place where the school community gathers. Students come back with their parents, sisters, brothers, grandparents, and friends. They compost, seed, plant, transplant, weed, water, and dig. By now, the flowers are blooming and the beds are green. The garden is flourishing with so much care.” Even in the summer when school is out, the children and their families, teachers, and other members of the community gather to play and listen to music, make food, and enjoy the company of their neighbors.

For those interested in using these books in the classroom and teaching students and children about gardening, here are some additional resources:

Stay tuned for more great reads as we wrap up the semester and the end of the school year!

¡Hasta pronto!

Alice


Images Modified from The Patchwork Garden/ Pedacitos de huerto: Pages 3, 6, 11, 14

Images Modified from It’s Our Garden: From Seeds to Harvest in a School Garden: Pages 17, 22

April 14th | Week in Review

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¡Hola a todos! This week’s resources are interesting and diverse. Enjoy!

– Remezcla recently reviewed Lilliam Rivera’s novel, The Education of Margot Sanchez, is a YA novel about a young Nuyorican growing up as a South Bronx Latina who struggles to fit in at her white prep school. “So she’s just trying to navigate that world. She’s going to assimilate and copy the people who are in power — and usually the people in power are the white people. Because that’s what her parents are teaching her to do.”

— Check out this book review of Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World edited by Kelly Jensen. This “is a scrapbook-style teen guide to understanding what it really means to be a feminist,” and it includes a number of essays focused on the intersection of Latinx culture and feminism.

– For those of you who are teaching seniors and junior students, they might appreciate reading the story about Chelsea Batista, a Latina Accepted by 11 Med Schools [Who] Has a Message For Those Who Credit Affirmative Action. Chelsea expresses, “I was absolutely terrified that I wasn’t going to get into even one school that’s why I filled out so many applications.”

— Also, you can read about how one teacher invited her Students to Confront and Examine Their Own Biases Using the Images on Covers of Picture Books. She writes, “I have to help my students to recognize their own biases. I have to help them to see the biases that they hold and recognize what an impact they have on the way that they interact with the world.”

–Here is a quick preview of the book trailer for the beautiful Mexican children’s book Ella trae la lluvia by Martha Palacio Obón. On one level the story is about “a lost voice and a witch with blue hair that seems to know everything,” But one review also called it a story about “la violencia y los desplazados a partir de un relato fantástico y marítimo.”

– As Earth Day gets closer (April 22), you might want to check out Lee and Low Books Earth Day Poetry Collection.

— Lastly, listen to Latin America’s greatest authors read their works in this online treasure trove. Authors include Jorge Luis Borges, Enrique A. Laguerre, Amanda Berenguer, and many more.

Abrazos,
Alin Badillo


Image: #niunamenos. Reprinted from Flickr user Fernando Canue 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

Sobre Abril: Latinx Children’s Literature Celebrating the Natural World and the Beauty of Poetry

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Hola a tod@s!

As March and Women’s History Month wrap up, I’ve been pleasantly distracted by the birdsong outside my window, the patter of rain that passed over our desert city last night, and the many spring flowers bursting from the ground. With National Poetry Month coming next week, I’m compelled to think in poetic terms. This piece from Neruda seems appropriate:

La Primavera

El pájaro ha venido
a dar la luz:
de cada trino suyo
nace el agua.

Y entre agua y luz que el aire desarrollan
ya está la primavera inaugurada,
ya sabe la semilla que ha crecido,
la raíz se retrata en la corola,
se abren por fin los párpados del polen.

Todo lo hizo un pájaro sencillo
desde una rama verde.


The Spring

The bird has come
to give us light:
from each of its trills
water is born.

Between water and light, air unfolds.
Now the spring’s inaugurated.
The seed knows that it has grown
the root pictures the flower
and the pollen’s eyelids finally open.

All this done by a simple bird
on a green branch.

Here at Vamos a Leer we’re heartily embracing the sentiment of spring and poetry. In the coming weeks, we’ll share resources that highlight both, from children’s books that look at the natural world in a variety of ways to poetry for younger and older readers alike.

We hope you enjoy our findings as much we’ve enjoyed discovering them.

Cheers,
Keira

 

Celebrate Earth Day By Reading Kid Lit Books As An Ecocritic

¡Feliz viernes a todos!

Happy Earth Day!! This week, I am reblogging an excellent post by Marianne Snow Campbell. Her idea to read any book about the environment through a critical lens is a great way to introduce critical thinking outside the classroom context. She includes examples from books for different age groups and even includes activity ideas for the classroom! Check it out!

With warmest wishes,

Charla

Latinxs in Kid Lit

By Marianne Snow Campbell

Earth Day is here again!  It’s a time to honor the natural world that surrounds us, consider how we can take better care of the environment, and take action keep our planet healthy and beautiful. In schools, many teachers and students will join together to read and discuss books with environmentalist lessons – The Lorax, The Great Kapok Tree, a variety of picture books about recycling and picking up litter. Last year, Lila Quintero Weaver shared a beautiful post about books celebrating “Latin@ Heroes of the Planet” and other “Earth Day-friendly books with Latin@ connections.” I love the strong messages that these texts carry and believe that they should play a prominent role in educating children about conservation and ecology.

However, reading literature with overt lessons about the earth isn’t the only method for learning about environmentalism. There’s another, somewhat subtler, approach – ecocriticism. Ecocriticism…

View original post 1,132 more words

WWW: Climate Change 101 and Impacts in Latin America

¡Feliz viernes a todos!

I’m feeling a bit under the weather this week so my post will be a little shorter than usual. This week, I will continue the discussion about our lovely planet! As I mentioned last week, Earth Day is important for many reasons, just one of which is to highlight the problems our environments are facing today as a result of our ever-changing climate. While “climate change” is a popular phrase in politics and media reports, I thought it may be nice to introduce a resource that explains the terms frequently used with climate change, and thus explains how climate change began. With both the option to watch a video (narrated by Bill Nye the Science Guy) or to review a slideshow of terms and definitions, we think this resource could help students understand what climate change means as a term and also what it means for the planet we call home.

The second resource is a video that illustrates environmental impacts of climate change in Latin America and the Caribbean. In conjunction with my post from last week, this could lead to discussion about why Earth Day is important, what will happen if we do not take action, alternative resources and energy, and even to discussion about recycling both in the classroom and at home.

The video above is best suited for older audiences, since it ties environmental issues into economic terminology.  However, we think younger students could benefit from the video with proper introduction to the key vocabulary. We hope these examples help illustrate that environmental problems impact everyone. If nothing else, we hope you can use these resources in the classroom to provide depth and real life scenarios to your environmental and energy source discussions in the coming weeks. At best, we hope these resources inspire your students to get involved this Earth Day and everyday!

With warmest wishes,

Charla

WWW: A Changing Environment in Latin America Calls for Action this Earth Day

¡Feliz viernes a todos!

Thank you kindly for joining me again to read about our lovely planet this week! We have made it to April and Earth Day is just around the corner on the 22nd. Earth Day is important for many reasons, just one of which is to highlight the problems our environments are facing today as a result of our ever-changing climate. While Latin American countries are only responsible for a small amount of carbon emissions, the environments in Latin America appear to be among those most impacted by the changes. Because Latin America is a region full of diverse ecosystems, from rainforest to tropics and everything in between, the effects small changes to the climate have had in the region are particularly devastating. The Latin Times’ Susmita Baral compiled a slideshow that shows the environmental devastation in twenty Latin American countries as part of the article entitled “Earth Day 2015: Find Out What Environmental Problems 20 Latin American Countries Face.” Using this resource in class in the upcoming weeks will help illustrate the importance of taking action to preserve our environments, not just on April 22nd, but every day. We hope the slideshow will initiate the conversation in the classroom, and help bring real life changes to the foreground so students see the importance of taking action.

The next resource highlights three Latin American countries who have taken action to preserve their environments: Costa Rica, Brazil, and Mexico. Using these three countries as examples, discussions could focus on fossil fuels and their impact on the environment and alternative energy sources that are renewable and less detrimental. Considering Costa Rica, Brazil, and Mexico use many different kinds of renewable energy sources, like solar, wind, and hydro power, classroom discussion will be enriched with real life examples of such alternatives. While we frequently look to the Global South as an example of a developing or underdeveloped region of the world, this would be a great way to incorporate Latin America into the classroom in a positive light; as an example of forerunners in implementing renewable energy, of what policy changes that protect the environment should look like, and providing proof that renewable energy is accessible!

We hope these examples help illustrate the kind of environmental problems that make Earth Day so necessary. If nothing else, we hope you can use these resources in the classroom to provide depth and real life scenarios to your environmental and energy source discussions in the coming weeks.

With warmest wishes,

Charla

Vamos a Leer | WWW: A Changing Environment in Latin America Calls for Action this Earth Day


Image. Photo of Renewable Energy. Retrieved from Resource Lessons under CC.