¡Mira, Look!: The Shark and the Parrotfish

Image result for the shark and the parrotfishSaludos todos! This week we are continuing our theme of nature in celebration of this month’s Earth Day with another great read. The Shark and the Parrotfish and Other Caribbean Fables, written by Mario Picayo and illustrated by Cherise Ward is a lovely collection of fables that take place in various parts of the Caribbean, incorporating characters based on all of the region’s abundant and diverse flora and fauna. This book is perfect for this month’s theme as it embraces many of nature’s wonders, while also anthropomorphizing animals and insects, reminding us of our closeness to nature, and helping readers sympathize with many species’ current plight of habitat destruction and resource scarcity. The setting of the Caribbean is also conducive for this month’s discussions on climate change, conservation, and eco-friendly living, as this region of the world, arguably one of the most beautiful and biodiverse, has also been one of the most affected by environmental exploitation, species extinction, and ecological destruction. Furthermore, as explained in the introduction of this book, each story is a fable, meaning that it contains a moral or a lesson to readers. As we take this month to reflect on the state of our planet and many of its glorious ecosystems, let us also reflect on the moral of this collection as a whole, as well as all of this month’s books: to save our ecosystems, care for our planet, and live responsibly.

In a note to the reader at the beginning of the book, the author introduces the genre of the fable, and explains many of the fable’s characteristics, such as being passed down from generation to generation, and usually including a moral or a lesson for the reader: “A fable is a story, but it is a special kind of story that teaches a lesson. We call that lesson a moral. Many fables are about animals and plants that talk and act like people.” The author also explains how Aesop is one of the most well-known fable-writers, but how this collection, rather than focusing on a European or African heritage, like many of Aesop’s stories, focuses on the Caribbean: “But I was born in the Caribbean, not in Africa or Europe, so my stories don’t have lions, foxes, or grapevines. Mine have mongooses, genip trees, and sharks.” Here we see how the fables’ focus on the Caribbean’s diverse flora and fauna is not only something that makes these fables so fascinating and intriguing, but also something that makes them distinctly Caribbean. In other words, our natural surroundings are not just a matter of environmental concern, but also of cultural identity, patrimony, and heritage. When we jeopardize and endanger earth’s species and the natural habitats of the world, we stand to lose not only our rich ecosystems, but also our culture, our national identities, memories, and ways of life.

The collection is composed of 12 different fables that are about a page in length. Each story is accompanied by a lively, colorful, and oftentimes humorous illustration. Although the stories are rather short, the language of the text can appear a bit dense for younger readers. Thus, this collection would be perfect for challenging older readers or for reading aloud. Each story also concludes with “Fun Facts,” usually about the animals or ecosystems found in the story. The “Fun Facts,” along with the moral(s) of each story make this collection and its various fables educational in more ways than one.

The first fable, The Hermit Crab and the Octopus, is about an old hermit crab who has lost his shell. As explained in the “Fun Facts” section of the story, this is typical of hermit crabs: “Like in the story, hermit crabs move from one shell to another as they get bigger.” The hermit crab in the story knows that his shell is getting old, and he’s going to need a new one soon, but before he can make that decision, a big wave comes and knocks his shell right off. The hermit crab, in a panic, starts crying out: “’Oh, no! My shell is gone! What am I going to do?’” But just as he is starting to slip into more of a panic, a big octopus comes up and offers the hermit crab his help. The big octopus, using his many tentacles, starts to dive down into the water looking for the hermit crab’s shell. Eventually the octopus finds the hermit crab’s shell, and the hermit crab is overjoyed: “’Why do you like this old shell?’ asked the octopus. “Because it is mine,’ said the old hermit crab. ‘I would rather sleep in my old shell than in a brand-new one that might belong to somebody else.’” The octopus, moved by the hermit crab’s honesty and humility, decides to reward the hermit crab with an additional gift. He dives down deep into the ocean again and this time comes back up with a beautiful bright blue and gold shell that he gives to the hermit crab as a gift.

The moral of each fable is written clearly at the bottom of the story in bold, red letters. The moral for The Hermit Crab and the Octopus is: “Honesty should be its own reward, but sometimes it is also rewarded by others.” However, each fable is also rife with a variety of morals and lessons, some small and intimate and others larger and symbolic. As a valuable exercise for students in both emotional development and analytical thinking, teachers could ask their students to identify other possible morals of each story. Although most of the morals identified by the author at the end of the story deal with interpersonal relationships and individual values, one could easily identify a variety of morals that speak to climate change, the environment and conservation. For example, when the hermit crab admits that he loves his old shell because it is his home, he is exercising honesty, but he is also reminding young readers of the importance of animals’ homes and habitats, and the pain and sadness that they endure when their homes are threatened or destroyed. Furthermore, the beginning of this fable illustrates the scene of the beautiful Caribbean: “An old hermit crab, who had not visited the ocean since he was young, decided to walk to a nearby reef and smell the sea air.” Here we are once again reminded of how the environment and the natural wonders of the world are also closely associated with our personal lives, our memories, family traditions and cultural identities, but the mention of the “nearby reef” also reminds us of the Caribbean’s magnificent and world-famous coral reefs.

In recent years the amazing reefs of the Caribbean have come very close to extinction. The Caribbean coral reefs are part of a complex ecosystem of marine life that both sustain the life of the reefs and depend on the reefs for their own sustenance and survival. According to an article by The Guardian, “Caribbean coral reefs ‘will be lost within 20 years’ without protection,” “Most Caribbean coral reefs will disappear within the next 20 years unless action is taken to protect them, primarily due to the decline of grazers such as sea urchins and parrotfish, a new report has warned. A comprehensive analysis by 90 experts of more than 35,000 surveys conducted at nearly 100 Caribbean locations since 1970 shows that the region’s corals have declined by more than 50%.” While the old hermit crab talks about his old shell as his home, this language about the importance of home and habitat can also be read as a larger metaphor for the Caribbean coral reefs and the marine-life ecosystem as a whole. Without the reefs, many plants and animals would no longer have a home and would soon too face extinction.

All in all, this book is a wonderful resource for teaching children about the fable genre, and about the fragile ecosystems of the Caribbean—highly recommended!

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

Stay tuned for more great reads!

¡Hasta pronto!

Alice


Images Modified from: The Shark and the Parrotfish, pages 3, 6, 8, 13, 15

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…

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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

¡Mira Look! Maya’s Blanket/ La manta de Maya

MayaSaludos todos! This week we will be introducing our April themes, celebrating the spirit of Earth Day, El Día de los Niños, and National Poetry Month. The ¡Mira Look! blog posts, however, will focus primarily on celebrating Earth Day with themes of nature and environmental care and consciousness. Our book for this week is Maya’s Blanket/ La manta de Maya, written by Monica Brown and illustrated by David Diaz. This heartwarming story puts an imaginative and seemingly magical spin on the practice of recycling, reinforcing the creativity and importance of repurposing old things. Brown is of Peruvian and Jewish descent and this story not only emphasizes the environmental necessity in recycling and repurposing, but also elaborates on those cultures’ traditions associated with old objects. As Brown states in her author’s note, this story was inspired by a Yiddish folk song that was “written long before Earth Day came into being, but celebrates both creativity and recycling.”

maya 1According to Brown, this story follows the old Yiddish folk song, “Hob Ikh Mir a Mantl” (“I Had a Little Coat”), which is “about an old overcoat that is continually repurposed as smaller and smaller items.” Indeed, the story of Maya’s blanket traces the many phases of her beloved manta, from blanket, to skirt, to scarf, and so on. The story begins with a lovely, two-page spread of little Maya sleeping with her blanket while her abuelita stitches purple butterflies onto it. The butterflies seem slightly elevated from the rest of the blanket, as though they’re about to fly off the blanket and out the window. This visual effect nicely complements the narrative: “Her manta was magical too—it protected her from bad dreams.” Many of Diaz’s illustrations, outlined in thick, black contour lines, give the impression of something handmade –  an effect that reinforces the values of heritage, memory and identity conveyed through the book’s text. This opening scene also introduces the sentimental value of the blanket, which Brown confirms in her author’s note: “I think of my mother tucking me in each night, telling me stories of her childhood in Peru as I snuggled under my yellow blanket decorated with orange butterflies. I also think of my nana, who, with infinite patience and love, taught me how to sew and embroider.” Brown’s author’s note is provided in both English and Spanish, and on the same page she includes a glossary of Spanish words, such as manta (blanket), bufanda (scarf) and cinta (ribbon), that are found interspersed throughout the English text.

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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.

WWW: Using Editorial Cartoons to Teach Social Justice

pazIf I had to choose one point to take from our recent professional development workshop on Alice Leora Briggs’ depiction of the violence in Juárez, it is this:

Artists play a critical role in exposing injustice.

It’s true. Hypocrisy and greed are never safe around an artist. And among artists, there can be none more unabashedly political than an editorial cartoonist. The Southern Poverty Law Center’s: “Teaching Tolerance” website has a powerful series of political cartoons that can help students explore social justice issues while building important language skills like irony, satire, caricature, dialogue, etc… Continue reading