This month, we discussed Guadalupe Garcia McCall’s Under the Mesquite (Grades 7-12; Lexile 990L) at our book group. This is a very heartwarming read about Lupita, a high schooler who experiences and overcomes challenges both at home with her family and at school with her peers. Lupita’s experiences and challenges are very relatable to readers of all ages. Click here to view our book guide. For extended notes on Under the Mesquite, check out our previous post about it by clicking here.
McCall begins Under the Mesquite with a definition of the mesquite tree that attests to its strength and resilience to endure harsh climates and its adaptability. It becomes clear from the beginning of the text that this resilient tree symbolizes this key theme that we see as Lupita is put in tough situations and valiantly overcomes these challenges.
Consider creating a memory box as a way to extend Under the Mesquite with your class! As Lupita grows and faces different difficulties in her life, she journals her memories of her mother, family, friends and cities in her blue book. Her interest in saving the memories of loved ones allows her to write stories that will revive the moments. It is from the desire of keeping the memories of her loved ones that the activity of memory box is thought. Students will put a drawing, an object, a photograph, a note and other things in a box that keeps the memories of their loved ones, places or moments of their lives. And finally, they will keep this box in their classroom as a door that will lead them to the memories.
Join us next month! On April 9th, we will meet at Ponderosa Brewing (1761 Bellamah Ave NW) to discuss Juana and Lucas by: Juana Medina. (Grades 2-4)
This month’s book was They Call Me Güero, by David Bowles (Grades 5-8; Lexile: 850L). This read was a very contemporary and engaging read about a middle schooler nicknamed Güero, who shares his experiences as a border kid, and how he navigates between being Mexican and American. Some of the key themes that Bowles has incorporated in this great read include migration, diversity and Latinx cultural traditions. Middle school readers will find this text very relevant and relatable thanks to the details, topics and perspectives that Bowles has utilized.
For Güero and his family, transnational migration between Mexico and the U.S. is deeply ingrained into their familial history and identity. Despite their long history as a border family, Güero shares the tensions and stigma that his family encounters as they go between Mexico and the U.S. In addition to Güero’s experiences, Bowles also includes some of the traumatic experiences of migration through Andrés, one of Güero’s classmates, who confides in Güero about his scary journey from Honduras. In our book group discussion, the consensus was that Bowles succeeded in providing a realistic, and current image of migration and the stigma that often accompanies it, which makes this text relatable to readers who share these experiences. In addition to sharing migration narratives, Bowles also excels in incorporating diversity and cultural traditions in the text to celebrate diverse cultures. For instance, while introducing his friend group to the reader, Güero describes his friends as a group of diverse nerds in that they each have different cultural backgrounds yet share the same interests in reading and their studies. They Call Me Güero celebrates the reality that today’s classrooms across the U.S. are incredibly diverse and alludes to ways in which educators are integrating diversity into school curriculum (through Güero’s “woke” teachers!). In Güero’s poems, he describes his normal day-to-day experiences that include his strong familial bonds and his admiration for his grandmother who taught him to read and to be strong, his challenges in school (e.g. dealing with bullies and crushes) and outside of school, the traditions and celebrations that are integral to Güero and his family, and more! Güero’s depiction of traditions and childhood memories led book group attendees to reminisce on our memories spending time with grandparents and learning about life from their stories, attending misa as young, antsy children, making (and breaking!) cascarones, and how these experiences have stuck with us. All in all, we highly recommend They Call Me Güero for its lightheartedness and relevance to today’s middle schoolers. Click here for the book guide!
Mark your calendar for our next meetings!
*Please note that this semester, we are using rotating locations* Join us to discuss the following books; no need to have read the whole book or even a page. All book groups will run from 4-5:30p–latecomers are always welcome!
On March 5th, we will meet at Humble Coffee Downtown (505 Central Ave NW) to discuss Under the Mesquite by: Guadalupe Garcia McCall. (Grades 6-12)
On April 9th, we will meet at Ponderosa Brewing (1761 Bellamah Ave NW) to discuss Juana and Lucas by: Juana Medina. (Grades 2-4)
On May 4th, we will meet at High and Dry Brewing (529 Adams St. NE) to discuss Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings by Margarita Engle and Edel Rodriguez. (Grades 7-9)
I am thrilled to be celebrating National Poetry Month with you! As with many of you, poetry holds a dear place in my heart. As a young person, I recall writing poem after poem and finding such liberation in exploring my voice, playing with syntax and line breaks, and testing out vocabulary that had yet to find a place in my daily life. Poetry allowed for a freedom and creativity that was unmatched in other mediums. And because of this, I believe that writing poetry enables us to develop our own voice, author our own truths, and honor our own experiences; all of which play an integral part in a young person’s social, emotional, and cognitive development.
– Our friends at Lee & Low Books posted on their blog an Alternative History Book List. The list is part of acknowledging Columbus Day/Indigenous Peoples’ Day, for which, they write, “we are offering a series of blog posts that look at pieces of history that have been hidden, silenced, altered, or swept under the rug.”
–Thanks to our friends at the Tulane University’s Stone Center, we discovered Google’s latest Arts and Culture initiative: the Latino Heritage and Cultures project, which offers a wide range of resources, “from ancient artifacts to contemporary street art, [to] explore the depth and diversity of Latino cultures.”
Happy fall! I hope this finds you each doing well and enjoying the changing of seasons.
Fall, my favorite time of year! For me, it is characterized not only by the falling leaves, the crisp air, and the distinct scents that come with the changing temperature, but also with a gentle nostalgia, heightened reflection, and sense of calm. In accordance with our theme for this month, we’re honoring this moment of reflection by pulling together a Reading Roundup that highlights strong protagonists who have experienced some form of loss and resolution in their lives. We hope that this will also be good preparation for teachers who are looking for resources that can help bring these difficult topics into the classroom.
This week I’m highlighting a feature that’s emerged in the era of online books and accompanying digital promotional campaigns: book trailers.
Book trailers, in case you haven’t heard of them, are video trailers for books. Pretty simple. They are videos meant to help potential readers become engaged and get excited. Book trailers are interesting in both a before and after sense. Before a reader ever picks up a book, the trailer may provide the impetus for him or her to actually open the cover and flip through the pages. After a reader has finished a book, the book trailer concept allows him or her another avenue to express and react – many book trailers come not from the big publisher behind the book, but rather from individual readers who post a video on a community video service like YouTube. Continue reading →
Summer of the Mariposas Written by Guadalupe Garcia McCall
Published by Tu Books (Lee and Low), 2012
Age Level: Grades 5 and Up
Description (From GoodReads):
When Odilia and her four sisters find a dead body in the swimming hole, they embark on a hero’s journey to return the dead man to his family in Mexico. But returning home to Texas turns into an odyssey that would rival Homer’s original tale.
With the supernatural aid of ghostly La Llorona via a magical earring, Odilia and her little sisters travel a road of tribulation to their long-lost grandmother’s house. Along the way, they must outsmart a witch and her Evil Trinity: a wily warlock, a coven of vicious half-human barn owls, and a bloodthirsty livestock-hunting chupacabras. Can these fantastic trials prepare Odilia and her sisters for what happens when they face their final test, returning home to the real world, where goddesses and ghosts can no longer help them?
Summer of the Mariposas is not just a magical Mexican American retelling of The Odyssey, it is a celebration of sisterhood and maternal love.
Thanks so much to all of you who joined us at book group last night. I really enjoyed discussing Gringolandia, as was made so clear through our conversation, it’s an important book for our classrooms, touching on so many relevant themes.And we’re not done with the conversation yet–we’ll be talking about the book throughout the month. We’re very excited to be sharing an interview with the author, Lyn Miller-Lachmann, tomorrow!! Be sure to check it out and add any of your own questions in the comments. If you couldn’t make it last night, feel free to share your thoughts about the book here on the blog. If you missed it earlier, we’ve posted our own review here.
Below you’ll find the announcement for next month’s book.
Join us September 9th at Bookworks from 5:00-7:00 pm to discuss our next book. We are reading Summer of the Mariposas (Grades 5 and up) by Guadalupe Garcia McCall. Under the Mesquite was a favorite of our book group last year, so I’m excited to hear what everyone thinks about McCall’s latest book! Continue reading →
We’re giving away a copy of Summer of the Mariposas written by Guadalupe Garcia Mcall–our featured novel for September’s book group meeting!! It would be a great book to use in your classroom as part of a unit on Día de los Muertos. Check out the following from School Library Journal:
“. . .Written in the style of magic realism, this is an enchanting look at Mexican mysticism, coupled with the realistic celebration of the true meaning of family. The sisters’ relationships are believably drawn, and the juxtaposition of modern realities and ancient Aztec mythology elucidates the importance of the spiritual side of life in Latin cultures. The plot is well paced, with the illicit nature of the girls’ entry into Mexico adding drama to their adventure. While some readers may find the interweaving of the magical elements somewhat unsettling at first, they are sure to be intrigued by both the unusual qualities of the mythical characters and the sense of adventure that lies behind every twist and turn of the girls’ revelatory journey. As with McCall’s Under the Mesquite (Lee & Low, 2011), this is a peek into Mexican American culture, but its ties to the supernatural add an interesting dimension.”–Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan, The Naples Players, FL
It looks like another interesting read–a great addition to any personal or classroom library! To be entered in the giveaway, just comment on any post on the blog by September 1st. Everyone who comments between July 29th and September 1st will be entered in the drawing. If your name is chosen, we’ll email you ASAP about mailing the book to you.
Don’t forget, we also raffle off a copy of the following month’s featured novel at each book group meeting. So if you’re an Albuquerque local, join us for a chance to win!
Under the Mesquite Written by Guadalupe Garcia McCall
Published by Lee & Low Books, 2011
Age Level: Grades 4 and Up
Description (From GoodReads):
Lupita, a budding actor and poet in a close-knit Mexican American immigrant family, comes of age as she struggles with adult responsibilities during her mother’s battle with cancer in this young adult novel in verse.
When Lupita learns Mami has cancer, she is terrified by the possibility of losing her mother, the anchor of her close-knit family. Suddenly, being a high school student, starring in a play, and dealing with friends who don’t always understand, become less important than doing whatever she can to save Mami’s life.
While her father cares for Mami at an out-of-town clinic, Lupita takes charge of her seven younger siblings. As Lupita struggles to keep the family afloat, she takes refuge in the shade of a mesquite tree, where she escapes the chaos at home to write. Forced to face her limitations in the midst of overwhelming changes and losses, Lupita rediscovers her voice and finds healing in the power of words.
Told with honest emotion in evocative free verse, Lupita’s journey toward hope is captured in moments that are alternately warm and poignant. Under the Mesquite is an empowering story about testing family bonds and the strength of a young woman navigating pain and hardship with surprising resilience.