Our Next Good Read. . .The Only Road

Join us on Monday, March 12th at Red Door Brewing (400 Gold Ave SW #105) from 5:00-7:00 pm to discuss our next book.  We are reading The Only Road (Grades 3-7) by Alexandra Diaz.

Here’s a sneak peek into this award-winning book: (from Goodreads)

Twelve-year-old Jaime makes the treacherous and life-changing journey from his home in Guatemala to live with his older brother in the United States in this gripping and realistic middle grade novel.

Jaime is sitting on his bed drawing when he hears a scream. Instantly, he knows: Miguel, his cousin and best friend, is dead.

Everyone in Jaime’s small town in Guatemala knows someone who has been killed by the Alphas, a powerful gang that’s known for violence and drug trafficking. Anyone who refuses to work for them is hurt or killed—like Miguel. With Miguel gone, Jaime fears that he is next. There’s only one choice: accompanied by his cousin Ángela, Jaime must flee his home to live with his older brother in New Mexico.

Inspired by true events, The Only Road is an individual story of a boy who feels that leaving his home and risking everything is his only chance for a better life. It is a story of fear and bravery, love and loss, strangers becoming family, and one boy’s treacherous and life-changing journey.

We hope to see you there!

We’ll also be raffling off a copy of April’s featured book, How I Became a Nun by César Aira.  Join us that evening to be entered!




Reading RoundUp: Diversifying Women’s History (Month) with Hispanic Stories

Hello, dear readers!

It’s not often that I get the chance to contribute TWICE to the blog in one week, but I couldn’t resist the opportunity to chime in on the conversation about diversifying Women’s History Month. I’ve been humming to myself over here in the office as I’ve been digging into children’s and young adult literature focused on women’s history – and Hispanic women’s contributions to history, in particular. While there are beautiful books by and about women peppered throughout the blog and in our previous Reading RoundUp posts, for this month I had the pleasure of finding and compiling books based on real life heroines. These are books that highlight the groundbreaking, earth-shattering contributions and hard work of Hispanic/Latina/Chicana and indigenous women in the United States, Cuba, Ecuador, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Guatemala, Paraguay, and Chile. Sometimes their work was an act of personal triumph; at other times, it revolutionized society.  Their achievements break barriers in music, labor rights, school segregation, literature, and art.  Across the spectrum, their stories are absolutely worthwhile.

As a caveat, I should add that I haven’t personally read all of the books on this list — like The Distance Between Us by Reyna Grande, When I Was Puerto Rican by Esmeralda Santiago, and Ada’s Violin by Susan Hood — but they’re stellar publications if others’ reviews are anything to go by.  If you should add them to your bookshelf, please let us know what you think. They’re certainly on our TBR list now.

Side note: The descriptions provided below are all reprinted from the publishers’ information.

Without further ado, here are 15 children’s and YA books that we hope will expand your classroom and home discussions about Women’s History Month!

En solidaridad,

p.s. Remember that Teaching for Change is offering a discount in their TFC non-profit, indie bookstore in honor of Women’s History Month. Just use the code Women2017 at checkout!

Continue reading

Reading Roundup: Loss and Resolution in Latinx YA Literature

Vamos a Leer | Loss and Resolution in Latinx YA LiteratureBuenos días a todas y todos,

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.

Continue reading

WWW: Mayan Hands, Backstrap Looms and Weaving the Guatemalan Highlands

Backstrap_loomMayan Hands is an organization that promotes the social, economic and historical importance of weaving among Mayan communities in the highlands of Guatemala.  Mostly, it is the women in these communities who take up the art of weaving at a very young age; in fact, weaving is synonymous with a birth-rite for many Mayan girls and is considered an essential part of community life.  Mayan weaving is known for a refined and unique style called back-strap weaving.  Having the students watch the Mayan Hands’ back-strap weaving videos is an amazing opportunity to use media on the web to bring a far-away cultural reality into the classroom.

After watching the videos, students should try and answer the following questions, as well as any others they might formulate or be inspired to ask.  How does weaving act as a tool for organization among women?  In what ways do the videos portray the Mayan art of weaving (ancient or modern; technical or basic)?  How does Mayan back-strap weaving relate to tourism and to ourselves as consumers here in the north?  As the students begin formulating ideas about Mayan women and the art of weaving, here is some important background information.

Continue reading

WWW: Beyond Guatemala through the Lens of Jorge Uzon

An indigenous woman carries flowers during a ceremony marking the sixth anniversary of the Atitlan massacre,This week we bring you a resource to complement our earlier discussions about Skila Brown’s Caminar, the young adult novel-in-verse set during Guatemala’s civil war in a fictional village.  Although Brown evocatively conveys what the young protagonist, Carlos, must have felt amid the tumult and violence, it nonetheless is somewhat difficult to imagine his surroundings in detail.  So, we found photography that will give you glimpses into the context of the novel. Without further ado we present the photography of Jorge Uzon.

There is a lot to work through when delving into the Western University (Ontario, Canada) student-created blog, Guatemala beyond the Civil War: Through the Lens of Jorge Uzon.  Designed as a virtual, online photographic exhibit, each of five sections contains one of photojournalist Jorge Uzon’s startlingly poignant photographs, complete with a contextual description accompanying each photo.  Take your students on a tour of each section, and with each picture the concise, yet thorough commentary helps to provide a simple, yet highly informative framework; the photos come to life in the eyes the students’ as the context is explained, even briefly.

Continue reading

Book Review: Caminar

We had such a wonderful time with our book group on Monday night! Everyone really loved this book.  If you didn’t get the chance to join us, we’d love to hear your thoughts on the book.  If you haven’t had the chance to read it yet, it definitely comes highly recommended from Vamos a Leer.  We hope you’ll add it to your TBR list!

Written by Skila Brown
ished by Candlewick Press
ISBN: 9780763665166
Age Level: 10 and up


Carlos knows that when the soldiers arrive with warnings about the Communist rebels, it is time to be a man and defend the village, keep everyone safe. But Mama tells him not yet — he’s still her quiet moonfaced boy. The soldiers laugh at the villagers, and before they move on, a neighbor is found dangling from a tree, a sign on his neck: Communist. Mama tells Carlos to run and hide, then try to find her. . . . Numb and alone, he must join a band of guerillas as they trek to the top of the mountain where Carlos’s abuela lives. Will he be in time, and brave enough, to warn them about the soldiers? What will he do then? A novel in verse inspired by actual events during Guatemala’s civil war, Caminar is the moving story of a boy who loses nearly everything before discovering who he really is.

My thoughts:

Like Journey of Dreams by Marge Pellegrino, Caminar offers a fictionalized account of the violent Guatemalan Civil War that lasted over thirty years.  Both books tell their story through the eyes of a young protagonist, but Brown’s Caminar is a novel in verse.  The style of this genre makes Caminar a perfect introduction to a subject that’s often not covered in young adult fiction or non-fiction.  While the topic itself is certainly complex, the novel in verse format lends itself to struggling readers and ELLs.  Each page is its own poem, so there aren’t long chapters to wade through or difficult dialogues that can be frustrating for readers to try and follow.   With shorter text, teachers can spend more time focusing on meaning, symbolism and imagery in each poem.  Because it is poetry, it would make for a great read aloud, teacher or student led, providing great oral language practice.  I think novels in verse are a great opportunity for focused poetry study as well.  As a novel, they’re longer than the typical poems we teach in the k-12 classroom.  While many students can be intimidated by poetry, the novel in verse gives them time to settle in both to reading poetry and exploring the particular author’s style.  Brown’s work offers so many examples of the creative things a writer can do with poetry just through arrangement, spacing and shape of the poems that it really lends itself to a poetry unit.

Continue reading

Book Giveaway!! Caminar

We’re giving away a copy of Caminar written by Skila Brown–our featured novel for the January book group meeting. Check out the following from School Library Journal:

Continue reading

¡Mira, Look!: Barrilete: a Kite for the Day of the Dead/Un barrilete para el Día de los Muertos


Here in Albuquerque we are gearing up for one of our favorite local traditions, the 22nd Annual South Valley Dia De Los Muertos Marigold Parade and Celebration. The parade is a special celebration in which different groups within the community come together to honor those who have passed away. With this in mind, this week’s featured book is about a local tradition specific to a small village in Guatemala that takes place on Día de Los Muertos. Continue reading

Book Review: Colibrí

Colibri-Ann-CameronWe had such a great time discussing this book at our book group on Monday night! Our monthly meetings are definitely one of my favorite parts of my job.  I’ve shared my thoughts on the book below.  We’d love to hear what you think as well–just leave a comment at the end of the post.

Written by Ann Cameron
Published by Laurel Leaf,  2005
ISBN:   9780440420521
Age Level: 12 and up

Description (From GoodReads):

She was little and quick and pretty. Her mother nicknamed her Colibrí, Spanish for “Hummingbird.” At age four she was kidnapped, torn from her parents on a crowded bus in Guatemala City. Since then she’s traveled with “Uncle,” the ex-soldier and wandering beggar who has renamed her Rosa. Uncle has always told Rosa that he searched for her parents but had no success. There’s almost no chance Rosa will ever find them, but Rosa still remembers and longs for them.

When she was young, Uncle consulted fortune-tellers who told him that Rosa would bring him luck – a treasure big enough to last him all his life. So he’s kept her with him. Together, they have traveled from town to town in the highlands of Guatemala, scraping out a living, hoping to find the treasure. Eight years have passed, and Rosa has turned twelve. No treasure has been found, and Uncle has almost given up hope. When he turns angry and desperate, danger threatens Rosa from all side, but especially from Uncle himself.

My thoughts:

With nothing but positive reviews, it’s not surprising that Colibrí was a great read.  It’s a well-written and engrossing novel.   Told from the point of view of Tzunún, a 12 year-old girl, students will find it easy to connect with the young narrator.  It’s not a light read; instead, it offers a coming of age story that shows a young girl forced to make decisions that we would hope only adults might have to confront.  Yet this is part of the power of the book.  Often our students do have to deal with situations that we wish we could protect them from, but can’t.  Tzunún’s journey to find out who she really is may give those students some much needed hope, and a story they can learn from and identify with.  Continue reading

Book Review: Journey of Dreams

journey of dreamsThanks so much to all of our wonderful book group members who came out last night to discuss the book! We all agreed, this is a great story! I’ve shared my own thoughts about the book below.

Journey of Dreams
Written by Marge Pellegrino
Published by Frances Lincoln, 2009
ISBN:   9781847800619
Ages: 11 and up

Description (from Goodreads):

For the peaceful highlanders of Guatemala, life has become a nightmare. Helicopters slash like machetes through the once-quiet air. Soldiers patrol the streets, hunting down suspected guerillas. Villagers mysteriously disappear and children are recruited as soldiers. Tomasa’s family is growing increasingly desperate, especially after Mama goes into hiding with Tomasa’s oldest brother. Finally, after their house is razed to the ground and the villagers massacred, Tomasa, Manuelito, and baby Maria set off with Papa on a perilous journey to find Mama and Carlos, only to discover that where one journey ends, another begins. Continue reading