Saludos toddos, and welcome to our final book review for the semester and for the year! We are continuing our December themes this week with one last review on winter holidays. Our book for this week is La Noche Buena, A Christmas Story, written by Antonio Sacre and illustrated by Angela Dominguez. Sacre is a new name here on our blog, but I have already reviewed several books illustrated by Dominguez, including Mango, Abuela and Me, which won Dominguez the 2016 Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor Book, and Maria Had a Little Llama/ María tenía una llamita.
La Noche Buena is a heartwarming story about a young girl who travels from her New England home down to Miami to spend Christmas and Christmas Eve with her Cuban relatives. It is her first time traveling to Miami for the winter holidays, and at first the warmth and humidity seem strange at this time of year: “How will Santa land his sleigh in the heat?” The unnamed, female protagonist’s parents are divorced and it is her Cuban father’s turn to have her for the holidays. The fact that the protagonist is unnamed helps readers identify with her, and her position as a child of divorced parents is an important perspective for children to witness and experience through literature. Divorce is such a common occurrence, but it is still a difficult experience for children. As young readers watch the protagonist transition between two parents, two cultures, two languages, they will witness how strong and resilient she is, a positive example for children going through similar struggles.
Buenos días a todas y todos,
The Vamos a Leer theme for this month, as written in Keira’s Sobre Deciembre post, is focused on winter celebrations. I was eager to explore children’s and YA literature around this topic in hopes of finding books that are reflective of the diverse familial celebrations, religious and spiritual practices, and cultural traditions throughout Latin America. However, it would be disingenuous to state that this eagerness remained after learning the outcome of the election. Rather, like many others, I began to reflect on the multiple uncertainties that our communities face. More specifically, what will the future hold for those that are from other countries and living in the United States? With everything that I read being filtered through this lens, I decided it was best to reframe the theme a bit.
Saludos todos! I hope everyone had a nice and relaxing Thanksgiving break! This week we’re continuing with our November themes of food and the cultural importance of food while also transitioning into our brief December focus on winter celebrations. We’ve spent November highlighting the importance of food in cultural celebrations and rituals as well as community environments, which has been a nice way for us to bridge the celebrations of late October and early November such as Day of the Dead, late November celebrations such as Thanksgiving, and December celebrations such as Christmas and Las Posadas.
Our book for this week, Miracle on 133rd Street, written by Sonia Manzano and illustrated by Marjorie Priceman, focuses on the frantic energy of the yuletide season, as a family tries to find space for their holiday roast. The oven is too small in the family’s tiny, New York City apartment, forcing them to journey through the halls of their apartment complex, seeking help from their diverse neighbors, all of whom are also anticipating and preparing for their own holiday celebrations. The plot of finding space for the holiday roast is what drives the story showing how food facilitates community and brings people together. Food is at the crux of this exciting and endearing plot, as it is for many of us celebrating the holidays.
Saludos todos and welcome to the start of our November-themed book reviews! Our themes for this month will focus on food and the cultural importance of food, topics that seem to fit well with the harvest season that is upon us and the subsequent winter holidays for which food plays such a significant role. Along with traditional practices, food is an important cultural element that can awaken the senses, harken back to fond memories and seasonal associations, and bring people together though collection, preparation, and shared enjoyment.
Our book to start this exploration is The Cazuela that the Farm Maiden Stirred, written by Samantha R. Vamos and illustrated by Rafael López. This fun and engaging book tells the story of a young farm maiden who, by enlisting the help of various farm animals and the farmer boy, makes a steamy, delicious pot of arroz con leche. The book has a lively, festive tone and the cooking process is described as a fun, unifying celebration, emphasizing the cultural and communal importance of food. In preparing the arroz con leche, everyone at the farm, including the anthropomorphized animals, must do their part and contribute. This not only exemplifies good team work, but also shows how everyone has a valuable skill or asset to contribute.
Saludos todos! As we continue our October themes of death, grief and loss, this week I will be reviewing The Spirit of Tío Fernando, a Day of the Dead Story/ El espíritu de tío Fernando, Una historia del Día de los Muertos, written by Janice Levy, illustrated by Morella Fuenmayor, and translated into Spanish by Teresa Mlawer. Although this year we’ve tried to expand our October themes to focus on the general concept of death, and not just as it relates to specific holidays, I felt it appropriate to feature at least one book on Day of the Dead. Since Day of the Dead is a celebration and cultural ritual that we’ve worked on extensively here on the blog, we wanted to expand our themes a bit this year; however, there is a reason that we’ve worked so extensively on Day of the Dead, and I find it nearly impossible to talk about the concept of death in Latin America without mentioning this beautiful holiday. Moreover, this particular story does a nice job of exposing readers to the various elements and practices of the holiday as it is celebrated in Mexico, while centering primarily on the young, male protagonist’s experience with death and grief.
Saludos todos! This week we will be reviewing a book that has recently come out and was a finalist for the International Latino Book Awards in both the category of “Best Educational Children’s Picture Book—English” and “Most Inspirational Children’s Picture Book—English.” My Abuela is Sick, written by Jennifer Bisignano and illustrated by Gaston Hauviller, tells the story of a young, female protagonist who confronts the reality of her ailing, dying grandmother, which is likely also her first encounter with death. Keeping in line with our themes for the month, this book is especially useful for young children to begin discussing and conceptualizing death, and for those already struggling with these experiences, to find solace in the shared experience of a relatable protagonist. The book may also aid teachers looking for resources to help their students through difficult times.
Saludos todos and welcome to our first October book review!
As in the past several years, we’re using the month of October to reflect on the many ways in which death is honored, acknowledged, and remembered in different Latin American countries. Our monthly focus is prompted in part by the upcoming Día de los Muertos, but also more broadly by the seasonal shift into autumn – a time of transition and change.
Last year we used this opportunity to feature books that discussed Día de los Muertos celebrations and cautionary legends such as those about La Llorona. This year, however, we have decided to expand these themes to focus more loosely on death as a general concept — the experience of love and loss, the process of grief and healing, and, particularly, the ways in which educators can help students through these tough moments. This month our books will feature protagonists who experience grief, and identify books that explore the concept of death in different cultures. This last theme is the focus of today’s book, Light Foot/ Pies ligeros.
Saludos todos! Our book for this week is Portraits of Hispanic American Heroes, written by Juan Felipe Herrera and illustrated by Raúl Colón (the same illustrator from last week’s book, Tomás and the Library Lady). Portraits of Hispanic American Heroes won the Pura Belpré Honor Book award for narrative in 2015, and perfectly embodies this month’s endeavor of honoring exceptional Latinos in children’s literature, as well as in society as a whole.
Each chapter of this wonderful compilation of portraits narrates the life and work of a Latinx hero, ranging from iconic activists such as Dolores Huerta and César Chávez, to trail-blazing intellectuals such as Sonia Sotomayor and Tomás Rivera, to some of my own personal idols, such as contemporary singer Joan Baez and 1920s author Julia de Burgos.
Saludos, todos! Welcome to our last book review of the year. This week I will be reviewing Feliz Navidad, written by José Feliciano and illustrated by David Diaz, to wrap up this month’s holiday themes. This book is written in both Spanish and English and is best for ages 3-7. However, with a sing-song rhythm and dramatic illustrations, it could brighten any home or classroom.
The book begins with a two-page introduction describing the Puerto Rican holiday tradition of parranda. Parranda is a yuletide tradition where carolers, or parranderos, go from house to house singing classic holiday songs called aguinaldos. The first neighbor to receive a visit invites the carolers in for singing, dancing, and food. From there, the party of carolers grows and the group continues to other houses in the neighborhood. At the final house, there is a big party where everyone gets together to celebrate family, friends, and the holiday season. According to the book’s introduction, “This feast unites families, friends, and neighbors for a magical celebration during the Christmas season.” For those of you who read last week’s book review, the tradition of parranda may remind you a bit of las posadas, a Mexican tradition where a group of people go from house to house asking for food and warmth in a reenactment of Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem. Parranda, however, is a unique Christmas tradition celebrated on the tropical island of Puerto Rico, as well as other Caribbean islands, such as Cuba. Continue reading
¡Feliz viernes a todos!
Here we are, already in December! This semester just flew right by. Before delving into winter celebrations in Latin America, I just want to quickly extend gratitude to everyone reading, whether you are here for the first time or have been following my posts this entire semester. Thank you for your readership, especially during the busy holiday season that is now upon us (Ahh!).
In the past, we have focused our December posts mostly on Las Posadas (you can find a number of our past Las Posadas posts here). This year, I am including a musical playlist to offer both a complement to our presentations of Las Posadas and also a broader view of winter celebrations in Latin America. I have a couple links to feature here that can be used in the classroom or for your own personal knowledge to aid in creating a culturally informed holiday discussion and celebration in your classroom.
The first feature is a very diverse musical playlist, which includes music from Spain, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and the United States. Feliz Navidad from Smithsonian Folkways adds rhythm to the celebration of the holidays throughout the Spanish-speaking countries of the world! Incorporating villancicos, aguinaldos, bulerias, zambas, and arrullos, this is truly a musical voyage through Christmas celebrations in Latin America. To take it a step further, I am featuring another link to a musical map, which is a great way to illustrate where each different rhythm originates. This world map is overlaid with the contents of the music from the first playlist, and in addition, playlists that collect music from holiday celebrations in other parts of the world (mainly, Africa and Eastern Europe, with various other locations, as well). Continue reading