¡Mira, Look!: Pasando páginas / Turning Pages: My Life Story

Queridos lectores,

Continuing with our celebration of Women’s History Month, the next book we have chosen is Turning Pages: My Life Story by Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. This autobiographical children’s book is actually written by Sotomayor and is illustrated by the award-winning Puerto Rican author and illustrator, Lulu Delacre. It is also available as a Spanish edition, Pasando páginas: La historia de mi vida.

The book opens with a description of Sotomayor’s bilingual and bi-worldly upbringing. Since childhood, she had to balance both English and Spanish, both New York where she was born, and Puerto Rico where her parents came from. Sotomayor’s story reflects in this way the story of many other girls who grew up in the Bronx, or in other parts of the world, whose parents are migrants, and grow up hearing of places that maybe they themselves have never been to. But still, they share a profound love for this plac; it constitutes a part of their own story and imaginary, and they have inherited a type of longing for it.

Sotomayor’s memories of family gatherings and her grandmother reciting nostalgic poems about her home in a faraway island, marked the beginning of her love for words. Through hardships and different life experiences, books were her constant friend, marking a path of discovery of our world, and of fictional ones.

This book shows us a complicated and beautifully interwoven narrative of struggle, sorrow, a child’s encounter with hardship, the powerful impact that family has in our lives, and the importance of books and education. Lulu Delacre’s illustrations entwines images of book pages with that of life experiences, and at one a point in the story the steps that Sotomayor takes towards a court house and her future as justice, are book pages.

 “every book I ever read took me the next step I needed to go in school and in life”

The love she has for them is all around her. Sotomayor mentions two particularly important books. In school she learned the importance of laws for society after reading Lord of the Flies, and about compassion and when she read the Bible. For her, “books were lenses, bringing into focus truths about the world around me.” An idea that goes hand in hand with the illustrations. Sometimes they show a landscape or a building and as a lens or a zoom, the image of Sotomayor’s story, which gives us the feeling of her life being one marked by a multitude of experiences.

 Turning Pages shows us the many pieces of the puzzle that make up Sotomayor’s story, marked by a feeling of wanderlust, resilience, and love of family. Before the story begins, and after it ends, there are several photos that show us her life. At the beginning there are pictures of her as a child and at the end pictures of her professional life and, in both, she is sharing moments with friends and family.

For more information about the book, watch this PBS interview with Sotomayor and this book trailer video.

Nos vemos pronto,

Carolina



Citation: All the above images were done by Lulu Delacre, and are from the book Turning Pages: My Life Story by Sonia Sotomayor.

¡Mira, Look!: Dreamers/Soñadores

Queridos lectores,



In February we celebrate different kinds of love, and we can think of no better way to do it than by reading Dreamers by Mexican author, Yuyi Morales. This beautiful children’s book, which is available in Spanish as well as Soñadores, tells Morales’ own history of immigrating from Xalapa, Mexico, to the United States.

The book centers around a young mother and her infant son who struggle to understand the new place in which they find themselves, and the language – which they do not speak. From the first page, love of self, of family, and of language compel the characters forward. A poetic voice and striking imagery guide the reader through new beginnings and discovery.

The illustrations are much like the story, captivating and bittersweet. Through the contrast of colorful drawings depicting culture and identity, over a grey and brown background, we can experience the feeling of traveling to a new, unfamiliar, and at times unwelcoming world, while carrying our own.

One of Morales several gifts for her readers is that she shows us both the light and darkness embedded in immigration stories. She does not shy away from hardship and struggle, which does come with parting ways with our homes or with our country. However, Morales also draws on her own story’s resiliency and agency.

One of the illustrations show a young mother in a colorful dress and her son entering an unfamiliar and opaque city, while the clouds above them reveal hidden messages: “Say something,” “What?” “Speak English.” Messages that the mother stares at in sadness. Under the same sky, a banner with the letters “Give thanks” stand in front of them, making the reader feel a tension between what is publicized and portrayed in society vs what immigrants experience in their everyday lives.

Nevertheless, light emerges at the end of this metaphorical tunnel when both characters make a life changing discovery: the public library. A place where books become their guiding friends and a source of wonder. Color starts returning to the pages until it becomes prominent. Images, drawings, animals, and books share the page happily in front of mother and son enjoying the magic of a written world. The background is still brown and grey, but color becomes a protagonist. Closing the story with a message of agency and hope of having found a home and a voice in two languages.

“We are stories. We are two languages. We are lucha. We are resilience. We are hope.”

Morales concludes the book with an author’s note to provide young readers with the parallels to her own history. In sharing so openly, she calls upon her readers to share their own stories, urging them to recognize the value in their own voices:

 “Now I have told you my story. What’s yours?”

We hope that this book might encourage young readers to do just that: to relish their own stories and to speak their own truths. It is with our warmest recommendation that we encourage you to make space for this book front and center on your shelves.

For those who may want to know more about Morales and this work:

 Nos vemos pronto,

Carolina


Citation: All the above images have been included and modified from the book Dreamers by Yuyi Morales.

April 13th| Week in Review

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¡Hola a todos! There were so many books shared this week, I hope you enjoy them!

– Junot Diaz is forefront in many minds this week following the New Yorker’s release of his essay, “The Silence: The Legacy of Childhood Trauma.” We acknowledge and honor his willingness to speak openly about what so many people must endure in silence. Long pause.

–  Check out Latinxs in Kid Lit’s review of the children’s book Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal. This book “illuminates an essential connection to ancestors. Inspired by her own name, Juana reminds readers that our names are not just our own, but a reflection of our culture as well.”

– Also from Latinx in Kid Lit, a review of Margarita Engle’s All the Way to Havana. “Together, a boy and his parents drive to the city of Havana, Cuba, in their old family car. Along the way, they experience the sights and sounds of the streets–neighbors talking, musicians performing, and beautiful, colorful cars putt-putting and bumpety-bumping along.”

 – When talking about U.S.-Latin America experiences and education, you might appreciate Hip Latina’s observations on how French Montana’s Dreamers Campaign Gives First Grant to Kansas City School. Inspired by French Montana’s campaign, We Are the Dream, “two educators at Alta Vista Charter High school created a scholarship program to aid the smartest graduating undocumented students get to college.”

–Also, when highlighting the importance of language and tradition,  don’t miss La Bloga’s cultural reflection post, Yoeme Mask Carvers and Artists : La Familia Martinez by Antonio SolisGomez. Here, you can meet artista Feliciana and her “clay figures, depicting Yoeme figures, Deer Dancers, Pascola’s, Fariseos etc…” Yoeme are indigenous people whose ancestral homelands are found in Sonora, Mexico.

— Cynthia Leitich Smith, author behind the blog Cynsations, posted a video of Rudine Sims Bishop on Mirrors, Windows & Sliding Glass Doors. Dr. Bishop, professor emerita from Ohio State University, is the scholar behind the now well-known article from 1990 that coined the metaphors of windows, mirrors, and doors in children’s and YA literature. If you enjoy hearing Dr. Bishop speak, we also recommend you visit Reading While White’s reflection on the ongoing importance of her work, “Rudine Sims Bishop: In Appreciation.”

– Don’t miss the list of 2017 Middle Grade Novels about Finding One’s Voice and Identity by Gathering Books. If you find yourself interested in My Name is Gabriela/Me llamo Gabriela and Neruda: Poet of the People, you might want to read more about them courtesy of our own Vamos bloggers.

— Great news! New Online Spanish-Language Bookstore Comes to U.S. April 15, 2018.Check out the new Libros in Español.

–Here is a video posted by Colorín Colorado on why positive body language matters when working with ELLs

-Lee and Low shared their culturally responsive approach to Earth Day. Parrots over Puerto Rico is featured in this post. You can learn more about the book by reading our own Vamos review!

– View the best books on immigration by Five Books.

–Finally, here’s a compilation of the Top 5 Latinxs Poetry Picture Book List as shared by the wonderful Pragmatic Mom.  It’s a great list!

Abrazos,
Alin Badillo


Image: Costa Rica 2012. Reprinted from Flickr user The Leaf Project under CC©.

Author’s Corner:

Saludos a todxs,

Our Vamos a Leer book group meets this evening to discuss the young adult novel, The Only Road, by Alexandra Diaz.

While we always want to take a moment to highlight the authors being read in our local meetings, Diaz has special significance for us because she’s right here in New Mexico with us as a resident of Santa Fe!

In describing herself, Diaz writes that all her life she has had “an overactive imagination [which] had her making up stories at an early age and led to getting an MA in Writing for Young People from Bath Spa University. The daughter of Cuban refugees, she is a native Spanish speaker who currently lives in Santa Fe, NM.”

Beyond that succinct summary, we can add that she is the author of several young adult novels which have been well received. Her most recent book, The Only Road, was designated as a Pura Belpré Honor Book and an Américas Award Winner in 2017. As the publisher writes, “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.” It some ways, it reads as an even younger version of Enrique’s Journey, although here we learn of Jaime and his sister, Ángela, as they come northward from Guatemala to escape the violence surrounding his family.

Here at Vamos a Leer, we found that Diaz had managed an interesting feat – she had taken the harrowing, traumatic experiences of youth migrants and somehow tempered their story for younger readers. In reviewing the book for Latinxs in Kid Lit, Cris Rodes highlights Diaz’s decision to write the text for young readers, noting that while its gritty attention to reality may make it difficult for younger readers, they should nonetheless be given the chance to appreciate this novel. The harsh details of the story are smoothed, Chris writes, “with familiar stylistic choices and tropes of children’s and middle-grade texts. From its large print and short chapters, to the straightforward, albeit lyrical language, this text remains easily accessible to young readers.”

According to an interview with KidLit441, Diaz acknowledges that the idea for the book came from her editor, writing that “A few years ago there was a huge wave of unaccompanied immigrant children arriving into the U.S. when previously it had been the adults who would immigrate and then send for their families later on. This wave was sparked in part by violent gangs taking over villages in Central America and forcing children into their gangs, or being killed. My editor knew that someone had to write these children’s story and I was asked to do it. As the daughter of Cuban refugees, immigration is something that I have grown up with and it close to my heart. Even though my parents’ experience was different than what is happening today, at the core the stories are the same—having to leave your home for a new place because it’s the only choice.”

It’s perhaps that last point which captures most accurately why the book drew us in – Diaz’s ability to speak to a sense of shared humanity. This is a book to balance out the apathetic or dismissive news headline, and instead draw out an empathetic understanding of youth migrants.

Best,
Keira

 


Image: Photo credit to Owen Benson. Reprinted via KidLit441.

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!

 

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¡Mira, Look!: Malaika’s Costume

Buenos días!

We are excited to be back with our book reviews. Throughout the semester we will be interweaving book reviews in both English and Spanish, between our new blog member, Santi, and me. Santi will be writing reviews in Spanish, and I will be writing them in English. Since it’s February, the month of love, we will start by bringing you book reviews surrounding the theme of love for community.

Today we are excited to bring you a review of Malaika’s Costume, written by Nadia L. Hohn and illustrated by Irene Luxbacher. This book is an Honorable Mention recipient of the 2017 Américas Award. It tells the story of Malaika, a young girl in Jamaica living with her granny while her mummy works in Canada to provide for them. In the story, Malaika is struggling with not having a costume for carnival, one of the most exciting festivals in her town. Malaika’s worries and frustrations with the costume are interwoven with missing her mummy, struggling to allow her granny to fill that motherly role, and optimistic expectations of no longer having financial issues since her mummy is working in Canada. In the end, Malaika and her granny find a resolution and Malaika dances beautifully in Carnival.

Luxbacher’s illustrations are absolutely breathtaking. I appreciated Malaika’s imaginative rendering of cold and snowy Canada, and how it contrasts her warm and colorful Jamaican hometown. The imaginative aspect of the illustrations mirrors Malaika’s personality. Hohn’s book as a whole explains important issues that countless children face with parents working from afar to provide for their families.

Also, her description of complex relationships from a child’s perspective is refreshing and necessary within today’s multicultural society. Furthermore, Malaika’s day-to-day interactions with neighbors and extended family members give us cultural insight to life in small-town Jamaica. Hohn includes definitions of different words she uses for understanding the cultural context of the text, including explanations of different types of music, instruments, characters and foods. Although the story is told from Malaika’s point of view, the last page’s illustration allows us to place her mother within the story, and better understand her love for her daughter.

I highly recommend checking out Nadia Hohn’s biography on her website. Nadia’s passion for children’s book diversity led her to publish Malaika’s Costume.

She teaches French, music, and the arts at the Africentric Alternative School where she has been an inaugural staff member since its opening in 2009.  She has taught in Toronto public schools since 2003. Out of her classroom and personal experiences, Hohn crafted edited two literary resources for teaching about Black heritage to grades 4-8, titled SANKOFA, which could be great for teaching this month, given that we are entering Black Heritage Month. Out of the resources in the guide, the SANKOFA Music book would pair well with Malaika’s Costume. While the music book must be purchased, Hohn also offers a number of free strategies for how to engage students with Malaika’s story.

Teachers interested in using this book with their students might also turn to the Smithsonian’s educator materials, particularly their lesson plan (grades 3-5), titled “The Sounds of an Island: Jamaican Music for the Classroom.” You can also explore excerpts of calypso rock songs by the famous Jamaican calypsonians, Horace Johnson & The Eagle Star, on the Smithsonian Folkways site. For quick reference, here is a full audio recording of Horace Johnson’s music. These resources pair with Malaika’s Costume given that this colorful children’s book is as much about music and dance as it is about family. During the Carnival celebrations that inspired the book, the street is full of soca and calypso – musical traditions that are explained on the website for the Trinidad and Tobago’s National Library and Information System.

If you enjoyed this book, we recommend that you check out the sequel, Malaika’s Winter Costume. Here is a promotional video for the sequel, which shows photos of Carnival in Jamaica.

Saludos,

Kalyn

 


Images Modified From Malaika’s Costume: Pages 3, 7, 29, 30

December 8th | Week in Review

¡Hola a todos! I wanted to let you all know that it has been my pleasure to gather resources for you. This will be my last post of the year, as we are approaching the holidays. I wish you all an unforgettable winter break full of love, harmony, and relaxation.

Latinxs in Kid Lit recommend the book North of Happy, a YA novel by Adi Alsaid, which offers a coming-of-age narrative focused on a young man whose life spans the US and Mexico, and who breaks norms to pursue his life’s passion: cooking. Reviewer Cecilia Cackley, a performing artist and children’s bookseller, states “It was…refreshing to read a book about a Mexican character that isn’t about immigration, drug wars, or poverty. My favorite parts of the book were the descriptions of Carlos cooking and his thought process as he selects ingredients or puts together a dish. ”

– Check out a new website dedicated to the late poet, Andrés Montoya, that was created by his brother, Maceo Montoya. Shared by La Bloga, the site commemorates the poet (1968-1999) and brings his work to new generations of readers. ““The late Andrés Montoya resided in Fresno, California. He had been a field hand, ditch digger, canner, and ice plant worker, and sometimes a teacher of writing.” – from the back cover of the iceworker sings and other poems.”

#DiverseKidLit has posted their December linkup! #DiverseKidLit is an amazing website dedicated to multicultural literature for children. It’s run by our lovely colleague, PragmaticMom. Each month, PragmaticMom proposes a new theme for the blogging community to explore, with all of the resources “designed to promote the reading and writing of children’s books that feature diverse characters. This community embraces all kinds of diversity including (and certainly not limited to) diverse, inclusive, multicultural, and global books for children of all backgrounds.”

–Diario de Cultura explains why Los hispanohalantes ascienden ya a 572 millones, 5 millones más que hace un año.

— End-of-the-year booklists are popping up everywhere. Rich in Color is no exception. This is a blog dedicated to reading, reviewing, talking about, and otherwise promoting young adult books (fiction and non-fiction (starring or written by people of color or people from First/Native Nations. To be inspired in your YA reading, see their list, Audrey’s 2017 favorite books.

Goodreads recently shared their growing collection of Latino Book Lists. The lists range from themes like the “Immigrant Experience in Literature” to “Non-American Books that Every American Should.”

– Finally, from PopSugar, here are  50+ Books Every Latina Should Read in Her Lifetime. More than a few Vamos a Leer featured titles and authors appear on it, but there are many more titles to add to our TBR list! Enjoy!

Abrazos,
Alin Badillo


Image: Purple Flower. Reprinted from Flickr Papa Pic under CC©.