Book Group Recap: Juana & Lucas

Book Group Recap: Juana & Lucas

¡Saludos a tod@s! We hope everyone is hanging in and doing well in this crazy time.

This month’s *virtual* book group discussed Juana & Lucas (grades k-3; lexile 870L) by Juana Medina. This heartwarming story takes place in the magical city of Bogotá, Colombia and mimics a Junie B. Jones or Judy Moody -esque style. The story focuses on Juana, who struggles with seeing a value in learning English as a second language. In addition to this dilemma, Juana also faces social and academic challenges as the new school year begins; however, fortunately for Juana, she has a superb support team that includes Lucas (her loyal perrito), Juli (her best friend), Mami and her abuelos.

The main themes that we identified in this fun read were: friendship, the importance of language learning, and expressing emotions. Despite the challenges that Juana faces throughout the text, her relationships with Lucas and Juli are admirable and help readers to cherish the important relationships in their own lives. One of Juana’s most prominent struggles is mastering the strange sounds that make up the English language, which leads Juana to wonder whether it is even important to learn another language. These struggles are very relatable for language learners of all ages! They also provide the opportunity to reflect upon why it is so important to learn another language. Like many kids her age, Juana experiences many feelings that vary from the disappointment she feels with her struggles to the excitement Juana experiences on her way to Astroland. Juana expresses her emotions in English and Spanish, which can serve as an example for learners and speakers of both languages. Check out the guide we created for ideas on how to promote language learning to your little readers, click here!

If you enjoyed this read, check out Medina’s sequel: Juana & Lucas: Big Problemas!

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¡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.

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!: A Taste of the Mexican Market/ El gusto del mercado mexicano

mexican-marketSaludos todos! This week we are continuing our November themes of food, and specifically its cultural importance, with another great read, El gusto del Mercado Mexicano/ A Taste of the Mexican Market, written and illustrated by Nancy Maria Grande Tabor. This wonderfully interactive book is great for celebrating food, includingthe vibrant colors of fruits and vegetables, the textures of different nuts, and the distinct shapes of different meats and fishes. It also  engages kids in valuable exercises in counting, describing what they see, and learning new vocabulary on food and the different ways to prepare food. The book even won the Scientific American Young Readers Book Award for its variegated educational import.

mercado-1The pages are structured as a type of interactive game. The first page, for example, shows the front wall of a market with words that read, “En una visita a Mexico se pueden comer muchas comidas diferentes. Ven conmigo al Mercado mexicano. Mi canasta esta vacia y aqui tengo  la lista de compras. Vamos!/ On a visit to Mexico you can eat many different foods. Come with me to the Mexican market. My basket is empty and here is the shopping list. Let’s go!” On the sides of the page readers see a long list of items to be found in the market. As the book progresses, the narration guides readers on an instructive journey through the Mexican market, addressing the young reader directly with a didactic and playful tone: “Vamos a encontrar las frutas que tenemos en nuestra lista/ Let’s find the fruits on our list.” The narration also engages readers by asking them direct questions, prompting dialogue and reflection between the reader and his/her peers, parent or teacher: “Hay frutas en el Mercado mexicano que nunca has visto?/ Does the Mexican market have any fruits you have never seen before?” Not only do these questions encourage readers to engage more with the text, they also stimulate intercultural observation, reflecting on what is new or foreign to them, what is different between the market in Mexico and the market that they are accustomed to.

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¡Mira, Look!: My Abuela is Sick

mi-abuela-is-sick

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.

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En la Clase: Super Cilantro Girl/La Superniña del Cilantro

Super Cilantro Girl | Juan Felipe HerreraAs more and more people begin to talk about the need for diversity in our classroom curricula and literature, we must remember that diversity can’t exist just for diversity’s sake.  Conversations in our classrooms around diversity can intentionally or unintentionally lead to the perpetuation of stereotypes and labels.  As Colleen pointed out in last week’s post identity is complex.  She asks an important question: How does one meaningfully capture the range of cultural practices, traditions, languages, religions, geography, race, and ethnicity – just to name a few – of those who identify as Latinx?  While we want to teach about the multitude of cultures, ethnicities, and races that make up our classroom, our nation, and our world, we also want to make sure that we are providing the space for our students to express and identity both their cultural background and their own uniqueness.

One way to accomplish this is to build a strong classroom community.  It won’t happen overnight, but in the long run it’s always worth the time and effort.  Lee and Low Books just shared a free unit on “Building Classroom Community Unit for Kindergarten.”  Based on eight different read-aloud books, the lessons provide in-depth literacy engagement while also encouraging students to connect through sharing about themselves and learning about others.  The lessons can be easily adapted for older children as well.

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September 9th | Week in Review

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Hola a todos! I am very excited to share with everyone my first “official” post. Going forward, we’ll be using Friday’s World Wide Web column as an opportunity to bring you current conversations and resources related to teaching about Latinx culture. I hope you enjoy reading the materials as much as I enjoy collecting them!

– Marley Dias is our new heroine! She’s a young woman who’s made national headlines through her efforts to rethink school reading lists. If you haven’t joined her fan club yet, check out the NY Times blog article on “#1000BlackGirlBooks Campaign Expands.”

– “Moomins and Tintin are great, but where are new translated children’s books?” This article that Daniel Hahn wrote for The Guardian talks about the importance of translating children’s books into different languages.

–The Pittsburgh Carrier highlights the need for diverse children’s literature with their article on “Child Watch…Children of Color Need to See Themselves in Books

–Education Week recently shared an article focused on “Teaching Global Children’s Literature: What to Read and How to Read.” Here’s a snippet to pique your interest: “Teachers must attend to which cultures are represented, underrepresented, misrepresented, and invisible in children’s books (what to read) as well as recontextualize these books within the history, culture, and time from which they emerged (how to read).”

–neaToday (the blog of the National Education Association) brings up how to honor and acknowledge students’ heritage in the classroom through pronouncing their names correctly: The Lasting Impact of Mispronouncing Students’ Names

– Lastly, from the NY Times, many of us here at Vamos a Leer found Kwame Alexander’s discussion of “Children’s Books and the Color of Characters” super meaningful.

 Abrazos,
Alin Badillo

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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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¡Mira Look!: Doña Flor: A Tall Tale About a Giant Woman with a Great Big Heart

cover-dona-florSaludos, todos! This week we are featuring Doña Flor: A Tall Tale about a Giant Woman with a Great Big Heart, written by Pat Mora and illustrated by Raúl Colón. This wonderful story falls perfectly in line with this month’s theme of Women’s History Month, focusing on positive representations of women in children’s literature and our appreciation for the women in our every-day lives. With Doña Flor, Mora narrates the story of a giant, benevolent woman, literally aggrandizing and extolling the female protagonist. Doña Flor challenges many unfortunate yet common ideas—that women should take up less space, speak less loudly and opine less frequently—by featuring a goddess-like woman who is unapologetically large and undeniably cherished. In effect, Mora’s story captures a childlike perspective of awe and admiration, reminding readers of the larger-than-life women in their own lives.

dona flor 1Doña Flor: A Tall Tale about a Giant Woman with a Great Big Heart (ages 6-8) is a “tall tale” that uses a series of hyperboles to create an exaggerated and fantastical story. Doña Flor is a beloved member of her community, assisting all her friends and neighbors in any way she can. She carries the children on her back when they’re late to school; she makes giant-sized tortillas for everyone to eat, and always functions as a conciliatory, amiable force amongst the village people. And, finally, when a little mountain lion frightens the village by roaring into a hollowed out log, the fearless Doña Flor finds the cat, makes him purr and smile instead of roar and menace, and ultimately teaches him how to get along with the other village animals and people.

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En la Clase: A Review of Separate is Never Equal

Vamos a Leer |Separate is Never Equal by Duncan Tonatiuh | Book ReviewFor this week’s En la Clase, I’m sharing our review of Separate is Never Equal, one of this year’s Americas Award Winners.  It’s a great book to explore themes of love of self, love of family, and love of community, while also teaching about an often overlooked but important piece of the Civil Rights Movement.

In next week’s En la Clase, I’ll share the free educator’s guide created for the book.

Separate is Never Equal
Written and Illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh
Published by Harry N. Abrams, 2014
ISBN: 1419710540
Age Level: 7-12

BOOK SUMMARY

Almost 10 years before Brown vs. Board of Education, Sylvia Mendez and her parents helped end school segregation in California. An American citizen of Mexican and Puerto Rican heritage who spoke and wrote perfect English, Mendez was denied enrollment to a “Whites only” school. Her parents took action by organizing the Hispanic community and filing a lawsuit in federal district court. Their success eventually brought an end to the era of segregated education in California.

My Thoughts

Vamos a Leer |Separate is Never Equal by Duncan TonatiuhThere are a number of reasons why Duncan Tonatiuh’s book, Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation, is so important. In writing it, he did something that no one else has. No other children’s picture book on the Mendez case exists. Moreover, the book is well-researched and compellingly illustrated. By drawing on primary source documents, court transcripts, and interviews with Sylvia Mendez herself, Tonatiuh has created an important historical book for younger and older children alike. Continue reading