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)
Join us on Monday, March12th 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 Nunby César Aira. Join us that evening to be entered!
¡Hola a todos! Here are some timely resources that I hope will be of use to you. Unfortunately, next week I’ll be absent from the blog because it’s our spring break, but I’ll definitely be back the following week with more to share.
As a side note (but an important one!), we want to take a moment to add our voices to the chorus of advocates who are incensed that the Zinn Education Project would be banned in Arkansas. Here at Vamos we’re devout supporters of their efforts to teach students the diverse histories of this nation. Check out the preceding link not only to learn more about what’s happening, but also for suggestions on how to support the Zinn Education Project in its valuable work!
¡Hola a todos! I hope everyone had a wonderful Valentine’s Day. Below are numerous resources that touch on identity, family, and testimony. I know I’ve shared a lot, but there were just so many to choose from this week! I hope these are of use to everyone. Have a wonderful weekend.
¡Hola a todos! I really hope you find the resources I shared helpful. I know it was enjoyable collecting them.
– Latinos in Kid Lit shared a book review of When the Moon Was Ours by Anna Marie McLemore. We haven’t read this one yet at Vamos a Leer, but it looks really interesting: “Teaching this novel opens up the opportunity to research different legends, traditions, and cultural practices in relation to gender plurality and sexuality.”
— Literary Hub Shared Marlon James’ and his thoughts in the article “Why I’m Done Talking About Diversity.” “The fact that we’re still having them [panels on diversity] not only means that we continue to fail, but the false sense of accomplishment in simply having one is deceiving us into thinking that something was tried.”
– Lastly, La Fundación Cuatro Gatos shared the link to download for free Literatura y poder. Las censuras en la literature infantile y juvenil.“La exposición compuesta por una serie de paneles divulgativos, ordenados de manera cronológica, enriquecida por documentos originales de la época y analizada detalladamente por profesionales e investigadores, nos acerca con una mirada libre y fresca los detalles más importantes a tener en cuenta para poder comprender y entender en profundidad el poder de la literatura infantil y juvenil.”
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.
¡Hola a todos! I hope you have a good weekend. Enjoy the materials for this week. I know I had a really fun time gathering them. Let me know what you think, I would love to hear your thoughts.
– As the 50th anniversary of UNESCO’s founding of International Literacy Day, we wanted to share with you The Literacy Project, where they honor past and present efforts to reduce literacy at a global scale.
– Lastly, again from Teaching for Change, we discovered the Smithsonian’s Global Folklorist Challenge where young people between the ages 8-18 are challenging and inspired to interview the elders in their community.
My name is Valeria and I am so excited to contribute to this amazing project! I am a Masters candidate in Latin American Studies and a second year law school student at the University of New Mexico (UNM). I am happy to work under Keira as a graduate assistant in K-12 outreach programs at the UNM Latin American and Iberian Institute. I will be your handy dandy translator of curricula for Latin American books to use in the classroom. I look forward to working for all of you and I hope that my work helps to further your goals of implementing bilingual/Latin American books in your lesson plans. I want to take this opportunity to give you some brief information about myself so you can get to know me a little better.
I am the daughter of Mexican immigrants, and although I grew up in Albuquerque I was always immersed in a deeply rich Latin American culture. Reading books like The House on Mango Street, In the Time of the Butterflies and Esperanza Rising when I was young was invaluable to me, especially because the majority of books we had to read in class did not have much Latin American influence, much less any characters that I could relate to on a cultural level.
I decided to get my Bachelor’s degree in Spanish and Sociology from UNM, where I worked with various non-profit organizations that focus on civil rights and education for minorities. Because I have spent my life in the immigrant community, I knew that I wanted to practice immigration law. I therefore decided to apply to the dual degree graduate program that the Latin American and Iberian Institute provides, and I have been working on my Masters and JD ever since! My concentrations for my Masters degree are in human rights and political science.
An important thing to know about me is that I am incredibly passionate about the Spanish language. I am an avid believer that Spanish must be both taught and preserved in the United States, especially considering how incredibly diverse we are as a country, and how important it is to acquire some sort of bilingual education. What better way to preserve the language than by implementing culturally-rich bilingual/Latin American books in K-12 programs, right?
So, as you can imagine, my contribution to Vamos a Leer is a perfect fit for me. I am so excited to work with such a great team of faculty, students, and community members; and I am even more excited to provide you with Spanish translations to different lesson plans and serve as a general resource to you. Estoy a sus órdenes, y estoy muy agradecida por tener la oportunidad de trabajar para ustedes.