Welcome Back! Our Reading List for the Year

Dear friends,

We’re excited to be back with you for the start of a new school year. Stay tuned for introductions to our current blogging team (with some returning from last year and others as fresh faces), news from the world of children’s lit for teachers, book reviews in English and Spanish, curated bibliographies, and more!

Today (September 10th) we’ll get underway with the 2018-2019 round of our local Vamos a Leer book group here in Albuquerque. Starting Monday (9/10), we’ll get together every month at Red Door Brewing in downtown Abq to enjoy a pint and discuss our favorite quotes. Join us if you’re local!

Below are the books that we’re looking forward to sharing with you. The complete list is the product of some amazing summertime days spent scouring the shelves and sifting through many worthwhile titles. Here’s a printable flyer for quick reference. Enjoy!!

Cheers,
Keira

SEPTEMBER 10th: The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Pérez • Lee & Low Books, 2017 •
Grades 3-6

The First Rule of Punk

From debut author and longtime zine-maker Celia C. Pérez, The First Rule of Punk is a wry and heartfelt exploration of friendship, finding your place, and learning to rock out like no one’s watching.

There are no shortcuts to surviving your first day at a new school–you can’t fix it with duct tape like you would your Chuck Taylors. On Day One, twelve-year-old Malu (Maria Luisa, if you want to annoy her) inadvertently upsets Posada Middle School’s queen bee, violates the school’s dress code with her punk rock look, and disappoints her college-professor mom in the process. Her dad, who now lives a thousand miles away, says things will get better as long as she remembers the first rule of punk: be yourself.

The real Malu loves rock music, skateboarding, zines, and Soyrizo (hold the cilantro, please). And when she assembles a group of like-minded misfits at school and starts a band, Malu finally begins to feel at home. She’ll do anything to preserve this, which includes standing up to an anti-punk school administration to fight for her right to express herself!

OCTOBER 8th: I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez • Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2017 • Grades 9+

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian meets Jane the Virgin in this poignant but often laugh-out-loud funny contemporary YA about losing a sister and finding yourself amid the pressures, expectations, and stereotypes of growing up in a Mexican-American home.

Perfect Mexican daughters do not go away to college. And they do not move out of their parents’ house after high school graduation. Perfect Mexican daughters never abandon their family.

But Julia is not your perfect Mexican daughter. That was Olga’s role.

Then a tragic accident on the busiest street in Chicago leaves Olga dead and Julia left behind to reassemble the shattered pieces of her family. And no one seems to acknowledge that Julia is broken, too. Instead, her mother seems to channel her grief into pointing out every possible way Julia has failed.

But it’s not long before Julia discovers that Olga might not have been as perfect as everyone thought. With the help of her best friend Lorena, and her first love, first everything boyfriend Connor, Julia is determined to find out. Was Olga really what she seemed? Or was there more to her sister’s story? And either way, how can Julia even attempt to live up to a seemingly impossible ideal?

NOVEMBER 12th: The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Cartaya • Viking Books for Young Readers, 2017 • Grades 7+

The Epic Fail

Save the restaurant. Save the town. Get the girl. Make Abuela proud. Can thirteen-year-old Arturo Zamora do it all or is he in for a BIG, EPIC FAIL?

For Arturo, summertime in Miami means playing basketball until dark, sipping mango smoothies, and keeping cool under banyan trees. And maybe a few shifts as junior lunchtime dishwasher at Abuela’s restaurant. Maybe. But this summer also includes Carmen, a cute poetry enthusiast who moves into Arturo’s apartment complex and turns his stomach into a deep fryer. He almost doesn’t notice the smarmy land developer who rolls into town and threatens to change it. Arturo refuses to let his family and community go down without a fight, and as he schemes with Carmen, Arturo discovers the power of poetry and protest through untold family stories and the work of Jose Marti.

DECEMBER 10th: Wild Beauty by Anna-Maria McLemore • Feiwel & Friends, 2017 • Grades 7+

Wild Beauty

Love grows such strange things.

Anna-Marie McLemore’s debut novel The Weight of Feathers garnered fabulous reviews and was a finalist for the prestigious YALSA Morris Award, and her second novel, When the Moon was Ours, was longlisted for the 2016 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. Now, in Wild Beauty, McLemore introduces a spellbinding setting and two characters who are drawn together by fate—and pulled apart by reality.

For nearly a century, the Nomeolvides women have tended the grounds of La Pradera, the lush estate gardens that enchant guests from around the world. They’ve also hidden a tragic legacy: if they fall in love too deeply, their lovers vanish. But then, after generations of vanishings, a strange boy appears in the gardens.

The boy is a mystery to Estrella, the Nomeolvides girl who finds him, and to her family, but he’s even more a mystery to himself; he knows nothing more about who he is or where he came from than his first name. As Estrella tries to help Fel piece together his unknown past, La Pradera leads them to secrets as dangerous as they are magical in this stunning exploration of love, loss, and family.

JANUARY 14th: Step Up to the Plate, Maria Singh by Uma Krishnaswami • Tú Books, 2017 • Grades 3-5

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Nine-year-old Maria Singh longs to play softball in the first-ever girls’ team forming in Yuba City, California. It’s the spring of 1945, and World War II is dragging on. Miss Newman, Maria’s teacher, is inspired by Babe Ruth and the All-American Girls’ League to start a girls’ softball team at their school. Meanwhile, Maria’s parents–Papi from India and Mama from Mexico–can no longer protect their children from prejudice and from the discriminatory laws of the land. When the family is on the brink of losing their farm, Maria must decide if she has what it takes to step up and find her voice in an unfair world. In this fascinating middle grade novel, award-winning author Uma Krishnaswami sheds light on a little-known chapter of American history set in a community whose families made multicultural choices before the word had been invented.

FEBRUARY 11th: Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera • Riverdale Avenue Books, 2016 • Grades 9 +

Juliet Takes a Breath

Juliet Milagros Palante is leaving the Bronx and headed to Portland, Oregon. She just came out to her family and isn’t sure if her mom will ever speak to her again. But Juliet has a plan, sort of, one that’s going to help her figure out this whole “Puerto Rican lesbian” thing. She’s interning with the author of her favorite book: Harlowe Brisbane, the ultimate authority on feminism, women’s bodies, and other gay-sounding stuff.

Will Juliet be able to figure out her life over the course of one magical summer? Is that even possible? Or is she running away from all the problems that seem too big to handle? With more questions than answers, Juliet takes on Portland, Harlowe, and most importantly, herself.

MARCH 11th: The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo • HarperTeen, 2018 • Grades 7 +

The Poet X

Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.

But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about.

With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself. So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out. But she still can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.

Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.

APRIL 8th: The Disturbed Girl’s Dictionary by NoNieqa Ramos • Carolrhoda Lab, 2018 • Grades 9 + 

The Disturbed Girls DictionaryMacy’s school officially classifies her as “disturbed,” but Macy isn’t interested in how others define her. She’s got more pressing problems: her mom can’t move off the couch, her dad’s in prison, her brother’s been kidnapped by Child Protective Services, and now her best friend isn’t speaking to her. Writing in a dictionary format, Macy explains the world in her own terms—complete with gritty characters and outrageous endeavors. With an honesty that’s both hilarious and fearsome, slowly Macy reveals why she acts out, why she can’t tell her incarcerated father that her mom’s cheating on him, and why her best friend needs protection . . . the kind of protection that involves Macy’s machete.

March 16, 2018 | Week in Review

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Saludos a todxs,

As the week draws to a close, we are pleased to share our findings from happenings related to Latinx narratives, children’s literature, and multicultural education, but first we acknowledge the humbling power and strength of the many students and teachers who marched, stood, or took a knee this week to protest shootings within schools. To be inspired by the students’ actions and to fit them within a larger history of social protest by youth, visit the Zinn Education Project on Twitter.

~ Keira

  • We start with a piece from the NYTimes: “Black Kids Don’t Want to Read About Harriet Tubman All the Time.” It’s an article that resonates with a lot of our internal conversations here at Vamos a Leer. The author, Denen Millner, acknowledges the advances in making children’s literature more inclusive, but critiques the industry’s ongoing tendency to focus on the mirror images of “degradation and endurance” of her people. She writes, “You can fill nearly half the bookshelves in the Schomburg with children’s books about the civil rights movement, slavery, basketball players and musicians, and various “firsts.” These stories consistently paint African-Americans as the aggrieved and the conquerors, the agitators and the superheroes who fought for their right to be recognized as full human beings…Meanwhile, stories about the everyday beauty of being a little human being of color are scarce.”
  • Following up on last week’s article we shared on  What Do the Allegations Against Sherman Alexie Mean for Native Literature?,  now we draw your attention to Booktoss’ analysis of “The Single Story of ‘Part-Time Indian'” and related resources for expanding your bookshelf’s collection of indigenous writers for young readers. p.s. if you haven’t already, definitely take a moment to watch the TED talk with Chimamanda Adichie!
  • Lee & Low’s blog, The Open Book, is offering an ongoing series exploring what culturally responsive teaching looks like at different grade levels, and offering concrete examples and resources to go along with that. This week, they focused on Grade 4: Studying Informational Text .
  • Also from The Open Book, an interview featuring Maya Christina Gonzalez on Honoring Francisco X. Alarcón and Family. “Released last fall from the Children’s Book Press imprint of LEE & LOW BOOKS, Family Poems for Every Day of the Week/Poemas familiares para cada día de la semana is a celebratory collection of poems that highlights the daily life of children every day of the week while also honoring the experiences of Latino poet Francisco X. Alarcón, who passed away in January 2016. We interviewed illustrator Maya Christina Gonzalez about the important role that family and friends play in Family Poems for Every Day of the Week and what the creative process was like.”
  • From the amazing Jacqueline Woodson’s Twitter feed, we were tuned into this feature of Slam Poet Elizabeth Acevedo Debuts Novel, ‘The Poet X’.When asked what gave her the idea to write the novel, Acevedo responds with ” I was teaching eighth grade English Language Arts at a school with a high population of students of Latin American descent. One day, one of my students asked me why we never read books with students that looked like her and her classmates. I decided to write a book for her, and her classmates, and my younger self, and my best friend, for anyone who wants to read a story from a place that feels familiar.” Definitely a new #TBR for us here at Vamos a Leer!
  • Dwelling for a moment on Acevedo, here’s another review of the book and its impact for reclaiming heritage for young adult readers. “While struggles with faith, family, and self-acceptance are not unique teenage experiences, it is their presentation through the lens of Xiomara’s Afro-Latina heritage that makes her story a startling standout. “
  • Edi Rodríguez at CrazyQuiltEdit tackled the issues of #kidlitwomen in two recent posts titled Black Girls Economics in Young Adult Fiction and Black Girls Economics in Young Adult Fiction part 2 or This is What Marley Dias Was Talking About, a sobering reminder of how little representation and opportunities exist for authors of color. This series is part of her March effort to celebrate “Women’s History month with 31 days of posts focused on improving the climate for osical and gender equality in the children’s and teens’ industry.” She invites everyone to join the conversation on her blog or follow on Twitter via #kidlitwomen. She opens her post on Black Girls Economics with this poignant quote from Jacqueline Woodson, “What am I going to do about a time of my life in which the brilliance of Black girls had no mirror?”
  • Continuing with the theme of #KidLitWomen, Debbie Reese of American Indians in Children’s Literature is running a “campaign to lift Indigenous women who have written books for children and teens.” Visit her blog to be inspired, open your mind to new writers, and benefit from her hard work in compiling amazing titles from which you can choose. As she notes in the conclusion to her March 10th post on the topic: “I made an Indigenous #KidLitWomen pdf for you that has book titles on it, plus some gorgeous covers! Right after the book title is the name of the Native woman. In parenthesis is that woman’s nation, followed by the publisher and year the book was published. Here’s what it looks like (and beneath the image of it, you’ll see the book list), but hit that pdf link and print it out as many times as you want! Take it with you to the book store, to the library… to your next book club meeting!”
  • We’re a bit late catching wind of this resource, but still couldn’t resist sharing: 21 Books for an Inclusive Read Across America Day. It starts with Yo Soy Muslim, which we recently reviewed here, as well as many of our other favorite titles, such as Drum Dream Girl, Separate is Never Equal, Mama’s Nightingale, and more!
  • Similarly, we wish we’d found this sooner, but it maintains its power today, because every month should be Black History Month! From The Conscious Kid, Black Books Matter: Children’s Books Celebrating Black Boys. This is a “curated list of children’s books celebrating Black boys, in partnership with Moms of Black Boys United. These books center, reflect, and affirm Black boys, and were written and illustrated by Black authors and artists.
  • Finally, if you’re in the New York area in April, you might consider registering for The Color of Children’s Literature Conference organized by Kweli, an online magazine whose “mission is to nurture emerging writers of color and create opportunities for their voices to be recognized and valued….[their] vision is for a world where the narratives being told reflect the truth of our histories and the possibilities for our future.”

An Américas Award Interview: Monica Brown

Buenas! As the school year winds down we are delighted to share another Américas Award interview, this time speaking with Monica Brown. Recently, her book, Lola Levine, Drama Queen, was selected as a Bluebonnet Award Finalist – and she just published the fourth book in her chapter book series, Lola Levine Meets Jelly and Bean. Be sure to keep an eye out this September for her new book, Frida and her Animalitos, illustrated by John Parra!

~Hania

Vamos-a-Leer-Interview-Monica-Brown.pngMonica Brown is an accomplished children’s book author whose works inspire children and young readers to think deeply, beautifully, and critically about the world around them.

Among the many praises bestowed upon her works, the Américas Award has been twice awarded to her, including for Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People in 2012 and My Name is Celia / Me llamo Celia in 2004.  The repeated accolades and starred reviews she has received all attest to her ability to create beautiful, moving books that encourage empathy and understanding among young readers. Inspired by her Peruvian-American heritage and a desire to share Latino/a stories with children, she writes, as she explains, “from a place of deep passion, job, and commitment to producing the highest possible quality of literature for students.”

Here, the author converses with Hania Mariën of the Vamos a Leer blog as she poses questions about Brown’s work, her inspirations, and the importance of bringing Latinx literature into the classroom. For more information, including publications and supporting educational resources, visit http://www.monicabrown.net.

May, 2017

HANIA MARIËN: You mention that Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match was rejected many times. Since its publication you have published several other books featuring Marisol. What do you think allowed for this eventual publishing success? Can we attribute it in part to a growing awareness of the need for more diverse characters or is there more to it?

MarisolMONICA BROWN: With Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match/no combina it took a small, multicultural children’s press based in San Francisco to take that “risk” of publishing a children’s book that talked honestly about the multiracial experience.  That press was Children’s Book Press, now an imprint of the equally visionary publishers Lee and Low.  I’ve been privileged to work with principled editors with courage and vision—trailblazers like Adriana Dominguez, Gabby Baez Ventura, and Nikki Garcia, among other amazing women.

HANIA MARIËN: You say that bilingual books offer “moments of multiple literacy.” Can you tell us a bit more about what you mean by that?

MONICA BROWN: Bilingual books offer the chance for readers to see two beautiful languages side by side on the page.  In Latinx families, there are often generational differences in terms of language. In my family for example, my mother’s first language is Spanish and second language is English. For me it’s the reverse. My Peruvian grandmother spoke only Spanish. A bilingual book allows children to enjoy reading times in two languages, in one, or the other, and also to acquire more language skills as children learn from contextualization and observing the art.

HANIA MARIËN: In an interview with La Bloga you mention that you put a great deal of time and effort into library research for your biographies as part of an effort to honor the histories of people whom the official record has often overlooked.  Do you ever have to look beyond the library for information about their lives? How do you translate your findings into “living” characters?

 MONICA BROWN: In my other life, I’m a literature professor, so I welcome the researchneruda aspects of my children’s biographies.  Some of it involves traditional research and in other cases I rely on interviews, film, creative works and even music.  For my biography Pablo Neruda, Poet of the People, for example, I read his collected words—his gift for language and lyricism inspired, and I hope, infused my writing. Listening to Tito Puente and Celia Cruz’s music was a central part of my creative process in trying to capture their spirit between the pages of a book!

HANIA MARIËN: You say you want all children to feel that their only limitation is their own imagination, and that it is our jobs as teachers, writers, artists and activists to make sure that this is true. What factors (beyond students’ imagination) do you believe currently present the most pressing limitations for children’s future?

MONICA BROWN: I think we have many challenges in terms of public education. We need more funding to provide smaller class sizes, a livable wage for teachers (a huge problem in my state of Arizona), resources for English language learners, as well as culturally representative curriculum that reflects the incredibly diverse history (and population) of children living in the United States. We’ve all heard of information poverty, but I worry equally about imagination poverty. Our children need access to literature, music, and the arts. They need books to model, inspire, instill pride, and affirm.  Books to inspire dreams and aspiration. When I tell the story of Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez (Side by Side: The Story of Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez/Lado a Lado: la historia de Dolores Huerta y Cesar Chavez) or introduce, bold, creative characters like Marisol McDonald (Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match/no combina, Marisol McDonald and the Clash Bash/ y la fiesta sin equal, and Marisol McDonald and the Monster/y el monstruo) and Lola Levine (The Lola Levine Chapter book Series), I hope children feel more free in their identity, less limited by the stereotypical gendered and racial images they encounter in their everyday life.

HANIA MARIËN: Lastly, drawing upon your dedication to preserving and promoting cultures of the Américas, is there any advice or inspiration you can offer to the teachers reading this interview who may have young Latino/a students in their classrooms?

MONICA BROWN: Teachers can save lives, and they certainly shape young lives.  I was very lucky to have a tía who was a kindergarten teacher who gave me wonderful books at young age and led me on this path—a life built around words, stories, narrative, cultural celebration and creative expression. Books matter. Creativity matters. The opportunity to inspire young minds is a gift.  My advice is to offer books that reflect our Latinx student’s culture and proud heritage, and books that affirm bilingualism. This will counter messages of hate, anti-immigrant and “English only” rhetoric that have been even more blatant under our current administration. I am the proud child of an immigrant. We are here and we are staying. We all have different stories, but can be proud of a collective of care, nurturing, and pride in and for our children.

 


Book images and author photograph reprinted courtesy of the author directly from Monica Brown’s website. 

February 10th | Week in Review

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¡Hola a todos! This week’s Week in Review focuses on resources that look at questions such as, what does it mean to be a teacher, and what responsibilities does that entail, especially in these times? I really hope the resources are of help to you, I always love gathering the materials and learning with you.

A Talk with Teachers: Revisiting James Baldwin’s Vision for Education is an article shared by Teaching for Change. Here is a snippet of Baldwin’s view of education and teachers, “one of the paradoxes of education was that precisely at the point when you begin to develop a conscience, you must find yourself at war with your society. It is your responsibility to change society if you think of yourself as an educated person.”

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December 9th | Week in Review

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¡Hola a todos! Winter break is about to start, so this is is my last post for this year. It is an honor for me to share all of these resources. I can’t wait to see what 2017 brings to all of us. I hope the coming holidays bring you peace, happiness, serenity, and excitement.

– Our Facebook friends Latinos in Kid Lit shared Creating a Diverse Book Legacy: Interview with Culture Chest Founder. “We are a humble startup with big dreams of promoting culture through books, toys, and other avenues.”

– Also, Lee & Low Books shared their top 5: Getting in the Winter Spirit Reading List. I
personally like the book The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

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September 18th | Week in Review

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¡Hola a todos! I hope everyone is doing well considering the climactic circumstances we are under. I am sending you positive vibes and lots of love.

— Teaching Tolerance shared Developing Empathy resources for Pre K- 12 teachers.

– Our Américas Award friends shared on their Facebook page an important article that highlights the reality of diverse children’s book. BookRiot Justina Ireland questions “Where Are All the YA Books for Kids of Color: September Edition.”

— Also, on their Facebook page Lee & Low Books shared “12 YA Books with Characters of Color and LGBTQ Characters.”

-Here is a review of the advance reader’s copy of The Distance Between Us, a memoir for the young readers shared by our friends in Facebook, Latinxs in Kid Lit. “The Distance Between Us thrums with novelistic tension and detail, offering chiseled portraits of individuals and rendering the settings they come from in vivid form.”

Cuatrogatos shared the book trailer to El Viejito del Sillón, a book by Antonio Orlando Rodríguez published in Mexico.

– Lastly, Anansesem: The Caribbean Children’s Literature Magazine shared that “Books Have The Power to Include, to Exclude and to Create Heroes.” “All children should be seen. No child should have to qualify for entry into the world of picture books. They are powerful. They have the power to include, to exclude and to create heroes.”


Image: Candles. Reprinted from Flickr user Amranur Rahman under CC©.

November 11th | Week in Review

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Hola a todos! This Week in Review is quite long, but I assure you it is full of resources and knowledge that needs to be shared.

ColorLines shared a recent snippet from the show Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, inviting readers to “Watch John Oliver Break Down How School Resegregation Hurts Students.” “Black and Latino children are more likely to attend school with inexperienced teachers who are then less likely to offer a college prep curriculum… [and are] 6 times as likely to be in poverty schools.”

— Lee & Low’s blog, The Open Book, shared a post on “Books as Bricks: Building a Diverse Classroom Library and Beyond,” which offers a list of recommendations for teachers looking to diversify their class and school libraries.

– The Horn Book published an article on “Decolonizing Nostalgia: When Historical Fiction Betrays Readers of Color” by Sarah Hannah Gómez, in which she writes: “Omitting nonwhites from episodic historical fiction and the everyday history that informs our lives today says that the only contribution by people of color to society is conflict. Deleting them from the continuous line of history is a lie that perpetuates this insidious myth. And middle-grade historical fiction has a long way to go to acknowledge this betrayal to readers and attempt to overcome it.”

— The blog, Reading While White, shared a guest post with one of our favorite authors, Yuyi Morales, who discusses “Day of the Dead, Ghosts, and the Work We Do as Writers and Artists.” Morales offers a beautiful discussion of her personal practices related to Día de los Muertos and the implications of its distortion in the general media and children’s books.

– The Facebook page Raising Race Conscious Children shared the article,
Telling Poor, Smart Kids That All It Takes Is Hard Work to Be as Successful as Their Wealthy Peers is a Blatant Lie,” which explores how these students face systemic disadvantages even though they work hard.

— Also, Fundación Cuatrogatos recommends the book Corre que te pillo. Juegos y juguetes, which pulls together 27 games and toys that have existed since the early century in Latin America and other regions around the world

The Zinn Education Project just shared The #NoDAPL syllabus for high school and adults. This resource contextualizes how the current resistance in North Dakota is tied to a “broader historical, political, economic, and social context going back over 500 years to the first expeditions of Columbus” and features the practices of “Indigenous peoples around the world [who] have been on the frontlines of conflicts like Standing Rock for centuries.” “

— From We Need Diverse Books, we learned of the recent article, “The Case of the Missing Books/ 10 Years of Data,” written by children’s book author and artist Maya Gonzalez to highlight the lack of diversity in children’s literature over the last decade.d. “The graph below shows the children’s books that were missing by POC and Indigenous people in the children’s book industry over the last 10 years.”

Lee & Low Books just released Rainbow Weaver/Tejedora del arcoíris. The story is about a Mayan young girl named Ixchel and her quest to create a beautiful weaving from unusual materials.

— Lastly, Teaching Tolerance shared What We’re Reading This Week: November 4, a list of resources for critical and conscientious teaching in middle and high school classrooms.

Abrazos,
Alin Badillo


Image: Street Art. Reprinted from Flickr user ARNAUD_Z_VOYAGE under CC©.