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.

The LAII also has a curriculum unit on “Educating Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students.”  These lessons focus on teaching younger students about race, culture, difference, acceptance, and respect, all things that can contribute to a stronger classroom community.

The literature we use in our classrooms is such an important tool for ensuring that we provide portrayals of identity that show how complex it really is.  Keira mentioned in her Sobre Septiembre post that as we highlight Hispanic Heritage Month, we’re also looking to diversify and expand beyond the stereotypical or superficial conversations that can be associated with any heritage month.

With this in mind, in today’s En la Clase, I’m sharing some ideas on how to use the Super Cilantro Girl | Juan Felipe Herrerachildren’s book Super Cilantro Girl/La Superniña del Cilantro with your students.  This bilingual book was written by Juan Felipe Herrera, the 2015-2016 US Poet Laureate, and illustrated by Honorio Robledo Tapia.  It was published a number of years ago, but I just came across it a few weeks ago.  In case it’s new to you as well, here’s a short description:

“What happens when a small girl suddenly starts turning green, as green as a cilantro leaf, and grows to be fifty feet tall? She becomes Super Cilantro Girl, and can overcome all obstacles, that’s what! Esmeralda Sinfronteras is the winning super-hero in this effervescent tale about a child who flies huge distances and scales tall walls in order to rescue her mom. Award-winning writer Juan Felipe Herrera taps into the wellsprings of his imagination to address and transform the concerns many first-generation children have about national borders and immigrant status. Honorio Robledo Tapia has created brilliant images and landscapes that will delight all children.”

Not only is it a book that I think students will really enjoy, but it provides a number of opportunities for discussing themes relevant to identity and community.  When we talk about the purpose of diverse literature, we highlight the ways in which literature is like a door, a window, or a mirror.  It can allow students to see a world different than their own, provide them some way to experience it, and/or act as a mirror in which they see their own reflection.  Super Cilantro Girl/La Superniña del Cilantro can provide all of this.  For students who have experienced what it’s like to have families separated by borders and immigration, the book will speak to all of the emotions they’ve felt as they’ve worried about far-away family members.  For those who’ve never experienced this, the book allows them to begin to think about what this may be like, providing the means to understand a different point of view and practice the skill of empathy.

Super Cilantro Girl | Juan Felipe HerreraAll of this is done through the story of a young girl who becomes her own superhero.  Comic books have been critiqued for their largely white, male protagonists, but in this one, our superhero is a young Mexican American girl whose superpower comes from a plant indigenous to Mexico.  This undoes so many stereotypes, and it’s essential that these aspects of the book be discussed with students.

Too often literature portrays children as if they have no agency or power.  Herrera’s Super Cilantro Girl/La Superniña del Cilantro reinforces the idea of student agency and empowerment, and shows how Esmeralda creates something beautiful with her power when she transforms the border.

While the book can obviously be used in a unit exploring immigration or the U.S-Mexico border, I think it’s also a perfect book for exploring identity and diversity. . .and what student doesn’t want to turn themselves into a superhero?

After reading and discussing the book, ask students to think about the kind of superhero they would want to be.  Esmeralda’s transformation is triggered by her mother’s situation.  Encourage students to think about an issue or situation they wish they had a superpower to fix.  In many superhero stories, the superpower comes from a scientific lab or something otherworldly, but Esmeralda’s comes from an everyday plant.  What commonplace item from their own lives could give them a superpower?  Give students time to brainstorm and discuss their ideas with a partner, small group, or the whole class.  Then, have each student create an illustration of himself or herself as a superherSuper Cilantro Girl | Juan Felipe Herrerao.  This could even be a fun twist on the self-portraits we often have students do at the beginning of the year for Open House displays.  Once they’ve created their visual representation, ask them to write their own superhero story based on the theme or problem they brainstormed earlier.  If time allows, students can create their own comic book or graphic novel.

If you get the chance to do this with your students, I would LOVE to see their superheroes! I know I’ve only scratched the surface of what could be done with this book.  If you’ve read the book or used it in your classroom, I’d love to hear your thoughts (and so would our other teacher readers).  Just leave a comment down below.

For other suggestions on great children’s literature that explores identity, check out Colleen’s Reading Roundup of 10 Books with Diverse Latinx Perspectives and Alice’s İMira, Look! posts highlighting Pura Belpré winners.

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Book Giveaway: Merry Navidad!

Good afternoon, everyone!

Can you believe that the holidays are upon us!  I cannot!  Although we are sad to say that this is our last week of the Tuesday Giveaways for this semester, we are happy to have given out so many great books thanks to Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy’s gracious donation and we want to encourage you to look out for some more giveaways in the spring!  Vamos a Leer | Book Giveaway: Merry Navidad!Our final giveaway of the semester will be Merry Navidad!, co-authored by Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy, illustrated by Viví Escrivá, and translated into English by Rosa Zubizarreta.  This book is described as a “warm and vibrant collection of traditional Spanish Christmas carols, or villancicos, [in which] authors Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy bring to life the holiday traditions of Latin America and Spain. The creative English adaptations by Rosalma Zubizarreta both capture the spirit of the originals and add a new dimension to the songs. And Spanish illustrator Viví Escrivá‘s spirited illustrations are perfect backdrops for the lyrics, adding rich holiday flavor.”  It would be a great addition to classroom holiday activities for all age groups. Are you ready for a sing-along? Comment below and let us know! Have a happy and safe holiday season and don’t forget to check back in the spring for more giveaways!

Until spring,

Charla


Image: Photo of Merry Navidad! Reproduced from Alma Flor’s website.

Book Giveaway: Tales our Abuelitas Told/Cuentos que contaban nuestras abuelas!

Good afternoon, everyone!

We are in week eight of the giveaway series so make sure you comment this week for your second-to-last chance to win!  Thank you again to all who continue to comment each week and congratulations to the winner of last week’s giveaway!  This week’s giveaway includes Tales our Abuelitas Told, and the Spanish translation, Cuentos que contaban nuestras abuelas, written by Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy.  Vamos a Leer | Book Giveaway: Tales our Abuelitas Told/Cuentos que contaban nuestras abuelas!The book has won many recognitions, including the Literary Guild Medal, and the Kirkus Review Kirkus Best Books award.  In Tales our Abuelitas Told, “Twelve stories from varied roots of Hispanic culture come together in a colorful collection that includes talking ants, magic bagpipes, dancing goats, and flying horses. In some cases the tales emphasize a moral, such as looking for the good in any bad situation as in ‘Catlina the Fox.’ In others, the story illustrates the importance of friends, as in the case of ‘The Bird of One Thousand Colors.’  The authors seek to trace the origins of the stories through personal source notes, citing variants of the original story and the historical themes behind the tales. Of note is a tale of Juan Bobo that is included in this collection. Juan Bobo has entertained children and adults for more than five centuries with his antics and absent-mindedness. While Juan Bobo is well known by many, ‘The Bird of One Thousand Colors’ is a story that Alma Flor Ada was unable to trace to an original source, although she remembers being told the story by her grandmother.  Throughout the collection, culturally accurate illustrations catch the eye with vivid colors and intricate details that convey aspects of the story. Each story leads naturally to the next, keeping alive the oral traditions of a rich culture that spans the continents.”  The authors’ note tells that this book was indeed written as a way to keep the abuelitas memory alive and pass on the stories they once told.  School Library Journal recommends the book for grades three and up. Continue reading

Book Giveaway: Arrullos de la sirena, The Rooster who went to his Uncle’s Wedding, The Three Golden Oranges, The Lizard and the Sun/La lagartija y el sol, Rosa Raposa!

Good afternoon, everyone!

I want to start by saying thank you to all who continue to comment each week and by saying congratulations to the winner of last week’s giveaway!  This week, we are giving away a bit of a bigger package.  This week’s giveaway includes Alma Flor Ada’s Arrullos de la sirena, The Rooster who went to his Uncle’s Wedding, The Three Golden Oranges, The Lizard and the Sun/La lagartija y el sol, and F. Isabel Campoy’s Rosa Raposa.

Vamos a Leer | Book Giveaway: Arrullos de la sirena, The Rooster who went to his Uncle’s Wedding, The Three Golden Oranges, The Lizard and the Sun/La lagartija y el sol, Rosa Raposa!The first book, the very recently published, Arrullos de la sirena, written by Alma Flor Ada and illustrated by Jairo Linares Landinez, is a collection of rhyming verses, written in Spanish, which “captures the sheer joy felt upon the birth of a child.”  According to the Amazon description for the book, “The musicality of the poems makes them ideal for reading aloud.  Each one will evoke imagery for older children while being as soothing as a lullaby for younger ones.”  Great for all ages and quick to read, this book would make a great addition to any bilingual or Spanish speaking classroom! Continue reading

Book Giveaway: The Gold Coin PLUS Alma Flor’s Narration (CD)!

Good afternoon, everyone!

Congratulations to the winner of last week’s giveaway and thank you to all who commented!  This week, you can win Alma Flor Ada’s The Gold Coin and her narration of it on CD!  Vamos a Leer | Book Giveaway: The Gold Coin PLUS Alma Flor’s Narration (CD)!The Gold Coin was written by Alma Flor Ada and illustrated by Neil Waldman.  This book has received many awards and recognitions such as the Christopher Award Medal and the American Book Sellers Association Pick of the Lists Award.  The description reads, “While it reads as a folktale, it is an original story.  Trying to steal Doña Josefa’s gold, Juan follows this generous curandera through the countryside.  In the process, he is affected by the beauty of the natural world around him, the goodwill of the people who work the fields, and the spirit of the healer he is pursuing.  Neil Waldman’s poetic watercolors sensitively convey the beauty and diversity of the Central American landscape, as well as the inner transformation that Juan undergoes.”  This book has been recommended for kindergarten through grade three by the School Library Journal and Sherylanne Wesley shared her idea for a vocabulary activity for the classroom after reading the story right on the description page linked above. Continue reading

Book Giveaway: The Malachite Palace, Jordi’s Star, The Unicorn of the West, AND Alma Flor’s Narration of Them (CD)!

Good afternoon, everyone!

Congratulations to the winner of last week’s giveaway and thank you to all who commented!  This week, you can win three of Alma Flor Ada’s books and her narration of them on CD!  The three books are The Malachite Palace, Jordi’s Star, and The Unicorn of the West.

Vamos a Leer | Book Giveaway: The Malachite Palace/Jordi’s Star/The Unicorn of the West/AND Alma Flor’s Narration of Them (CD)!The first of the three, The Malachite Palace, was written by Alma Flor Ada and illustrated by Leonid Gore.  The book description reads “This original fairy tale celebrates the importance of freedom and the need to take responsibility for one’s own freedom.  Although the queen, the governess, and the lady-in-waiting all believe that the young princess is too delicate and refined to play with the neighborhood children, the princess herself decides otherwise.”  The School Library Journal recommends the book for children in pre-school up to grade three (ages four to eight years old).  On the same page with the book descriptions on Alma Flor’s website, there is a coloring page that you could print out and have the students color after reading the story together. Continue reading

Book Giveaway: Me llamo María Isabel/My Name is María Isabel

Good afternoon, everyone!

Congratulations to the winner of last week’s giveaway and thank you to all who commented!  TVamos a Leer | Book Giveaway: Me llamo María Isabel/My Name is María Isabelhis week, you can win Alma Flor Ada’s book, Me llamo María Isabel, and the English translation, My Name is María Isabel.  According to Alma Flor’s website, this book tells the story of “María Isabel, a Hispanic child growing up in the U.S., [who] begins having problems in her new classroom when her teacher changes her name to Mary. This compelling portrait of an experience common to many language minority children inspires discussions on self-identity and biculturalism.”  School Library Journal suggests this book for grades three and four. Continue reading