Reading Roundup: 10 Latino Children’s Books Celebrating the Natural World

Aprils 2016 Reading Roundup¡Buenos días!

In celebration of Earth Day, this month I have put together a list of books involving Latin America and the natural world. While creating this list, I was continually thinking about our everyday interactions with nature. This month is the perfect time for openly and beautifully reflecting on what it means to interact with the earth, and I hope that these books will provide a platform to do so. These books are a celebration of the natural world, including plants, animals, the sun and the sky. In addition, they draw connections to conservation, life cycles, food and medicines. I hope everyone finds them inspiring!


Parrots Over Puerto Rico
Written by Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore
Collages by Susan L. Roth
Published by Lee & Low Books Inc.
ISBN: 9781620140048
Age Level: 6-11

Above the treetops of Puerto Rico flies a flock of parrots as green as their island home. . . . These are Puerto Rican parrots. They lived on this island for millions of years, and then they nearly vanished from the earth forever.

Puerto Rican parrots, once abundant, came perilously close to extinction in the 1960s due to centuries of foreign exploration and occupation, development, and habitat destruction. In this compelling book, Roth and Trumbore recount the efforts of the scientists of the Puerto Rican Parrot Recovery Program to save the parrots and ensure their future. Woven into the parrots’ story is a brief history of Puerto Rico itself, from before the first human settlers to the present day.

With striking collage illustrations, a unique format, and engaging storytelling, Parrots Over Puerto Rico invites readers to witness the amazing recovery efforts that have enabled Puerto Rican parrots to fly over their island once again.

My thoughts:
I absolutely loved this book, and it is perfect for teaching Earth Day! Roth’s collages are incredibly captivating and I could not help but take time looking at their details. This book ties the history of the Puerto Rican parrots to the history of Puerto Rico itself, therefore teaching about the effect that actions in history have on the environment. Just like Puerto Rico’s history of colonialism and becoming a commonwealth state of the United States, the Puerto Rican parrots have had a difficult history, and they have survived and continue to persevere. This book also tells about the need for intervention in order to prevent the extinction of the parrots by depicting human efforts to save the parrots. It tells in detail the processes that scientists and conservationists have taken towards saving these birds, and at the end of the book there are photos of the efforts with nonfictional descriptions. In addition, Lee & Low Books has a guide for educators that I encourage you to check out! Continue reading

Reading Roundup: 10 Books About Indigenous Peoples of Latin America

Nov 2015 Indigenous Peoples

¡Buenos días!

I hope everyone is having a great Thanksgiving! The Reading Roundup I’ve created this month involves books about Indigenous peoples of Latin America. With all of the stereotyped Pilgrims and Indians floating around, I hope that these books can be of use in the classroom for depicting a more accurate view of Native peoples and cultures in the Americas. I personally enjoyed reading and writing about these books, and I hope you enjoy them too!


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Book Review: Caminar

We had such a wonderful time with our book group on Monday night! Everyone really loved this book.  If you didn’t get the chance to join us, we’d love to hear your thoughts on the book.  If you haven’t had the chance to read it yet, it definitely comes highly recommended from Vamos a Leer.  We hope you’ll add it to your TBR list!

Written by Skila Brown
ished by Candlewick Press
ISBN: 9780763665166
Age Level: 10 and up


Carlos knows that when the soldiers arrive with warnings about the Communist rebels, it is time to be a man and defend the village, keep everyone safe. But Mama tells him not yet — he’s still her quiet moonfaced boy. The soldiers laugh at the villagers, and before they move on, a neighbor is found dangling from a tree, a sign on his neck: Communist. Mama tells Carlos to run and hide, then try to find her. . . . Numb and alone, he must join a band of guerillas as they trek to the top of the mountain where Carlos’s abuela lives. Will he be in time, and brave enough, to warn them about the soldiers? What will he do then? A novel in verse inspired by actual events during Guatemala’s civil war, Caminar is the moving story of a boy who loses nearly everything before discovering who he really is.

My thoughts:

Like Journey of Dreams by Marge Pellegrino, Caminar offers a fictionalized account of the violent Guatemalan Civil War that lasted over thirty years.  Both books tell their story through the eyes of a young protagonist, but Brown’s Caminar is a novel in verse.  The style of this genre makes Caminar a perfect introduction to a subject that’s often not covered in young adult fiction or non-fiction.  While the topic itself is certainly complex, the novel in verse format lends itself to struggling readers and ELLs.  Each page is its own poem, so there aren’t long chapters to wade through or difficult dialogues that can be frustrating for readers to try and follow.   With shorter text, teachers can spend more time focusing on meaning, symbolism and imagery in each poem.  Because it is poetry, it would make for a great read aloud, teacher or student led, providing great oral language practice.  I think novels in verse are a great opportunity for focused poetry study as well.  As a novel, they’re longer than the typical poems we teach in the k-12 classroom.  While many students can be intimidated by poetry, the novel in verse gives them time to settle in both to reading poetry and exploring the particular author’s style.  Brown’s work offers so many examples of the creative things a writer can do with poetry just through arrangement, spacing and shape of the poems that it really lends itself to a poetry unit.

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¡Mira Look!: Themed Book Lists: Indigenous Peoples & Rights

Photo from Flickr CC user: Casbr

Photo from Flickr CC user: Casbr

Hello readers! This week I wanted to give you some resources on teaching about indigenous peoples and rights. Sadly, unjustly and unfortunately, the stories, histories and struggles of Native peoples are left out of history, literature and culture. But their stories deserve to be heard, to be understood and cherished. Many children in our schools identify as a Native American, or a Native Central or South American, we owe it to them to enlighten ourselves to the resources available that showcase their culture and share it with their classmates. Not all of these books are award winners, but I will highlight the ones that are and the links are directly to the book’s Amazon page. Continue reading

WWW: De Colores – The Raza Experience

Logo from the De Colores blog can be found at:

Logo from the De Colores blog can be found at:

The libraries are loaded with children’s books that address Latino culture. Some of these books provide multifaceted, culturally honest insight into the histories and experiences of Latino people. Many do not. It’s fair to say that we can easily fill a room with “multicultural” books that are superficial or even plainly dishonest.

Luckily, De Colores: “The Raza Experience in Books for Children” has recently hit the blogosphere, reviewing and critiquing “children’s and young adult books about Raza peoples throughout the Diaspora.” The blog’s contributors–a dream team of award-winning authors, educators, community activists, and artists–have already reviewed dozens of books, creating an essential resource for parents, teachers, and librarians who are interested in moving beyond token treatment of heroes and holidays.  Continue reading

En la Clase: Resources for teaching about the Maya

As you may already know, Journey of Dreams is our featured young adult book for the month of April.  You can read our book review here or a brief description of the book here.

Photograph of Maya woman weaving in Chiapas, Mexico, provided courtesy of Beth Dove, © 2009.

Photograph of Maya woman weaving in Chiapas, Mexico, provided courtesy of Beth Dove, © 2009.

The book revolves around the story of a Mayan family from the highlands of Guatemala. It touches on so many different topics that there are a number of ways to integrate it into our classrooms (which I discuss in the book review).  One of the most important things the book offers though, is a glimpse into the culture and worldview of the Maya.  Cultural competency is a word we hear being used more and more frequently in conversations about standards and the purpose of educational curriculum.  Continue reading

Book Review: Journey of Dreams

journey of dreamsThanks so much to all of our wonderful book group members who came out last night to discuss the book! We all agreed, this is a great story! I’ve shared my own thoughts about the book below.

Journey of Dreams
Written by Marge Pellegrino
Published by Frances Lincoln, 2009
ISBN:   9781847800619
Ages: 11 and up

Description (from Goodreads):

For the peaceful highlanders of Guatemala, life has become a nightmare. Helicopters slash like machetes through the once-quiet air. Soldiers patrol the streets, hunting down suspected guerillas. Villagers mysteriously disappear and children are recruited as soldiers. Tomasa’s family is growing increasingly desperate, especially after Mama goes into hiding with Tomasa’s oldest brother. Finally, after their house is razed to the ground and the villagers massacred, Tomasa, Manuelito, and baby Maria set off with Papa on a perilous journey to find Mama and Carlos, only to discover that where one journey ends, another begins. Continue reading