10 Children’s and YA Books about Sung & Unsung Latin@ Heroes

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Hello all!

In case you missed Keira’s Sobre Enero post, this month’s theme honors the many individuals, real or imagined, who populate the rich landscape of Latin@ literature for children and young adults.  This month’s Reading Roundup brings together a few of these heroes, both sung and unsung, whose actions inspired positive change.  While it is a monumental task to choose just a few of the many wonderful books that are out there, I’ve narrowed down the list to books that will encourage our students and children to honor their own truths. I also hope that these books will help expand the literary canon beyond those heroes whose stories are taught repeatedly. The books below encompass a diverse panorama of experiences, accomplishments, and outcomes.  To name a few, these remarkable figures displayed their passion through art, literature, activism, and even by simply passing on their knowledge to new generations.   May you enjoy these works as much as I enjoyed finding them!

Happy New Year!

Abrazos,
Colleen

Sélavi, That is Life: A Haitian Story of Hope
Written and Illustrated by Youme Landowne
Published by Cinco Puntos Press
ISBN: 0-938317-84-9
Age level: 5-7 years old

Description (from Good Reads):

The true story of Selavi (“that is life”), a small boy who finds himself homeless on the streets of Haiti. He finds other street children who share their food and a place to sleep. Together they proclaim a message of hope through murals and radio programs. Now in paper, this beautifully illustrated story is supplemented with photographs of Haitian children working and playing together, plus an essay by Edwidge Danticat. Included in the 2005 ALA Notable Children’s Book List and the Texas Bluebonnet Award Master List.

Youme Landowne is an artist and activist who has worked with communities in Kenya, Japan, Haiti, and Cuba to make art that honors personal and cultural wisdom. She makes her home in Brooklyn, New York, and rides her bike everywhere.

My thoughts:

When reflecting on cultural heroes, it can be easy to focus on already established and well-known figures.  In this, we often miss the opportunity to learn of the everyday heroes who have greatly impacted their communities, improved quality of life for others, and prompted justice in the face of adversity.  Sélavi, That is Life: A Haitian Story of Hope written and illustrated by Youme Landowne, beautifully exemplifies all of the above.  This bold and genuine true story reminds us that our actions make a difference, and that together we are stronger.  As those in the story know, “Alone…we may be a single drop of water, but together we can be a mighty river.”

selaviThis award winning book is presented in two parts: first, a narrative of children protagonists who prompted change in their community and, second, a historical reflection on Haiti written by Edwidge Danticat, an author whom we greatly admire on the Vamos blog.  I hope that you get to read Landowne’s book honoring the strength of the Haiti’s children and community.  If you’re in need of a bit more convincing, however, I invite you to read Alice’s thoughtful and comprehensive review.

Viva Frida
Written and Illustrated by Yuyi Morales
Photographed by Tim O’Meara
Published by Roaring Brook Press
ISBN: 978-1-59643-603-9
Age level: Grades K-3

Description (from Good Reads):

Frida Kahlo, one of the world’s most famous and unusual artists is revered around the world. Her life was filled with laughter, love, and tragedy, all of which influenced what she painted on her canvases.

Distinguished author/illustrator Yuyi Morales illuminates Frida’s life and work in this elegant and fascinating book.

My thoughts:

I became an instant fan of author and artist Yuyi Morales in my first month contributing to this blog when I read, Niño Wrestles the World.  And with each subsequent work that I find of hers, I continue to be enchanted by both her artistry and simplicity of prose; Viva Frida is no exception to this.  The book’s art consists of stop-motion puppets that beautifullyfrida capture symbols present in Frida Kahlo’s life and paintings, including la casa azul, deers, calaveras, Diego Rivera, and her pet dog and monkey.  The bilingual prose is sparse, but manages to convey her bold spirit.  For those young readers unfamiliar with the life and works of Frida Kahlo, they may not grasp the symbolism or understand how the words relate to her life.  Yet, this does not minimize the book’s impact, as it really does stand alone and context feels secondary.  A concluding mini biography of Frida’s life helps lend background info.

For a more extensive review of this book, please check out Lorraine’s ¡Mira Look! post from 2015.  As a highlight from her post, I can’t help but share a short video about how Yuyi Morales created the artwork for this visually stunning book!

That’s Not Fair: Emma Tenayuca’s Struggle for Justice /¡No es justo!: La lucha de Emma Tenayuca por la justicia
Written by Carmen Tafolla and Sharyll Teneyuca
Illustrated by Terry Ybáñez
Published by Wings Press
ISBN: 978-0-916727-33-8

Description (from Good Reads):

A vivid depiction of the early injustices encountered by a young Mexican-American girl in San Antonio in the 1920’s, this book tells the true story of Emma Tenayuca. Emma learns to care deeply about poverty and hunger during a time when many Mexican Americans were starving to death and working unreasonably long hours at slave wages in the city’s pecan-shelling factories. Through astute perception, caring, and personal action, Emma begins to get involved, and eventually, at the age of 21, leads 12,000 workers in the first significant historical action in the Mexican-American struggle for justice. Emma Tenayuca’s story serves as a model for young and old alike about courage, compassion, and the role everyone can play in making the world more fair.

My thoughts:

I really enjoyed this book.  Within the first pages, it becomes abundantly clear why Emma Tenayuca’s biographical story about Emma Tenayuca, a young, Mexican-American activist, story must be included in a post about heroes.   For this post, I would like to highlight Alice’s excellent review of It’s Not Fair/¡No es justo!  She writes:

This book is an excellent contribution to our effort to diversify the immigrant                 narrative, as it exposes not only the initial hardships of immigrating to the U.S., but also the myriad of injustices and human rights abuses that have existed and still do exist for Mexican-Americans upon arrival in the U.S. Emma Tenayuca, from a very young age, recognizes the importance of education and the unfairness of the society around her. Her sympathetic viewpoint, coupled with a focused desire to redress wrongs, leads her to become a pioneer for Mexican-American rights in the U.S.

In her post, you will also find detailed historical information about Emma Tenayuca as well as additional resources that can be used for further teaching.

Tomás and the Library Lady
Written by Pat Mora
Illustrated by Raul Colón
Published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.
ISBN: 0-679-80401-3
Age level: Ages 5-7

Description (from Pat Mora):

Tomás is a son of migrant workers. Every summer he and his family follow the crops north from Texas to Iowa, spending long, arduous days in the fields. At night they gather around to hear Grandfather’s wonderful stories. But before long, Tomás knows all the stories by heart. “There are more stories in the library,” Papa Grande tells him. The very next day, Tomás meets the library lady and a whole new world opens up for him. Based on the true story of the Mexican-American author and educator Tomás Rivera, a child of migrant workers who went on to become the first minority Chancellor in the University of California system, this inspirational story suggests what libraries–and education–can make possible. Raul Colón’s warm, expressive paintings perfectly interweave the harsh realities of Tomás’s life, the joyful imaginings he finds in books, and his special relationships with a wise grandfather and a caring librarian.

My thoughts:

Some readers may recall that in celebration of National Hispanic Heritage month, Vamos featured Tomás and the Library Lady.  For the post, Alice wrote an excellent review highlighting the life of Tomás Rivera, provides links to educational resources, and thoughtfully summarizes the book.  Indeed, it is a wonderful fit for honoring the life and works of Tomas Rivera.  Additionally, it is a superb example for this month’s theme of paying homage to the heroes that have inspired us.  In the case of Tomás and the Library Lady, written by Pat Mora and illustrated by Raul Colón, there are multiple “unsung heroes” to be recognized, including the farmworkers and his family.  However, the real hero of this book is “the library lady;” the person whom unknowingly impacted and shaped the life of author and educator, Tomás Rivera.  This very touching book teaches young readers that small actions can have big outcomes!  If you have not yet had a chance to share this book with a student or your own child, please do so – you won’t be disappointed!

A Library for Juana: The World of Sor Juana Inés
Written by Pat Mora
Illustrated by Beatriz Vidal
Published by Alfred A. Knopf
ISBN: 0-375-90643-6
Age level: 5-8 years old

Description (from Good Reads):

Juana Inés was just a little girl in a village in Mexico when she decided that the thing she wanted most in the world was her very own collection of books, just like in her grandfather’s library. When she found out that she could learn to read in school, she begged to go. And when she later discovered that only boys could attend university, she dressed like a boy to show her determination to attend. Word of her great intelligence soon spread, and eventually, Juana Inés was considered one of the best scholars in the Americas–something unheard of for a woman in the 17th century.

Today, this important poet is revered throughout the world and her verse is memorized by schoolchildren all over Mexico.

My thoughts:

Perhaps my admiration for Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz makes me partial in choosing this book about her, but I do so proudly!  Author Pat Mora and illustrator Beatriz Vidal do an excellent job representing this incredible scholar, poet, and activist and advocate.  The story beginsjuana with Juana Inés’ life as child and captures her instinctive thirst of learning.  And although we get the sense that this characteristic love of knowledge is innate to her – that she is truly someone extraordinary – the story’s inspirational tone is not lost on the reader; encouraging us, too, to ask questions, dig for answers, challenge norms, and live up to what we believe is our full potential.  The story of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz is one that every young person should learn about, particularly our young girls.  I am so happy that Pat Mora’s book, A Library for Juana: The World of Sor Juana Inés, makes this possible.

Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & her Family’s Fight for Desegregation
Written and Illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh
Published by Abrams Books for Young Readers
ISBN: 978-1-4197-1054-4
Age level: Ages 7-12

Description (from Good Reads):

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:

For the sake of stating the obvious, Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & her Family’s Fight for Desegregation, is an incredibly important book.  Despite my studies in Chicanx history and literature, I (somewhat abashedly) did not know of Sylvia Mendez and her family prior to reading Duncan Tonatiuh’s award winning book.  The Mendez v. Westminster School District case is not only important to Mexican American history; it is profoundly significant to the history of the U.S. and to the “canon” of civil rights activists who have contributed to creating a more just society.  I am deeply thankful to authors such as Tonatiuh, who bring the stories of often unknown heroes to light and make them accessible to young readers.

To read more on Tonatiuh’s, Separate is Never Equal and for classroom resources, head on over to the Katrina’s review and educator’s guide.           

The Lightning Dreamer: Cuba’s Greatest Abolitionist
Written by Margarita Engle
Published by Houghton Mifflin Publishing Company
ISBN: 978-0-547-80743-0
Age level: Ages 11-13

Description (from Good Reads):

Opposing slavery in Cuba in the nineteenth century was dangerous. The most daring abolitionists were poets who veiled their work in metaphor. Of these, the boldest was Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda, nicknamed Tula. In passionate, accessible verses of her own, Engle evokes the voice of this book-loving feminist and abolitionist who bravely resisted an arranged marriage at the age of fourteen, and was ultimately courageous enough to fight against injustice. Historical notes, excerpts, and source notes round out this exceptional tribute.

My thoughts:

Margarita Engle’s stunning novel in verse, The Lightning Dreamer: Cuba’s Greatest Abolitionist, introduces readers to a lesser known historical figure and hero.  This Pura Belpré Honor Book is well worth the read and Katrina’s review beautifully articulates why we should all learn about Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda (Tula):

Tula is a powerful character, not just because of what she believed, but because of how she chose to stand up for those beliefs.  She fought for equality and human rights through her stories and her poetry.  She used the power of words as a means to change the minds of those around her.  How valuable a lesson for the students in our classrooms—that our words are one of the most powerful tools we have for fighting against the things that try to hold us back.  I’ll leave you with the words from Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda that inspired the title of the book— “The slave let his mind fly free, and his thoughts soared higher than the clouds where lightning forms.”

Celia Cruz, Queen of Salsa
Written by Veronica Chambers
Illustrated by Julie Maren
Published by Dial
ISBN: 0803729707
Age level: Grades 2 – 4

Description (from Good Reads):

Everyone knows the flamboyant, larger-than-life Celia, the extraordinary salsa singer who passed away in 2003, leaving millions of fans brokenhearted. Now accomplished children’s book author Veronica Chambers gives young readers a lyrical glimpse into Celia’s childhood and her inspiring rise to worldwide fame and recognition. First-time illustrator Julie Maren truly captures the movement and the vibrancy of the Latina legend and the sizzling sights and sounds of her legacy

My thoughts:

I simply had to include Celia Cruz in this list!  Why?  She is a phenomenal artist beloved across the globe and if you can’t tell, I am a fan.    And lucky for us readers, author Veronica Chambers and illustrator Julie Maren bring her story to life in Celia Cruz, Queen of Salsa.  I really enjoyed this children’s book on Celia Cruz; it is beautifully illustrated, introduces readers to her childhood personality, and touches on – although briefly- the political climate in Cuba.  Many of us are well aware of Celia Cruz and her importance, and it never hurts to have one more resource to help celebrate and remember her life. Musicians, and their music, are always excellent educational tools!

If you’re curious for more on this book, check out Lorraine’s ¡Mira Look! post.  And for more on Celia, head on over to Jake’s WWW post!

My Tata’s Remedies/Los remedios de mi tata
Written by Roni Capin Rivera-Ashford
Illustrated by Antonio Castro L.
Published by Cinco Puntos Press
ISBN: 978-1-935955-91-7
Age level: Ages 7-11

Description (from Good Reads):

Aaron has asked his grandfather Tata to teach him about the healing remedies he uses. Tata is a neighbor and family elder. People come to him all the time for his soothing solutions and for his compassionate touch and gentle wisdom. Tata knows how to use herbs, teas, and plants to help each one. His wife, Grandmother Nana, is there too, bringing delicious food and humor to help Tata’s patients heal.  An herbal remedies glossary at the end of the book includes useful information about each plant, plus botanically correct drawings.

tataMy thoughts:

My Tata’s Remedies/Los remedios de mi tata, written by Roni Capin Rivera-Ashford and illustrated by Antonio Castro L., is a great representation of “everyday heroes.”  In the case of this beautifully illustrated and bilingual book, that hero is Aaron’s Tata Gus.  Tata Gus lovingly imparts culture, tradition, and knowledge by teaching his grandson about his healing remedies and his profound understanding of plants.  Along the way, Aaron also learns about Tata Gus’ own childhood and what it means to be a part of a community.   This thoughtful book encourages us – and our kiddos – to reflect on who are the “everyday heroes” in our own lives.

The Storyteller’s Candle/La velita de los cuentos
Written by Lucía González
Illustrated by Lulu Delacre
Published by Children’s Book Press
ISBN: 0892392223

Description (from Lee & Low Books):

The winter of 1929 feels especially cold to cousins Hildamar and Santiago—they arrived in New York City from sunny Puerto Rico only months before. Their island home feels very far away indeed, especially with Three Kings’ Day rapidly approaching.

But then a magical thing happened. A visitor appears in their class, a gifted storyteller and librarian by the name of Pura Belpré. She opens the children’s eyes to the public library and its potential to be the living, breathing heart of the community. The library, after all, belongs to everyone—whether you speak Spanish, English, or both.

The award-winning team of Lucía González and Lulu Delacre have crafted an homage to Pura Belpré, New York City’s first Latina librarian. Through her vision and dedication, the warmth of Puerto Rico came to the island of Manhattan in a most unexpected way.

My thoughts:

I would be remiss to not include Pura Belpré in this month’s theme.  She is an exceptional figure that had a direct impact on the communities that she served, the library patrons, and more broadly, on the world of Latino/a Children’s and Young Adult literature as the namesake of the, “Pura Belpré Award.”  Lucía González’s, The Storyteller’s Candle/La velita de los cuentos, excellently introduces the world to Belpré’s talents as a storyteller, her love for community, and how she creatively inspired young Latinos/as to let their imaginations run wild!  Author and illustrator Lulu Delacre provides beautiful artwork to accompany this thoughtful story.  I hope your interest is piqued!  In need of a little more information?  Read Alice’s awesome ¡Mira Look! review!

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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.

— For those of you who have been teaching Afro-Mexican content in your class, Remezcla shared the piece, These Afro-Mexican Women Learned the Dances of Their Ancestors Through YouTube. “A 2015 census identified 1.5 million Afro-Mexicans for the first time – an important step toward acknowledging all races and ethnicities that make up Mexico.”

–Here is some advice on Racism, Sexism, And Third Graders, compliments of our friends We Need Diverse Books on Facebook. “For the first time ever, I didn’t have to tell anyone to stop talking out of turn or to come back to the group; they were more engaged in this discussion than anything else we had done all year.

–For those who teach art, Cultura shared Frida reinterpretada. “El periodismo necesita inversión. Comparte este artículo utilizando los íconos que aparecen en la página. La reproducción de este contenido sin autorización previa está prohibida.”

– Lastly, if you have been talking to your students about what is happening in Standing Rock, the Sacred Stone Camp just released DAPL Easement Denied, But the Fight’s Not Over. “The Army Corps has not yet agreed to pursue a full EIS for the entire length of the pipeline.”

Abrazos,
Alin Badillo

Image: First. Reprinted from Flickr user Timon And Pumbaa under CC©.

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National Picture Book Month

¡Hola artistas!

What makes picture books unique? They have both words and pictures! To celebrate November’s National Picture Book Month I wanted to take a moment to recognize one of my favorite artists, Yuyi Morales, whose work we have had the privilege of showcasing here at Vamos a Leer.

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As Neoshia wrote in 2013, Morales is a Mexican author and illustrator who was born in Xalapa, Mexico. She immigrated to the United States as an adult. Although she has written most of her work while in residence in California, she maintains her Mexican roots. In fact, much of her work has been influenced by her childhood in Mexico in what is known as the “City of Flowers” and her Mexican heritage. In her YouTube video, Why I Love Picture Books, Morales herself recounts her first encounter with picture books as “love at first sight.”

Morales’ multimedia techniques, including the puppet making she began experimenting with in 1995 when she moved to the United States, set her apart from many illustrators. To see some of her creations, check out her art-infused website that echoes the liveliness and vivid colors of her books,  learn about your favorite characters within them, and even how they were made! Some of my favorite parts include:

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You can learn more about Morales and view more of her artwork at PaperTigers (which celebrates books and artists from around the world), and at Let’s Talk Picture Books’ Illustrator Spotlight.

We’ve also talked about Yuyi Morales at Vamos a Leer – be sure to take a re-look at some past posts:

Wishes for a creative noviembre,

Hania

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Image: “Breakfast.” Reprinted from Yuyi Morales’ website, Frida’s Photo Album.

Image: “Death waiting and waiting for grandma beetle.” Reprinted from Yuyi Morales’ website, Death’s Photo Album.

 

 

 

 

¡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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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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¡Mira, Look!: Tomás and the Library Lady

tomas-and-the-library-ladySaludos todos! Our book for this week is Tomás and the Library Lady, written by Pat Mora and illustrated by Raúl Colón. Although last week we focused on Pura Belpré, the first Puerto Rican librarian at the New York City Public Library, this week we are focusing on the legacy of Tomás Rivera, another symbol of Latin American literature and Hispanic-American heritage. Like Belpré, Rivera loved literature and pioneered outreach projects to the Hispanic-American community. As an author, poet and professor, he was beloved for his enthusiasm and his passion for teaching, learning, and books. While we continue to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month and the many sensational figures associated with that legacy, we are turning our attention this week to another exceptional figure.

Some of you may recognize Tomás Rivera’s name from one of my earlier posts featuring the 2016 Tomás Rivera Award recipients. The award, which is bestowed in memory of Rivera and his love for literature, honors exceptional Latinx children’s and young adult books. In line with many of the values now symbolized by Rivera’s legacy, this story shows the intercultural and intergenerational power of literature, as well as the timeless beauty of a shared culture.

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Welcoming New Writers: Alin Yuriko Badillo Carrillo

¡Hola a todos!Photo of Alin Yuriko Badillo Carrillo

Me llamo (my name is) Alin Yuriko Badillo Carrillo. I am a new Master’s student in the Latin American Studies program at the University of  New Mexico. I received my undergraduate degree in Environment and Natural Resources and International Studies with minors in Chicano Studies and Gender and Women’s Studies from the University of Wyoming.

I am originally from Tlaxcala, Mexico, but I was raised in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. I am the first in my family to graduate from high school, college, and soon a Master’s program. Not only am I first generation but I am also a DACA recipient- a temporary permit to reside in the US. I am an immigrant and not ashamed of it.

Living in a predominantly white community made me eager to learn about my raza (people). It is then when I discovered my passion for the Americas and inspired me to understand the way communities function. This is the primary reason why one of my concentration tracks within my Latin American Studies degree is in Urbanism and Community Development. I am devoted to creating a peaceful and comfortable environment in the community I choose to reside in upon the completion of my studies.

I look forward to discovering new books to improve the K-12 cultural education and our own intellectual minds. Moreover, I am excited to hear your thoughts as we cross educational boundaries together!

Abrazos,
Alin Badillo

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