February 3rd | Week in Review

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¡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.”

Fundacion Cuatrogatos posted En busca de un tiempo prometido by Irene Vasco. This is an article about la exclusión educativa en Colombia que tiene profundas raíces históricas, dice sr. Vasco (historical educational exclusion in Colombia as expressed by Ms. Vasco).

— Also, congratulations to Raúl Gonzalez III for winning the 2017 Pura Belpré Award for Illustration! “Raúl Gonzales was born in El Paso, Texas and grew up going back and forth between El Paso and Ciudad Juárez, México.”

–Here is a review of the book Collected Poems 1975-2015 by John Robert Lee, Anansesem advisory board member, shared via Anansesem: The Caribbean Children’s Literature Magazine. With National Poetry month fast approaching, it may be a valuable classroom resource to consider using: “The journey the poems tell is from the young man enthused with the energy of the radical decolonizing spirit of the 1970s…”

— Additionally, Raising Race Conscious Children posted Talking about slavery through a lens of resistance. The article poses some important questions and answers, such as“What do students really need to know about slavery? They need to learn historical details about slavery as a felt experience that both impacts and empowers them.”

– Lastly, Remezcla shared These Anti-Princess Books Give Young Girls Badass Latina Heroines to Look Up To. We couldn’t say it better: “ While Donald Trump may think that a woman’s beauty is the only thing that matters…Two Argentine women in the publishing industry were fed up with that antiquated (and incorrect) notion, and especially with the way it manifests in classic children’s books that paint female protagonists as weaklings who need to be saved.”

Abrazos,
Alin Badillo


Image: Ballet Folklorico Performers. Reprinted from Flickr user HGxxYB under CC©.

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¡Mira Look!: Moví la mano/ I Moved my Hand

movi-la-manoSaludos todos! This week I will be reviewing Moví la mano/ I Moved my Hand, written by Argentinian author Jorge Lújan and illustrated by French artist Mandana Sadat, as our last January book on “unsung heroes.” So far this month I’ve reviewed children’s books that focus on heroic and fearless parents, lesser-known cultural icons, like Tito Puente, who were also active humanitarians, and brave firefighters whose invaluable work sometimes goes unnoticed. However, this week’s “unsung heroes” are children themselves.

la-mano-1Moví la mano/ I Moved my Hand tells the story of a young girl whose imagination, creativity and drive hold the power to change the world around her: “When a little girl moves her hand, she discovers the world and her power to change and create it anew.” Lújan’s story reads as a bilingual Spanish/English poem, complemented by Sadat’s stunning illustrations. Every one of the female protagonist’s actions, moving, shaking, stirring and swirling, to name a few, is met by a magical effect, the creation of a lake, finding the moon, and soaring through the sky. This fantastical narrative and its equally enchanting illustrations serve as a metaphor for the infinite potential at the hands of young children: “an empowering and inspiring tribute to children’s magical possibilities.” As a result, this beautiful book helps us honor and celebrate the infinite potential and imagination of young children, the “unsung heroes” of the future, as well as their magical ability to find and create beauty in the world around them.

la-mano-2The first two pages create a spread of two side-by-side illustrations showing the little girl standing in the middle of the living room in her pink tutu and her parents watching lovingly from the couch. The illustrations are done in black, white and gray hues with just a small splash of color for the girl’s tutu, her ballet slippers, and Lújan’s text. Already, this use of color and contrast shows how two distinct forms of art, the little girl’s dance and Lújan’s poetry, can light up a room, alter the ordinary, and dazzle an audience.

The meta-fictional dynamic found within this text— the parents portrayed as audience members for their daughter’s dance performance, and the story’s readers as audience members of Lújan’s narrative— exemplifies the ways in which children can be part of the audience, readers of this text, but also part of the performance, as dancers, writers, artists, or whatever they choose. On the following page, the protagonist’s imaginative journey and artistic performance take center stage, and the detailed, “real life,” black and white world starts to fade as additional splashes of color start to emerge. The image of her parents sitting on the couch, which previously occupied the entire first page, now appears as a silhouette in the distant corner of the next page. The presence of the girl’s parents in this story shows them as loving and supportive but also respectful of her independence and her ability to create things of her own.

la-mano-3As the story progresses, readers will notice more and more splashes of color as bright orange fish and rainbow unicorns appear against the black backdrop. As noted by Kirkus Reviews, the black backdrop serves as a canvas, a stage or a blank sheet of paper, waiting for the artist’s hand to take control: “Digitally collaged creatures done in colored pencil, ink and crayon interact with the precocious ballerina, who creates a universe with a wave of her hand…” All three forms of art found within this wonderful story— Lújan’s poetry, Sadat’s illustrations, and the protagonist’s dance— interact to create an enchanting mix of color, rhyme and movement.

Kirkus Reviews also notes the existentialist undertones of this picture book: “A tutu-clad child encounters existentialism through movement in this 47-word poem by award-winning Argentine poet Luján.” Although the basic tenets of existentialism—that one’s destiny is not predetermined, but, rather, reliant on one’s own independent actions—are surely too abstract for young children, when simplified and synthesized, as they are in this picture book, they serve as empowering reminders that children are in la-mano-4control of their lives, and capable of dreaming big. In addition, some of the actions described in the book appear rather simple and mundane, yet their reactions are grandiose and fantastical: “Toque la la luna y rodo en el cielo./ I touched the moon/ and it rolled through the night.” Just a gentle touch can set the moon traveling throughout the starry night. Again, this is a reminder of the infinite magic and potential waiting at the hands of children. A child’s actions, creations or ambitions don’t have to be monumental and sensational for their effects to be meaningful and magical.

la-mano-5The story ends with another two page spread mimicking the one found at the beginning of the book. After the protagonist’s journey she is welcomed home by the loving embrace of her two parents and her world has returned to its black and white palette. The following pages show the same living room, but now the lights have been turned off (the room is mostly shades of black and gray) and the family has presumably gone to bed. Out of the corner of the room emerges a rainbow unicorn who skips off across the black canvas, presumably in search of its own destiny. These final illustrations are shown without words, but they speak volumes nonetheless, reminding young readers that even once the day is done and they’ve gone to bed, the magic and beauty that they’ve contributed to this world lives on.

For those of you interested in learning more about the author and illustrator, here are some additional links:

Stay tuned for more great reads and an introduction to February’s themes!

¡Hasta pronto!

Alice


Images Modified from Moví la mano/ I Moved my Hand: Pages 2, 3, 8, 12, 13

January 20th | Week in Review

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¡Hola a todos! Today’s Week in Review is a bit longer than usual because there were so many valuable resources to share this week. The content has given me hope, and I hope it will do the same for you. Enjoy!

– The Zinn Education Project shared a new lesson plan to teach about the Reconstruction Era titled, Reconstructing the South: A Role Play. While a historical lesson, the themes are relevant today. “This role play asks students to imagine themselves as people who were formerly enslaved and to wrestle with a number of issues about what they needed to ensure genuine “freedom”: ownership of land—and what the land would be used for; the fate of Confederate leaders; voting rights; self-defense; and conditions placed on the former Confederate states prior to being allowed to return to the Union.”

— Our Remezcla friends shared an example of the possibility of reading at a very young age. At Just 4 Years Old, This Latina Already Read 1,000 Books & Delivered MLK’s “ I Have a Dream” Speech. “… the 14th Librarian of Congress, invited the young bibliophile to Washington DC, Daliyah’s story has gone viral.” Daliyah is quite an inspiration to all of us here at Vamos a Leer!

Rethinking Bilingual Education posted the poem “Accents” by Denice Frohman. “My mom holds her accent like a shotgun, with two good hands. Her tongue, all brass knuckle slipping in between her lips, her hips, all laughter and wind clap… my mama’s tongue is a telegram from her mother decorated with the coqui’s of el campo. So even though her lips can barely stretch themselves around English, her accent is a stubborn compass, always pointing her towards home.” This is a great mentor text to use when teaching poetry to older students, challenging the often largely white canon of traditional poetry used in schools

–Here is an introductory lesson plan for Resistance 101: A Lesson for Inauguration Day Teach-Ins and Beyond shared by Teaching for Change and Rethinking Schools on their Facebook page. “To help introduce a history of resistance to injustice… a lesson for middle and high school classes … allowing students to “meet” people from throughout U.S. history who have used a range of social change strategies. The lesson features activists from the 1800s-present.”

Lee & Low Books shared their Book List: 7 Books About Immigration on their Facebook page. “In this book list, we’ve rounded up seven of our titles that are about the immigrant experience, and encourage readers to be accepting of all people from different backgrounds.”

— Additionally, Reforma shared the Huffington Post’s article that explains Why People Are Using The Term ‘Latinx.’ “It’s part of a “linguistic revolution” that aims to move beyond gender binaries and is inclusive of the intersecting identities of Latin American descendants.”

-Last, but certainly not least, Latinas for Latino Lit shared Students, some of them immigrants, write children’s books inspired by their own life’s journeys. “As part of a project called Viajes de Mi Vida — or, Journeys of My Life — De La O and about 70 of his classmates conceived, wrote and illustrated children’s storybooks in English and Spanish that are now in the hands of Salvadoran schoolchildren.”

Abrazos,
Alin Badillo


Image: Ballet Folklorico Performers. Reprinted from Flickr user Mand. under CC©.

 

En la Clase: Talking with Mother Earth/Hablando con Madre Tierra

Talking with Mother Earth | Jorge Argueta | Vamos a LeerIn this week’s En la Clase we’re looking at Jorge Argueta’s children’s book Talking with Mother Earth/Hablando con Madre Tierra.  This bilingual poetry book not only speaks to this month’s theme of  diversity within Latinx identity, but is also an excellent resource for those teaching a critical history of conquest and colonization.  As with last week’s featured book, Argueta’s poetry is simple but powerful.  It elicits both critical thought and personal reflection.  Through these autobiographical poems we learn about Tetl:

“Tetl’s skin is brown, his eyes are black, and his hair is long. He’s different from the other children, whose taunts wound him deeply, leaving him confused and afraid. But Tetl’s grandmother knows the ancient teachings of their Aztec ancestors, and how they viewed the earth as alive with sacred meaning. With her help, he learns to listen to the mountains, wind, corn, and stones. Tetl’s journey from self-doubt to proud acceptance of his Nahuatl heritage is told in a series of powerful poems, beautifully expressed in both English and Spanish” (Goodreads).

In last week’s En la Clase, we discussed the importance of authentic cultural referents in children’s literature.  Argueta’s book demonstrates why this is so powerful.  Too often when we discuss native cultures and Indigenous peoples in our classrooms, it’s done in the past tense, as if they no longer exist.  In Talking with Mother Earth/Hablando con Madre Tierra readers learn about the childhood of Jorge Tetl Argueta who identifies as Pipil Nahua.  Argueta writes his poems in first person present tense.  While this may seem an insignificant choice, it’s not.  The explicit and implicit messages sent through the language in our children’s books are powerful.  The use of third person, past tense, or passive language can perpetuate ideas such as Indigenous peoples no longer exist, they have no agency, or they are to blame for the violence that is/was enacted upon them.  For more on this conversation, see Jean Paine Mendoza’s article “Goodbye, Columbus: Take Two” from A Broken Flute: The Native Experience in Books for Children October is often the month in which students learn about Columbus, exploration, conquest and colonization.  It’s important to model for our students how to critique the oppressive messages conveyed in both the fiction and non-fiction literature they read on these topics, and to provide them examples of empowering narratives such as Argueta’s.

Discussion Suggestions:Talking with Mother Earth | Jorge Argueta | Vamos a Leer

Written in a child’s voice, Argueta’s poems are not only engaging reads for younger audiences, they are empowering.  It’s heartbreaking to read about the racist bullying that Tetl endured:

“Cracked-foot Indian,”
my schoolmates used to call me
and laugh at my bare feet.

“Flea-bitten Indian,”
they would call me
and pull on my hair
long and dark as the night
“Indian called down from the hill
by the beat of a drum,”
they would tease me and while the teacher
wrote on the blackboard, they would hit my back.

But, when we continue to live in a society that claims to be color-blind or post-racial, there is something powerful about naming this racism and the stereotypes being perpetuated.  Tetl’s words reveal a vulnerability that provides the space to discuss bullying and racism in a very open way.  This type of bullying continues to happen in classrooms and playgrounds across the nation.  While it’s certainly a complex problem, it’s not going to get any better until we’re willing to have the sometimes hard and uncomfortable conversations about racism in our classrooms.  Argueta’s book provides one way in which to do that.  We talk frequently about literature providing mirrors, windows, and doors.  Here, students who have been bullied are provided a protagonist who speaks both to the experience and how he chose to overcome it. We can also hope that those who have acted as bullies will begin to reflect on the causes and consequences of their behavior.

Talking with Mother Earth | Jorge Argueta | Vamos a LeerIn Dr. Laura Harjo’s introduction to the LAII’s recent screening of the film Tambien la Lluvia, she talked about how one of the effects of conquest, colonization, and colonialism can be seen through the deadening of land as it became property that could be owned.  Argueta’s poetry together with Lucía Ángela Pérez’s beautiful illustrations offer a much different view of land.  Here, Mother Earth is something both alive and powerful.  Exposed to a powerful counter narrative through the introduction to Nahua beliefs and spirituality, readers will hopefully develop a greater appreciation for Earth and the many facets of nature that we often take for granted, such as the wind, sun, water, or plants.

Activity Suggestions:

There’s a lot you could do with the book beyond a read aloud.  These ideas are just a start.  It’s certainly an excellent mentor text for poetry writing.  Argueta discusses his own childhood experiences with both openness and vulnerability.  Using this as a model, ask students to think about a hurtful experience they’ve had.  Perhaps they’ve been bullied, or they have bullied another student.  This could become the inspiration for their own poem.  It’s also an excellent text to use to teach nature poetry.  Ask students to think about the ways in which we take different elements of nature for granted.  Then, choosing one of these elements, each student can write their own poem as Argueta did. If time permits, have students illustrate their poems.  Then, create a class book of the poetry for display.

We’re not alone in thinking this is a wonderful book.  It has received both the  International Latino Book Award and Américas Book Award.

As always, I’d love to hear what your students think about the book!

Katrina

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Book Giveaway: Poesía eres tú and Todo es canción

book giveaway april¡Buenas!

In light of Poetry Month, we are giving away two poetry anthologies in the Spanish language. The two books are Poesía eres tú: Antología poética, written by F. Isabel Campoy and illustrated by Marcela Calderón, and Todo es canción: Antología poética, written by Alma Flor Ada and illustrated by María Jesús Álvarez.

These books would be great for Spanish language learners and ideal for the classroom. The poems draw from everyday happenings, illuminating the beauty and creativity that exists in our day to day activities. Through these poems, I think that children will be inspired to write poetry themselves. Both of the authors have divided their poems into categories, so you can easily find different poetry themes you are in the mood for. I encourage you to check out Alma Flor Ada’s webpage about this book, where you can find a book description, author’s note, book review, and a video of Alma Flor Ada reading the poem “Bilingüe” from her book. Isabel Campoy also has a description of her book on her website that I recommend taking a look at.

To be entered in the giveaway, comment on this post by April 30th. If your name is chosen, we will email you about mailing the book to you.

Good luck!
Kalyn

En la Clase: Love, Community, & Poetry

Vamos a Leer | En la Clase: Love of Community Through PoetryThis week’s En la Clase post continues to look at ways in which to think, teach, and talk about love in our classrooms.  As I was writing last week’s post on teaching about love through immigration, I was reminded of another classroom resource that could also be used to teach about love.  In the fall we reviewed Linda Christensen and Dyan Watson’s book Rhythm and Resistance: Teaching Poetry for Social Justice.  The whole book is wonderful, but given this month’s theme of love, I’d like to highlight one of the lessons that I think could be particularly compelling for creating or deepening the ties of community within our classrooms.  The lesson is available as a pdf here.  In “Remember Me: A farewell poem,” Christensen asks her students to write a Remember Me poem about a fellow classmate.  Christensen uses it at the end of the year, but I also think it could be used during the month of February to expand upon conversations around love of community.  As students are bombarded with the commercialized representations of love, it’s important to provide the space for them to think through these messages, challenge them, and create their own statements on the meaning of love.

In the lesson plan, Christensen writes, “Students need to learn how to build new traditions–ones that don’t involve corporations telling them how to think and feel about death, birth, illness, goodbyes, celebrations, or each other.  By creating practices in our classrooms that honor our time together, our work, and our community, we can teach students how to develop meaningful new traditions.” I couldn’t agree more.  Incorporating “Remember Me” poems into the classroom allows students to think deeply about the people in their classroom community, and hopefully foster a sense of love for that community. Continue reading

En la Clase: ‘Twas Nochebuena. . .

Twas Nochebuena | En la Clase | Vamos a Leer BlogToday’s En la Clase continues our December theme on winter celebrations by sharing how to implement another great children’s book into your teaching.  We’ve already shared posts on The Miracle of the First Poinsettia and A Piñata in a Pine Tree.  Be sure to check those out for some other fun resources if you missed them.

I recently remembered a recommendation a blog reader gave me last year about the beautiful book ‘Twas Nochebuena written by Roseanne Greenfield Thong and illustrated by Sarah Palacios.  Somehow I’d missed this book when it came out in 2014, but I’m really happy to be writing about it this year in time for one of our December posts.  Greenfield Thong and Placios have created a new version of the familiar ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas tale. Here, students will read about one family’s Nochebuena celebration.  This story, like some of the others we’ve highlighted this month, is filled with references to Latino Christmas traditions such as tamales, adornos, canciones, las posadas, and champurrado. Written in a mixture of English and Spanish, the book can be used with English speakers or Spanish speakers, as the surrounding words and illustrations provide plenty of context clues.  The glossary at the back is also a great resource. Continue reading