10 Children’s and YA Books Celebrating Latinx Poetry and Verse

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Hello all –

I am thrilled to be celebrating National Poetry Month with you!  As with many of you, poetry holds a dear place in my heart.  As a young person, I recall writing poem after poem and finding such liberation in exploring my voice, playing with syntax and line breaks, and testing out vocabulary that had yet to find a place in my daily life.  Poetry allowed for a freedom and creativity that was unmatched in other mediums.  And because of this, I believe that writing poetry enables us to develop our own voice, author our own truths, and honor our own experiences; all of which play an integral part in a young person’s social, emotional, and cognitive development.

Needless to say, there is absolutely room for poetry in both formal and informal settings.  I was introduced to poetry in the classroom and not long after, I carried it with me into my home.  For this, I am entirely grateful to those teachers.  For those of you who are not sure how to introduce poetry into your classroom or simply would like new ideas, please check out the Academy of American Poets website.  You will find a wealth of resources, including: information about National Poetry Month, ideas for how to celebrate, as well as easily searchable lessons plans for elementary through high school aged students.  I also invite you to check out the work that Vamos a Leer has done around poetry.  For starters, you can find an excellent resource that Katrina has compiled in her En la Clase post titled, Rhythm and Resistance: Teaching Poetry for Social Justice.  Additionally, this month’s Reading Roundup will highlight several previous Vamos a Leer posts which both focus on poetry and provide information about authors, activity ideas, and other relevant content.  Here’s to making this month an extra special one for your students and/or children!

Happy reading and writing everyone!

Colleen

Laughing Tomatoes and Other Spring Poems/Jitomates risueños y otros poemas de primavera
Written by Francisco X. Alarcón
Illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez
Published by Children’s Book Press
ISBN: 978-0892391998
Age level: Ages 6-11

Description (from Good Reads):

Tomatoes laugh, chiles explode, and tortillas applaud the sun! With joy and tenderness, delight and sadness, Alarcón’s poems honor the wonders of life and nature: welcoming the morning sun, remembering his grandmother’s songs, paying tribute to children working in the fields, and sharing his dream of a world filled with gardens. Artist Maya Christina Gonzalez invites us to experience the poems with her lively cast of characters–including a spirited grandma, four vivacious children, and playful pets who tease and delight. Follow them from page to page as they bring each poem to colorful life. Laughing Tomatoes and Other Spring Poems is a verbal and visual treat, giving us twenty opportunities to see everything for the first time.

My thoughts:

This is not the first time that Alarcón’s Laughing Tomatoes and Other Spring Poems/Jitomates risueños y otros poemas de primavera has been featured on the Vamos blog.  In 2015, Lorraine wrote an excellent ¡Mira Look! post that offers a well-rounded overview of the book as well as thoughtful resources for the classroom!  Here, I would like to say that I am happy to re-feature this award-winning, bilingual work.  Not only are the themes of family and nature always in season, this is an excellent way to introduce poetry to young readers.  Happy (re)reading!

Round is a Tortilla: A Book of Shapes
Written by Rosanne Thong
Illustrated by John Parra
Published by Chronicle Books
ISBN: 9781452106168
Age level: Ages 3-5

Description (from Good Reads):

Round are tortillas and tacos, too Round is a bowl of abuela’s stew. In this lively picture book, children discover a world of shapes all around them: Rectangles are ice-cream carts and stone metates, triangles are slices of watermelon and quesadillas. Many of the featured objects are Latino in origin, but all are universal in appeal. With rich, boisterous illustrations, a fun-to-read rhyming text, and an informative glossary, this playful concept book will reinforce the shapes found in every child’s day!

My thoughts:

Although Thong’s Round is a Tortilla does not fall within the “traditional” likeliness of a poetry book –its lyrical nature and playful use of words makes for a perfect fit to this month’s theme.  As Katrina writes in her En la Clase post, the book “really inspire[s] the reader to be fully aware of all the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures around them;” skills that are essential for any developing poet.  Additionally, within Katrina’s post you will find some excellent ways to link this (and Thong’s other highly recommended book, Green is a Pepper) to poetry.  For an overview of both Round is a Tortilla and Green is a Pepper, head on over to Lorraine’s review!

Talking with Mother Earth/Hablando con Madre Tierra
Written by Jorge Argueta
Illustrated by Lucía Ángela Pérez
Published by Groundwood Books
ISBN: 978-0888996268
Age level:  Ages 5-8

Description (from Good Reads):

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. Vivid illustrations celebrate nature’s redemptive powers, offering a perfect complement to the poignant story.

My thoughts:

I am always a fan of Argueta’s work and Talking with Mother Earth/Hablando con Madre Tierra is no exception.  This masterfully written and colorfully illustrated bilingual book of poetry focuses on self-love and nature.  What I find to be particularly valuable about this book, however, is that it challenges dominant ideas of what is considered acceptable and ‘the norm.’  This books invites us to look within ourselves to discover who we are and love ourselves not despite this, but because of this!  This book is also a great way to explore the theme of (de)colonization.  For more ideas on how to incorporate this theme and get a general sense of the book, please see Lorraine’s ¡Mira Look! post.

Somos como los nubes/We Are Like the Clouds
Written by Jorge Argueta
Illustrated by Alfonso Ruano
Published by Groundwood Books
ISBN: 978-1554988495
Age level: Ages 7-12

Description (from Good Reads):

Why are young people leaving their country to walk to the United States to seek a new, safe home? Over 100,000 such children have left Central America. This book of poetry helps us to understand why and what it is like to be them.

This powerful book by award-winning Salvadoran poet Jorge Argueta describes the terrible process that leads young people to undertake the extreme hardships and risks involved in the journey to what they hope will be a new life of safety and opportunity. A refugee from El Salvador’s war in the eighties, Argueta was born to explain the tragic choice confronting young Central Americans today who are saying goodbye to everything they know because they fear for their lives. This book brings home their situation and will help young people who are living in safety to understand those who are not.

Compelling, timely and eloquent, this book is beautifully illustrated by master artist Alfonso Ruano who also illustrated The Composition, considered one of the 100 Greatest Books for Kids by Scholastic’s Parent and Child Magazine.

My thoughts:

As mentioned above, I am a fan of Argueta!  In a time when migration and borders are the forefront of everyone’s minds, this book feels particularly salient.  Undoubtedly, it challenges much of the political rhetoric around those who make their way into the US by humanizing and articulating the realities of why people immigrate.  The verses are simple, yet extraordinarily powerful.  Additionally, Alfonso Ruano’s artwork is simply captivating.  For a more in depth review of Somos como los nubes/We Are Like the Clouds, head on over to the Kirkus Review.

Poesía eres tú
Written by F. Isabel Campoy
Illustrated by Marcela Calderón
Published by Santillana USA
ISBN: 978-1631139642
Age level: Ages 7-10

Description (from Amazon):

For decades, F. Isabel Campoy has been delighting us with her poetry in various publications. Here, we can enjoy all of it. An endless party!

My thoughts:

I am sure that many Vamos readers are familiar with the award winning author and educator, F. Isabel Campoy.   Being fairly new to the field of children’s literature, I am just beginning to familiarize myself with her work – and I am delighted to be doing so!  Campoy’s Spanish language poetry anthology, Poesía eres tú, is diverse in themes; playful in sound, cadence, and rhythm; and rich in colorful art!  You can find a sampling of some of the poems at the publisher’s, Santillana USA, website.  I also encourage you to explore Campoy’s website, where you will find a wealth of books that she has both written and co-written (with Alma Flor Ada, below) in English, Spanish, and both!

Todo es una canción
Written by Alma Flor Ada
Illustrated by Maria Jesus Alvarez
Published by Alfaguara Infantil
ISBN: 978-1616051730
Age level:  Ages 7 and up

Description (from Santillana USA):

This delightful book gathers a selection of the most notable poems written by Alma Flor Ada—Latina writer, teacher, and passionate advocate for bilingual and bicultural education in the U.S. Organized by curriculum themes, this anthology is a fundamental tool for teachers who rely on imagination, play, and creativity to expand concepts and to enrich students’ vocabulary. Some of the themes included in the anthology are the parts of the body, numbers, vowels, family, animals, the city and the countryside, food, nature, bilingualism, and much more.

My thoughts:

Similar to F. Isabel Campoy, I am just beginning to discover the prolific writings of author, poet, and educator Alma Flor Ada.  Todo es una canción, an anthology of Ada’s poems, has been a great way to get acquainted!  The Spanish language book offers educators a variety of themes to work with in the classroom and young readers a wealth of ideas for writing their own poems.  And in case you are in need of additional education resources (who isn’t?) please head over to her website and explore videos, activity pages, and learn about the other books she has authored, or co-authored (with F. Isabel Campoy)!

Cool Salsa: Bilingual Poems on Growing up Latino in the United States
Edited by Lori Marie Carlson with Introduction by Oscar Hijuelos
Published by Square Fish
ISBN: 978-1250016782
Age level: Ages 8-12

 Description (from Good Reads):

Here are the sights, sounds, and smells of Latino culture in America in thirty-six vibrant, moving, angry, beautiful and varied voices, including Alicia Gaspar de Alba, Ana Castillo, Sandra Cisneros, Luis J. Rodríguez, Gary Soto, and Martín Espada.

Presented in both English and Spanish, each poem helps us to discover the stories behind the mangoes and memories, prejudice and fear, love and life–how it was and is to grow up Hispanic in America….

My thoughts:

For exploring poetry with older readers, educators will find Cool Salsa: Bilingual Poems on Growing up Latino in the United States to be an invaluable collection.  This bilingual book of poetry brings together diverse voices from the Latin@ community with writings that invite adolescent and older readers to think about their own stories of growing up.  Overall, I really enjoyed the poetry within this book.  I do, however, think this book may be more appropriate for 12 and up, as some of the poems are more mature in content – despite the indicated age level of 8-12.  What are your thoughts?

CrashBoomLove: A Novel in Verse
Written by Juan Felipe Herrera
Published by University of New Mexico Press
ISBN: 978-0826321145
Age level: Grades 9-12

Description (from Good Reads):

In this novel in verse–unprecedented in Chicano literature–renowned poet Juan Felipe Herrera illuminates the soul of a generation. Drawn from his own life as well as a lifetime of dedication to young people, CrashBoomLove helps readers understand what it is to be a teen, a migrant worker, and a boy wanting to be a boy.

Sixteen-year-old Cesar Garcia is careening. His father, Papi Cesar, has left the migrant circuit in California for his other wife and children in Denver. Sweet Mama Lucy tries to provide for her son with dichos and tales of her own misspent youth. But at Rambling West High School in Fowlerville, the sides are drawn: Hmongs vs. Chicanos vs. everybody vs. Cesar, the new kid on the block.

Precise and profound, CrashBoomLove will appeal to and resonate with high school readers across the country.

A California farmworker kid’s season in hell, told through fast-verse lines that careen to the beat of a fiery heart.

My thoughts:

As Katrina writes in her En la Clase post, novel in verse is an excellent way to introduce young people to poetry.  Juan Felipe Herrera’s book, CrashBoomLove: A Novel in Verse, is a great option.  The narrative, featuring a male protagonist, offers a glimpse into the challenges of being a young person when there is a lot going on around you.  The themes – along with the element of grittiness – are certainly something that my younger self would have appreciated reading about.  Additionally, it is novels (in-verse) such as these that can further encourage young people to reflect on their own stories, their own experience, and their own surroundings; prompting their creative ability to think of their lives in poetic terms.  Consider including this one on shelves if it’s not already!

Bravo!: Poems About Amazing Hispanics
Written by Margarita Engle
Illustrated by Rafael López
Published by Henry Holt and Co.
ISBN: 978-0805098761
Age level: Ages 8-12

Description (from Good Reads):

Musician, botanist, baseball player, pilot—the Latinos featured in this collection come from many different countries and from many different backgrounds. Celebrate their accomplishments and their contributions to a collective history and a community that continues to evolve and thrive today!

Biographical poems include: Aida de Acosta, Arnold Rojas, Baruj Benacerraf, César Chávez, Fabiola Cabeza de Baca, Félix Varela, George Meléndez, José Martí, Juan de Miralles, Juana Briones, Julia de Burgos, Louis Agassiz Fuertes, Paulina Pedroso, Pura Belpré, Roberto Clemente, Tito Puente, Ynes Mexia, Tomás Rivera

My thoughts:

Bravo!: Poems About Amazing Hispanics, written by Margarita Engle is a unique look into the lives of influential and inspiring Latin@s.   Like many of the books on this list, Bravo! can serve multiple purposes.  Not only does it introduce poetry, it also teaches about people that are often overlooked in our school text books.  I certainly learned about several people that I did not know about, including botanist, Ynés Mexía, from Mexico and arms dealer, Juan de Miralles, from Cuba.  Rafael López’s artwork is also stunning!

Under the Mesquite
Written by Guadalupe Garcia McCall
Published by Lee & Low Books
ISBN: 978-1600604294
Age level: Ages 14-17

Description (from Good Reads):

Lupita, a budding actor and poet in a close-knit Mexican American immigrant family, comes of age as she struggles with adult responsibilities during her mother’s battle with cancer in this young adult novel in verse.

When Lupita learns Mami has cancer, she is terrified by the possibility of losing her mother, the anchor of her close-knit family. Suddenly, being a high school student, starring in a play, and dealing with friends who don’t always understand, become less important than doing whatever she can to save Mami’s life.

While her father cares for Mami at an out-of-town clinic, Lupita takes charge of her seven younger siblings. As Lupita struggles to keep the family afloat, she takes refuge in the shade of a mesquite tree, where she escapes the chaos at home to write. Forced to face her limitations in the midst of overwhelming changes and losses, Lupita rediscovers her voice and finds healing in the power of words.

Told with honest emotion in evocative free verse, Lupita’s journey toward hope is captured in moments that are alternately warm and poignant. Under the Mesquite is an empowering story about testing family bonds and the strength of a young woman navigating pain and hardship with surprising resilience.

My thoughts:

Under the Mesquite, written by Guadalupe Garcia McCall, has been highlighted several times on the Vamos blog throughout the years.  With good reason, too!  Winner of the Pura Belpré Award, this novel in verse is a riveting read and great way to introduce and encourage poetry with high school aged readers.  Here, I would like to turn to Katrina’s thoughts on the book from 2013, because they are just as applicable and meaningful today:

Under the Mesquite is a beautiful book.  While it was a quick read, it lingered in my mind.  I found myself continuing to think about it days after I’d finished it.  It’s a book that is certainly worth a second (or even third) read.  The first time through I was engrossed in the story, only subconsciously aware of the beauty and simplicity of McCall’s verse. When I returned to the  novel later, I found myself incredibly moved by the imagery and sentiments conveyed through McCall’s words.  I think Lyn Miller-Lachmann describes it best in her own review: “. . .one of the most achingly beautiful novels I’ve read in a long time. It is a story from the heart, not written to fit into a marketing category but to remember, to honor, and to bear witness.”

¡Mira Look!: Tito Puente, Mambo King/ Rey del Mambo

tito puenteSaludos todos! This week we are continuing our theme of unsung heroes, or lesser-known figures, with Tito Puente, Mambo King/ Rey del mambo, written by Monica Brown and illustrated by Rafael López. This lively book narrates the biography of renowned Puerto-Rican/New Yorker musician, Tito Puente, and the lasting impact that he has had on Hispanic-American heritage. Although Tito Puente was a beloved and iconic musician, he is not as well known outside of the Hispanic-American community.Tito Puente, Mambo King/ Rey del mambo is a bilingual picture book that is best for ages 4-7. It won the Pura Belpre Honor Book for illustration in 2014.

tito 1Brown and López have collaborated before to write My Name Is Celia (2004), a children’s book biography of Celia Cruz, the spectacular, Cuban jazz singer, and one of many iconic musicians with whom Tito Puente worked alongside. In the back of Tito Puente, Mambo King/ Rey del mambo, Brown includes a brief, non-fictional biography where she mentions Tito Puente’s many, star-studded collaborations: “He collaborated with the most famous Latin musicians of the twentieth century, including Machito, Santana, Willie Bobo, Gloria Estefan, La Lupe, and especially Celia Cruz.” Yet many of these names have gained more recognition in the U.S. than Tito Puente himself.

tito 2This wonderful, colorful story centers on a timeless Latino idol and the musical webs of talent, heritage and friendship that he spun. In general, this book focuses on the collaborations of inspirational Latino icons and their wonderful contributions to the world of music and the arts.

tito 5The brief biography provided by Brown also mentions Tito Puente’s humanitarian endeavors: “Tito founded the Tito Puente Educational Foundation, which offers scholarships to students to study music at the Juilliard School of Music. He wanted to inspire other young musicians to pursue their dreams.” In effect, Tito Puente is a particularly fitting Latino figure to feature both here on our blog, and in your classrooms, given his immense dedication to the lives, educations and creative spirits of young children. While Tito Puente spent much of his career collaborating and connecting with other prominent Latino musicians, that care and comradery that was such an integral part of his life and work lives on in the children whose lives he has touched.

tito 3These themes of community, care and shared heritage are wholly apparent not only in Tito Puente’s actual life story, but also in this book’s narration, and throughout the award-winning illustrations. According to a review from Kirkus Reviews: “Multihued swirls and plumes emanate from Tito’s timbales and drumsticks; Celia Cruz (a frequent collaborator) soars in a costume whose fuchsia feathers seem to morph from the sea green waves below.” Indeed, the radiant illustrations not only capture the melody and joviality of Tito Puente’s rhythms, but also the community and culture associated with music, the power of songs to bring people together, and the unifying heritage of moving lyrics, memorable beats, and inspirational figures. López’s warm palets, dazzling patterns and designs, and beaming faces capture Puente’s gifted ability to light up a room. In essence, Tito Puente’s music and Rafael López’s art, though very different in nature, breadth, and time, exemplify two different types of wonderful Latino art, and the comforting and convivial sensations that they can both inspire.

tito 4Through this lovely story, music appears as the narrative thread that runs through every scene and phase of Tito Puente’s life. This not only reflects the immense influence that music had on him, but also provides a consistent theme that can help young children follow the storyline more easily. In addition, the short and sweet, rhythmic syllables of the text will have young readers excitedly breezing through the literary challenge, bouncing from page to page as they exercise their novice reading skills. With Lopez’s vibrant illustrations, one can almost hear Puente’s contagious music, making readers want to dance and skip right through the text. As a result, this book could be especially useful for challenging younger, less-advanced readers, since the liveliness of the text would disguise a difficult task as a fun, light-hearted activity.

While the rhythm of the story is emotionally uplifting, many of the themes are equally inspirational and encouraging. The beginning of the story places quite a bit of emphasis on Puente’s childhood, banging “spoons and forks on pots and pans, windowsills and cans,” and creating beats that would resonate throughout his entire Spanish Harlem community. This focus on Puente’s early years is also important for young readers, who will identify with young Puente’s abounding creativity and ambitious dreams, and look to both his success and humility for inspiration. Children and adults alike can learn from Tito Puente’s life story, his persistent work ethic and resounding humanity. This book is a treat in more ways than one, educating young readers through a fun, light-hearted introduction to the history of Latin American music.

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

For those of you interested in using this book in the classroom, here are some additional links:

Thank you for welcoming me back as a guest blogger this month!

Saludos,

Alice

10 Latinx Children’s Books on Food as Culture and Heritage

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Buenos días a todas y todos,

I hope this day finds you each doing well!

As the holidays near, we are invited to reflect on the significance that such days play in our own lives and in the lives of others.  We are reminded that the way we experience holidays differs from those around us: from one family to the next, one culture to the next, and from one generation to the next.  Notwithstanding these differences, there remains a constant and a uniting force: food.

The important role that food plays in cultural heritage is without a doubt something to which we each can relate.  What dishes are common in your culture and that of your students?  What experiences and memories do you and your students have in cooking those dishes?  Can you recall gathering the ingredients?  The smells?  The flavors?  This month’s Reading Roundup list will celebrate farms, water, mercados, ingredients, the act of cooking, and the joys of sharing meals with family, friends, and community al estilo latinoamericano.

Lastly, if you are interested in American Indian literature that touches on the theme of Thanksgiving, visit the American Indians in Children’s Literature blog, which offers a list of recommended books!

I hope you enjoy this month’s selection and feel motivated to use the books with your own children and/or students!

Mis saludos,
Colleen

El gusto del mercado mexicano/A Taste of the Mexican Market
Written and Illustrated by Nancy María Grande Tabor
Published by Charlesbridge, 1996
ISBN: 978-0-88106-820-7
Age level: 3-7 years old

Description (from Goodreads):

Let’s visit a Mexican market!

Along the way you can compare, weigh, count, and learn about culture and customs. From bunches of hanging bananas and braids of garlic to pyramids of melons and baskets of sweet cheese, this Mexican market is full of fun and surprises.

Colorful cut-paper art sets the scene for a creative way to build new vocabulary for beginning readers of Spanish or English.

My thoughts:

This bilingual book, written and illustrated by Nancy María Grande Tabor, is enjoyable.  For me, El gusto del mercado mexicano stuck out because its focus is not only on common foods (vegetables, fruits, and meats) used in Mexican cooking, but because it invites us to experience the mercado.  By showing how ingredients are weighed and gathered, as well as the many items beyond food that can be found in the mercado, we learn about this essential and vibrant place. There is an interactive component to this book as well, which makes it all the more fun.  This book would likely be an effective way to learn both English and Spanish vocabulary also, as it is simply written and the words are all accompanied by illustrations. If you’re intrigued, be sure to keep an eye out for Alice’s coming review of this book!

Anna Carries Water
Written by Olive Senior
Illustrated by Laura James
Published by Tradewind Books, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-896580-60-9
Age level: 4-8

Description (from Tradewind Books):

Anna fetches water from the spring every day, but she can’t carry it on her head like her older brothers and sisters. In this charming and poetic family story set in Jamaica, Commonwealth Prize-winning author Olive Senior shows young readers the power of determination, as Anna achieves her goal and overcomes her fear.

My thoughts:

How can one talk about food as cultural heritage and not include water?  For this reason, I am pleased to have come across Anna Carries Water, written by Olive Senior and illustrated by Laura James.  The book’s tone was set after reading the author’s dedication: “For all the little water carriers of the world.”  For me, it inspired an immediate appreciation for what the following pages held.  The imagery and emotions that are expressed through simple and subtle language make this book all the more unique.  We get to follow Anna in her journey of traversing Mister Johnson’s field, confronting the scary cows, joining the neighborhood children, and learn about this Caribbean community’s relationship with water.  This book can also help our students or children to think about our relationship with water: Where does the water that we use come from?  How is it used?  Do the characters in the book use water the same way we do?  What different and what’s the same?

I really enjoyed this book and hope you do as well.

The Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred
Written by Samantha R. Vamos
Illustrated by Rafael López
Published by Charlesbridge, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-58089-242-1
Age level: 5-11

Description (from Charlesbridge):

A bilingual celebration with a delicious ending.

This is the story of how the farm maiden and all the farm animals worked together to make the rice pudding that they serve at the fiesta. With the familiarity of “The House That Jack Built,” this story bubbles and builds just like the ingredients of the arroz con leche that everyone enjoys. Cleverly incorporating Spanish words, adding a new one in place of the English word from the previous page, this book makes learning the language easy and fun.

Rafael López covers each page with vibrant, exuberant color, celebrating tradition and community.

Back matter includes a glossary of Spanish words and a recipe for arroz con leche—perfect for everyone to make together and enjoy at story time

My thoughts:

Written by Samantha R. Vamos, The Cazeula That the Farm Maiden Stirred is a rhythmic cooking tour of the delicious dessert, arroz con leche.  Although a common dessert throughout Latin America, this dish can be found worldwide with regional variations.  And for those of us familiar with the yummy pudding, this book provides a warm reminder of its sweet aroma and sounds of bubbling, boiling goodness!  The illustrator, Rafael López (also of Yum! ¡MmMm! ¡Qué Rico!) does an exquisite job of adding layers of life, color, and texture to this already fun book.  A few of the highlights from this book are its effortless use of Spanish vocabulary and the arroz con leche recipe in the back.  I suggest sharing this recipe with a little one, or sharing your own family’s rice pudding recipe!

¡Bien provecho!

Green is a Chile Pepper: A Book of Colors
Written by Roseanne Greenfield Thong
Illustrated by John Parra
Published by Chronicle Books LLC, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-4521-0203-0
Age level: 4-7

Description (from Chronicle Books):

Green is a chile pepper, spicy and hot. Green is cilantro inside our pot. In this lively picture book, children discover a world of colors all around them: red is spices and swirling skirts, yellow is masa, tortillas, and sweet corn cake. Many of the featured objects are Latino in origin, but all are universal in appeal. With rich, boisterous illustrations, a fun-to-read rhyming text, and an informative glossary, this playful concept book will reinforce the colors found in every child’s day!

My thoughts:

Green is a Chile Pepper: A Book of Colors delightfully adds Spanish vocabulary into the theme of food as cultural heritage.  This fun book, written by Roseanne Greenfield Throng, touches not only on common ingredients in Latin American cooking, but incorporates holidays, music, family, and fiesta.  John Parra’s illustrations are lively, colorful, and create a vivid portrayal of the community.  This book can be used as a way to explore how our students or children celebrate special days or holidays.  Are there traditional foods that are eaten?  What is their favorite dish?  What sorts of decorations are used?  With whom are these special days celebrated?  How would they illustrate their holidays or parties?  This simple book allows for an enjoyable reflection of our own celebrations and can be a fun sharing activity!

You are also invited to check out Roseanne Greenfield Throng’s, Round is a Tortilla.  Lorraine has a very nice review on it and it is equally as enjoyable! Katrina has also featured these two books in an En la Clase post from last year, when she discussed “Gratitude, Awareness, and Poetry for the Classroom.”

Guacamole
Written by Jorge Argueta
Illustrated by Margarita Sada
Translated by Elisa Amado
Published by Groundwood Books
ISBN: 978-1-55498-133-5
Age level: 5-7

Description (from Goodreads):

Following on the success of Sopa de frijoles / Bean Soup and Arroz con leche / Rice Pudding is Jorge Argueta’s third book in our bilingual cooking poem series — Guacamole — with very cute, imaginative illustrations by Margarita Sada.

Guacamole originated in Mexico with the Aztecs and has long been popular in North America, especially in recent years due to the many health benefits of avocados. This version of the recipe is easy to make, calling for just avocados, limes, cilantro and salt. A little girl chef dons her apron, singing and dancing around the kitchen as she shows us what to do. Argueta’s gift in seeing beauty, magic and fun in everything around him makes this book a treasure — avocados are like green precious stones, salt falls like rain, cilantro looks like a little tree and the spoon that scoops the avocado from its skin is like an excavating tractor.

As in the previous cooking poems, Guacamole conveys the fun and pleasure of making something delicious and healthy to eat for people you really love. A great book for families to enjoy together

My thoughts:

Jorge Argueta is an author whom Vamos is very proud to showcase and whose work has been featured several times on the Vamos blog.  Keira’s 2012 ¡Mira Look! post provides some general information on him, however, if you’re interested in learning more about this award winning author, check out his website.

His numerous cooking poems are a perfect fit for this month’s theme.  I chose Guacamole for two reasons in particular:  1) who doesn’t enjoy a yummy helping of guacamole?  One might argue it can accompany any dish! 2) I relished in Margarita Sada’s artwork!  This bilingual book is an excellent way to share a cooking experience with any child.  With skillful crafting, the directions to make guacamole are surprisingly clear and easy to read.  Jorge Argueta also thoughtfully marks the sections that require adult help with an asterisk.  Are there any other ingredients that you would like to add to the guacamole that you’ll make?  You can be as creative as you’d like!

It’s Our Garden: From Seeds to Harvest in a School Garden
Written and photographed by George Ancona
Illustrated by Students of Acequia Madre Elementary School
Published by Candlewick Press, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-7636-5392-7
Age level: 5-7

Description (from Goodreads):

At an elementary school in Santa Fe, the bell rings for recess and kids fly out the door to check what’s happening in their garden. As the seasons turn, everyone has a part to play in making the garden flourish. From choosing and planting seeds in the spring to releasing butterflies in the summer to harvesting in the fall to protecting the beds for the winter. Even the wiggling worms have a job to do in the compost pile! On special afternoons and weekends, neighborhood folks gather to help out and savor the bounty (fresh toppings for homemade pizza, anyone?). Part celebration, part simple how-to, this close-up look at a vibrant garden and its enthusiastic gardeners is blooming with photos that will have readers ready to roll up their sleeves and dig in.

My thoughts:

This was a very special book for me.  As a native of Santa Fe and a proud New Mexican, I was thrilled to see our rich agricultural tradition on display in, It’s Our Garden: From Seeds to Harvest in a School Garden.  This non-fiction work takes readers through the seasons and highlights just how fun gardening can be!  Despite the lack of colorful illustrations typically found in children’s books, this book will still be a joy to read with a young child; the artwork from the Acequia Madre Elementary School students as well as the photography of author, George Ancona, are important for a different reason – they make the story truly feel grounded and real.  By exploring the photographs and encouraging curiosity in the gardening process, this book can serve as a fun way to engage with readers.  I found this book to be a unique way to foster interest and excitement about growing food, learning about the environment, and eating nutritiously.

Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale
Written and Illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh
Published by Abrams Books for Young Readers,
ISBN: 9781419705830
Age level: 5-7 years old

Description (from Goodreads):

In this allegorical picture book, a young rabbit named Pancho eagerly awaits his papa’s return. Papa Rabbit traveled north two years ago to find work in the great carrot and lettuce fields to earn money for his family. When Papa does not return, Pancho sets out to find him. He packs Papa’s favorite meal—mole, rice and beans, a heap of warm tortillas, and a jug of aguamiel—and heads north. He meets a coyote, who offers to help Pancho in exchange for some of Papa’s food. They travel together until the food is gone and the coyote decides he is still hungry . . . for Pancho!
Duncan Tonatiuh brings to light the hardship and struggles faced by thousands of families who seek to make better lives for themselves and their children by illegally crossing the border.

My thoughts:

Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale, is an award winning children’s book written and illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh.  Simply put, it is outstanding.  Unlike the other books in this month’s list, this selection does not overtly related to the theme, as it truly is a “migrant’s tale.”  However, when thinking upon the theme of food as cultural heritage, I found this book to fit right in.  Without a doubt, this book strengthens the relationship between food and home.  I am not referring to “home” as a location, but rather the bonds and emotions that are evoked; that of family, friends, culture, heritage, memories, smells, and all of the other links that keep us connected, even when we are literally, far from home.  This simple book is really quite profound.  It is beautifully illustrated and thoughtfully written.  Please check out Katrina’s, En la Clase post discussing the book in more detail and offering ideas for classroom use.

Tamalitos
Written by Jorge Argueta
Illustrated by Domi
Translated by Elisa Amado
Published by Groundwood Books, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-55498-300-1
Age level: 4-7 years old

Description (from Goodreads):

In his fourth cooking poem for young children, Jorge Argueta encourages more creativity and fun in the kitchen as he describes how to make tamalitos from corn masa and cheese, wrapped in cornhusks. In simple, poetic language, Argueta shows young cooks how to mix and knead the dough before dropping a spoonful into a cornhusk, wrapping it up and then steaming the little package. He once again makes cooking a full sensory experience, beating on a pot like a drum, dancing the corn dance, delighting in the smell of corn . . . And at the end, he suggests inviting the whole family to come and enjoy the delicious tamalitos “made of corn with love.” Domi’s vivid paintings, featuring a sister and her little brother making tamalitos together, are a perfect accompaniment to the colorful text.

My thoughts:

I couldn’t help but include another one of Jorge Argueta’s cooking poems. Tamalitos, colorfully illustrated by Domi, is a stunning representation of food as cultural heritage.  This is especially notable in the first few pages when he speaks about the importance of corn: “Our indigenous ancestors ate/tamalitos made from corn. / It also says in the Popol Vuh, /the sacred book of the Maya, /that the first men and women were made of corn.”  This simple ingredient provides an enduring link from past to present and remains an integral part of cultural identity.  And fortunately for us, we also learn how to make tamales through Argueta’s beautiful Spanish and English prose.  Lorraine wrote a thoughtful and more detailed review on Tamalitos, please read it here.    And then, check out the book for yourself!

What Can You Do with a Paleta?/¿Qué puedes hacer con una paleta?
Written by Carmen Tafolla
Illustrated by Magaly Morales
Published by Dragonfly Books, 2009
ISBN: 978-0385-75537-5
Age level: 3-7 years old

Description (from Goodreads):

Where the paleta wagon rings its tinkly bell and carries a treasure of icy paletas in every color of the sarape…

As she strolls through her barrio, a young girl introduces readers to the frozen, fruit-flavored treat that thrills Mexican and Mexican-American children. Create a masterpiece, make tough choices (strawberry or coconut?), or cool off on a warm summer’s day–there’s so much to do with a paleta.

My thoughts:

This bilingual book, written by Carmen Tafolla and illustrated by Magaly Morales, celebrates the joys of the paleta while we journey through the neighborhood.  This book truly is a delight to read!  In fact, I had a big smile on my face while reading.  I may have been unconsciously smiling back at all the wonderfully illustrated faces.  The artwork lends dimension to the text and helps create a lively community filled with activity, laughter, and play.  The punctuation and short sentences also encourage a cheerful and energetic flow to the reading, which any kiddo will be sure to enjoy!

Yum! ¡MmMm! ¡Qué Rico! Americas’ Sproutings
Written by Pat Mora
Illustrated by Rafael López
Published by Lee & Low Books, 2007
ISBN: 978-1-58430-271-1
Age level: 5-8

Description (from Lee & Low Books):

Smear nutty butter,
then jelly. Gooey party,
my sandwich and me.

Peanuts, blueberries, corn, potatoes, tomatoes, and more — here is a luscious collection of haiku celebrating foods native to the Americas. Brimming with imagination and fun, these poems capture the tasty essence of foods that have delighted, united, and enriched our lives for centuries. Exuberant illustrations bring to life the delicious spirit of the haiku, making Yum! ¡Mmmm! ¡Qué rico! an eye-popping, mouth-watering treat. Open it and dig in!

My thoughts:

We at Vamos really love this book!  In fact, it was featured last November in Alice’s ¡Mira Look! post.  In her thorough and thoughtful review, she writes, “…Pat Mora takes us on a gastronomic journey of the Americas through a series of fun haikus. Each poem focuses on a crop native to these continents, culminating in a full harvest of celebration and praise. The descriptions of food and cuisine alongside the bright, multicolored illustrations at once awaken the senses while guiding readers through the history of agriculture in the Americas.”  It is clear how this delightful book effortlessly fits into the theme of food as cultural heritage.  And for those of us that are fans of Rafael López’s artwork, we are in for another visual adventure!

 

 

¡Mira Look!: The Cazuela that the Farm Maiden Stirred

cazuela

Saludos todos and welcome to the start of our November-themed book reviews! Our themes for this month will focus on food and the cultural importance of food, topics that seem to fit well with the harvest season that is upon us and the subsequent winter holidays for which food plays such a significant role. Along with traditional practices, food is an important cultural element that can awaken the senses, harken back to fond memories and seasonal associations, and bring people together though collection, preparation, and shared enjoyment.

cazuela-1

Our book to start this exploration is The Cazuela that the Farm Maiden Stirred, written by Samantha R. Vamos and illustrated by Rafael López. This fun and engaging book tells the story of a young farm maiden who, by enlisting the help of various farm animals and the farmer boy, makes a steamy, delicious pot of arroz con leche. The book has a lively, festive tone and the cooking process is described as a fun, unifying celebration, emphasizing the cultural and communal importance of food. In preparing the arroz con leche, everyone at the farm, including the anthropomorphized animals, must do their part and contribute. This not only exemplifies good team work, but also shows how everyone has a valuable skill or asset to contribute.

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¡Mira Look!: Drum Dream Girl by Margarita Engle

drum dream girlSaludos, todos! This week we are featuring Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music, written by Margarita Engle and illustrated by Rafael López. As some of you may remember, we recently featured Margarita Engle in our Author’s Corner, where we gave you some biographical information, as well as some resources for exploring and teaching some of her works in young adult and children’s literature. In Drum Dream Girl, Engle does not cease to amaze us yet again. With Drum Dream Girl (ages 3-8) we continue our March celebration of Women’s History Month and our theme of women’s rights and experiences in children’s literature, by focusing on the story of a lesser-known historical figure. Through her beautiful poetic prose, Engle tells the biographical tale of a young, Cuban girl who counters gender norms in order to become one of Cuba’s most iconic female drummers.

drumdream 9López’s stunning illustrations complement Engle’s lyrical prose in a culmination of female empowerment and pride. As illustrator López dedicates the book to his “architect mother, Pilo, whose courage opened the ceiling above her dreams,” readers are reminded of the strength and brilliance of older generations of women, paving the way towards freedom and rights for younger generations. This book strongly resonates with the legacy of women’s rights and empowerment throughout history, in the Americas and beyond.

Drum Dream Girl is based on the true story of Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, a Chinese-African-Cuban girl living in the 1930s who successfully struggled against the social stigma for female drummers, becoming one of Cuba’s great, historic musicians. Engle narrates the tale through concise, lyrical writing, consistent with her style of fusing poetry and prose: “But everyone/ on the island of music/ in the city of drumbeats/ believed that only boys/ should play drums/ so the drum dream girl/ had to keep dreaming/ quiet/ secret/ drumbeat/ dreams.” This style is both easy for younger readers to follow and digest, and lyrically pleasing for older readers or adults.

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Congratulations to the 2016 ALA Award Winners!

Vamos a Leer | Award Winning Authors

We are thrilled to share the news that this year’s American Library Association (ALA) awards recognized several amazing Latin@ authorsamong outstanding children’s and young adult books. These authors have played an important part in the diversification of children’s and young adult literature and we are excited to see that their contributions have been acknowledged with such prestigious awards. Never before has the ALA awards recognized such breadth and depth of Latin@ and Latin American culture in a given year! Continue reading