Review of Perkins’s Between Us & Abuela

Review of Mitali Perkins’s Between Us and Abuela: A Family Story from the Border (ages 3 – 6)

& Our Book Guide with Supplemental Activities and Resources

In Between Us and Abuela: A Family Story from the Border (Farrar Straus Giroux, 2019) , María, a young, clever and quick-witted girl from Southern California, narrates her family’s story about celebrating Las Posadas at the annual La Posada Sin Fronteras celebration that occurs at the aptly named Friendship Park, which is along the border between Tijuana, MX and San Diego, CA. Prior to this celebration, María introduces us to her younger brother, Juan, and her Mamá, Sylvia. María explains that sadly she hasn’t seen her Abuela in five years; however, both María and Juan are elated that they will see their Abuela (albeit through the fences along the border) and thus are busy making final touches to their homemade presents for their Abuela.

After a long bus journey and waiting in line for their turn, María, Juan, and Mamá finally get their chance to see and talk with their beloved Abuela who stands on the other side of the border, in Mexico. Their time spent together goes by quickly as they sing Las Posadas, pass hugs and kisses through the fences, and catch up on other family members that live on either side of the border. At the end of their time together, María tries to pass the scarf that she and Mamá have made for Abuela through the fence when she is stopped by Border Patrol Agents that explain that it is forbidden to pass things through the fence. However, this inspires crafty María to find a different way to ensure that Abuela can receive her Christmas gifts without disobeying the Border Patrol’s rules.

Author: Mitali Perkins; Illustrations by: Sara Palacios; Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux (2019)

Check out our full book review and educator guide on Between Us and Abuela here.

Have you read this heartwarming story? Share your thoughts below! How do you plan to celebrate Las Posadas this year?

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Recap of This Month’s Book and Sneak Peak for the Upcoming Titles

¡Feliz febrero, lectores y educadores!

This month’s book was They Call Me Güero, by David Bowles (Grades 5-8; Lexile: 850L). This read was a very contemporary and engaging read about a middle schooler nicknamed Güero, who shares his experiences as a border kid, and how he navigates between being Mexican and American. Some of the key themes that Bowles has incorporated in this great read include migration, diversity and Latinx cultural traditions. Middle school readers will find this text very relevant and relatable thanks to the details, topics and perspectives that Bowles has utilized.

For Güero and his family, transnational migration between Mexico and the U.S. is deeply ingrained into their familial history and identity. Despite their long history as a border family, Güero shares the tensions and stigma that his family encounters as they go between Mexico and the U.S. In addition to Güero’s experiences, Bowles also includes some of the traumatic experiences of migration through Andrés, one of Güero’s classmates, who confides in Güero about his scary journey from Honduras. In our book group discussion, the consensus was that Bowles succeeded in providing a realistic, and current image of migration and the stigma that often accompanies it, which makes this text relatable to readers who share these experiences.
In addition to sharing migration narratives, Bowles also excels in incorporating diversity and cultural traditions in the text to celebrate diverse cultures. For instance, while introducing his friend group to the reader, Güero describes his friends as a group of diverse nerds in that they each have different cultural backgrounds yet share the same interests in reading and their studies. They Call Me Güero celebrates the reality that today’s classrooms across the U.S. are incredibly diverse and alludes to ways in which educators are integrating diversity into school curriculum (through Güero’s “woke” teachers!).
In Güero’s poems, he describes his normal day-to-day experiences that include his strong familial bonds and his admiration for his grandmother who taught him to read and to be strong, his challenges in school (e.g. dealing with bullies and crushes) and outside of school, the traditions and celebrations that are integral to Güero and his family, and more! Güero’s depiction of traditions and childhood memories led book group attendees to reminisce on our memories spending time with grandparents and learning about life from their stories, attending misa as young, antsy children, making (and breaking!) cascarones, and how these experiences have stuck with us. All in all, we highly recommend They Call Me Güero for its lightheartedness and relevance to today’s middle schoolers.
Click here for the book guide!

Mark your calendar for our next meetings!

*Please note that this semester, we are using rotating locations* Join us to discuss the following books; no need to have read the whole book or even a page. All book groups will run from 4-5:30p–latecomers are always welcome!

On March 5th, we will meet at Humble Coffee Downtown (505 Central Ave NW) to discuss Under the Mesquite by: Guadalupe Garcia McCall. (Grades 6-12)

On April 9th, we will meet at Ponderosa Brewing (1761 Bellamah Ave NW) to discuss Juana and Lucas by: Juana Medina. (Grades 2-4)

Vamos a Leer | Enchanted Air by Margarita Engle | Book Review

On May 4th, we will meet at High and Dry Brewing (529 Adams St. NE) to discuss Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings by Margarita Engle and Edel Rodriguez. (Grades 7-9)

¡Mira, Look!: Dreamers/Soñadores

Queridos lectores,



In February we celebrate different kinds of love, and we can think of no better way to do it than by reading Dreamers by Mexican author, Yuyi Morales. This beautiful children’s book, which is available in Spanish as well as Soñadores, tells Morales’ own history of immigrating from Xalapa, Mexico, to the United States.

The book centers around a young mother and her infant son who struggle to understand the new place in which they find themselves, and the language – which they do not speak. From the first page, love of self, of family, and of language compel the characters forward. A poetic voice and striking imagery guide the reader through new beginnings and discovery.

The illustrations are much like the story, captivating and bittersweet. Through the contrast of colorful drawings depicting culture and identity, over a grey and brown background, we can experience the feeling of traveling to a new, unfamiliar, and at times unwelcoming world, while carrying our own.

One of Morales several gifts for her readers is that she shows us both the light and darkness embedded in immigration stories. She does not shy away from hardship and struggle, which does come with parting ways with our homes or with our country. However, Morales also draws on her own story’s resiliency and agency.

One of the illustrations show a young mother in a colorful dress and her son entering an unfamiliar and opaque city, while the clouds above them reveal hidden messages: “Say something,” “What?” “Speak English.” Messages that the mother stares at in sadness. Under the same sky, a banner with the letters “Give thanks” stand in front of them, making the reader feel a tension between what is publicized and portrayed in society vs what immigrants experience in their everyday lives.

Nevertheless, light emerges at the end of this metaphorical tunnel when both characters make a life changing discovery: the public library. A place where books become their guiding friends and a source of wonder. Color starts returning to the pages until it becomes prominent. Images, drawings, animals, and books share the page happily in front of mother and son enjoying the magic of a written world. The background is still brown and grey, but color becomes a protagonist. Closing the story with a message of agency and hope of having found a home and a voice in two languages.

“We are stories. We are two languages. We are lucha. We are resilience. We are hope.”

Morales concludes the book with an author’s note to provide young readers with the parallels to her own history. In sharing so openly, she calls upon her readers to share their own stories, urging them to recognize the value in their own voices:

 “Now I have told you my story. What’s yours?”

We hope that this book might encourage young readers to do just that: to relish their own stories and to speak their own truths. It is with our warmest recommendation that we encourage you to make space for this book front and center on your shelves.

For those who may want to know more about Morales and this work:

 Nos vemos pronto,

Carolina


Citation: All the above images have been included and modified from the book Dreamers by Yuyi Morales.

Our Next Good Read. . .The Only Road

Join us on Monday, March 12th at Red Door Brewing (400 Gold Ave SW #105) from 5:00-7:00 pm to discuss our next book.  We are reading The Only Road (Grades 3-7) by Alexandra Diaz.

Here’s a sneak peek into this award-winning book: (from Goodreads)

Twelve-year-old Jaime makes the treacherous and life-changing journey from his home in Guatemala to live with his older brother in the United States in this gripping and realistic middle grade novel.

Jaime is sitting on his bed drawing when he hears a scream. Instantly, he knows: Miguel, his cousin and best friend, is dead.

Everyone in Jaime’s small town in Guatemala knows someone who has been killed by the Alphas, a powerful gang that’s known for violence and drug trafficking. Anyone who refuses to work for them is hurt or killed—like Miguel. With Miguel gone, Jaime fears that he is next. There’s only one choice: accompanied by his cousin Ángela, Jaime must flee his home to live with his older brother in New Mexico.

Inspired by true events, The Only Road is an individual story of a boy who feels that leaving his home and risking everything is his only chance for a better life. It is a story of fear and bravery, love and loss, strangers becoming family, and one boy’s treacherous and life-changing journey.

We hope to see you there!

We’ll also be raffling off a copy of April’s featured book, How I Became a Nun by César Aira.  Join us that evening to be entered!

 

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Our Next Good Read. . .American Street

Join us on Monday, November 13th at Tractor Brewing (1800 4th St NW) from American Street | Vamos a Leer | Ibi Zoboi5:00-7:00 pm to discuss our next book.  We are reading American Street (Grades 9 and up) by Ibi Zoboi.

Here’s a sneak peek into the book: (from Goodreads)

American Street is an evocative and powerful coming-of-age story perfect for fans of Everything, Everything; Bone Gap; and All American Boys. In this stunning debut novel, Pushcart-nominated author Ibi Zoboi draws on her own experience as a young Haitian immigrant, infusing this lyrical exploration of America with magical realism and vodou culture.

On the corner of American Street and Joy Road, Fabiola Toussaint thought she would finally find une belle vie—a good life.

But after they leave Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Fabiola’s mother is detained by U.S. immigration, leaving Fabiola to navigate her loud American cousins, Chantal, Donna, and Princess; the grittiness of Detroit’s west side; a new school; and a surprising romance, all on her own.

Just as she finds her footing in this strange new world, a dangerous proposition presents itself, and Fabiola soon realizes that freedom comes at a cost. Trapped at the crossroads of an impossible choice, will she pay the price for the American dream?

We hope to see you there!

We’ll also be raffling off a copy of December’s featured book, Like Water for Chocolate/ Como agua para chocolate (Adult)Join us that evening to be entered!

 

September 15th | Week in Review

2017-09-15-WWW-01-01¡Hola a todos! I am very excited to start sharing resources again with you all.

Latinos in Kid Lit has just launched a new series called “Spotlight on Middle Grade Authors.” They’re kicking it off with a feature on Margarita Engle, the Young People’s Poet Laureate. Check it out to hear her describe the birth of her passion for writing.

Rethinking Education shares why Spanish Fluency in the U.S. decreases with each generation. “About 88 percent of Latinos ages 5 to 17 in 2014 said they either speak only English at home or speak English ‘very well,’ compared with 73 percent in 2000.”

–Rethinking Education also posted 9 Bilingual Children’s Books That Make Learning a New Language Easy, a list catered specifically to Spanish teachers.

–For those of you teaching middle or high school history, Rethinking Schools shared Justice for Dreamers- Punish the Authors of Forced Migration, an article that explains how foreign policies creates forced migration.“The perpetrators of the “crime” are those who wrote the trade treaties and the economic reforms that made forced migration the only means for families to survive

— Lastly, Remezcla featured Google latest initiative, which involved the launch of  One of the Largest Digital Collections of Latino Art and History. “The collection features more than 2,500 pieces of art through 90 exhibits.”

Abrazos
Alin Badillo

March 3rd | Week in Review

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¡Hola a todos! Happy beginning of March! Here are various resources that I am glad to share.

– Just for kicks, I thought you might enjoy Remezcla’s compilation of recipes for perros calientes: Journey Through Latin America’s Weird and Wonderful Hot Dog Creations. My mouth was watering!

– Also by Remezcla, here is an Intimate Look at Las Patronas, the Mexican Women Who Feed Migrants Traveling on La Bestia.

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February 10th | Week in Review

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¡Hola a todos! This week’s Week in Review focuses on resources that look at questions such as, what does it mean to be a teacher, and what responsibilities does that entail, especially in these times? I really hope the resources are of help to you, I always love gathering the materials and learning with you.

A Talk with Teachers: Revisiting James Baldwin’s Vision for Education is an article shared by Teaching for Change. Here is a snippet of Baldwin’s view of education and teachers, “one of the paradoxes of education was that precisely at the point when you begin to develop a conscience, you must find yourself at war with your society. It is your responsibility to change society if you think of yourself as an educated person.”

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December 2nd | Week in Review

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¡Hola a todos! Another month has passed, and I just want to let you know that I am extremely grateful to share all of these resources with you. I really hope they are of use to you.

– Our friends at Remezcla shared a preview of the Latin American women featured in Rad Women Worldwide by Kate Schatz.

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November 4th | Week in Review

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¡Hola a todos! The readings for this week are a mix between celebrating Día de los Muertos and bilingual education. I really hope you enjoy them.

After Nearly 2 Decades, Californians Revisit Ban On Bilingual Education. “Our children live in Spanish-speaking families, Spanish-speaking neighborhoods, and listen to Spanish television when they’re home. If school refuses to teach them English, where are they going to learn it? They’re not going to go to college if they don’t have academic English down well.”

– Our Teaching for Change friends shared on Facebook their favorite bilingual children’s book (and one of ours!), Just a Minute!: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book, in celebration of Día de los Muertos.

— Also on Facebook, Latinas for Latino Lit shared their list of chapter Books with Latina Protagonists.

–Here are 21 Of The Most Powerful Things Ever Said About Being An Immigrant shared by our friends at We Need Diverse Books. Warsan Shire writes, “You have to understand, that no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land.”

– Lastly, from Remezcla, we discovered 5 Virtual Día de los Muertos Altars to Women Who Defined Music History that you can share in your classroom.

Abrazos,
Alin Badillo


Image: Día de los Muertos Art. Reprinted from Flickr user Kubetwo under CC©.