April 7th | Week in Review

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¡Hola a todos! This week I found interesting resources, I hope you enjoy!

– You might appreciate Mexican author Valeria Luiselli’s book-length essay, Tell Me How It Ends, if you are teaching about Central American migration, and especially about child migrants. “Until it is safer for undocumented folks to share their own stories, to argue on their own behalf, Luiselli makes for a trusted guide.”

— Check out these three authors shortlisted for the Burt Award for Caribbean Literature. “The finalists were selected by a jury administered by the Bocas Lit Fest and made up of writing, publishing and educational professionals with expertise in young adult literature.”

–In this era of technological advancement you would expect children to use technology for reading but here are the reasons why children prefer to read books on paper rather than screens. “But young people do not have a uniform set of skills, and the contention that screens are preferred is not backed up by research.

– Here is a book review of the new YA novel Lucky Broken Girl by Ruth Behar. Highly recommended by Latinos in Kid Lit, the reviewer expressed, “I read this book and couldn’t put it down and then gave it to my 11-year-old son to read and he couldn’t put it down.”

– Look at these 10 Exciting New Middle Grade Books with Latinx Main Characters (including the now familiar Lucky Broken Girl).

Lee and Low Books shared advice on how you can save federal funding for libraries and help teens.

-Also, if you are in search of a new game for class, try Compound it All: The Compound Building Game. The game is meant to “expand your vocabulary, critical thinking skills, and even your math skills” and “is equally fun to play with friends and family.”

–As they do every year, the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) has released its statistics on diversity in children’s and YA lit. Check out the latest ” This year, the number jumped to 28% – the highest year on record since 1994 (and likely the highest year ever). 2016 also marked a number of important award wins for authors of color…”

–In related news, the CCBC has also released their list of recommended books for 2017. Check out their 2017 compilation for “a fully annotated listing of 246 books published in 2016 for birth through high school and recommended by the CCBC professional staff.”

– Ever wondered if your school has a plan for bias incidents? Teaching Tolerance draws on schools in California as examples for how to respond.

– Lastly, if you’ve ever wandered what’s up with the recent appearances of the term “Latinx,” you might want to share Arianna Davis’ self-reflective piece on coming to terms with “Latinx.”

Abrazos,
Alin Badillo


Image: fist pump. Reprinted from Flickr user mike nerl under CC©.

 

¡Mira, Look!: Letters Forever/ Cartas para siempre

Saludos todos! This week we are concluding our March theme of women and Women’s History Month with another great read. Last week I featured the Coleccion Antiprincesas, which provides readers with biographies of underrepresented and under-studied historical Latina heroines. This week, however, we are switching gears a bit, focusing more on the courage and determination of young girls in our everyday lives. The book for this week is Letters Forever/ Cartas para siempre, written by Tom Luna and illustrated by Laura Alvarez. This wonderful story focuses on a young, female protagonist who has to learn how to navigate her complicated emotions in a difficult situation. Not only does this book show young readers how to cope with separation and heartache, it also counters stereotypes and challenges negative representations of women and girls by portraying a young girl whose empathy and emotional sensibility is not a flaw or a nuisance, but, ultimately, one of her greatest virtues.

This book tells the story of young Camila and her beloved abuelo, Felix, who lives far away in Veracruz, Mexico: “It had been two years since he left San Antonio to return home to Veracruz.” Camila reflects on the bittersweet memories of her grandfather playing his favorite guitar, the requinto, and how he would sing her lullabies when she was a little baby: “He had a deep beautiful voice and played the requinto with an almost angelic touch.” Although the plot following the female protagonist challenges typical, negative representations of women and girls, the character description of the grandfather also challenges expectations of men and boys. The grandfather is sensitive, artistic, loving and participates actively in caring for his grandchild, taking her on outings to the zoo and the park, to name a few, all the while singing or whistling tunes from Veracruz.

Although Camila misses her grandfather greatly, her parents say that they do not have enough money to afford a trip to Veracruz to visit him. However, one day, deciding to take matters into her own hands, young Camila hops on her bike determined to ride the 938 miles to Veracruz to see her dear grandfather: “‘I’m going to see Grandpa Felix in Veracruz,’ said Camila with a defiant stance.” As one would imagine, Camila’s mother quickly intervenes and tells her to come back home, that she can’t ride her bike all the way to Veracruz, but that one day they’ll have enough money saved up for a visit. Although Camila’s immediate solution to her grandfather’s absence is, of course, not one that I or parents and educators would likely recommend to their students, this scene does illustrate Camila’s determination and her willingness to try to solve her problem independently. This scene also serves as a contrast to Camila’s eventual, more reasonable solution to her feelings, showing readers Camila’s learning curve and her progress in figuring out both what her feelings are and what to do about them.

After her failed attempt at biking 938 miles to Veracruz, and her mother’s brief scolding, Camila decides that a more appropriate response might be to write a letter to her grandfather and ask him to be her pen pal. This solution is also one arrived at entirely by Camila herself, further emphasizing her independence and her ability to learn and navigate tough situations on her own: “She went into her room, pulled out her diary and decided then and there that she would write to her grandfather and ask him to write her back.” What I also particularly love about this scene is the mention of Camila’s journal-writing as a catalyst for her emotional development and decision-making. As an avid writer and “journaler” myself, I, too, have found this to be a very useful strategy in coping with tough situations, sorting out my thoughts and feelings, and figuring out how to proceed. Moreover, as the story continues in a somewhat epistolary format, composed of letters between Camila and her grandfather, teachers could conduct various lessons based on two forms of writing: first, letter-writing and the epistolary novel form, and, second, journal writing. As an exercise in writing and verbal expression, teachers could ask their students to write in a journal every day. Teachers could also conduct exercises in letter-writing and, especially for foreign language students, teach their students proper opening and closing statements, such as “Querido abuelo/ Dear grandpa.” This story is entirely bilingual, which is especially useful for comparing the letter-writing format between English and Spanish. In addition, the simplistic illustrations found within this book could also inspire students to create drawings of their own to accompany their journal entries or letters. As noted by a School Library Journal review, “Rough-hewn, heavily brushed paintings tracking Camila’s progress to adulthood and Grandpa’s to gray-haired old age accompany narrative passages of English over Spanish.” In this story, the prose is just as important as the illustrations in conveying the passing of time, and both Camila’s physical and emotional growth.

Towards the end of the story we see Camila grown up to be a young, 18-year-old woman. Her family still has not been able to save enough money to go to Veracruz, but Camila is determined to go nonetheless: “On the day Camila turned 18, she was in her room with photos of her grandfather all around. She was working now and saving her money. Her family never did go to Veracruz but Camila was saving to go on her own.” This scene again reinforces Camila’s agency and independence, her ability not only to work hard towards a self-determined goal, but also to eventually travel on her own.What I find especially powerful about this scene is the way in which it emphasizes “ambition” as not only working towards professional and academic goals, but also towards emotional and interpersonal goals. Oftentimes “emotional labor,” or the work that one puts into emotionally supporting others, is unconsciously expected of women while also being undervalued, unrecognized and unremunerated, in both the home and the workplace. This heartwarming scene emphasizes the hard work that Camila put into sustaining a relationship with her grandfather over the years, as well as her grandfather’s boundless joy and appreciation upon finally seeing her arrive in Veracruz (belated spoiler alert!).

All in all, this book is a wonderful resource for teaching a variety of subjects from writing and correspondence, to emotional development and maturity.  Letters Forever/ Cartas para siempre challenges typical representations of gender roles through children’s literature, empowering both young girls and boys.

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

Stay tuned to an introduction to our April themes and more great reads!

¡Hasta pronto!

Alice


Images Modified from Letters Forever/ Cartas para siempre: Pages 7, 9, 14, 15, 21

March 10th | Week in Review

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¡Hola a todos! Here are some timely resources that I hope will be of use to you. Unfortunately, next week I’ll be absent from the blog because it’s our spring break, but I’ll definitely be back the following week with more to share.

As a side note (but an important one!), we want to take a moment to add our  voices to the chorus of advocates who are incensed that the Zinn Education Project would be banned in Arkansas. Here at Vamos we’re devout supporters of their efforts to teach students the diverse histories of this nation. Check out the preceding link not only to learn more about what’s happening, but also for suggestions on how to support the Zinn Education Project in its valuable work!

– Here is a recent article on “America’s Forgotten History of Illegal Deportations.” It offers some uncomfortable parallels between historical and current immigration policies and conversations.

— From Remezcla, here are 20 Can’t-Miss Movie Picks From the San Diego Latino Film Festival that “highlight Latin American and US Latino culture.” The films are diverse and cover important topics, from migration to identity.

– The U.S. Poet Laureate, Juan Felipe Herrera, offered his thoughts recently on America’s current climate, the importance of poetry, and “what Americans should be reading now.”

— Where do Boys Belong in Women’s History Month? is a question our friends at Lee and Low Books have raised, along with ideas “to think about when teaching women’s history so both boys AND girls grow and learn.”

–If you are teaching about Caribbean culture, race and racism, immigration and exile, or strong female protagonists, you might appreciate learning about a new Haitian YA novel that hits on all of those issues – and more. From Anansesem: The Caribbean Children’s Literature Magazine, we found a remarkable interview with Ibi Zoboi, a Haitian writer, as she talks about her book, American Street, in which she shares the migration story of a young woman, Fabiola Toussaint.

– Lastly, Latinos in Kid Lit posted a book review of The Education of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera, a YA novel that touches on “issues of peer pressure, family expectations, gender bias, and community.”

Abrazos,
Alin Badillo


Image: Teaching for Change. Reprinted from Flickr user Teaching for Change under CC©.

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.

– Check out Teaching For Change’s initiative to provide A Book Every Day in honor of Women’s History Month and to “highlight grassroots women’s history.”

– The Children’s Cooperative Book Center (CCBC) recently released their “Multicultural Statistics for 2016.” As with most years, the breakdown is a reminder that the world of publishing. “Two broad categories–Asian/Pacifics and Latinos–saw a notable jump in numbers this year for both ‘by’ and ‘about.’ The numbers for African and African Americans and First/Native Nations remained disappointingly static or dropped. Those mixed numbers reflect our mixed feelings: It’s both an exciting and frustrating time for multicultural literature advocates.”

Bustle revealed the cover of Celia C. Pérez’s forthcoming novel, The First Rule of Punk. We’re excited by the accompanying book description, which reads “novel about a 12-year-old Latina girl who causes anarchy at her middle school when she forms a punk band book” and equally hyped to learn that the publication was the result of an entirely Latina creative group – from author to cover illustrator and everyone in between!!

– Given the conversation on “fake news,” this Teaching Tolerance post on Learning How to Know in 2017 from Teaching ToleranceLastly, from Teaching Tolerance seems apropos. “The devaluing of shared truth, deepening political polarization and the mainstreaming of hate have created a steeper climb toward the goal of helping students evaluate and think critically about the content they consume. Educators thus need to better understand how students access and integrate information, and how media works.”

-If you are teaching about immigration you might want to share NY Time’s publication of Vizguerra’s piece on Why She Will Not Leave. “Last week, Immigration and Customs Enforcement refused to extend my stay of deportation. I sought sanctuary in the church because, like that of millions of other immigrants, my future in this country was thrown into doubt.”

– Finally, we’ve just now heard about the #OwnVoices hashtag and social movement effort started last year. It’s a movement that complements We Need Diverse Books. You can read more about it via Kayla Whaley’s piece, #Own Voices: Why We Need Diverse Authors in Children’s Literature, on the Read Brightly blog, where she writes that “Given the history of marginalized groups being spoken about, and for, in all areas of society, it’s especially important that we don’t ignore diverse voices by focusing only on diverse content.”

Abrazos,
Alin Badillo


Image: #NiUnaMenos. Reprinted from Flickr user Laura Moraña under CC©.

February 24th | Week in Review

2017-02-24-01.png¡Hola a todos! I hope these resources are of use. I know with recent current events it may seem like the future of education is bleak, however, we must remain strong and stay in solidarity. Together we can get through these dark times!

– Check out why these librarians are protesting Trump’s executive orders on Reforma.

— Additionally, Reforma shared about Talk Story Together- Sharing Stories, Sharing Culture. This is a great joint literacy project from the American Indian Library Association and the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association that celebrates and explores the stories of children and their families. Story telling is embedded in culture, and it’s a meaningful way to learn about each other.

– Our Teaching for Change friends shared resources on how to Teach Students to Question the President. They offer some great advice: “We need to remind students that this country has been at its best when people have organized to question and challenge presidents — opposing presidential support for slavery, war, invasion, segregation, and injustice of all kinds. Our students need stories of this resistance to inform and inspire their own activism in the years ahead.”

We Need to Start Telling the Truth About White Supremacy in Our Schools. “If we would start telling the truth in schools, we would not have racism. We could cure racism in this country,” says Jane Elliott in Discriminology.

Teaching Tolerance explored an important question this week: Have We Lost Sight of the Promise of Public Schools? What do you think? Is it true that “We began moving away from the ‘public’ in public education along time ago”?

–Here are Animated Shorts that Celebrate 11 of Mexico’s Indigenous Languages shared with you by Remezcla. Resources like this are a powerful way to counter oppressive misconceptsions: “Consciously or unconsciously, indigenous tongues are often viewed as backward and those who speak them stigmatized, relegated to the margins of official society for refusing to adapt to rules set by colonizers through violence and subjugation.”

Here is why Teaching People’s History is More Urgent. The Zinn Education Project is more relevant now than ever. It’s encouraging to know that “More than 65,000 teachers are helping students learn the truth, and teach outside the textbook.”

— Also from Remezcla is a post on A Journey Through the Empanadas of Latin America which encourages us consider the ways we can teach about identity through food. The author writes, “Empanadas are one of the few foods that unite all of Latin America. Though they come in myriad regional variations – with different doughs, fillings, and cooking methods – at their core they do have a (mostly) common origin story.”

– Lastly, Rethinking Bilingual Education announced the release of their new children’s book, When a Bully is President. “Playful ink and watercolor illustrations support a powerful journey that touches on bullying in the founding history of the US, how that history may still be impacting kids and families today, and ways to use creativity and self-respect in the face of negative messages for all marginalized communities.”

Abrazos
Alin Badillo


Image: Inner time flow resistance. Reprinted from Flickr user ioannis lelakis under CC©.

February 17th | Week in Review

2017-02-17-WWW-Image-01.png¡Hola a todos! I hope everyone had a wonderful Valentine’s Day. Below are numerous resources that touch on identity, family, and testimony. I know I’ve shared a lot, but there were just so many to choose from this week! I hope these are of use to everyone. Have a wonderful weekend.

Rethinking Schools shared Tackling the Headlines: Teaching Humanity and History. One of the main takeaways: “The best antidote to Trump’s xenophobia, racism, misogyny, and fossil-fuel soaked future is critical thinking.”

– Our Lee & Low Books friends shared Valentine’s Day Children’s Books that Celebrate Familial Love. Even if it is no longer Valentine’s Day, it is important to stress the value of familial love. It’s a theme we’re talking about all month long.

— Also, Teaching for Change shared a great list of Afro-Latino Books for Children and YA. We were excited to see Margarita Engle’s Silver People on the list. It’s one of our recent Americas Award winners. If you are interested in learning more about it, check out the book review by our colleague Katrina.

– When talking about testimonios and identity, author Mia García questions How Do I Keep My History? How Do I Honor It? courtesy of Latinos in Kid Lit. “M. García was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She moved to New York where she studied creative writing at The New School… Her debut novel, Even If the Sky Falls, from Katherine Tegen books …is out now.”

–Here are 13 Books to Teach Children About Protesting and Activism shared by Raising Race Conscious Children. With the complicated state we’re in as a nation, we can’t stress how important we believe it is for young children to learn about activism.

PBS NewsHour shared A Mexican-American Artist On Why More Brown Faces Are Needed in Children’s Books. In the interview, PBS News Hour spoke with award-winning author Duncan Tonatiuh on “how he chose his style, what children have said about his work, and why there ought to be more brown faces in children’s books.”

— If you are looking for potential grant funding, Reforma shared the Día Grant– from the Center for the Study of Multicultural Children’s Literature (CSMCL). This grant will award $500.00 in selected multicultural children’s books to a library with families who will have a Día program.

– For Black History Month, Celebrate Afro-Latino Music With Smithsonian Folkways. “The music of West Africa, where a majority of those enslaved in the Americas came from, was diffused through both an indigenous and Spanish filter to become the distinct sounds and rhythms that we know today.” This is a great resource to provide students with different narratives that can often be overlooked during Black History Month.

-Last week I shared a lot of resources on the meaning of teaching. Continuing this theme, Teaching Tolerance shared a testimony of how ‘Homegoing’ Has Changed through the teaching of Jeremy Knoll. He writes, “Teaching in a relatively affluent, largely white high school, I have always been troubled by a lack of empathy I see in some of my students. Too often in conversations about injustice or unfairness that spring up from the books we read, my students seem unwilling to acknowledge the advantages they have been given over so many others in our society.”

–Lastly, Remezcla shared a post on a documentary about the Black Immigrant Experience in Mexico. Highlighting the experience of both Haitian migrants and expat African artists, this is a great film for students to learn about different immigrant narratives.

Abrazos,
Alin Badillo


Image: Peace Flag. Reprinted from Flickr user Randal under CC©.

 

¡Mira Look!: Haiti My Country

Image result for haiti my countrySaludos todos! This week I will be reviewing Haiti My Country, a collection of poems written by a variety of Haitian school children, illustrated by Rogé and translated from the French by Solange Messier. As we continue with our February theme of love, including love of self, love of community, and love of others, to name a few, this book resonates primarily with themes of love of country and love of nature. Through each individual and unique poem, these children express pride in their country, adoration for its natural beauty, and, ultimately, the love that they have for themselves and for their own particular identities.

haiti-1This book on Haiti also harkens us back to my February posts from last year, where I used Black History Month as an opportunity to focus my book reviews for the month on books about Haiti, a country that is sometimes overlooked in our studies of Latin America. Of course, Afro-Latino culture and populations are prominent in all countries of Latin America, however Haiti’s history and society stands apart, as the majority of the population is made up of Afro-descendents, and it was the first country in the Americas to lead a successful slave rebellion. Some of my posts from last year include, Sélavi / That is Life: A Haitian Story of Hope, Eight Days, A Story of Haiti, Running the Road to ABC, and Children of Yayoute. You may also be interested in Keira’s post on Resources to Teach about Haiti and Afro-Caribbean Cultures, or  Charla‘s post on Teaching about Haiti with Love. While Haiti My Country fits in with out general theme of love for this month, it also helps us remember and link back to some great resources and teaching plans from last year.

haiti-5The introduction of Haiti My Country, written by Dany Laferrière, provides some geographical and historical context for this collection of poems:

After the ongoing deforestation of the last few decades came a succession of cyclones, deadly floods, and then the horrific earthquake. I should clarify that these poems were written before the earthquake of January 12, 2010. What’s more, the region where these young poets live has been largely unaffected by the calamities that I have just mentioned. The natural landscapes that surround these teenagers inspire such dreams that visitors are often surprised they originated in Haiti.

haiti-2Laferrière notes that when he reads novels he can usually discern the age of the author based on a variety of cultural and historical context clues; however, with poetry it is different. He remarks that one of the enchanting and even mysterious aspects of these poems is that the poets themselves are so young, yet their words evoke such wisdom.

haiti-3One of the things that I find especially beautiful about this book is Rogé’s stunning, detailed, and humanistic portraits. Each portrait is presented on the adjacent page of the poem, depicting the poem’s author. The children are smiling, and resting their faces in an expression of serenity and tranquility; however, sometimes their expressions bear a degree of mystery, a complacent smile that hides a deeper truth: “The illustrator (I say illustrator and not painter because these portraits force us to think rather than to look) seems to be trying to resolve a deep mystery behind the faces that are suddenly unreadable.” According to Lafereire, one of the most poignant aspects of this book is the combination of the magical scenes painted by the children’s poetry, and the portraits of their calm, tranquil faces, coupled with the unavoidable context of poverty and devastation that has plagued Haiti for years.  He explains, “Such energy inhabits these adolescents! It overflows and consoles us, even as unfathomable sadness invades our hearts. Their vitality is irresistible. But as heavenly as the setting is, it does not distract them from the human condition.”

haiti-4Nonetheless, Laferrière also notes that these stunning portraits help paint a more holistic image of Haiti, the natural beauty of the country, articulated through the poems, and the endearing faces of its children, the faces of hope and the future. Again, what is so compelling about this collection is what is said and what is not said, the sweet smile on the face of a Haitian adolescent, and the tinge of sadness in her deep, dark eyes. This poignant duality is felt in a poem by Annie Hum: “Magnificent country becomes/ Broken land/ All smiles are lost.”  Yet these poems are also imbued with inspiring hope and faith in the future, in the future that these children will bring: “Everything is born, everything lives, everything perishes./ But this country, her exceptional natural beauty–/ I want her to live forever.” Another poem, shown beside the portrait of a somber looking boy starts with “I dream” and concludes with “I do not want to see these things in dreams/ But in reality…”  That poem alone is reason enough to use the book in the classroom–what a wonderful writing prompt that line could be!

For those of you interested in learning more about contemporary Haiti, here are some additional links:

For those of you interested in learning more about the book’s artist, here are some additional resources:

Stay tuned for more great books!

¡Hasta pronto!

Alice

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