¡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.

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

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Hello all!

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

Happy New Year!

Abrazos,
Colleen

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National Picture Book Month

¡Hola artistas!

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

breakfast

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

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

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

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

Wishes for a creative noviembre,

Hania

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

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

 

 

 

 

Reading RoundUp: 10 Children’s and YA Books with Diverse Latinx Perspectives

 

Vamos a Leer¡Buenos días a todos y todas!

As mentioned in Keira’s Sobre Septiembre post, this month’s Reading Roundup is related to the theme of Hispanic Heritage Month. To guide the direction of this month’s book list, I decided that it was imperative for me to determine what I believe Hispanx/Latinx heritage to be. Initially the task seemed easy enough, as I have certainly carved out an understanding of how I define my own Chicana/Latina heritage. Yet, as I attempted to make connections on a grand scale, I found myself unable. I felt as though I were distilling the vibrancy of an entire collective of people down to a single ingredient, a generalization, and a superficiality.

How does one meaningfully capture the range of cultural practices, traditions, languages, religions, geography, race, and ethnicity – just to name a few – of those who identify as Latinx? How could I be so bold to answer for others the deeply personal question of how they define their heritage? I am only able to define my own.

After much thought, I decided that the best way to view the tapestry of “Hispanx/Latinx heritage” was to hang it up, step back, and explore each pictorial design individually. For that reason, this month’s list will be focused on literature that possesses strong and individual narratives; where the author’s experiences, values, and diversity can seep through the text, allowing their unique Latinidad to be known.

Some of the narratives are rooted in reality, as in Darkroom: A Memoir in Black and White. Others are teeming with imagination and the fantastical, as in The Jumbies. Others still may be representative of someone’s reality, somewhere, as in ¡Sí! Somos Latinos/Yes! We are Latinos, or even Niño Wrestles the World.

I invite you to explore and articulate how you define your own unique heritage, or ask your students about theirs. Is the way you define your heritage different from that of your family? Is there literature that represents you? What would be an important element of your heritage that you would want to share with others?

I hope that you enjoy these books as I did and that the diversity within the Latinx experience abounds from their pages!

Mis saludos,

Colleen

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¡Mira, Look!: Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales

As you may have noticed, throuviva fridaghout the month of March we have been celebrating inspiring Latinas. This week I’d like to draw your attention to another biographical book – this one by award-winning author and illustrator, Yuyi Morales. In 2014, Morales added to the growing set of children’s biographies by creating a multimedia book about an important inspirational influence of hers, Frida Kahlo. Viva Frida is a book that stands out as extremely unique in its artistic qualities.

Awarded the 2015 Pura Belpré Illustrator Award and recognized as a 2015 Caldecott Honor Book, here is a description from Goodreads:

Frida Kahlo, one of the world’s most famous and unusual artists, is revered around the world. Her life was filled with laughter, love, and tragedy, all of which influenced what she painted on her canvases.  Distinguished author/illustrator Yuyi Morales illuminates Frida’s life and work in this elegant and fascinating book.

Frida FigurineThe book takes us through various images of Frida in different scenes with multiple objects. In the beginning of the book we see our protaganista as a delicate ceramic figurine. Frida evolves into two-dimensional form, floating through the pages, and then becomes more and more texturized until we eventually see her on canvas as a painting of herself.Frida Canvas

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En la Clase: Los Gatos Black on Halloween

Los Gatos BlackA few weeks ago when I was browsing one of our local library’s collections of books on Día de los Muertos, I stumbled across Los Gatos Black on Halloween.  I couldn’t believe that I’d never heard of this book before.  For those of you who know me, you may think I love this book just because it’s called Los Gatos Black.  While I do have a deep affection for black cats, as every cat I’ve ever had has been black, this book is amazing for more reasons than its title and cover. It’s an absolutely beautiful book, and PERFECT for this time of year.  Marisa Montes’ poetry paired with Yuyi Morales’ illustrations makes for an amazing collaboration. Kirkus Reviews calls the book “A spooky seasonal treat and a great choice for any collection” and I couldn’t agree more. The book’s description should give you a taste of what’s so special about this one: Continue reading

¡Mira, Look!: Just A Minute!: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book

just a minuteLast week I reviewed a book that touches upon the issue of losing a loved one. This week I present a book that can be used to introduce the issue of death to children in a light and playful way. Given that it also includes imagery related to Día de los Muertos and celebrates Mexican traditions, it’s a great addition to your classroom discussions about this holiday. An Américas Award winner in 2003 and Pura Belpré Award winner in 2004, Just A Minute!: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book, (ages 4-8) written and illustrated by Yuyi Morales, is a wonderful book that mixes multicultural literature with bilingual elements and math. Continue reading