Book Review: Violet by Alidis Vicente

By Sujei Lugo

VioletDESCRIPTION: “Violet is a bright and colorful story set in the Galápagos Islands. Told entirely from the point of view of the animals that live there, this is the tale of a unique baby bird named Violet. Violet’s mother is a Red-Footed Booby, and Violet’s father is a Blue-Footed Booby. Their baby, Violet, is the first one of her kind, a Purple-Footed Booby, and she displays characteristics of both species. Violet’s red footed and blue footed relatives, however, don’t notice her similarities at first, just her differences, and they don’t see how she will ever fit in. Through the kindly intervention of a wise old Galápagos Tortoise, the birds all learn an important lesson about acceptance, and Violet shows off a new dance that is the best of all of them”

MY TWO CENTS: Through the voices of talking animals, Alidis Vicente brings us a rhyming children’s book about prejudice and acceptance. Nancy Cote’s illustrations, founded on acrylic paintings and a pastel colors palette, supports the sympathetic approach of the story. This is the second collaboration between Vicente and Cote, and is one of those children’s books that uses animals to provide a voice of justice and a moral tale at the end.

The story is set in the Galápagos Islands and is told from the perspective of those who have heard the tale about this place “where nature is untouched” and where two group of birds were “forced to pick a side.” Readers are immediately introduced to the biodiversity of the Galápagos Islands and how animals “ruled the land.” Violet was like no other animal that lived on those islands. She was a purple-footed booby, the offspring a blue-footed booby (father) and red-footed booby (mother), who grew up mingling with their own. Her parents defied their social roles and barriers and decided to start a family, thus a baby seabird named Violet was born. The new family returned to their hometown, where the news of a “mixed seabird” was taken as “horrific,” a disgrace, and a baby whose feet “shouldn’t be on land.” In the midst of this outrage, an old, wise tortoise interferes to bring sense to chaos and acknowledge that Violet is different, a descendant of a red-footed and blue-footed booby. Violet proceeds to show her skills, changing the mood and reception of fellow animals, providing actions for the tortoise’s final statement: “THIS makes the Galápagos complete.”

Alidis Vicente uses the opportunity to talk about prejudice and differences and successfully moves beyond the tired “we are all the same” trope. Through a simple story, she challenges colorblindness and provides the characters of this narrative (and readers) the lens to acknowledge differences among their habitats (communities). It is then that communities should work to challenge, minimize and, finally, eradicate prejudice and oppression due to our differences. Although books with talking animals may hinder children in the understanding of social issues, adults can play a role in guiding children to situate what was discussed to their own lives and their surroundings.

TEACHING TIPS: Violet is a great picture book for K-3 grade students and it successfully intersects Language Arts, Science, and Art. Language Arts teachers can incorporate this book in their classrooms and provide students the opportunity to learn new words, while enriching their vocabulary regarding fauna terms, verbs, and adjectives. The book includes a glossary with definitions and pronunciations of some words used in the story. Teachers can also give meaning to those new words and the story’s plot by encouraging a discussion around prejudice and differences.

Science teachers can use the book to teach students about different species, habitats, and biodiversity. The book incorporates several illustrations of different animals with their specific physical attributes. In collaboration with Art class, students can draw and paint images of sea lions, iguanas, seabirds, and whales, while learning about their distinctive features, habitats, and endangered species.

AUTHOR & ILLUSTRATOR: Alidis Vicente is a stay-at-home mom from New Jersey who began writing children’s books once her son was born. She graduated from Rutgers University and worked for New Jersey’s Division of Youth and Family Services before focusing on her career as a writer. Vicente is the author of The Coquí and the Iguana (2011), The Missing Chancleta and Other Top Secret Cases (2013). The Missing Chancleta won first place in the Best Youth Chapter Fiction Book (Spanish/Bilingual Category) in the 2014 International Latino Book Awards. You can also read her guest post on Latin@s in Kid Lit.

Nancy Cote is a children’s books author and illustrator from Massachusetts who earned her B.F.A. in Painting from the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth. Her books have won several awards including the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal Award, 1996 Notable Children’s Trade Book from The Children’s Book Council and the National Council for Social Studies, Florida Reading Association Children’s Book Award, SSLI 1999 Honor Book,  She has illustrated various picture books, such as Flip-Flops (1998), I Like Your Buttons! (1999), Hamster Camp: How Harry Got Fit (2004),  Mrs. Fickle’s Pickles (2006), Ella and the All-Stars (2013) and Watch the Cookie! (2014).

For more information about Violet, visit your local library or bookstore. It’s also available in amazon.com

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Alidis Vicente

Nancy Cote

 

Guest Post: Alidis Vicente Writes So Children Can Temporarily Escape Harsh Realities

By Alidis Vicente

Bruises. That’s what I saw on the face and body of a 15-year-old girl a few years ago as the school nurse examined her in front of me. She was also covered in scars, both physical and emotional. Her body stood frozen with eyes fixed on the floor as she was observed for signs of abuse. Her face was drenched in fear and shame. Fear of what the repercussions of my visit would be and shame of having not covered her bruises well enough so as not be seen. At that moment she was not Latina, African American, Italian American, or a member of any other ethnic group. She was a child. An abused, broken, petrified child.

Later that day, my coworker and I stood, unwelcome, in a living room. We confronted the older brother who physically assaulted that young lady along with the family who defended him. She had served her brother (“the man of the house” in his father’s absence) cold milk instead of hot milk and was irritated at being asked to warm it. The punches and smacks followed, as did the bottom of the stairs when she tumbled down.

Ultimately, the police ordered the monster of an older brother out of the home. I felt everything but relief as I watched him smile and glare at the young lady he abused while he was escorted away. I knew I couldn’t protect her forever, even though I so desperately wanted to. When all was said and done, I had to go home. Unfortunately, so did she. The next day I would have to be at my desk, bright and early, to write a report of my investigative findings. I couldn’t say what I wanted to. I couldn’t write what I saw in the eyes of the people I had met or the emotions felt in the air and chaos of the room. My report would be in black and white–what my trained eyes saw, what my recording ears heard, and what my supervisor told me had to be done.

That was my job. Clocking into work every day at 9 a.m. and sometimes driving home 16 hours later in a car owned by the state government. My job was to protect children and ensure their well-being. My challenge was to detach myself from every investigation. I didn’t make kids happy. I walked into their lives, for a short time, and turned them upside down no matter how terrible they already were. I was rarely ever a source of happiness in their eyes even though, in my heart, I knew I was doing the right thing.

I decided to stop working when my first son was born. Yes, I still wanted to go back to work. It was a part of my identity and one of the most indirectly rewarding experiences of my life. But I wanted to become something different. I wanted to bring joy to children who needed it most. I longed for young faces to smile, and not shudder, when they saw me.

So, I’m sure to the dismay of many, when people ask why I write for Latino kids, my answer is simple. I don’t. My cultural agenda is slim. If young readers learn Spanish vocabulary while reading my books, Great! If they pick up on some cultural nuances embedded within my text, Amazing! But that’s not, and never will be, why I type on my laptop or jot on small pieces of random paper. I concoct stories to set my imagination free. I create books to prompt smiles and silent chuckles. I write so young minds, albeit temporarily, can forget about where they are and dream about where they want to be.

 

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Alidis Vicente is a stay at home mother from New Jersey. After graduating from Rutgers University with a Bachelor’s Degree in 2005, she worked with children and families for New Jersey’s Division of Youth and Family Services. She is currently a client of Writers House Literary Agency and is also the author of The Coquí & the Iguana, her first picture book. Alidis, the original Detective Flaca, continues to write stories from her New Jersey home, only now she uses a laptop instead of a notepad… at least most of the time. The Missing Chancleta and Other Top-Secret Cases is a finalist for the 2014 International Latino Book Awards in the category “Best Youth Chapter Fiction Book: Spanish or Bilingual.”

 

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Books by Alidis Vicente:

Chancleta  Coqui