By Sujei Lugo
DESCRIPTION FROM THE BOOK JACKET: 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.
MY TWO CENTS: Beware: This book will make you feel hungry!
Through Pat Mora’s wonderful haikus (a traditional and very popular form of Japanese poetry) and Rafael López’s vivid illustrations, we are introduced to a wide variety of foods from the Americas. From blueberries and papaya, to pumpkin and vanilla, readers will have the opportunity to discover and learn about crops that have been growing in our lands for centuries.
Mora uses this opportunity to present us with 14 different types of foods accompanied by a haiku, an illustration, and an informational paragraph for each. This combination effectively makes this book a fun, poetic, and informational read. Mora’s short poems strive to capture the various feelings and sensory experiences we encounter when we eat and enjoy these foods. The informational paragraph provides us with the etymology, origin and uses for each food, and some of them even include national holidays across the region that celebrate them.
Even though food is the main character of the book, children and nature are presented throughout each page, as they interact with the food that is being discussed. Through cheerful and colorful illustrations, López supports Mora’s words with lively anthropomorphic foods, suns and moons, friendly animals, and picturesque landscapes. The book also embraces the real diversity of the Americas, giving us multiethnic and multiracial children and their families enjoying and being part of this magic realism journey of foods and words.
Among the food, colors, and haikus there is an important aspect that is constant throughout Yum! ¡Mmmm! ¡Qué rico!, although featured discreetly: a strong sense of how vital sharing is–sharing the land with nature, humans, and animals, as well as sharing the products of our land with others. It stresses the need to understand the importance of a non-exploitative relationship with nature and our role in taking care of our land. We can see this aspect clearly with López’s constant use of images of children and families, seen either eating or preparing food together, planting seeds, and picking crops, as well as images of nature watering our soil. There’s no doubt that this book will encourage children to eat fruit, vegetables, and other natural foods. At the same time, it will help them to recognize the work that needs to happen to enjoy those foods.
Yum! ¡Mmm! ¡Qué Rico! America’s Sproutings was the first collaboration between Pat Mora and Rafael López. Published in 2007, the book won several awards such as Bank Street Children’s Books of the Year (2008), Américas Award (2007) and American Library Association (ALA) Notable Books (2008). It was also included in the Texas Bluebonnet Award Master List (2008-2009), Great Lakes Great Books Award Master List (2008-2009) and ALA’s Top Ten Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers.
TEACHING TIPS: The book works well for children in grades K-6. At home, kids can read it with adults and learn about haikus and how to incorporate some of the foods into their diet. They can do fun cooking activities, such as making fruit faces or fruit kabobs, and even make ice cream, like in this activity shared by the book’s publisher Lee and Low Books.
The content of the book provides librarians, teachers and educators the opportunity to create cross-curricular activities in subjects such as language arts, social studies, art, and health. Students may even become inspired by Pat Mora’s haikus and write their own pieces about the foods they’ve just learned about, and how they feel by eating them or sharing them. The book incorporates a few words in Spanish, such as luna and dulces, teaching children new words as well as showing them they can incorporate words in other languages in their writing. For activities related to social students, art, and health, Lee and Low Books provides a great classroom guide.
AUTHOR & ILLUSTRATOR: Pat Mora (author) is a writer, speaker, multicultural literacy advocate, and founder of Día de los Niños/Día de los Libros (Children’s Day/Book Day). A former teacher, university administrator and consultant, Mora has dedicated her life to spread her “bookjoy” to children and adults. She is the recipient of various awards and honors such as Honorary Doctorates from North Carolina State University and SUNY Buffalo, Kellogg National Leadership Fellowship, National Endowment of the Arts Poetry Fellowship, Civitella Ranieri Fellowship, Honorary Membership in the American Library Association, Lifetime Membership in the United States Board on Books for Young People and several Southwest Book Awards.
She was written books of poetry, fiction and nonfiction for children and adults. Some of her children’s books are: Listen to the Desert/Oye al Desierto (1994); Tomás and the Library Lady (1997), winner of the 1998 Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award; The Bakery Lady (2001); Doña Flor: A Tall Tale about a Giant Woman with a Great Big Heart (2005), winner of the Pura Belpré Author Honor and Illustrator Awards (2006) and Golden Kite Award from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators; Book Fiesta!: Celebrate Children’s Day/Book Day/Celebremos El Día de los Niños/El Día de Los Libros (2009), a Junior Library Guild selection and Pura Belpré Illustrator Award (2010) winner; Gracias/Thanks (2009), recipient of the Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor (2010); A Piñata in a Pine Tree: A Latino Twelve Days of Christmas (2009), Dizzy in Your Eyes: Poems about Love (2010) and The Beautiful Lady: Our Lady of Guadalupe (2012).
Rafael López (illustrator): Rafael López is a Mexican award-winning illustrator and artist, whose work is influenced by his cultural heritage, colors of Mexican street life, and Mexican surrealism. In addition to children’s books, Rafael López has created illustrated posters and United States Postal Service stamps such as the Latin Music Legends series. He also launched street art projects to revitalize urban neighborhoods such as the Urban Art Trail Project.
He is the recipient of various Pura Belpré Honor for Illustration awards, for books such as: My Name is Celia: The Life of Celia Cruz/Me Llamo Celia: La Vida de Celia Cruz (2006), Book Fiesta!: Celebrate Children’s Day/Book Day/ Celebremos El Día de los Niños/El Día de Los Libros (2010), The Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred (2012) and Tito Puente: Mambo King/Rey del Mambo (2013). He also received two Américas Awards for Children’s and Young Adult Literature for My Name is Celia (2006) and Yum! ¡Mmmm! ¡Qué Rico! Americas’ Sproutings (2007).
FOR MORE INFORMATION about Yum! ¡MmMm! ¡Qué Rico!: Americas’ Sproutings (2007) visit your local library or bookstore. Also, check out worldcat.org, indiebound.org, goodreads.com, amazon.com & leeandlow.com.