Book Reviews: Juana & Lucas, Rudas: Niños Horrendous Hermanitas, and Un Elefante: Numbers/Numeros

 

Reviewed by Becky Villareal

JUANA & LUCAS: Winner of the 2017 Pura Belpré Narrative Award

Juana and Lucas CoverDESCRIPTION OF THE BOOK: Juana loves many things — drawing, eating Brussels sprouts, living in Bogotá, Colombia, and especially her dog, Lucas, the best amigo ever. She does not love wearing her itchy school uniform, solving math problems, or going to dance class. And she especially does not love learning the English. Why is it so important to learn a language that makes so little sense? But when Juana’s abuelos tell her about a special trip they are planning—one that Juana will need to speak English to go on—Juana begins to wonder whether learning the English might be a good use of her time after all. Hilarious, energetic, and utterly relatable, Juana will win over los corazones — the hearts — of readers everywhere in her first adventure, presented by namesake Juana Medina.

MY TWO CENTSJuana & Lucas by Juana Medina is a colorful adventure through the life of young Juana as she learns to speak and read “The English.” Juana Medina sprinkles cognates throughout the book using them to their full potential. Since they are placed strategically, it does help with the understanding of most of the passages. Also, the manner in which she uses the position of the words to express emotion is engaging and reminiscent of comics.

Illustration is Ms. Medina’s strength. The pictures are drawn beautifully and meticulously detailed. Her use of brainstorming to list the characteristics is familiar to school age students and helps carry the story along.

As Juana learns more English and she is able to help others with her new linguistic skills, she gains an understanding of the importance of being multi-lingual.

As a teacher, I would recommend this book as a read aloud for a class of students who are working on second language acquisition.

For a look inside author-illustrator Juana Medina’s studio, check out this post.

img_4567ABOUT THE AUTHOR-ILLUSTRATOR (from her website): Juana was born in Bogotá, Colombia, where she grew up; getting in a lot of trouble for drawing cartoons of her teachers. Eventually, all that drawing (and trouble) paid off. Juana studied at the Rhode Island School of Design – RISD (where she has also taught). And she has done illustration & animation work for clients in the U.S., Latin America and Europe. She now lives in Washington, D.C., where she teaches at George Washington University.

 

 

 

RUDAS: NIÑO’S HORRENDOUS HERMANITAS

Rudas CoverDESCRIPTION OF THE BOOK: Señoras y señores, niños y niñas, the time has come to welcome the spectacular, two-of-a-kind . . . LAS HERMANITAS! No opponent is too big a challenge for the cunning skills of Las Hermanitas, Lucha Queens! Their Poopy Bomb Blowout will knock em’ down! Their Tag-Team Teething will gnaw opponents down to a pulp! Their Pampered Plunder Diversion will fell even the most determined competitor! But what happens when Niño comes after them with a move of his own? Watch the tables turn in this wild, exciting wrestling adventure from Caldecott Honor author Yuyi Morales.

MY TWO CENTS: Rudas: Niños Horrendous Hermanitas by Yuyi Morales is a wonderful addition to the world of Niño, the older brother of two twin sisters.

In this energetic children’s book, Niño has to deal with the misadventures of his sisters beginning with stinky diapers to horrendous crying fits.  All of which he does with as much patience as possible by enlisting the help of his imaginary wrestling adversaries.

Written with a commentary of a wrestling match, it may be a bit hard for someone to follow who is not familiar with this particular genre.  However, I found the book itself to be very entertaining as well as humorous as Niño has to deal with the repercussions of being an older brother.

This would be an excellent read for second language acquisition students.  For children who are learning the language, the author has included English definitions and illustrations in the book itself.  The illustrations are colorful and carry the reader along in this very busy day.

I would highly recommend this book for an early childhood classroom library.

For more about Yuyi Morales’s previous books abour Niño, check these out:

Guest Post: ¡Qué Vivan los Niños Luchadores!

Book Review: Niño Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Yuyi Morales is a Mexican author, illustrator, artist, and puppet maker. She has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Physical Education from the University of Xalapa, México and used to host her own Spanish-language radio program for children in San Francisco, California.She has won numerous awards for her children’s books, including the Caldecott Honor for Viva Frida, Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award for Just a Minute: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book (2004) and Los Gatos Black on Halloween (2008), the Pura Belpré Author Honor for Just in Case: A Trickster Tale and Spanish Alphabet Book (2009), the Pura Belpré Illustrator Award for Viva Frida (2015), Niño Wrestles the World (2014) Just a Minute: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book (2004), Just in Case: A Trickster Tale and Spanish Alphabet Book (2009) and Los Gatos Black on Halloween (2008), and Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor for My Abuelita (2010) and Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez (2004). Morales divides her time between the San Francisco area and Veracruz, Mexico. Her next picture book, Thunder Boy Jr. (written by Sherman Alexie), will be published in May 2016.

 

UN ELEFANTE: NUMBERS / NUMEROS

Reviewed by Ruby Jones

31686520DESCRIPTION OF THE BOOK: Inspired by one of the most beloved nursery rhymes in Latin America, “Un Elefante se Balanceaba,” this book will introduce little ones to numbers and their first English and Spanish words.

MY TWO CENTS: I grew up with my mother reciting the “Un Elefante se Balanceaba” nursery rhyme to me and my siblings so this simple bilingual counting board book is a fun and bright new way to teach counting to my little one.

Each page, as we progress in counting from 1 to 10 elefantes, brings a new, beautifully-illustrated, circus-talented elephant onto the spider web. The numbers are big and vibrant on each page with the number of elephants written beneath in both English and Spanish.

One thing to keep in mind is that this book is inspired by the nursery rhyme so there is no real story line except at the end where the spider web gives way. The book did make me wish that the whole rhyme was written out somewhere in the book, maybe on a final page, for those who may not be familiar with the nursery rhyme. That being said, the artwork is such that there is plenty to talk and engage with little ones about.

TEACHING TIPS: Other than the obvious bilingual number counting, educators can cover action words, discussing what each elephant is doing. Additionally, colors and simple shapes can be reviewed. Maybe even a fun balancing game can be played!

ABOUT THE AUTHORS: Patty Rodriguez: Unable to find bilingual first concept books she could enjoy reading to her baby, Patty came up with the idea behind Lil’ Libros. Patty and her work have been featured in the LA Times, Rolling Stone, CNN Latino, Latina Magazine, Cosmopolitan, People En Espanol, Cosmo Latina, and American Latino TV, to name a few! Patty is currently Sr. Producer for On Air With Ryan Seacrest|iHeartMedia, jewelry designer for MALA by Patty Rodriguez, and creator of Manolos And Tacos.

 

 

Ariana Stein: Ariana Stein, a graduate from California State University, Dominguez Hills, has a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration. Ariana spent the first 8 years of her professional career in the corporate world. Her life changed with the birth of her baby boy. She immediately realized that bilingualism played a very important role in his future, as well as the future of other children.

The publishers of Un Elefante, Lil’ Libros, have a series of other books that are also based off of Latinx cultural themes. See a short video here:

 

 
ABOUT THE REVIEWERS:
Displaying Headshot.jpgBecky Villareal, a retired teacher, loves working on family history and spending time with her grandchildren.  She has published three children’s books, Gianna the Great, Halito Gianna: The Journey Continues, and Snake Holes.  Her fourth book, The Broken Branches, will makes its debut in 2018.
 
 
 
 

headshot
 Ruby Jones has been working in public libraries since 2007 in various capacities, including Adult & Teen Services technician and webmaster at her current library.  She currently lives in Maine with her husband and precocious 2 year old. She continually strives to impart a passion and a sense of fearlessness toward technology, reading and learning for all ages.

Celebrating Pura Belpré Winners: Spotlight on Writer & Illustrator Yuyi Morales

 

PuraBelpreAwardThe Pura Belpré Awards turns 20 this year! The milestone will be marked on Sunday, June 26, from 1:00-3:00 p.m. during the 2016 ALA Annual Conference in Orlando, FL. According to the award’s site, the celebration will feature speeches by the 2016 Pura Belpré award-winning authors and illustrators, book signings, light snacks, and entertainment. The event will also feature a silent auction of original artwork by Belpré award-winning illustrators, sales of the new commemorative book The Pura Belpré Award: Twenty Years of Outstanding Latino Children’s Literature, and a presentation by keynote speaker Carmen Agra Deedy

Leading up to the event, we will be highlighting the winners of the narrative and illustration awards. Today’s spotlight is on Yuyi Morales, winner of the 2015 Pura Belpré Illustration Award for Viva Frida, the 2014 Illustration Award for Niño Wrestles the World, the 2009 Illustration Award for Just in Case, the 2008 Award for Illustration for Los Gatos Black on Halloween, and the 2004 Illustration Award for Just a Minute: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book.

We have already covered Viva Frida and Niño Wrestles the World. Below, we highlight the others:

 

Reviews by Cecilia Cackley

Descriptions (all from Goodreads): Los Gatos Black on Halloween: Under October’s luna, full and bright, the monsters are throwing a ball in the Haunted Hall. Las brujas come on their broomsticks. Los muertos rise from their coffins to join in the fun. Los esqueletos rattle their bones as they dance through the door. And the scariest creatures of all aren’t even there yet! This lively bilingual Halloween poem introduces young readers to a spooky array of Spanish words that will open their ojos to the chilling delights of the season.

Just a Minute: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book: In this original trickster tale, Señor Calavera arrives unexpectedly at Grandma Beetle’s door. He requests that she leave with him right away. “Just a minute,” Grandma Beetle tells him. She still has one house to sweep, two pots of tea to boil, three pounds of corn to make into tortillas — and that’s just the start! Using both Spanish and English words to tally the party preparations, Grandma Beetle cleverly delays her trip and spends her birthday with a table full of grandchildren and her surprise guest. This spirited tribute to the rich traditions of Mexican culture is the perfect introduction to counting in both English and Spanish. The vivacious illustrations and universal depiction of a family celebration are sure to be adored by young readers everywhere.

Just in Case: Yuyi Morales takes us on a new journey with Señor Calvera, the skeleton from Day of the Dead celebrations. Señor Calvera is worried. He can’t figure out what to give Grandma Beetle for her birthday. Misunderstanding the advice of Zelmiro the Ghost, Señor Calvera decides not to get her one gift, but instead one gift for every letter of the alphabet, just in case. Una Acordéon: An accordion for her to dance to. Bigotes: A mustache because she has none. Cosquillas: Tickles to make her laugh… only to find out at the end of the alphabet that the best gift of all is seeing her friends.

MY TWO CENTS: First of all, I want to take a moment and talk about just how much of a force Yuyi Morales is in picture book illustration. She has won a third of the 15 Pura Belpré Medals for illustration that have been awarded since 1996. In addition, she has won two illustration honors and one narrative honor, bringing her total to eight awards, nearly twice as many as any other artist and all since 2004. That is a huge achievement, and a testament to the vision, craft, and beauty that Morales puts into her work. There is no one quite like her working in picture books today.

All three of these picture books feature Morales’ acrylic paintings, with touches of the mixed-media that has become more prominent in her recent work. Each also has a fantastical element, from the various monster creatures in Los Gatos Black on Halloween to Señor Calavera in Just a Minute and Just in Case.

In Los Gatos Black on Halloween, the colors are layered, allowing some characters to be visible through the transparent ghosts and building up as more and more ghostly characters join what eventually becomes the monster ball in an old abandoned house. The color palette is dark and rich, contrasting the glowing moon and night sky with colored tombstones and the interior of the old mansion. Morales plays with scale and perspective to lend an otherworldly look to the spreads; sometimes we only see a pair of legs dangling over a broomstick or the round face of a ghost as its tail extends right off the page.

 

 

 

The colors in Just a Minute are brighter and the spreads less crowded than Los Gatos Black on Halloween, but the story they tell is just as dynamic. This was Morales’ first project as both author and artist, and she keeps the story moving at a fast pace as Grandma goes from cleaning to cooking, to decorating. Subtle touches of color make Señor Calavera a less scary figure for the youngest readers, including the flowers for eyeballs and the expressive mouth that finally turns into a smile. As befits a heroine who is using action to delay Señor Calavera, Grandma Beetle’s poses are precise and sharp, whether she is placing cheese in a frying pan or leaning over to put pots in the oven. Grandma’s eyes and face express her cleverness and care as she watches Señor Calavera from across the room or gives a wink while chopping up fruit. Perspective shifts reinforce the upside-down nature of this story; the floor of Grandma’s house seems to tilt as we first see Señor Calavera in close-up, peeking over her shoulder and then far away in the corner of the room, stamping his foot in frustration. The little cat’s reactions to Señor Calavera are a humorous touch, and readers will enjoy finding it on each spread, looking curious, tentative or scared, depending on the page. Readers will love the final note left by Señor Calavera and cheer for Grandma Beetle, who was so resourceful in buying herself a little more time on Earth.

Morales brings more texture and mixed media to the illustrations in Just in Case, her second effort as both author and artist. Perhaps because most of the action in the book takes place in the cemetery, rather than in Grandma’s house, the backgrounds are looser and the characters float around on the page. The new character Zelmiro the ghost blends in with the background color on each spread as he advises Señor Calavera on what to give Grandma Beetle for her birthday. The list of presents grows with the alphabet, and Morales keeps things interesting by not just including objects such as the accordion but also actions such as cosquillas (tickles) and natural phenomena like niebla (fog). One of my favorite things about this book is that it follows the Spanish, rather than the English alphabet, including letters I learned as a child, like ‘Ch’, ‘Ll’ and ‘Ñ’. Depending on where you are in the Spanish-speaking world, ‘ch’ and ‘ll’ aren’t taught as separate letters anymore, so it was nice to see them here! Some of the presents are words commonly taught in Spanish classes, such as ‘escalera’ or ‘semilla,’ but others are more colloquial and region-specific like ‘granizado’ and ‘ombligo.’ The specificity in both language and image are lovely. Careful readers will note that the historieta (comic book) that Señor Calavera gives Grandma is a handmade version of Morales’ earlier book Just a Minute and will also find the reason for the spectacular bicycle crash that ruins all the presents.

From ghosts to skeletons to grandmothers cooking elaborate birthday feasts, these three picture books showcase Morales’ talents at depicting both the light and dark in Latino culture.

TEACHING TIPS: Los Gatos Black on Halloween is a wonderful choice for a storytime, especially events connected to the holiday. Both Just a Minute and Just in Case are also perfect for reading aloud, as well as excellent teaching tools for counting and the alphabet. Morales has various activities for mask and puppet making on her website and the actions of Just a Minute in particular are perfect for acting out with younger readers. Just in Case is an excellent mentor text for classes working on writing their own culture-specific alphabet books. Just a Minute could also be used as a writing tool, with students inventing their own ways of making Death wait just a little longer.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Yuyi Morales
is a Mexican author, illustrator, artist, and puppet maker. She has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Physical Education from the University of Xalapa, México and used to host her own Spanish-language radio program for children in San Francisco, California.She has won numerous awards for her children’s books, including the Caldecott Honor for Viva Frida, Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award for Just a Minute: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book (2004) and Los Gatos Black on Halloween (2008), the Pura Belpré Author Honor for Just in Case: A Trickster Tale and Spanish Alphabet Book (2009), the Pura Belpré Illustrator Award for Viva Frida (2015), Niño Wrestles the World (2014) Just a Minute: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book (2004), Just in Case: A Trickster Tale and Spanish Alphabet Book (2009) and Los Gatos Black on Halloween (2008), and Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor for My Abuelita (2010) and Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez (2004). Morales divides her time between the San Francisco area and Veracruz, Mexico. Her next picture book, Thunder Boy Jr. (written by Sherman Alexie), will be published in May 2016.

RESOURCES:

Activities with Señor Calavera on Morales’ website: http://www.yuyimorales.com/muerte.htm

Teacher’s Guide from Chronicle: http://www.chroniclebooks.com/landing-pages/pdfs/Just_A_min.pdf

Americas Award resources: http://www.lindakreft.com/Americas/pdf/voices_minute.pdf

Elementary lesson on culture using Just in Case: http://team33culture.weebly.com/uploads/8/9/8/4/8984769/lesson_plan.pdf

Vamos a Leer blog on Los Gatos Black on Halloween: https://teachinglatinamericathroughliterature.wordpress.com/2014/10/22/en-la-clase-los-gatos-black-on-halloween-2/

Recent PW interview: http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/childrens-authors/article/63359-yuyi-morales.html

And as a bonus, here is a video from Yuyi about why she loves picture books:

 

Cackley_headshotCecilia Cackley is a performing artist and children’s bookseller based in Washington DC where she creates puppet theater for adults and teaches playwriting and creative drama to children. Her bilingual children’s plays have been produced by GALA Hispanic Theatre and her interests in bilingual education, literacy, and immigrant advocacy all tend to find their way into her theatrical work. You can find more of her work at www.witsendpuppets.com.

A Rich Year for Art-Related Kid Lit with Latino Flair

By Sujei Lugo and Lila Quintero Weaver

The year 2014 brought us three outstanding Latino children’s books celebrating art. Each book represents a distinct format: Draw! by Raúl Colón, is a wordless picture book; Viva Frida, by Yuyi Morales, is a poetic tribute to a beloved artist of worldwide importance; and Frida & Diego: Art, Love, Life, by Catherine Reef, is a work of non-fiction geared toward upper-level grades. These releases came in a year already brimming with strong Latino titles in children’s publishing, along with the We Need Diverse Books campaign, which challenges publishers and others in the book industry to question their views and roles regarding literature by and about people of color.

And guess what? Latin@s create art, too, so why shouldn’t they be celebrated in art-related books?

Children’s books that extol visual art serve to influence readers in significant ways. Through them, children can learn to appreciate art’s life-enriching power. They can also begin to see themselves as potential creators of art. Up to a certain age, most children freely produce drawings, collages, finger paintings, and other forms of artistic expression. But as kids reach the middle elementary years, inhibition seems to set in. Often, these kids stop making art because they have begun to see themselves as incapable. In fact, many great artists owe their success to a rediscovery of childlike abandon, to a time when the internal critic wasn’t peering over their shoulder. Also, Latin@ children are exposed to fewer artistic role models from within the community. What if good art books transmitted the opposite message–that anyone, from any culture, can create art? Great Latin@ artists already exist and kids need to become familiar with them. The following books make an ideal way to start delivering that message.

Draw!Draw! by Raúl Colón

In this lovely picture book based on Colón’s childhood, readers are transported through a flight of fancy to golden views of the African savanna, where an adventurous drawing session takes place. Initially, we see a boy drawing in his bedroom. His focus is on animals of the African grasslands. Three pages later, the boy is on the ground, somewhere on the African continent, among his subjects, observing them at close range, and capturing their likenesses with deft pencil strokes. Colón achieves this flight of imagination without the aid of words. The paintings in this book display a tender vintage feel in keeping with much of Colón’s acclaimed work in illustration. In every sense, Colón demonstrates a masterful command. His compositions are striking. He nails the anatomy of both human and wild animal subjects, as well as a wide array of studio techniques. These include the use of expressive, swirling textures and a tawny palette of hues, fitting for the story’s era and setting. This gem of a book landed on quite a few “best of” lists for 2014, including:

New York Times Best Illustrated Books of 2014

NPR Best Books of 2014: Children’s Books

Publishers Weekly Best Children’s Books of 2014: Picture Books

School Library Journal Best Books of 2014: Picture Books

School Library Journal’s Top 10 Latino Books of 2014

For extensive views of interior pages, see this article in SLJ.

Viva FridaViva Frida, by Yuyi Morales

Viva Frida is Yuyi Morales’s love letter to Frida Kahlo. The depth of Morales’s admiration for the groundbreaking Mexican surrealist painter comes through in every expertly prepared page spread. Morales incorporates acrylic painting, stop-motion puppetry and other three-dimensional elements into a series of dioramas, photographed by her collaborator, Tim O’Meara. The result is eye-popping. Each spread bursts with jewel-like colors and captivating details, including Mexican textiles, bits of jewelry and animal fur. Clay figures representing Frida, her husband, Diego, and their animal friends are central to each diorama. Readers familiar with Kahlo’s work will recognize iconic elements in the injured fawn, the monkey, Frida’s famous eyebrows, her hand-shaped earrings and much more. A simple and brief poetic text in Spanish and English complements each page’s visual design. Viva Frida is a stunner that understandably caught the attention of important list-makers.

NPR Best Books of 2014: Children’s Books

Publishers Weekly Best Children’s Books of 2014: Picture Books

School Library Journal Best Books of 2014: Picture Books

 School Library Journal’s Top 10 Latino Books of 2014

Center for the Study of Multicultural Children’s Literature: Best Multicultural Books of 2014

For interior views, see the book’s official page.

Frida and DiegoFrida & Diego: Art, Love, Life, by Catherine Reef

Frida & Diego: Art, Love, Life, by Catherine Reef, is a complex and satisfying portrayal of two giants of twentieth-century art and the development of their storied careers. The book relies on primary sources and seldom-seen photographs to describe the individual lives and work of each artist, as well as their combined lives. Reef weaves into this dual biography fascinating views of the political and social history of Mexico. Readers learn about Frida Kahlo’s medical odyssey. A childhood diagnosis of polio left her with an atrophied leg. As a young woman, she also suffered a debilitating accident that resulted in many surgeries and long periods of painful convalescence. Reef includes details of the couple’s complicated and often troubled marital life. These are not gratuitous digressions, however, since Frida’s body of work is in many ways a reflection of her physical and emotional suffering. Diego Rivera’s work as a muralist captures the era of upheaval that he lived in and reveals much about his devotion to socialist causes. The book includes behind-the-scenes stories of murals he painted in U.S. cities, which often became entangled in political controversy and resulted in conflict between Rivera and his patrons.

School Library Journal’s Top 10 Latino Books of 2014

Center for the Study of Multicultural Children’s Literature: Best Multicultural Books of 2014

These three books come from different perspectives, but their approaches overlap as they magnify works of art and what it takes to produce them. In his picture book, Raúl Colón uses imagination to portray the skills of a budding artist. Yuyi Morales’s tribute to Kahlo reflects the inner world of a powerfully emotional artist. Catherine Reef’s biography informs the reader of the complexity and suffering that composed Khalo’s internal make-up and that of her marital partner.

TEACHING TIPS

Draw! by Raúl Colón

Picture book, K-4

This picture book can be integrated into art and language-arts curricula. Teachers and librarians can use this book to encourage children to compose or tell their own illustrated stories. Art teachers will find a useful example of sound artistic practice in how Colón closely observes his subjects.

Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales

Picture book, K-3

Bilingual and ESL instructors can incorporate this book into their classroom to teach new vocabulary in English and Spanish. The text is brief and focuses on verbs. Teachers of language arts can employ the book’s model of short poetic sentences to suggest a story. In the art classroom, Viva Frida can inspire the creation of dioramas, costumed puppets and other three-dimensional works.

Frida & Diego: Art, Love, Life by Catherine Reef

Non-fiction, grades 9-12

This book holds rich possibilities as a classroom text for Mexican American studies, art history, and social studies. One of the key lessons is the importance in an artist’s life of historical context. Students of social studies can create a timeline of historical events, paralleled by notable developments in Frida’s and Diego’s life. The book includes a brief selection of reproductions for each artist and a list of resources for further study, which teachers can use as a basis for assignments. Art history classes may want to explore the work of other muralists and female painters of the twentieth century or of Mexican artists throughout the ages.

For further information on the creators, see the following:

An interview with Raul Colon at Illustration Friday

An interview with Catherine Reef at Teenreads

And please don’t miss this spectacular video featuring Yuyi Morales demonstrating the creation of Viva Frida!

Guest Post: ¡Qué Vivan los Niños Luchadores!

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All images from Niño Wrestles the World come courtesy of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group.

By Lettycia Terrones

On a bright, 108º F. Las Vegas afternoon, inside the cavernous decadence of Caesars Palace, audience members attending the 2014 Pura Belpré Award Celebración were treated to a gem of a speech by this year’s Pura Belpré Illustrator Award winner, Yuyi Morales. Recognized for her outstanding book, Niño Wrestles the World, Yuyi’s acceptance speech affirmed the resilient strength of children and their power of imagination. Her words served as a reminder to all educators of the important charge we have to provide our children with stories that accurately portray their worlds and strengths.

Since 1996, the Pura Belpré Award has annually recognized Latin@ writers and illustrators for excellence in children’s literature that “best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience.” This year’s winner for illustration, Niño Wrestles the World, does just this by capturing –through story, rhythm, and images— the intangible ingredients that come together to form a uniquely Chicano-Latino flavor that any child growing up in East Los Angeles or El Paso will immediately recognize.

LloronaCardChamucoCardWhat are these ingredients? La Llorna. El Chamuco. El Extraterrestre. La Cabeza Olmeca. Las Momias. These are the protagonists that star in countless cuentos told and re-told in Mexican and Chicano families. Yuyi presents a dynamic cuento of a boy-hero in a wrestling mask, un niño luchador, who through wit, humor, ganas, and family teamwork, outsmarts these terrifying figures of Mexican and Chicano cultural mythology. As Yuyi reminded us in her acceptance speech, children’s imaginative capacity is an empowering tool that enables them to confront life situations with positive resilience. In addition to her prepared remarks, Yuyi described her own imaginative process as a child, where she was able to transform the often scary and mysterious cultural myths of La Llorona and El Chamuco into figures she could contend with and, perhaps most importantly, learn to play with.

This transformative power demonstrates the enormous agency children have to make meaning in the world. It depicts what Dr. Tara Yosso points to in her seminal work on cultural wealth and social capital, which she calls Community Cultural Wealth. Community Cultural Wealth lists specific assets practiced and nurtured in communities of color, which serve as forms of resistance to the myriad social oppressions marginalized people contended with daily. Emerging from the cultural knowledge passed down in families and communities, these assets include “aspirational, navigational, social, linguistic, familial and resistant capital.”

NinoVChamuco
Yuyi’s book exemplifies Community Cultural Wealth at work. Its text and illustration display the wealth of linguistic storytelling traditions of cuentos handed down in our families. It also serves as a meta-narrative of resistance through its prominent use of Mexican and Chicano cultural images. Yuyi’s narrative and illustration authentically capture how, for instance, the myth of La Llorona is in continuous transformation as she is imagined by our children today. Instead of becoming clichéd tropes of Mexican and Chicano culture, El Chamuco, El Extraterrestre, La Cabeza Olmeca, and Las Momias, are represented authentically as living and changing stories. This truly is a marker of Yuyi’s outstanding mastery of the picture book. She brings to the world of children’s literature works that defy cultural stereotypes, and that champion children as creative, imaginative meaning-makers.

Photo by Lettycia Terrones, 2014

Photo by Lettycia Terrones, 2014

I thought a lot about the impact of Yuyi’s Niño Wrestles the World when I attended a Lucha Libre Night at the East Los Angeles Community Youth Center last spring. The family-run event brought in masked luchadores from Tijuana and Los Angeles to battle it out in the recreation center’s well-worn boxing ring. At the halftime marker, the ring became open for the many kids in attendance to frolic with abandon and take photos with the night’s Lucha Libre heroes. I thought about how for many children living in underserved communities, Yuyi’s story of the boy-hero, the niño luchador, is an actual and accurate depiction of their lives. I wondered how many of the kids in attendance that night had been exposed to Niño Wrestles the World in their classroom or public library. I wondered how this exposure would strengthen their sense of belonging and reflect back to them their self-efficacy.

Educators should remember the characters brought to life in Yuyi’s picture book are still very much alive today in the imaginations of Latino children. They are stories that form an essential cultural fabric of what it means to be Mexican and/or Chicano. Whether we call our people first-generation, second-generation, or if we are from generations that preceded the Treaty of Guadalupe, or are present-day refugee generations embarking on perilous journeys, climbing atop trains and traversing deserts, to seek our families and a promise of a better future in the United States. These stories are ours. They form an American story.

References

Pura Belpré Award

http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia/belpremedal

Yosso*, T. J. (2005). Whose culture has capital? A critical race theory discussion of community cultural wealth. Race Ethnicity and Education, 8(1), 69-91.

Yuyi Morales, Illustrator Award Acceptance Speech, page 4 http://www.ala.org/alsc/sites/ala.org.alsc/files/content/awardsgrants/bookmedia/belpre-14.pdf

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Lettycia Terrones, M.L.I.S., serves as the Education Librarian at the Pollak Library at California State University, Fullerton. Her research interests are in Chicana/o children’s literature and critical literacy. Lettycia is an American Library Association Spectrum Scholar and a member of REFORMA: The National Association to Promote Library & Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish Speaking.

Scholastic Asks Three Questions to Three Latina Illustrators

By Concetta Gleason
Editorial Manager of Club Leo en Español

To mark the end of Hispanic Heritage Month this week, Club Leo en Español is proud to share exclusive art and interviews with three fantastic and dynamic Latina illustrators: Yuyi Morales (author/illustrator of Niño Wrestles the World), Angela Dominguez (author/illustrator of Maria Had a Little Llama /María tenía una llamita), and Alejandra Oviedo (illustrator of Animaletras).

We asked each artist to answer three questions in words and art:

1. What inspires your work?
2. If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
3. What are your words to live by?

Each woman provided wildly imaginative, unique, and different examples of her artistic persona and motivations. Let’s explore!

Yuyi Morales won the 2014 Pura Belpré Illustration Award for Niño Wrestles the World. Not to brag but Yuyi briefly made us Internet-famous (by association) when she shared a sneak peek of her exclusive art on her resplendent Instagram account.

Yuyi answered the questions in a comic-book style and as a new person: she awoke one morning—transformed and “more beautiful than ever”—as “Tzitzimitl,” an ancient Aztec deity who shares a deep connection with the stars and astrology. Ha! Eat dust, Kafka.

For the record, Tzitzimitl > cockroach. Any day of the week. Thanks, Yuyi!

 

Alejandra Oviedo, the illustrator of Animaletras, sent us sweet and imaginative illustrations that capture the beauty and freedom of childhood. Her illustrations are made from intricate and delicate paper cuts, and she is inspired by looking at the world through the eyes of a child.

1. What inspired your work for Animaletras?

My inspiration for the illustrations came from kids’ drawings. I find them beautiful, and they portray the most important elements of each animal. I also paid attention to animal pictures, and I visited the zoo many times to capture not only the animals’ shapes but also their attitudes and personalities.

2. If you had a superpower, what would it be?

I would love to fly like a bird.

3. Words to live by?

Always put love in what you do; believe in your dreams and do not leave them behind.

What inspiring answers! Thanks, Alejandra!

 

Angela Dominguez, author and illustrator of the Pura Belpré Illustration Honor book Maria Had a Little Llama /Maria tenía una llamita, sent us fun and playful photographs of Peruvian children and llamas that she used to as models and inspiration for her book.

1. What inspired your work for Maria Had a Little Llama/María tenía una llamita?

The inspiration for the project came from an illustrator’s assignment at a Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators conference. I was given the task of doing my own version of “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” I was excited about the assignment, but I found it really difficult at first to find inspiration to reinterpret the classic story. My first doodles felt a little quiet, soft, and too familiar. I wanted my Mary to have personality with rich colors!

Whenever I’m stuck, I go to the library. There, I began researching sheep and farm life. It was in a book that I discovered a picture of a little girl with a llama. The idea of including llamas with the sheep led me to set the story in Peru. Finally I knew how I could personalize Mary, and that’s when Mary turned into Maria. The more I looked at books, the more I was inspired by the beautiful faces of the Peruvian children, the rich textiles, and the lush landscapes. I’ve never been to Peru, and I think my desire to visit the country pushed me to create landscapes of this idealized world I have in my head.

2. If you could have a superpower, what would it be?

I would teleport. I love traveling, but I don’t particularly enjoy flying or how long it takes to get somewhere. Plus I would love to be able to give a family member or a friend a hug really quickly and then get back to work.

3. Do you have a life motto or favorite phrase? 

I have a few. First, I’m not sure where I read it, but “persistence plus passion equals success” is my favorite motto. I also love so many quotes from Winston Churchill and Henry Ford. This one quote, in particular, from Henry Ford is just so motivating. He said, “Enthusiasm is the yeast that makes your hopes shine to the stars. Enthusiasm is the sparkle in your eyes, the swing in your gait. The grip of your hand, the irresistible surge of will and energy to execute your ideas.” It’s just so beautiful.

Thanks, Angela! We’d be happy to travel to Peru with you!

It’s wonderful to see Latina illustrators have prominence in children’s literature, and that as visual storytellers they have broken new ground—from Mexican myths to remaking classic fairy tales.

We thank and celebrate Yuyi Morales, Alejandra Oviedo, and Angela Dominguez for opening the worldview of children everywhere.

Club Leo en Español supports your classroom with fun and affordable books that connect children’s home language and learning. Our books include amazing series, original titles, and winners of the Pura Belpré Award, which celebrates the remarkable contributions of artists who give voice to the Latino community through children’s literature.

Club Leo en Español apoya tu salón de clases con libros divertidos y asequibles que conectan la lengua materna y el aprendizaje de los niños. Nuestra colección incluye increíbles series, títulos originales y ganadores del Premio Pura Belpré, que celebra los extraordinarios aportes de artistas que dan voz a la comunidad latina a través de la literatura infantil.

Scholastic Book Club Celebrates Cesar Chavez Day With “Harvesting Hope”

Latin@s in Kid Lit is excited to have the opportunity to cross-post with Scholastic’s Club Leo en Español, the largest Spanish school book club in the country offering Spanish, English, and bilingual books and educational materials to children in grades Pre K-8.

On Monday, May 31, the Scholastic site celebrated Cesar Chavez Day by highlighting Pura Belpré Honoree Harvesting Hope! Click here to see the original post, which has been reblogged below.

By Concetta Gleason
editorial assistant/admin coordinator for Club Leo

“Kindness and compassion towards all living things is a mark of a civilized society.…Only when we have become nonviolent towards all life will we have learned to live well ourselves.”

—Cesar Chavez, co-founder of United Farm Workers

Today is Cesar Chavez Day, and to celebrate we are revisiting Harvesting Hope by Kathleen Krull and Yuyi Morales. Harvesting Hope chronicles Chavez’s life as an advocate for the rights of migrant farm workers and laborers.

Cesar Chavez was born on March 31, 1927, in Yuma, Arizona. His parents, who were Mexican immigrants, prospered as business owners and farmers. However, the Great Depression crushed the family’s financial prospects, as it did to so many Americans. In 1937, Chavez’s family moved to California to find employment as migrant workers. Chavez was only ten years old when he experienced the inhumane conditions migrant workers were forced to endure as they worked long hours in the fields for meager pay. From this difficult experience Chavez learned the enduring importance of human dignity and compassion, which would fundamentally inform his leadership as an adult.

In Harvesting Hope, Krull maintains the delicate balance between showing and telling, providing significant historical background while taking the reader on a journey from Chavez’s idyllic childhood in Arizona to his hard-won victory over a corporate giant to ensure the legal rights of farm workers. Morales’s illustrations imbue the book with a dreamlike quality. Her figures command the page with grace and her use of colors shows the richness of Cesar’s emotional life and the depth of his plight as a migrant worker. This book is a worthy tribute to such a noble historical figure, and in 2004 it won the Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor.

As a leader, Chavez refused to engage in bullying tactics that dehumanized others and he is revered for being a catalyst of social change. Cesar Chavez Day is an official state holiday in California, Colorado, and Texas that is dedicated to acts of community service. Join us as we celebrate Cesar Chavez’s life works and some excellent Latino children’s literature!

Author’s Note: Club Leo en Español supports your classroom with fun and affordable books that connect children’s home language and learning. Our books include amazing series, original titles, and winners of the Pura Belpré Award, which celebrates the remarkable contributions of artists who give voice to the Latino community through children’s literature.

Club Leo en Español apoya tu salón de clases con libros divertidos y asequibles que conectan la lengua materna y el aprendizaje de los niños. Nuestra colección incluye increíbles series, títulos originales y ganadores del Premio Pura Belpré, que celebra los extraordinarios aportes de artistas que dan voz a la comunidad latina a través de la literatura infantil.