Monday, September 30, 2013

The Quiet Place

The Quiet Place
Sarah Stewart
Pictures by David Small

It is 1957 and Isabel's family have said goodbye to her Aunt Lupita and their native Mexico to travel North. Isabel writes letters to her aunt, where she discusses her attempts to use new English words, her school, the parties her mother cooks for, and her new quiet place: a cardboard box where she writes her letters in English. As the picture book goes on, Isabel's quiet place and her vocabulary both grow beautifully. The illustrations really complete the story, everything from the stray dogs so familiar in the streets of Mexico to the beautiful cardboard place that Isabel has created and nurtured. As a side note, I love how the creators included a small teddy bear that goes everywhere with Isabel; it is small details like these, and like the decorations on Isabel's quiet place, that really made me enjoy this book even more.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Author Gary Soto: Why I've Stopped Writing Children's Literature

A beautiful and heartbreaking article featured on The Huffington Post discusses why Gary Soto has moved away from children's literature.

Some of the passages that reverberate with me the most:

"Instead, mother explains tenderly their move by saying that the family wants another kind of life for themselves, a yard for instance. Migration makes sense for them, just as migration from Mexico to Chicago, Houston, New York City and my hometown of Fresno also makes sense for others. Life is not stagnant."

"Marisol returns to my book "A Simple Plan." She opens it again, reads another poem, and sees enough there to take it to the front counter. The young woman takes my book home, me the lost father who brought her to life.
I have stopped writing children's literature. At my age, the genre is too dangerous."

Monday, September 23, 2013

What Can You Do With...?

I am always excited when I find picture books focusing on Hispanic heritage; they are always so bold and vibrant and full of color and life. These two glowing picture books are both by Carmen Tafolla.

What Can You Do with a Rebozo? by Carmen Tafolla, illustrated by Amy Cordova, 2008
This book contains beautiful illustrations, especially of the clothing. The main character dances La Bamba in a beautiful white traditional dress while holding the rebozo. Even though the words do not rhyme, they do not need to, they fall in perfectly. We meet the narrator's family - mother, father, sister, brother, dog, and more while she also introduces us to the creative ways one can use a rebozo, or Mexican shawl. The story flows from one idea to the next seamlessly.

What Can You Do with a Paleta? by Carmen Tafolla, illustrated by Magaly Morales, 2009
We are introduced to the neighborhood with the illustrations, and to the culture with the wonderful words.
The paletero opens his mouth wide and I can almost hear him shouting "PALETAAAS!" Again we meet the narrator's family - brother, dog, mother - and we can almost feel the tightness in her chest as she struggles to decide what flavor of paleta she would like. The illustrations are quite different from the first book, but equally breathtaking. They remind me so much of places I have lived and visited, and when I see the fence on the cover of the book I see my grandmother's house.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Talk Like a Pirate @ the Librarrry!

Earlier this month, in honor of the 19th being Talk Like a Pirate Day, we had a pirate preschool activity where the children created spyglasses and decorated pirate hats and swords. Tomorrow we will be having an elementary aged activity where the children will be creating their own treasure boxes (and spyglasses if they'd like). We've asked the staff to dress up as pirates, and if the children show up wearing a pirate costume (or something pirate-related), they win a prize (a small pirate beach ball).

There are a bunch of grrreat (couldn't resist!) ideas dealing with pirate crafts. The kids will be making their treasure chests first, and if they'd like they can make a spyglass. They then can bring their treasure chests over to a table that will be set up with beads and jewels that they can take and place in their treasure chests. They'll be able to take these home with them. I have a few eye patches, so if there are enough then each child can also have an eye patch. I also put together a "pirate code" book that has information on the crew members of a pirate ship, the parts of a ship, and a pirate dictionary so they can talk like a pirate! ( has The Code craft and template).

DLTK's Crafts for Kids has a great printable and instructions for the treasure chest. Youth Online has another similar template. If you want to get really detailed and crafty, Ashlee's Art has another treasure chest example. And a really cute one featuring a Raven can be found at Ammey's Art Attic.

For more Arrrty craft ideas, make sure to sail towards these sites:
First Stage - this site has a great handout where we got our pirate dictionary and ship and crew sheets

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Happy Hispanic Heritage Month

In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, I've decided make this post on September 15th. I hope that this will become a hearty blog full of recommendations and reviews of Hispanic literature.

I'd like to start off with one of my most favorite books: The Tequila Worm by Viola Canales. Reading this book, and her previous book, Orange Candy Slices and Other Secret Tales, was like stepping into my own past. Sofia's family, her relationships with them and her fears and concerns for her future, are all things that I can heavily relate to. The descriptions - everything from the cascarones to the sugar skulls to the relationship between Sofia and her father - are written beautifully.

The climax and ending of this book caught me completely by surprise. Reading the beginning I could not imagine what would happen, I never would have thought it. But then, life is this way sometimes. This is a very heartbreaking book that you will not easily get over, but with a beautiful message of hope and endurance. I can see why it won the Pura Belpre award; I only wish Viola Canales would write another.