Thursday, October 31, 2013

Dia de los Muertos

In honor of Halloween and El Dia de los Muertos, here are two wonderful books focusing on The Day of the Dead.

The Festival of Bones / El Festival de las Calaveras
The Little-Bitty Book for the Day of the Dead
Luis San Vicente
Translation by John William Bird & Bobby Byrd
Originally published in Mexico in 1999, this edition 2002

El Festival de las Calaveras is a little book that holds a beautiful amount of information. The illustrations are both in color and black and white. I particularly love the chalk-like illustrations at the beginning and ending of the book, and especially the one with a skeleton man and his skeleton dog. The book is a sort of lovely poem that follows the skeletons on the Day of the Dead as they head to the cemetery, sing and dance and enjoy the offerings given to them. The illustrations, particularly the black and white skeletons, are breathtaking. The book includes a history of the Day of the Dead, information on celebrating this festive time - including building an altar -, and recipes for making Pan de Muerto and Sugar Skulls. There is a beautiful translation from an ancient Nahuatl poem at the end, and I love the inclusion of a small altar at the front and back of the book with a photograph in a frame. A great book to share with loved ones, especially children.

The Day of the Dead / El Dia De Los Muertos
A Bilingual Celebration
Bob Barner
Translated by Teresa Mlawer

Just as El Festival de las Calaveras does, The Day of the Dead also includes a sort of lyrical poem in both English and Spanish, but this one follows a family as they get ready to celebrate this tradition. The pages include dancing skeletons, flowers, colorful illustrations, music, and dancing. The family gathers the offerings and makes their way to the cemetery, and the skeletons are shown enjoying and dancing with them. The celebration ends with the family thinking of their loved ones, and leaving the cempazuchitl petals on their loved ones' graves. There are informational pages at the end describing the history and traditions of the Day of the Dead.

These books are so alike and yet so different. They are filled with all the beautiful aspects of this tradition, Calaveras de dulce, pan de muerto, marigolds, skeletons, and a rich source of information on the holiday. The illustrations are both so unique, and the lyrical writing inside the books tells similar stories but from different perspectives. These books would be great to use together and to read aloud, and especially to use on a unit on El Dia de los Muertos.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Dog Who Loved Tortillas

The Dog Who Loved Tortillas / La perrita que le encantaban las tortillas
Benjamin Alire Saenz
Illustrated by Geronimo Garcia

Little Diego and his sister Gabriela both want a dog of their very own. Their parents agree, but tell them they must share. They pick a beautiful white dog with brown spots and name her Sofie. When their parents’ backs are turned, they argue over who Sofie really belongs to. They begin taking Sofie for walks and training her with delicious tortillas, which Sofie loves. But when Sofie gets sick, Little Diego and Gabriela stop fighting and comfort each other and Sofie. They sleep by her side and Gabriela tells Diego she will be okay, even if she is crying inside. Sofie finally gets better and runs off with a tortilla, Gabriela and Diego chasing after her.

I loved this book because it is about a dog, and dogs are my kryptonite. The little dog in the story actually reminds me of two very special dogs I know. I think the book does a beautiful job of showing how it feels when your beloved dog is sick – nothing else matters, nothing. Next to a pet who is ill, everything else seems so unimportant. This is what Gabriela and Diego learn – they find out that Sofie belongs to both of them and that it doesn’t matter who saw her first or who named her, as long as they have her with them. The illustrations are made out of photographs of clay creations and are so detailed and very fun to look at. I especially loved the clay marranito with the cup of coffee that the parents were enjoying.

The text is presented in English and Spanish. This is a great book to read silently or aloud, perhaps to a pet of your own.

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Biblioburro

Biblioburro: a True Story from Colombia
Jeanette Winter

Both of these books follow Luis Soriano Bohórquez, a schoolteacher in Colombia who loads books onto his two burros, Alfa and Beto, who help Luis carry them to children, many of whom only get their books from Luis. This is a mobile burro library that brings knowledge and dreams and hope and literature to many people. Both feature beautiful illustrations, although they differ in content delivery method. While Biblioburro is more of a nonfiction narrative, Waiting for the Biblioburro follows the fictional character of Ana as she waits for the Biblioburro like many other children.

Personally, I prefer Biblioburro: a True Story from Colombia a little bit more because it feels a little more simple, but in a very good way. Sometimes simplicity is so beautiful. That is not to say there is anything wrong with Waiting for the Biblioburro, however. This book has its own beauty as well.

Both books include information about Luis and the Biblioburros, and Waiting for the Biblioburro includes a wonderful link to CNN Heroes which features information and a video of Luis and the Biblioburros.

Waiting for the Biblioburro
Monica Brown
illustrated by John Parra

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Neil Gaiman: Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming

Neil Gaiman: Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming
A lecture explaining why using our imaginations, and providing for others to use theirs, is an obligation for all citizens, Tuesday 15 October 2013 09.51 EDT

"They were good librarians. They liked books and they liked the books being read. They taught me how to order books from other libraries on inter-library loans. They had no snobbery about anything I read. They just seemed to like that there was this wide-eyed little boy who loved to read, and would talk to me about the books I was reading, they would find me other books in a series, they would help. They treated me as another reader – nothing less or more – which meant they treated me with respect. I was not used to being treated with respect as an eight-year-old.

But libraries are about freedom. Freedom to read, freedom of ideas, freedom of communication. They are about education (which is not a process that finishes the day we leave school or university), about entertainment, about making safe spaces, and about access to information.

I worry that here in the 21st century people misunderstand what libraries are and the purpose of them. If you perceive a library as a shelf of books, it may seem antiquated or outdated in a world in which most, but not all, books in print exist digitally. But that is to miss the point fundamentally."


"A library is a place that is a repository of information and gives every citizen equal access to it. That includes health information. And mental health information. It's a community space. It's a place of safety, a haven from the world. It's a place with librarians in it. What the libraries of the future will be like is something we should be imagining now.

Literacy is more important than ever it was, in this world of text and email, a world of written information. We need to read and write, we need global citizens who can read comfortably, comprehend what they are reading, understand nuance, and make themselves understood.

Libraries really are the gates to the future. So it is unfortunate that, round the world, we observe local authorities seizing the opportunity to close libraries as an easy way to save money, without realising that they are stealing from the future to pay for today. They are closing the gates that should be open."


"We have an obligation to support libraries. To use libraries, to encourage others to use libraries, to protest the closure of libraries. If you do not value libraries then you do not value information or culture or wisdom. You are silencing the voices of the past and you are damaging the future.

We have an obligation to read aloud to our children. To read them things they enjoy. To read to them stories we are already tired of. To do the voices, to make it interesting, and not to stop reading to them just because they learn to read to themselves. Use reading-aloud time as bonding time, as time when no phones are being checked, when the distractions of the world are put aside."


Round is a Tortilla: a Book of Shapes

Round is a Tortilla: a Book of Shapes
Roseanne Greenfield Thong
Illustrated by John Parra

Round is a Tortilla is a perfect book for reading quietly or out loud. The text rhymes wonderfully and it flows smoothly from one sentence to the next. We visit a beautiful neighborhood, a bedroom, a plaza, a park, and we eat delicious tortillas, quesadillas, paletas, and sandia, all while learning about different shapes. The illustrations and the words go together beautifully; the wonderful colors add to the vibrant culture in the pages as we see mariachis, dogs, cats, and a beautiful scene with a young girl and boy in traditional dress dancing around a sombrero. You can almost hear the music coming from the trumpets!

And, if you enjoy this book, check out Ms. Thong's book Round is a Mooncake, illustrated by Grace Lin.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, 2013
Meg Medina

Piedad "Piddy" Sanchez and her mother move away from their apartments after the stars collapse. That is the last straw, according to her mother, and they pack up and move, forcing Piddy to switch schools in the process. Piddy feels that her world is crumbling around her and that she will fall down and through, just as the stairs in their old complex did. Not only is she forced to face the fact that her best friend Mitzi is forming a new life in her own new home, but that she will never be included in the Latina group at her new school. Yaqui, the head of the group, is jealous of Piddy's curves and sends one of her lackeys to tell Piddy that she better be ready, because Yaqui is going to kick her ass. At the same time, Piddy struggles to hide this from her mother, who works hard lifting televisions and other electronics. Piddy also wants to know more about the father that left her and her mother so long ago.

Yaqui's group hounds Piddy until they catch her, and it is such a heartbreaking scene. Piddy is conflicted with what she should do: should she go to her aunt, her mother, the administrators at school? Her fear over comes her, a very realistic portrayal of how it feels to be bullied, and she runs from it. This book has such an interesting array of characters, from those who love and care for Piddy at home and school, to those that don't. What I particularly love about this book is that it shows that even though one may have loving people to turn to, turning to them is not always easy. Fear is very real in this book, as it is in real life. Additionally, there is no excuse for Yaqui's behavior. Even though Yaqui lives in a rough neighborhood, the author does not use this to excuse her behavior towards Piddy. If anything, the fact that Yaqui and Piddy share similar characteristics shows the reader that it is possible to be like Piddy, to turn away from people like Yaqui who are mean just to be mean. And finally, there is no easy solution, just as in life. 

This book has already created some controversy, as reported by School Library Journal.