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The next two books fit the challenge to read more books from a Latino perspective. See more at Latin@s In Kid Lit here.
My Name Is Celia, The Life of Celia Cruz – by Monica Brown and illustrated by Rafael López
I remember watching certain old tv shows when I was young, and loving the beat of Latino singers and watching them dance. This might have been one of them, but in my world, we didn’t know many famous singers who were from Cuba. This story, about her youth in Cuba in a loving home, hearing her father sing, and finally going off with her cousin to enter singing contests, is Celia Cruz’ story, the story of the singer who brought salsa to the US and to the world. She and her husband immigrated to the US at the time of the Cuban revolution, moved to New York City, and began her career. The book is gorgeously illustrated by Rafael López, famous for his murals that are seen in places all over America. His murals, known as magical realism, are vivid swirls of color that help tell the “also-vivid” story of Celia Cruz. The book is enhanced by its being bi-lingual.
Soccer Star – by Mina Javaherbin and illustrated by Renato Alarcão
Through showing one Brazilian boy’s story of dreams of becoming a soccer star, the author gives a glimpse of children in Brazil who have risen out of poverty through soccer. Like basketball and football dreams in the U.S., children who love a sport, and play it every time possible to improve, some do escape their tough lives. Through the story, on his way to take his little sister to school and then to the fishing boat where he works, Paulo meets his other teammates at their jobs. Mina Javaherbin smoothly shows that all the boys are working, “not” going to school. One dives for tourists, another paints floats for parades, an still another shines shoes. The wording is so clever, sharing dreams even there, like in the visit with the boy who shines shoes, Paulo says “I know that one day his fancy footwork will score us brilliant goals.” At the end of the day, the boys have a game, even though tired from a full day of work. The illustrations are beautiful realistic depictions of each part that is told. The book will be wonderful for children who are in similar situations (mother leaving for a long work day, taking care of younger siblings).
Lila and the Secret of Rain – by David Conway and illustrated by Jude Daly
There are many stories told about calling for rain, and this is another, set in a village whose wells and crops are drying up because of the lack of rain. Watercolor illustrations are filled with hot sun, blue sky, and browntones of a desert-like land. Lila’s grandfather tells her a story that he said was told to him of “the secret of rain”. One must climb the highest nearest mountain and tell the sky the saddest stories. Lily listened, and followed her grandfather’s advice. Can you imagine what happened? The words in the story are poetic: “the sky was ebony with emotion”. I feel it would be a good addition to a collection of myths in storytelling.
A Beach Tail –by Karen Lynn Williams and illustrated by Floyd Cooper
Karen Lynn Williams, known for the wonderful Four Feet, Two Sandals, has written an amusing circular tale of a little boy who draws a lion, named Sandy, and is told not to go into the water and not to leave Sandy. Well, with the aid of a stick, the tail grows longer, around a horseshoe crab, a sinking sand castle, and so on until all of a sudden, the little boy Gregory looks up and doesn’t know where his father is. Luckily, he knows to follow the “tail”, and that is the tale told in the book. It’s a fun story for predicting, with a little tension too for young readers. Cooper’s illustrations fill the page with ocean, sand and shore creatures to wonder over.
Following Papa’s Song – written and illustrated by Gianna Marino
Gianna Marino has also written Too Tall Houses and Meet Me At The Moon. This recently published book was loaned to me by my great book buddy, and it is another treasure. With beautiful illustrations in different shades depending on the ocean depth, a whale baby learns about the ocean and what he can see if he dives deep, but also that he’ll always hear his papa if he listens, and thus be able to find him. It’s a sweet book for young children, but I also take it as a metaphor for all of us who still “listen” for our papas.
two poetry books
Farmer’s Dog Goes to the Forest – poems for two voices by David L. Harrison and illustrated by Arden Johnson-Petrov
I need to find the first book of this duo because I love this one for the youngest readers. It follows the pattern of ‘Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?’ but distinguishes itself by letting the animals that Farmer’s Dog sees answer with factual information about themselves. I know children will pick up the pattern easily, and hope each poem will also help them learn new words and search for more information about the animals. For example, when the dog sees a crow, he asks: “Crow, crow,/why so proud?” and the crow answers, “My eyes are sharp,/my voice is loud.” There is more to this poem. It would be such fun to have students pair up and read these aloud to each other. The illustrations are forest-based, placing animals in their true habitat.
I haiku you - written and illustrated by Betsy Snyder
I know I’m late reading this book, and am glad I finally did. It’s full of haiku love for diverse things in a child’s life, like Popsicles and lemonade and teddy bears. The illustrations are cute cartoon-like drawings; the haiku keep the tradition of 5-7-5 syllables.
Next: Still reading A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd, have started the book group reading The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. What a terrific book it is. And I have Miss Emily, a verse novel by Burleigh Muten.
Such a lot of great books to read! Hope you all have a happy week of reading!