Book Review: Yes! We Are Latinos

Yes! We Are Latinos

by Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy
illustrated by David Diaz

There are many great Latino children’s literature books on the market today, but because we are a diverse community, only a handful of them are what I consider must-have books that every Latino family’s home library should absolutely include. And it probably comes as no surprise that the writing team of Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy have more than one title in this short list.

In August, I received a review copy of Yes! We Are Latinos. It took me less than five minutes to realize that it was going to be included in our HHM: Festival of Books Children’s Reading List.

There are not many books that truly reflect the diversity of our community. Our identity is inextricably bound with our culture…or cultures. In fact, many Hispanics here in the U.S. come by their heritage through more than one country. I myself am the daughter of a Spaniard and a Mexican-American, and was born in Texas. As such, I have strong, passionate feelings about all three cultures. My body involuntarily moves to the sound of Spanish flamenco, while my mouth waters at the thought of fresh tamales, and my mind enjoys listening to good ol’ cowboy poetry.

So I was eager to read Yes! We Are Latinos to my children…and they were engaged from the beginning. The book is a collection of 12 narrative poems, each one describing a snippet of time from the lives of 13 Latino children who come by their heritage in different ways. Here’s a glimpse of the 13 characters featured in these poems and how they come by their Latino heritage:

  • Juanita is a Mexican living in New York.
  • Mónica is from El Salvador and lives in Houston.
  • José Miguel is Cuban and Nicaraguan. He lives in Tampa.
  • Puertorriqueña Gladys is growing up in Philadelphia.
  • In Detroit, we’ll read about Santiago. He’s Dominican.
  • Sultana (or Susana) is a Sephardic Jew being raised in San Francisco.
  • Julio is a Zapotec growing up in Stockton.
  • Felipe is a black Panamanian and Venezuelan boy living in Chicago.
  • Rocio is a Spaniard in Boston.
  • Lili lives in Los Angeles. She is Guatemalan and Chinese.
  • Michiko also lives in L.A., and is of Peruvian and Japanese decent.
  • Andrés resides in Miami. He’s both Colombian and Ecuadorian.
  • And finally, there is Román from New Mexico, who is Hispanic and Native American.

Ah. Perhaps you see now why this is such an amazing book.

But there’s more. Because after each child’s story, there is a short nonfiction section to accompany their story and explain historical points such as the Ladino language and cultural identity of the Sephardic Jews, the Chinese and Japanese presence in Latin America, the Spanish Civil War, African roots, and even Latino immigration to the U.S. to name a few.

This book is rich in information and a teacher’s dream. But parents, too, will love reading aloud the short poems to their children and then discussing their stories. For a children’s book, Yes! We Are Latinos packs quite a punch as it is filled with many talking points and learning opportunities. It is a high-quality book for Latino families.

Though it is not a picture book, Diaz’s interspersed silhouette illustrations add a nice touch and help create the mental image that inevitably accompanies the text.

Ada and Campoy’s book is sure to engage young readers of all backgrounds, though it is sure to be of special interest to children of Latino heritage.

Bravo, once again, to two Latina authors who perfectly capture the Latino American experience.

Margarita’s Poetry Picks

FAVORITOS

by *Margarita Engle

Here are just a few
of my favorite poetry books
old and new,
to add to our summer
EXCITEMENT,
because la poesía
has always been such a grand part
of our wide-winged culture’s
powerful heart.

So fly into the world
of a book!
¡Vuela!

Happy summer!
¡Feliz verano!

A FEW LATINO POETRY FAVORITOS FOR YOUNGER CHILDREN:

Ada, Alma Flor and Campoy, Isabel. 2011. Ten Little Puppies; Diez Perritos. New York: Rayo/ Harper Collins.

Alarcón, Francisco. 1998. From The Bellybutton of the Moon and Other Summer Poems/Del Ombligo de la Luna y Otros Poemas de Verano. San Francisco: Children’s Book Press.

Argueta, Jorge Tetl. 2010. Arroz con leche; Rice Pudding. Toronto: Groundwood.

Delacre, Lulu. 2004. Arrorró Mi Niño: Latino Lullabies and Gentle Games. New York: Scholastic.

González, Lucía. 1994. The Bossy Gallito. New York: Scholastic.

Herrera, Juan Felipe. 2001. Calling the Doves/El Canto de las Palomas. San Franscisco: Children’s Book Press.

Mora, Pat. 2007. Yum! Mmmm! ¡Qué Rico! America’s Sproutings. New York: Lee & Low.

Tafolla, Carmen. 2008. What Can You Do With A Rebozo? ¿Qué Puedes Hacer Con Un Rebozo? Berkeley: Tricycle Press.

A FEW LATINO POETRY FAVORITOS FOR OLDER CHILDREN:

Bernier-Grand, Carmen T. 2009. Diego; Bigger Than Life. New York: Marshall Cavendish.

Cofer, Judith Ortiz. 2004. Call Me María; A Novel in Letters, Poems, and Prose. New York: Orchard.

Herrera, Juan Felipe. 1998. Laughing Out Loud, I Fly: Poems in English and Spanish. New York: Harper Collins

McCall, Guadalupe García. 2011. Under the Mesquite. New York: Lee & Low.

Soto, Gary. 1992. Neighborhood Odes. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

These are just a few examples—for a more complete selection of multicultural poetry, ask your librarian, or visit: www.poetryforchildren.blogspot.com

Vardell, Sylvia. 2012. The Poetry Teacher’s Book of Lists. Princeton, NJ: Pomelo Books.
The Poetry Friday anthology series, published by Pomelo Press.

—————————-

*Brief bio
Margarita Engle is the Cuban-American author of many books for young people, including the Newbery Honor-winning verse novel, The Surrender Tree, Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom. Her most recent books are: The Lightning Dreamer, Cuba’s Greatest Abolitionist (Harcourt; ages 10 and up), Mountain Dog (Holt; ages 8 and up), and When You Wander, a Search and Rescue Dog Story (Holt, ages 2 and up).

Latino Children’s Poetry Week: The Value of Poetry for Latino Children


This week, we’re happy to dedicate our site to Latino children’s poetry and the valuable role it plays in their literacy development and appreciation of their heritage. We’re pleased to begin with the following article on a brief history of the role our heritage has played in poetry across time and places, followed by a short poem just for children as written by the talented poets and writing team of Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy.

Spanish Influence On the History of Poetry

The first written testimonies of our language were verses. They were called jarchas, verses written in Spanish at the end of poems in Arabic. What powerful symbolism! Poetry has been a great contribution of our culture to the World, and Hispanic culture has been formed by fusing many others.

Our oldest poetic expressions were created orally. The Poema del Cid, celebrates the deeds of a warrior who was also husband and father, kind and generous. Mothers and grandmothers have put their babies to sleep with beautiful poetry, fragments from Medieval romances, kept alive for centuries through this oral transmission.

Spanish voices reached international acclaim during the Spanish Golden Age when poets like Garcilaso, Cervantes, Lope de Vega and Góngora were recited, quoted, and imitated throughout Europe. Soon after, on the other side of the Atlantic, new voices began using the same language to express different realities.

None stronger than Sor Juana, both extraordinarily gifted and learned, who wrote the most daring verses of the XVII century: “Hombres necios que acusáis…”

Silly, you men, so very adept
at wrongly blaming womankind,
not seeing you’re alone to blame
for the faults you plant in woman’s mind.

Spanish voices have used melodious words and powerful rhymes to share their convictions: Con los pobres de la tierra quiero yo mi suerte echar [I will share my destiny with the wretched of the Earth] assures José Martí; also to express their pride in their ancestry, as when the Cuban Nicolás Guillén and the Puerto Rican Palés Matos sing about their African roots; poetry used to invite all children to hold hands in a “ronda de niños” as Gabriela Mistral writes from her native Chile; written also to express the nuances of love, and exalt both the magnificence of Macchu Picchu and the quality of the smallest of things, as Pablo Neruda did from Isla Negra. Poetry has also found a way to make the world see Spain, through the delicate gypsy eyes of Federico García Lorca.

The Value of Poetry for Latino Children

Some of the most important poets of all times have written in Spanish. Our children deserve to know them all. Poetry is children’s best friend. Once a poem is memorized it stays with us forever, a wealth no one can take away, a companion ready to give comfort, hope, laughter, inspiration whenever needed. Poetry can broaden children’s vocabulary with new words they will remember supported by rhymes, rhythm, imagery and feelings. Let us try saying, whispering, sharing, singing a new poem tonight, under the stars!

~ F. Isabel Campoy

Unexpected Holiday

© 2013 Alma Flor Ada

It seemed a day like any other,
but hotter.
The air-conditioning not working well.
Boring
-nothing to do,
no one to play with,
the TV so dull,
as if I‘d already seen
everything it had to show
between those ads
for cars or drinks
shampoos or beauty creams.
might as well get
on with my homework.
I open the book
my teacher made me choose
yesterday
at the library
and
without knowing
what’s happening to me
I’m lost in a jungle,
traveling up to the sky,
worried and concerned–
frightened, even–
for a boy and girl
determined to save each other
from the greatest of dangers.
Where did the boring day go?
An unexpected,
and fantastic,
holiday
had been waiting all along
inside the covers
of a book.