Celebrating René Colato Laínez’s 10th book release “Señor Pancho Has a Rancho”!

Friday, August 16th, 2013

Rene Colato LainezRené Colato Laínez is the Salvadoran American award-winning author of many multicultural children’s books and has been a featured guest blogger here on the PaperTigers blog. Earlier this month René’s 10th book, Señor Pancho Has a Rancho, was released!  As René says in his blog post introducing the book:

When I came to the United States, I discovered that not only people had problems learning a second language. Many farm animals had the same challenge too! El pollito said pío pío and the chick said peep peep. I am sure that you know that Old MacDonald had a farm. Now, he has a new neighbor, el señor Pancho, and in his rancho he has many animales.”


Señor Pancho Has a Rancho
By René Colato Laínez, illustrated by Elwood Smith (Holiday House, Inc.)senorpancho

“Old MacDonald Had a Farm” goes multicultural in this rollicking Spanish-English rendition.

The barnyard animals on Old MacDonald’s and Señor Pancho’s farms have a hard time communicating. MacDonald’s rooster says cock-a-doodle-doo! While Señor Pancho’s gallo says quiquirquí. The English-speaking chick says peep, peep, but el pollito says pio, pio. Then the cow says moo—and la vaca says mu! Maybe they’re not so different after all! So all the animals come together for a barnyard fiesta, because dancing is a universal language.

… [Readers]  will enjoy learning the names of the animals in both English and Spanish and comparing the onomatopoeia in each language. Chock-full of bicultural fun on the farm. -Kirkus Reviews

This is an excellent choice for read-alouds, but it also includes a glossary and pronunciation guide, making it useful in one-on-one contexts for young readers looking to develop Spanish vocabulary. -School Library Journal

To celebrate the book release René has been deemed  Luna Press and Bookstore’s author of the month in September and will be appearing in the store on September 14th to read from and sign his books.  Lots of fun activities are planned and you can visit Luna’s Facebook page or René’s blog for more details. The store is located at 3790 Mission Street in San Francisco.

Poetry Friday: Iguanas in the Snow and Other Winter Poems by Francisco X. Alarcón, illustrated by Christina Gonzalez

Friday, January 11th, 2013

This week seemed to fly by and I can hardly believe that Friday is upon us and it is time to celebrate Poetry Friday! For those who may not be familiar with the concept, at the end of the week many children’s book aficionados and bloggers often use their sites to contribute favorite poems or chat about something poetical in an event called Poetry Friday. The features can be original poems, reviews of poetry books, reviews of poetic picture books, links to poems at copyright protected sites, thoughts about poetry, song lyrics and  more.  One blog rounds up all the posts on the subject, so that poetry aficionados can read more posts on a favorite subject. The list of blogs scheduled to host  Poetry Friday in 2013 can be found here and you can delve into our PaperTigers’ Poetry Friday time vault here.

For this week’s Poetry Friday contribution I’d like to highlight one of my favorite children’s poetry books: Iguanas in the Snow and Other Winter Poems / Iguanas en la nieve y otros poemas de invierno by Francisco X. Alarcón, illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez (Children’s Book Press/Lee and Low Books, 2001). If the winter days in your neck of the woods are depressingly short, dark and gloomy, get hold of a copy of Iguanas in the Snow and prepare to have your spirit restored. You’ll immediately be taken to a wintery world of bright, engaging colors that looks to be just as magical as the long, golden days of summer are. Celebrate winter with a Mexican American family in Nothern California and witness their joy as they frolic in the snow, an experience that reminds the author of the iguanas playing by his grandmother’s house in Mexico. Celebrate life in a city where people are bridges to each other and children sing poetry in two languages. Be dazzled by the promise of seedling redwoods—like all children—destined to be the ancestors of tomorrow. This book was a well deserved winner of the 2002 Pura Belpré Award Honor Book for Narrative and can be read online on the International Children’s Digital Library  website by clicking here.

Iguanas in the Snow
what fun
to see snow
for the first time

on the Sierra Nevada
all dressed in white
like a bride

get out of
Papa’s car
in a hurry

touch the wet
snow with our
bare fingers

and throw
at each other

what a ride
to slide
down slopes

on top
of black
inner tubes

together with
brothers and sisters
cousins and uncles

all sporting
green jackets
and pants

in a sale at
the army surplus

“Ha! ha! ha!”
Mama laughs
and says with joy

“we look like
happy iguanas
in the snow”

This week’s Poetry Friday is being hosted by No Water River

Week-end Book Review: Sora and the Cloud by Felicia Hoshino

Sunday, December 23rd, 2012

Felicia Hoshino, Japanese translation by Akiko Hisa,
Sora and the Cloud
Immedium, 2012.

Bilingual: English/Japanese

Ages: 3-8

Sora and the Cloud is award-winning illustrator Felicia Hoshino’s debut as an author. Featuring Sora, a little boy whose name means “sky,” this very delicate, whisper-like story in English and Japanese is about Sora discovering the world with the help of a fluffy cloud friend. And how appropriate that cloud and sky should come together!

While Sora and Cloud float around town dreaming up adventures, little Sora gets to see many familiar places (some readers will recognize the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco Chinatown) and to learn more about his Japanese heritage. “Like a mobile in the breeze, Sora’s sky adventure spins all around him,” until he drifts gently into sleep and back down to earth, where more adventures await. The last page shows Sora and his family relaxing together under a big tree – the image of his little sister looking up to the sky and saying hello to a cloud fittingly pointing to the universality of children’s sense of wonder and boundless imagination.

Fans of Hoshino’s illustration work in A Place Where Sunflowers Grow and Little Sap and Monsieur Rodin will find the watercolors/mixed media in this bilingual treat a treasure trove to pore over and marvel at. The double spread of cute ants busily moving around town, matching Sora’s impression of people as tiny ants when seen from up above, is priceless. It adds a touch of sweet humor to a story that is all warmth, delicacy and gentle embrace.

Sora and the Cloud soars in more ways than one, and is a perfect story to share with very young ones who are starting to look at the world with wonder and amazement.

The short Japanese phrases and cultural references sprinkled throughout the book are translated and explained in the end matter, where we also learn that a portion of the book’s proceeds go to the Japan Earthquake Relief.

Aline Pereira

December 2012

PaperTigers’ Global Voices: René Colato Laínez (USA/El Salvador) ~ Part 2

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

My Life in the United States ~ by René Colato Laínez

Part 2 of 3 (Read Part 1 “The War in El Salvador” here)

For Christmas of 1984, my mother sent me a new pair of shoes from the United States. I still remember my father’s words, “These are good gringos shoes. These are very good shoes for the trip to the United States.”

On February 17 1985, my father and I left El Salvador. Two days later, we arrived in Mexico City. Then, we were stuck in Mexico City for almost two months. We could not continue our journey because Mexican immigration took all the money from my father. It wasn’t until April that my mother sent us more money for our trip. During my journey, my father and I crossed three countries and climbed the mountains from Tijuana to the United States. But we made it to Los Angeles. My shoes were not new anymore. They had holes everywhere. One shoe was missing the sole.

There are certain moments that mark your like forever. My journey and my new life in the United States as a new immigrant created a big impact in me and in my writing. In my book, My Shoes and I, I tell the story of my journey and in my other books I write about the new immigrant child in the United States. Most of my books are based in my life and some are autobiographical just like René Has Two Last Names/René tiene dos apellidos and I Am René, the Boy/ Soy René, el niño.

I experienced the silent period and many culture shocks. In El Salvador René is a boy’s name. I could not believe it that in the United States my beautiful name was a girl’s name, Renee. Children not only laughed because I had a girl’s name but also because I had two last names, “Your name is longer than an anaconda” “You have a long dinosaur’s name.”

I was able to adapt to the new country. I studied really hard and graduated with honors from high school. Then, I went to college and became a teacher. But I did not have legal papers yet. My mother became a resident thanks to the amnesty program. She applied for my papers but it was 1993 and I had not received my green card. I started to work as a teacher because I got a work permit. For two years, I received letters from LAUSD, “We need to have evidence of your legal status. Your work permit will expire soon.” But finally in 1995, I received the famous immigration letter. Yes! I had an appointment to get my green card. It was not green after all. It was pink!

The ideas to write many of my books are born in the classroom. One day, a first grader told me, “I want to write a letter to my mamá. She is in Guatemala and I miss her so much.” That night I wrote a story named Waiting for Papá/ Esperando a Papá and it became my first published book. This book is based on my life. I wrote about the war in El Salvador and my feelings when my parents were away from me. I added the situation of a boy waiting for his father in the United States. Just like in the case of my first grader who was waiting for his mother.

A few years ago, one of my kinder students was crying because her father was deported to Mexico. Soon all my students told me that they knew someone who was deported too. This was my inspiration to write From North to South/ Del norte al sur. In my book, Jose’s mother is deported to Tijuana and now he and his father travel from north to south, San Diego to Tijuana, to visit her in her new home, Casa Madre Assunta, a shelter for deported women and children.

I got the idea to write the The Tooth Fairy Meets El Raton Perez when I heard my next-door teacher screaming and ready to go to the office. One boy told her that a mouse took his tooth the night before and that he loves that mouse because he visited his house often. There were five children living in the same house. “This child lives among mice and rats. I need to call social service,” she said to me. She did not go to the office after I told her about that special mouse. It was El Ratón Pérez, the tooth mouse collector in Latin America and Spain. In Spanish speaking countries there is not a tooth fairy. There is a Mouse, El Ratón Pérez.

My ex-students usually come back to visit me when they are in high school or college. Many of them have lost their Spanish skills by this time. I want to instill in these students and my future students the importance of being bilingual. This was my inspiration to write Playing Lotería/ El juego de la lotería. In this book a boy practiced his Spanish in Mexico while he played lotería with his grandmother.

I will continue to write more books but my goal will be always be the same, to produce good multicultural children’s literature; stories where minority children are portrayed in a positive way, where they can see themselves as heroes, and where they can dream and have hopes for the future.

René Colato Laínez is the Salvadoran award-winning author of many multicultural children’s books including  The Tooth Fairy Meets El Ratón Pérez, From North to South, René Has Two Last Names, I Am René, the Boy, Playing Lotería and My Shoes and I. He is a graduate of the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program in Writing for Children & Young Adults. René is “the teacher full of stories” at Fernangeles Elementary School. In his books, you can find culture, fun and hope for the future. Visit him at www.renecolatolainez.com and read our 2006 interview with him here.

We are thrilled to have René  join us as PaperTigers’ Global Voices Guest Blogger for the month of July. Part 1 of his series “The War in El Salvador” was posted here while Part 3 will be posted here on the blog on July 25th.

Poetry Friday: Talking with Mother Earth/Hablando con Madre Tierra – poems by Jorge Argueta, illustrated by Lucía Angela Pérez

Friday, June 15th, 2012

Mother Earth is not only a source of life in Talking with Mother Earth/Hablando con Madre Tierra, a profound collection of poems by renowned Salvadoran poet Jorge Argueta (Groundwood Books/Libros Tigrillo, 2006), but she also provides the young native boy Tetl, in whose voice the poems are written, with joy, a connection with his land and heritage, and, most importantly, a comforting stability in the face of racist jeering from his peers.

Argueta’s poems are written in succinct free verse, presented in both Spanish and English with smatterings of Nahuatl, the language of the Nahua people passed down from the Aztecs and that Argueta grew up with.  From the first poem in which Tetl presents Mother Earth, or “Ne Nunan Tal” in Nahuatl, readers are welcomed into Tetl’s life.  His joy in the creations of Mother Nature is contagious, from poems such as “Walking and Whistling”, “The Wind” and “Water”; and I love the wordplay in both languages in “Suenos Días/Gourd Morning.”

These poems alone would represent a lively collection that provides insight into Nahuatl culture – and this impression is enhanced by Lucía Angela Pérez’ vibrant illustrations that leap out from the pages.  What makes this book outstanding, however, is the way it draws young readers in to think about how they themselves might have behaved, whether deliberately or thoughtlessly, towards their peers from a different cultural background.  The first indication that Tetl has to deal with such abuse comes in the fiercely upright poem “Yo/I”:

 […] Sometimes I feel like yelling

From my toes to my head.
Yes, I am a Pipil Nahua Indian.
I wear feathers of beautiful birds to protect me
from the bad words and the looks
that come my way from some people
because I am Indian.

Immediately after “Yo/I”, the poem “Tetl” rings with the boy’s name, Tetl: “It is the name my grandmother gave me”.  The name Tetl runs in counterpoint to “But everybody knows me as Jorge” – a clue to the autobiographical nature of the poems.

A little further on, the poem “Indio/Indian” addresses the verbal abuse head on: and the illustration shows Tetl rising above it, proud of his identity, even if some people don’t understand or respect it.  Indeed, what makes this collection work so well, and makes it an excellent resource for young children discussing issues of racism and bullying, is that it presents a complete view of Tetl’s life so that the cruel behaviour of his peers towards him fails to define him.

To find out more, read our PaperTigers review of this beautiful book.  When I first opened it, I was expecting to be transported to another culture.  I got that and so much more.

Today’s Poetry Friday is hosted by Mary Lee at A Year of Reading.  Head on over!

Week-end Book Review: Rubber Shoes…A Lesson in Gratitude / Los zapatos de goma…una lección de gratitud

Saturday, May 12th, 2012

Gladys Elizabeth Barbieri, illustrated by Lina Safar
Rubber Shoes…A Lesson in Gratitude / Los zapatos de goma…una lección de gratitud
Big Tent Books, 2011.

Ages 5-8

Every child knows that feeling of disappointment. Those wild hopes and dreams stirred by the sight of some toy or object spotted on a store shelf or in the hands of a classmate – the toy or object so desperately wanted – but which remains behind on store shelves as parents choose the option that is practical, functional, or affordable. Rubber Shoes tells this age-old tale that crosses cultural lines through the bilingual story of the spirited Gladys Elizabeth, who comes to learn that sometimes even the things we do not value have value beyond that we originally see.

When Gladys’ mother tells her they are going to buy her new shoes, Gladys dreams of what may come. “Maybe I’ll get shiny black shoes like Marilyn Jane … or ..sparkly white sandals like Nicky’s … or ruby red slippers like Dorothy’s…” But her mother crushes her hopes when she buys Gladys the “ugliest shoes in the world,” brown rubber ones that will not get lost or destroyed, no matter what Gladys tries.

But like Jo, Beth, Meg and Amy in Little Women, an encounter with another child less fortunate then her helps Gladys eventually come to see the brown rubber shoes in a new light, one that makes her realize that perhaps there is more value in the shoes than originally realized. Written in English and Spanish by first-grade teacher Gladys Elizabeth Barbieri, Rubber Shoes tells a somewhat well-worn tale of gratitude, although one worth repeating. Wordiness and some bumps in plot timing point to the author’s first-time author status, but she nonetheless delivers an important, if cliched, message about gratitude for all we have, rather than discontent about that which we don’t.

Sara Hudson
May 2012

Week-end Book Review: Juan the Bear and the Water of Life / La Acequia de Juan del Oso

Saturday, May 5th, 2012

Enrique R. Lamadrid and Juan Estevan Arellano, illustrated by Amy Córdova,
Juan the Bear and the Water of Life / La Acequia de Juan del Oso
University of New Mexico Press, 2008.

Ages: 7+

The 19th century waterways that irrigate the Upper Mora Valley in New Mexico’s Sangre de Cristo Mountains are a marvel of engineering to this day. In places, the water seems to defy gravity, and no one is quite sure how the people who built them—lacking tools as basic as a metal-bladed shovel—accomplished it. Though the history of their construction is lost, stories about the dedicated pioneers who built them have evolved, through oral tradition, into regional legends presented here in picture-book form.

La Acequia de Juan del Oso comes from the story of “The Three Juanes”: the remarkably strong Juan del Oso, son of a local woman and a bear; Juan Mudacerros, who moves mountains; and Juan Mudarríos, who can change the course of rivers. Folklorists Enrique R. Lamadrid and Juan Estevan Arellano recognize similar characters in Spanish tradition, from which the acequia technology of the American Southwest is also derived. The super-human young men, all of them exiled from their communities as a result of unintentionally misusing their special strengths and powers, work together as only they can to bring the water up and over the mountain. Amy Córdova’s rich and colorful illustrations bring the landscape and characters to life in this story that is not only about the reward of hard work but also the pain of exclusion and the value of community.

The authors skillfully incorporate what is known about the building of the canals (such as rudimentary tools, including a half-empty brandy bottle used as a level) with the legend of the boy whose mother married a bear but is forced to return home. When an innocent swipe seriously injures another child, the half-bear Juan flees to the woods where he finds his welcoming father and the other legendary Juanes. Together they accomplish the work that enables the expanding village population to inhabit a valley on the other side of the mountain. This book brings both the folktale and the limited known history of the acequia together in a way that celebrates not only the past and the legends but also the people who live in the Mora Valley today who continue to make a beautiful life in this stark, arid, and high-altitude environment.

Abigail Sawyer
May 2012

Week-end Book Review: Yuko-Chan and the Daruma Doll written and illustrated by Sunny Seki

Sunday, April 8th, 2012

Sunny Seki, author-illustrator,
Yuko-Chan and the Daruma Doll: The Adventures of a Blind Japanese Girl Who Saves Her Village
Tuttle, 2012.

Age: 5 and up

Sunny Seki’s latest children’s book is set 200 years ago in the village of Takasaki, 90 miles from Tokyo, just after a devastating volcanic eruption of nearby (and still active) Mt. Asama. Yuko-chan, Seki’s spunky little fictional heroine, is a blind orphan, cared for by the monks at Daruma Temple there.

Yuko-chan’s intelligence, compassion and complete lack of self-pity are evident early in the story. She knows all about how Daruma (Bodhidharma to westerners) brought the Buddha’s teaching to China. Daruma was famous for continuing to meditate even after his arms and legs became numb. He exhorted followers, “If you fall seven times, you must pick yourself up eight times! You need strong faith, and the belief that you can accomplish your goals!”

The indomitable Yuko-chan, inspired by Daruma’s words, helps deliver food to bereft villagers who have lost their homes and farms. One day, she notices that her tea gourd always returns to upright after being dropped, and she likens it to Daruma, never giving up. She gets the villagers to begin painting gourds with Daruma’s famously fierce face. The Daruma dolls quickly gain popularity. Her ingenious idea provides a new livelihood for the community.

Takasaki is in fact famous today for its Daruma dolls. Visitors purchase the dolls with the eyes blank. They paint in one eye when they make a wish or vow and add the other when their goal is achieved. Actually an old tradition with a murky history, the eye painting has been criticized in recent years by Japanese organizations for the blind. Perhaps their protest inspired Seki’s story; it’s poetically appropriate that his vision-impaired little girl would resolve a village crisis with goal-inspiring, blank-eyed Daruma dolls.

Award-winning author-illustrator Sunny Seki brings the feisty and adorable Yuko-chan vividly to life in word and image. He captures the simple beauties of nature and the rustic built environment of the time as well. A Japanese translation follows the English text on each page, with hiragana (phonetic) symbols printed in superscript so novice Japanese readers can more easily follow the story. The back matter gives additional information about Daruma and the Daruma doll tradition. Tuttle’s expert design and high production quality further enhance the experience of Yuko-chan and the Daruma Doll. Its impact will deepen with repeated reading.

Charlotte Richardson
April 2012

Week-end Book Review: Arroz con Leche: Un poema para cocinar / Rice Pudding: A Cooking Poem by Jorge Argueta, illustrations by Fernando Vilela,

Saturday, April 30th, 2011

Jorge Argueta, illustrations by Fernando Vilela,
Arroz con Leche: Un poema para cocinar / Rice Pudding: A Cooking Poem
Groundwood Books, 2010.

Ages 4-7

Rice is an important staple all over the planet, but each cuisine that features rice often makes it seem as if the simple grain belongs to that tradition alone. The young boy at the center of Jorge Argueta’s latest bilingual cooking poem is aware of rice’s versatility, however, and he likes “all kinds of rice”:

I like white rice,
brown rice,
fried rice,
stewed rice,
watery rice,
chicken and rice,
beans and rice.
I guess I like rice with anything.

“But what I like best and love the most” he goes on to say “is rice pudding.” And, just as his counterpart in Argueta’s 2009 poem Sopa de Frijoles/Bean Soup did, this child wastes no time showing the reader how to make this simple yet special Latin dish.

Listing utensils and ingredients as he gathers them together in the playful illustrations by award-winning Brazilian illustrator Fernando Vilela, the boy gets to work while his mother, a silhouette in the background, watches from a distance.

Each step is more joyful and poetic than the last. Filling the pot with water “makes me feel like/ there is a creek flowing through the kitchen.” “The flames heating the pot/ are rainbow hands…hugging the pot.” Boiling water makes “maraca music,” and “Foamy waves and clouds turn the pot into sea and sky.” When he pours the milk, “there is a white waterfall in the kitchen” to which the child adds “salt stars and sugar snow.” The excitement of creating is equaled only by the anticipation of the delicious arroz con leche the boy looks forward to serving his family.

Like Bean Soup, Rice Pudding celebrates traditional foods—and the values they embody: family, warmth, sharing—along with a child’s growing independence. Vilela’s illustrations contrast the cool grey-green-blue of the creative kitchen with the warm comfort of gold and orange in the rest of the home. When the whole family joins hands around the table to “slurp up” this delicious treat, readers will wish they could actually be there. This sweet, joyful poem about a sweet, comforting food will surely inspire new cooks and perhaps some new poets as well.

Abigail Sawyer
April 2011

Week-end Book Review: Avneet Aunty’s Mobile Phone by Kavita Singh Kale

Saturday, March 26th, 2011

Kavita Singh Kale,
Avneet Aunty’s Mobile Phone
(English-Hindi version) Tulika Publishers, India, 2006.

Ages 3-8

“Miaow! I am Chikki” says the turquoise cat on the first page of Kavita Singh Kale’s Avneet Aunty’s Mobile Phone. Chikki’s pink tongue laps at a bowl of milk; a red hand tickles her tummy; her whiskers extend from two rosy round cheeks. On the following page, we meet Gagan, a boy dressed in red polka dots and lying on an orange bed, his turquoise hat the color of his cat. By the third page, when Gagan’s grandmother appears in burgundy and pink on a purple carpet, a stairway winding up the orange wall behind her, there is no doubt that we’re in India.

And we’re prepared, a little, for the mad arrival of Avneet aunty, her pink scarf and white braid flying behind her as she rushes past Gagan and Chikki, her mouth open, her teeth showing, her glasses askew almost down to her nose ring. We’re hardly surprised when her curly-toed shoe lands on poor Chikki’s tail.

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Avneet aunty is a gregarious sort, a lady who is never without her mobile phone. Good luck on Gagan and Chikki getting to hear the story his grandmother had promised to tell them. Avneet aunty only stops talking when her phone rings, and then only to begin talking again. There’s a scary moment when Chikki sails over Avneet aunty in a game of tag with Gagan, and the phone goes sailing too. Crash! But all is well, of course, in the end, in this delightfully wacky picture book.

Animation film designer Kale’s exuberant illustrations will bring characters and setting vividly alive for young children, Indian or western. The spare text, 149 words in English, the equally terse Hindi below, adds to the exoticness of her remarkable little treasure.

Tulika Publishers, based in Chennai, India, specializes in bilingual books for children, with books in Hindi, Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada, Telugu, Marathi, Gujarati, and Bangla. Avneet Aunty’s Mobile Phone is published in five bilingual editions (English with Tamil, Kannada, Telugu, and Bangla, and Hindi). It’s exciting to have a window into the multi-dimensional cultural world that Indian children experience through Tulika books. And who would have thought a western pre-schooler’s first bilingual English-Hindi book might be about a goofy lady’s cell phone?

Charlotte Richardson
March 2011