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

PaperTigers’ Global Voices: René Colato Laínez (USA/El Salvador) ~ Part 3

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

Going Back to El Salvador ~ by René Colato Laínez

Part 3 of 3 (Read Part 1 “The War in El Salvador” here and Part 2 “My Life in the United States” here)

In the winter of 2010, I received a call from Salvadoran children’s book author Jorge Argueta. He and his wife Holly Ayala were organizing a children’s poetry festival in El Salvador and he was inviting me to present at the festival. For one reason or another, I had not gone back to El Salvador since my father and I had left the country and moved to the USA. I did my math: 2010 – 1985= 25. Twenty-five years away from El Salvador! It was time to go back.  I was returning to my homeland as a teacher and as an author.

My country was still beautiful. But in 25 years, there had been many changes. I saw new roads, big shopping centers and new tourist places. The war torn El Salvador had evolved into a peaceful place. Salvadorans are working hard to have a better El Salvador for the new generations.

For three days, November 8-10, more than 600 children visited the National Library Francisco Gavidia. They came from more than 25 neighborhoods around the country.  Children were excited to meet authors and poets. Some authors live in El Salvador such as Ana Ferrufino and Manlio Argueta. The rest of the authors came from others countries such as  Jorge Argueta, Francisco X Alarcón and Margarita Robleda, Jeannette Martinez Cornejo,  Jackie Méndez and myself.

Most of my books are about Salvadoran children such us René Has Two Last Names/ René tiene dos apellidos and My Shoes and I. Children were connected to these books because they could see their faces, culture and country. I told them that dreams come true. When I was a kid in El Salvador, I had two dreams: to become a teacher and to be an author. Now my dreams are a reality because I believed in myself, did my best and did not give up. Children looked at me with sparkles of hope in their eyes. They told me that they will also reach for their dreams and they were so proud to meet me a “famous Salvadoran author”.

Children were amazed to discover that a Tooth Fairy collect children’s teeth in the United States. They were interested in that “pretty princess” on the cover of The Tooth Fairy Meets El Ratón Pérez. “But she will not find any tooth here. All the teeth belongs to El Ratón,” a boy said. I told them that in the United States it was that pretty princess, the Tooth Fairy, who collects children’s teeth. They enjoyed the story and the adventure where their beloved Ratón Perez met their new hero the Tooth Fairy.

The Second Children’s Book Festival took place last November. Salvadoran authors Maria Guadalupe Castellanos, Silvia Elena Regalado, Jorgelina Cerritos and Manlio Argueta joined Jorge Argueta, Francisco X Alarcón, Margarita Robleda and myself. We had an incredible time reading to children. Children had fun writing their own poems and stories and you can watch a video of the festival here.

I am eager to go back to El Salvador for the Third Children’s Poetry Festival which will take place November 14 – 16, 2012. In this short video authors Jorge Argueta and Manlio Argueta talk about the next Children’s Poetry Festival.

In the meantime, we need to raise money for the next festival. We have an online fundraising campaign (click here to donate) and on Sept. 15, 2012 we will have the first Children’s Flor y Canto Festival at the Brava Theater in San Francisco. Come and visit authors Francisco X Alarcón, Lucha Corpi, Maya Christina Gonzalez, Jorge Argueta and more! Lots of surprises are in store and we guarantee a fun time for all! We need your support to have another great children’s poetry festival in El Salvador. Visit the Talleres de Poesia Facebook page to learn more!

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. Part 2 “My Life in the United States” was posted here.

The Canadian Children’s Book Centre will be joining us as our Global Voices Guest Blogger in August.

Video clip from the Second Children’s Poetry Festival~ El Salvador

Monday, November 28th, 2011

The 2nd Children’s Poetry Festival was celebrated in El Salvador, November 16 – 18, 2011. Talleres de Poesia hosted the event at the National Library in San Salvador where a number off well-known poets including Jorge Tetl Argueta, Francisco X. Alarcon,  Maria Guadalupe Castellanos, Jorgelina Cerritos and Manlio Argueta worked with Salvadoran children, youth and teachers in a blend of poetry readings and workshop presentations. The  theme of the workshops this year was the importance of reading and significance of peace for Salvadoran children and youth. The event was a resounding success; check out the smiles on the participants’ faces and the video of the event.

Come Hear Author Francisco X. Alarcón Read From His Book “Laughing Tomatoes and Other Spring Poems” ~ July 30, Merced, CA, USA

Friday, July 29th, 2011

To kick off the Merced County Arts Council’s Demand the Arts campaign author Francisco X. Alarcón will host a book reading on Saturday, July 30th from 11am – noon. The event will take place at the Merced Multicultural Arts Center 645 W. Main Street, Merced, CA, USA. Mr. Alarcón will read from his bilingual book for children Laughing Tomatoes and Other Spring Poems / Jitomates risueños y otros poemas de primavera. Publisher Children’s Book Press’ overview of Laughing Tomatoes and Other Spring Poems reads:

From the imagination of poet Francisco X. Alarcón comes this playful and moving collection of twenty poems about spring in English and Spanish. Tomatoes laugh, chiles explode, and tortillas applaud the sun! With joy and tenderness, delight and sadness, Francisco’s poems honor the wonders of life and nature: welcoming the morning sun, remembering his grandmother’s songs, paying tribute to children working in the fields, and sharing his dream of a world filled with gardens. Artist Maya Christina Gonzalez invites us to experience the poems with her lively cast of characters—including a spirited grandmother, four vivacious children, and playful pets who tease and delight. Follow them from page to page as they bring the spring season to colorful life.

Alarcón is an award-winning poet, educator and author of 12 volumes of poetry.  Raised in Mexico and California, he refers to himself  as a “bi-national, bicultural, bilingual poet” and writes for children and adults in English and Spanish. His children’s books vividly paint pictures of Latino culture, family, fun, and flavor and have won such prestigious awards as the American Library Association’s Pura Belpré Honor Award and the Américas Award Commended Title. Alarcón was a featured speaker at Talleres de Poesia’s inaugural  Children’s Poetry Festival held last November in El Salvador

Merced Arts Council Executive Director Staci Santa encourages children and their families to come down and enjoy the event. She says “Francisco seamlessly weaves language, art and diversity in an accessible and joyful way that makes everyone who meets him happier. The arts council is excited to bring Mr. Alarcón to Merced to share the beautiful languages and images in his children’s books to kids young and young at heart.”

To download the event poster click here.


This week’s Poetry Friday is hosted at Book Aunt  – head on over.


9th Annual National Latino Writers Conference

Sunday, May 15th, 2011

The 9th annual National Latino Writers Conference takes place May 19 – 21 at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA. The conference is uniquely devoted to writing by and for Latinos and is a magnet for Latino writers whose work has often been neglected by major publishing houses. Nationally prominent authors, editors and agents will come together to present workshops, panels and participate in one-on-one consultations with participants. Children’s book author Monica Brown will teach two workshops on Writing for Children and Francisco Alarcón will be teaching El Poder de la Poesía: Poetry for Two Languages. While all workshops and panels are closed to the public, the May 19th poetry reading by Alurista in the Bank of America Theatre will be open and free to the public.

For more information and to register click here.

Children’s Book Press Appeal

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

At the same time as celebrating 35 years of publishing beautiful books under the banner Many Voices, One World, Children’s Book Press has recently launched an appeal to raise money to sustain the organisation. Children’s Book Press is a non-profit whose Vision is worth quoting at length:

Children’s Book Press is the only nonprofit, independent press in the country [US] focused on publishing first voice literature for children by and about people from the Latino, African American, Asian/Pacific Islander, and Native American communities. We promote lived and shared experiences of cultures who have been historically under-represented or misrepresented in children’s literature while also focusing on promoting inter-cultural and cross-cultural awareness for children of all backgrounds. Children’s Book Press literature provide tools that help build healthy children, families, and thriving communities for generations to come.

If you want to find out more, read this, and our interview with Dana Goldberg, Children’s Book Press Executive Editor, in which she said this:

As a nonprofit publisher, we really do need the support of our community not only to publish the kinds of books we do, but also to keep them in print. Buying our books and/or making tax-deductable donations go a long way in helping us achieve our goals, of course, but donations of items from our Wish List, or of volunteer time, also help tremendously.

I have a special fondness for Children’s Book Press because one of the first (of many!) picture books I fell in love with after we started producing our own book reviews was one of theirs: A Place Where Sunflowers Grow by Amy Lee-Tai and illustrated by Felicia Hoshino. Last year, The Storyteller’s Candle/La velita de los cuentos by Lucía González, illustrated by Lulu Delacre, was one of the books selected for our Spirit of PaperTigers 2010 book set. To take a couple of books at random, other recent titles that have garnered praise are Tan to Tamarind: Poems about the Color Brown by Malathi Michelle Iyengar, illustrated by Jamel Akib, and My Papa Diego and Me: Memories of My Father and His Art/ Mi papá Diego y yo: Recuerdos di mi padre y su arte by Guadalupe Rivera Marín and illustrated by Diego Rivera. With writers and illustrators like Toyomi Igus, Francisco X. Alarcón, René Colato Laínez, Maya Christina Gonzalez, and… well, I could go on but really, you should head on over to the Children’s Book Press website and take a look at their fabulous catalogue for yourselves.

And I urge you to read Publisher & Executive Director Lorraine García-Nakata recent letter of appeal, published on the Children’s Book Press blog. $47,000 is a lot of money to have to raise by March but it’s not impossible – take a look at the website and think about buying a book; and if you’re in San Francisco next Wednesday, 23rd February, you have the opportunity to show support and have a great night out with some of their authors and artists. Don’t miss it – and then come here and let us know what a great time you had!

Reading the World Challenge 2010 – Update#5, wrapping it up

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

Reading The WorldI have not been as up-to-date as I might have been with posts about what is now last year’s Reading the World Challenge.   This is partly due to time generally running away with me, and also being unable to keep proper track of our three Challenges running at once… So did we manage it? Well, I have to admit that unless we put all our efforts together, we didn’t quite; and we also went over on the time… reading aloud time is sadly having to jostle with other evening activities, and Saturday morning Book Sessions are now relegated to the holidays for the same reason. But that’s okay – we certainly read a broad range of books that might not have got to the top of the to-be-read pile otherwise…

Here are details of the rest of the books we all read (you’ll have to go back to here, here and here to find out the first ones…)

Together we read Goodbye Buffalo Bay by Larry Loyie with Constance Brissenden (Theytus Books, 2008). Even though I’d read it before, it was very hard to keep my composure for some of this traumatic but ultimately uplifting story, all the more engaging because it is both autobiographical and narrated in “Lawrence’s” engaging teenage voice. The first half of the book deals with Lawrence’s last year at a Residential School for First Nation children in Canada; and the second part is about how Lawrence then sets about finding himself again after leaving. It was the first time my two had become aware of residential schools and it provoked a lot of discussion about the treatment of First Nation people both in Canada and elsewhere. And as well as the ethical discussion, there was also plenty to talk about as regards Lawrence’s actual, individual experience. We all loathed Sister and we loved Sister Theresa. Then later, Lawrence’s different itinerant jobs, such as firefighting and working at a sawmill, were heroic in the boys’ eyes, and they were delighted at the end that his ambition to become a writer had so obviously come to fruition. We all of us cannot recommend this beautifully written story highly enough – and I would say that it would be a perfect book for reluctant readers, boys especially, as it is fairly short and succinct.

We also read and enjoyed Golden Tales: Myths, Legends, and Folktales from Latin America by Lulu Delacre (Scholastic, 2006) and Myths and Legends of Aotearoa, which I blogged about recently; and Little Brother and I read together the powerful and moving Grandfather’s Story Cloth/ Yawg Daim Paj Ntaub Dab Neegwritten by Linda Gerdner and Sarah Langford, illustrated by Stuart Loughridge (Shen Books, 2008).

Older Brother and Little Brother both read Señor Cat’s Romance: and Other Favorite Stories from Latin America by Lucia Gonzalez and Lulu Delacre, as I mentioned here. Older Brother is just coming to the end of Where in the World by Simon French (Little Hare, 2002); Little Brother read American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang (First Second Books, 2006), filched from Older Brother, and he’s still quoting it; The Rabbits by John Marsden, illustrated by Shaun Tan; and Animal Poems of the Iguazu by Francisco X. Alarcón, illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez (Children’s Book Press, 2008).

So we were very nearly there in terms of reading – it was the time limit that really got us. Let’s see how we do this year. I’ll be posting details of the 2011 Reading the World Challenge soon…

And very well done to all of you who managed to complete it; I hope you’ll be joining us again – and it would also be great for readers to persuade the young people in their lives to take part. The 2010 Spirit of PaperTigers book set would definitely make a great springboard – and there’s still a chance for you to win one in our 1,000th Post Draw taking place next week. The deadline is Wednesday 19th January and you’ll find full details here.

1st Annual Children's Poetry Festival to be held in El Salvador, Nov 8 – 10

Saturday, August 7th, 2010

An exciting event is being planned in San Salvador this coming November and celebrated Salvadorian poet and children’s author Jorge Argueta has kindly sent us the following details:

From November 8 -10, Talleres de Poesia and the Talleres ded Poesia 1st National Children's Poetry Festival, San Salvador, El SalvadorNational Library of El Salvador will be presenting the 1st Annual Children’s Poetry Festival at the National Library in San Salvador.

The theme of the festival will be the importance of reading and significance of peace for Salvadoran children and youth. Renowned Talleras de Poesia, poetas festival jpgpoets will be conducting writing workshops to Salvadoran children and youth. Attendees will  also have the opportunity to enhance their writing skills and learn techniques on how to write their experiences through poetry. Confirmed poets include Jorge as well as Francisco X. Alarcon, Margarita Robleda, Rene Colato Lainez, Ana Ferrufino, Jackie Mendez, and Jeannette “Lil Milagro” Martinez-Cornejo

Jorge is co-organizing this wonderful project with Manlio Argueta, Director of the National Library of El Salvador, and two committees of volunteers from the San Francisco, USA and San Salvador areas. When I asked Jorge how the idea  for a children’s poetry festival in El Salvador came about, he replied:

I’ve been coming frequently to El Salvador for the last 2 years…I began to do school presentations as well as adult poetry readings where I had the opportunity to meet teachers, librarians and other writers. Having worked many Poetry Festivals in the USA, it occurred to me that a festival would be a positive, creative opportunity for the children in El Salvador. It is also my way to contribute back to my country. I was thrilled when many of my old and new friends supported this idea and project.

Producing a children’s poetry festival in El Salvador  has always been in my heart and mind. I grew up without books in El Salvador, however I always understood the beauty and the great success that comes from reading. Today, unfortunately there is a lot of violence in El Salvador – our hopes are that this festival will give children and young adults the opportunity to express themselves creatively on the issue of living in peace and their dreams for a positive future.

As you can imagine this is a huge undertaking and organizers are asking for help in making this event a success. Donations are greatly appreciated and can be made directly to:

Talleres de Poesia
Account # 0006696
Mission Federal Credit Union
3269 Mission St.
San Francisco, CA, USA 94110

or you can mail a check to:
Talleres de Poesia
90 Bepler St.
Daly City, CA, USA 94014

Fundraising events are underway in cities throughout the USA and well-known artists and children’s book authors have donated some amazing items to be used to raise funds.

For more information you can e-mail  talleresdepoesia(a)yahoo(dot)com or “friend” Talleres de Poesia on Facebook!

Poetry Friday: Animals of the Iguazú

Friday, January 29th, 2010

Animal Poems of the Iguazu/ Animalario del Iguazú by Francisco X. Alarcón, illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez (Children's Book Press, 2008)My children have been asking lots of questions recently about their family history, which is in part closely connected with Uruguay and Argentina – this has led to reminiscences of a wonderful trip to the waterfalls at Iguazu and, naturally, led me to go and pull Francisco X. Alarcón’s book of Animal Poems of the Iguazú/ Animalario del Iguazú (Children’s Book Press, 2008) off the shelf. This is a vibrant book of poems, many of them quick, witty epigrams about individual rainforest species. Maya Christina Gonzalez‘ vibrant illustrations fairly zing off the page too! Here’s part of the English version of one of the longer poems, the last in the book, that brings all the animals together. It’s called “Same Green Fate”:

let’s listen to
the green voice
of the rainforest[…]

let’s learn
the distinct
living alphabets

of so many species
so many insects
and butterflies[…]

let’s make the world
a true Ybirá Retá
a Land of the Trees

And that touch of Guaraní is echoed in the Spanish version too. Wonderful! If I close my eyes, I can relive one magical, wildlife-and-waterfall-filled early morning walk… Well, if you can’t actually be there, these poems are the next best thing!

This week’s Poetry Friday is hosted by Anastasia Suen at Picture Book of the Day – head on over!

Kidlit Soup?

Monday, June 11th, 2007

Libby Gruner, from the online magazine Literary Mama says in “Time to Eat,” one of her many great articles: “I’ve heard it said that food is the sex of children’s books – in fact, the medium through which we feel comfortable exploring desire and its fulfillment.” I had never heard that analogy before and, because I am fascinated by the theme of food in children’s literature, found it quite thought-provoking. In keeping with the theme, today I am taking the liberty to borrow the late Carol Hurst‘s zestful idea of a literary soup to put together my own recipe, using ingredients I found on my bookshelves. Adapting her original recipe to incorporate multicultural titles, this mix should make for a hearty…hmm… stew? sancocho? bee-bim bop? kimchi?… I’m not sure yet, but you probably get the gist of the mix, now.

Grandma’s Saturday SoupSo we need a pot… How about we borrow the one used in Grandma’s Saturday Soup? As for tomatoes and corn, there’s plenty in Laughing Tomatoes and Other Spring Poems and The Fiesta of the Tortillas. With a few more vegetables from The Ugly Vegetables story (have no fear, they are very tasty!), some fresh fish and clams from Lakas and the Manilatown Fish and Singing Shijimi Clams; a pinch of garam masala from Masala: Poems from India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka and a poetic onion from If I Had a Million Onions, we have ourselves a worldly flavor fusion. Whatever the result of this particular combo, it smells like gourmet kidlit to me… Wouldn’t you agree?

Now will you add your own ingredients and share a recipe with us?