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

The Next Chapter: a gathering to celebrate Children’s Book Press’ past and future ~ March 3rd, San Francisco, CA

Monday, February 20th, 2012

Week-end Review: I Know the River Loves Me by Maya Christina Gonzales

Saturday, January 14th, 2012

Maya Christina Gonzalez,
I Know the River Loves Me / Yo sé que el río me ama
Children’s Book Press, 2009.

Ages 5-8

A girl visits a very special best friend, the river.  How does she know that the river loves her?  “She [the river] jumps and sings when she sees me”, and “when I look into her face, she’s happy to see me.” are just two of the answers that each turn of the page provides. The girl is filled with a sense of well-being through being able to play in the river, or sit by her and think; the river will continue to be there “waiting for me, singing my name” because it is loved and respected. Gonzalez’ lyrical prose reads like a poem and offers up plenty of food for young readers’ imaginations.

While the depiction of the little girl is instantly recognisable as being in Gonzalez’ style, unusually, she emphasises the flowing and swirling of the river by allowing the white of the page to be seen behind them.  In contrast to the bright blues of the water and greens and pinks of the fish and riverside flora, the girl herself is depicted in soft monochrome.  This does not detract from the solidity of the girl’s presence in the narrative, but it does emphasise the central role of the river.  It is particularly effective when the girl is floating in the river, her long, dark hair seeming to meld into the curves of the flowing water.  At the very end, the girl is seen wearing a blue dress that flows into the river, which, in turn, has absorbed her blacks and grays among its blue.  The concluding words bring the by now familiar refrain, “I know the river loves me,” and this time we also have the counterpoint that creates the balance of harmony, as well as a powerful ending to the narrative: “and I love the river.”

The practical actions involved in reaching this spiritual affinity are not ignored either – so the girl is shown taking her rubbish home.  In a short appendix Gonzalez talks about her love of rivers and encourages her readers to explore rivers for themselves – both the ones that inspired her to create the book and, by extension, the rivers on their own doorsteps.  I Know the River Loves Me is a gentle way to introduce young children to the mutual benefits of showing love and respect to their natural environment.

Marjorie Coughlan
January 2012

15th Anniversary of Children’s Day/Book Day (El día de los niños/El día de los libros) ~ April 30th (USA)

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

Children’s Day/Book Day (El día de los niños/El día de los libros), also known as Día is a celebration of children, families, and reading. Held annually in the USA on April 30, Día celebrations emphasize the importance of literacy for children of all linguistic and cultural backgrounds. Founded by author Pat Mora in 1996, Día is now hosted by the Association for Library Service for Children (ALSC) along with founding partner REFORMA, the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-Speaking.

2011 marks the 15th anniversary of  Día and there are plenty of great events planned! Visit the ALSC’s  Día Celebrations page to find out all the details. Use the interactive map to search for events in your area and find out how others across the country celebrate literature, culture, and family! Let the ALSC know what’s going on in your community and they’ll send your library 100 Día stickers. Use the 2011 Día Media Kit to download logos and brochures and read the #dia11alsc Twitter feed.

The Arthur F. Turner Community Library in Sacramento, CA,  has an exciting Día event planned for this Saturday, April 16th. Author Jorge Argueta and author/illustrator Maya Christina Gonzalez will be on hand to read and sign their books, there will be bilingual stories, crafts, free book giveaways and more! Click on the poster image above to enlarge and get all the details.

On April 30th the national kick-off for Día takes place at the Pima County Library System (Valencia branch) in Tucson, AZ.  There, Pat Mora, ALSC members, and the general public can join the Pima County librarians in an afternoon filled with children’s reading events and a discussion on the history of Día.

“I am thrilled to have this opportunity to visit the site of one of the first libraries in the nation to embrace El día de los niños/El día de los libros,” said Mora. “Libraries play such a key role in supporting family literacy within diverse communities. From bilingual story hours for children to adult literacy and English as a Second language programs – libraries are truly part of the American Dream and are an important key to lifelong learning.”

Mora is the author of many children’s books including the Pula Belpre award-winning book Book Fiesta!: Celebrate Children’s Day/Book Day : Celebremos El día de los niños/El día de los libros. Read PaperTigers’ interview with Pat Mora here and click here to watch ¡Colorín Colorado!’s video interview with Pat about Día’s 15th Anniversary.

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.

"Claiming Face" on Hispanic Heritage Month

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

Hispanic Heritage Month 2010 PosterThis year we welcome Hispanic Heritage Month by pointing you to Children’s Book Press‘ guest blog post by Maya Christina Gonzalez, the first of a series highlighting the author’s “Claiming Face Educator’s Guide” curriculum, published by her own Reflection Press (Maya has published several books with Children’s Book Press). In this first post, which went live on Sep 7, Maya gives us a little background to the project, whose goal is to help children learn to use creativity on their journey to developing a strong sense of self. She says:

I’ve had the opportunity to work with many children over the years. Since I work almost exclusively with children of color, I naturally began sharing with them how art had supported me growing up. This evolved and deepened over the years into a full curriculum I call Claiming Face.

The series will go on for a few months, with one post per month, so head on over to read the first installment now—and, while you’re at it, make sure to bookmark the Children’s Book Press’s website and blog, as you will want to visit often to keep abreast not only of new posts in this series, but also of their new releases and 35th anniversary festivities happening this month and next.

Américas Award 2010

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

The Américas Book Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature is given in recognition of U.S. works of fiction, poetry, folklore, or selected non-fiction (from picture books to works for young adults) published in the previous year in English or Spanish that authentically and engagingly portray Latin America, the Caribbean, or Latinos in the United States. The award, which is sponsored by the U.S. Consortium of Latin American Studies Programs (CLASP), reaches beyond national borders to focus on the the diversity of cultural heritage throughout the continents of North and South America.

The award winners and commended titles are selected for their:

paw_sm_MC distinctive literary quality;

paw_sm_MCcultural contextualization;

paw_sm_MCexceptional integration of text, illustration and design;

paw_sm_MCpotential for classroom use.

2010 Américas Award Winners

Return to Sender by Julia Alvarez (Knopf, 20090.

What Can You Do with a Paleta? / ¿Qué puedes hacer con una paleta? by Carmen Tafolla,  illustrated by Magaly Morales (Tricycle Press, 2009).

Américas Award Honorable Mentions

Gringolandia by Lyn Miller-Lachmann (Curbstone, 2009).

I Know the River Loves Me / Yo sé que el río me ama by Maya Christina González (Children’s Book Press, 2009).

My Papa Diego and Me: Memories of My Father and His Art / Mi papa Diego y yo: Recuerdos de mi padre y su arte by Guadalupe Rivera Marín and Diego Rivera (Children’s Book Press, 2009).

The full commended list can be found here. The winning books will be honored at a ceremony during Hispanic Heritage Month (15 September – 15 October 2010) at the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

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!

Books at Bedtime: Fiesta Femenina

Saturday, October 4th, 2008

Fiesta Femenina: Celebrating Women in Mexican Folktale, retold by Mary-Joan Gerson and illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez (Barefoot, 2001) is a vibrant collection of stories which all feature strong women as their main characters – but it’s not just a book for girls. The stories are perfect for reading aloud and boys will listen just as raptly! I can see “Tengo hambre” (I’m hungry) becoming a well-used phrase in our house-hold, after listening to “The Hungry Goddess”, an exciting creation myth.

There are other goddesses:Tanga Yuh, who visits the town of Tehuantpec in the south of Mexico every New Year’s day; and Serpent Goddess, whose love for her daughter saves her from the enchantment that has turned her into the “Green Bird”. Then there’s the story of Blancaflor, the devil’s daughter, who saves Pedro from the pact he has entered into with her parents, El Diablo and La Diablesa. There is also “The Virgin of Guadalupe”, which tells the beautiful story of the Holy Virgin’s appearance to Juan Diego, telling him to go to the Bishop and tell him to build a church on top of the hill of Tepeyac and that she would protect the Indians of Mexico for ever.

My personal favorite is the story of “Why the Moon is Free”, in which the Moon tells her suitor the Sun that before he can marry her, he must make her a gift of beautiful clothing, which must fit her exactly… of course, it never does. I love the way the Sun says “¡Ay, mi amor! Love has stolen your appetite. You are looking so thin.” and then later “Ay, mi amor, you have gotten a little plump” Poor Sun, he simply cannot get the size right! The illustrations here, as indeed throughout the book, are gorgeous – colorful and expressive.

At the end, sources are explained and there’s a glossary and pronunciation guide – both very enriching and useful (some of the names, like Quetzalcóatl and Tezcatlipoca, are quite challenging!); and there is a Spanish edition available too.