Rated 4 stars **** Lee & Low. 2016. (First published in 1998 by Dial.)
Lee & Low republished these out-of-print editions in both English and Spanish.
In 1938, the author’s parents fled their village in China before the Japanese invaded at the advent of World War II. Settling in Guatemala City, they raised their six children in the back of a grocery store, which sold all sorts of sundries.
Through detailed watercolor drawings, the author shares her memories of a typical day spent playing in the store with her brothers and sisters, meeting Mayan Indians who came from their faraway village to buy colorful thread, and interacting with Guatemalan and Chinese patrons. By the end of the book, readers will have a clear idea of what it was like for a hardworking Chinese immigrant family to make their way in a new world.
I would have preferred to have both the Spanish and English versions in a single book, rather than in two different books, as it would’ve been easier for children learning each language to see the opposite language as they practiced.
Recommended for ages 6-10.
Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Published September 6, 2016. Harper Collins. 256 p. (Includes “Author’s Note.”)
In Afghanistan, there exists a tradition called “bacha posh.” If a family doesn’t have a son, and are down on their luck, they are encouraged to change a daughter into a bacha posh, which brings good luck. The daughter must be young enough to not have reached puberty because she is expected to look and act like a boy. Gone are long skirts, headscarves, and all dainty girl behaviors. As a bacha posh, she is free to run, get dirty, and do things girls would never be allowed to do in Afghani society.
Ten-year-old Obayda becomes her family’s bacha posh after her father loses his leg in a car bombing and is unable to work. With only four daughters, the family desperately needs the luck a bacha posh can bring them. At first Obayda is terrified of her new role, not sure how to be a boy. However, with the help of Rahima, a thirteen-year-old bacha posh, Obayda soon comes to love the freedom of being a boy. Unfortunately they can’t remain a bacha posh forever. Soon they must change back into a girl and forget they were ever boys, but how does one go from freedom to shackles?
The world of gender inequality is explored in “One half from the East,” while readers are also introduced to the culture of Afghan people. It is sure to be a conversation starter, and offers great lessons on gender roles and expectations.
Recommended for ages 9-14.
Rated 5 stars ***** Children’s Book Press. 2016. (Includes “Glossary and Pronunciation Guide,” and “Author’s Note.”)
This bilingual picture book tells the story of Ixchel, who lives in the mountains above Lake Atitlán in Guatemala. She comes from a long line of Mayan weavers, and wants to weave with her mother to help pay for her schooling. Ixchel is too young to weave, and her mother can’t afford thread for her attempts, so she decides to create her own loom and thread from various materials. Her early results are disappointing but she persists and, through recycling colorful plastic bags littering her village, winds up with an item of beauty.
Scans and photos of actual Mayan weavings are used in Chavarri’s drawings. These works, incorporated into her full-page colorful drawings, beautifully illustrate Ixchel’s story and show how Mayan designs resemble rainbows.
Though Ixchel is fiction, a group of weavers in Guatemala create purses, baskets and more from plastic bags and threads, which they sell through cooperatives in the United States and other countries. In the 1980’s an organization called “Mayan Hands” was formed to help these weavers sell their products. Proceeds from the sale of “Rainbow weaver” will not only help weavers, but also help pay for medical care and for their children to go to school.
Recommended for ages 5-10.
Rated 5 stars ***** Lee & Low. 2016. 40 p. (Includes “Author’s Note,” “Glossary and Pronunciation Guide,” “Author’s Sources,” and “Quotation Sources.”)
Though not directly involved in World War II, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor Mexico aided the United States with shipments of oil and war materials. As retaliation for these shipments, German U-boats torpedoed two of their ships. Mexico entered the war on May 28th, and volunteered its best air force pilots to assist the United States.
No military unit in Mexico’s history had ever left the country to fight, but Air Fighter Squadron 201 became the first to do so. Nicknamed the Aztec Eagles, the almost 300 pilots and support crew set off for the United States to be trained. When their training was completed, they went on to support General MacArthur in his Philippines campaign.
Through period photographs, interviews, and careful research Nicholson tells the story of the courageous men of the Aztec Eagles. Her inspiration for their story was the unusual request from one of the support crewmembers, Sergeant Angel Bocanegra a former teacher, who asked the President of Mexico to build a school in his small village of Tepoztlán. The school still stands in their honor, and this book also honors those brave men who fought on behalf of both the United States and Mexico.
Highly recommended for ages 10-14.
Rated 5 stars ***** 2016. Illustrated by Lulu Delacre. Children’s Book Press (Lee & Low). Includes descriptive narratives on the Discovery of the Olinguito, The Cloud Forest and The Illustrations. Also includes ways readers can become explorers within the pages of the book as well as through online activities. The book also includes a detailed Glossary of scientific names of plants and animals in the cloud forest, complete with illustrations of each one, a list of More Helpful Words, and a detailed list of the Author’s Sources.
This amazingly detailed, well-researched and beautifully illustrated bilingual picture book for older and younger readers is more than an A to Z book of plants and animals found in the Ecuadorian Andes cloud forest. Used in conjunction with the very detailed Glossary, each page unveils unique and varied life forms found in this fascinating cloud forest.
Readers will learn about unusual creatures such as the tanager, quetzal, barbet and, of course, the olinguito. Not to be outdone, reading about vegetation with interesting sounding names like the Bomarea flower, passiflora, wax palm and epiphytes will also pique their curiosity. Each page contains rich stores of knowledge waiting to be explored. Each of the more than 40 plants and animals in the book have a story to tell, and can easily become extensive research projects for its elementary and middle school readers.
Well known author and illustrator Lulu Delacre has outdone herself with her latest book. I expect “Olinguito, from A to Z! /Olinguito, de la A a la Z!” will create quite a stir at next year’s American Library Association’s Youth Media Awards. I consider it a candidate for the Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award, as well as for the Pura Belpré Author Award. Remember that you read it first here!
Highly recommended for ages 7-14.
Rated 5 stars ***** 2015. Illustrated by David Diaz. Children’s Book Press (Lee & Low). Includes a Glossary and Author’s note.
Young Maya loves the beautiful blanket Abuelita stitched for her when she was a baby. When the blanket gets old, she and Abuelita make it into a lovely dress. As the years pass by readers see Maya growing up as the blanket changes into many different items, which have their own significance to Maya. What always stays the same is that each newly created item always has the stamp of love placed upon it by Abuelita and Maya.
David Diaz’s bold, colorful, jewel tone, full page illustrations complement Monica Brown’s bilingual picture book about a young girl’s love for her grandmother and her gift. “With her own two hands and Abuelita’s help” is a refrain repeated during each transformation of the blanket, clearly showing their special relationship. As they read, young children will enjoy reciting it and talking about how they can recycle their own special gifts.
Recommended for ages 6-10.
Rated 5 stars ***** Big Tent Books. 2013.
The children are very excited to celebrate Career Day at their school. Gladys wants to be a firefighter when she grows up but feels discouraged by Rudy, a boy in her class, who insists she should “stick to a girl job.” With grace and strength, Gladys proves that girls can do anything boys can do.
“Pink fire trucks” is a bilingual picture book which shows young girls they can break out of the traditional job roles for women, and expand their horizons into careers previously closed to them.
Recommended for ages 6-10.