Central and South American in his People and Places studies. I selected picture books to coordinate with his studies. Even if he didn't snuggle up with us to hear the story (and sometimes he did), the books were floating around the house, perhaps offering additional inspiration for him.
** I've marked our favorites with two asterisks.
Unless otherwise noted, all of these books were library books.
** Erandi's Braids by Antonia Hernandez-Madrigal, illustrated by Tomie dePaola (Mexico), is the story of a young girl who sacrifices her beautiful hair so her mother can buy a new fishing net.
** Blue Frog: The Legend of Chocolate by Dianne De Las Casas, illustrated by Holly Stone-Barker (Mexico, Aztec), is a retelling of the myth of the blue frog that stole the secret of chocolate from the Sun God to impart it to the people on earth.
Abuela's Weave by Omar S. Castaneda, illustrated by Enrique O. Sanchez (Guatemala), shows a young girl who weaves beautiful fabrics with her grandmother then travels to the city to sell them for the benefit of the family.
Borreguita and the Coyote retold by Verna Aardema, illustrated by Petra Mathers (Mexico), tells of a lamb that escapes coyote's hunger through trickery and, in the end, surprising strength.
** Musicians of the Sun by Gerald McDermott (Aztec) is the tale of a gray world transformed by the release of the musicians of the sun. It's brilliant and stunning. A group of elementary students performed a version of the book using shadow puppets you can watch on YouTube.
The First Tortilla: A Bilingual Story by Rudolfo Anaya, illustrated by Amy Cordova (Mexico), relates the legend of a great famine. A young girl struggles on a quest to take a gift to the Mountain Spirit so it will send rain. This bilingual story has more text than some of the others. It also requires a bit of explanation about myths and gods of the people before they learned of Christianity, which is not necessarily a bad thing.
** Sopa de frijoles/Bean Soup and Arroz con leche/Rice Pudding: Un poema para cocinar/A Cooking Poem by Jorge Argueta, pictures by Rafael Yockteng (Bean Soup) and Fernando Vilela (Rice Pudding) (El Salvador), were wonderful additions to our study. I was excited to find anything from El Salvador because my sister-in-law was born and lived there until she was seven. These books are poems, written in English and Spanish, celebrating the food of El Salvador. Intermingled with the recipes are the kinds of comments and conversations that go on in homes where families cook together, talking of history and mythology and the world. There are a whole series of books by Jorge Argueta, Biligual Cooking Poems, all with different illustrators, presumably chosen to best reflect the style of the home country of the food.
Juan Bobo Goes to Work: A Puerto Rican Folk Tale retold by Marisa Montes, illustrated by Joe Cepeda (Puerto Rico), is one of many silly stories you can find of Juan Bobo whose foolishness benefits his family in the end.
** Tap-Tap by Karen Lynn Williams, illustrated by Catherine Stock
(Haiti), is a delightful tale of a young girl in Haiti who wants to ride the bus home. I always love the illustrations of Catherine Stock. Our library no longer has a copy of this book and I desperately want to buy one for our home library.
Josias, Hold the Book by Jennifer Riesmeyer Elvgren, illustrated by Nicole Tadgell (Haiti) - When a teacher has a book that can solve his agricultural problem, Josias convinces his father to let him attend school and "hold the book." The bean field resolution, while probably correct, is not convincingly told in the story, but it's interesting for American children to read about children in other countries who must struggle for the ability to go to school.
** A Gift of Gracias by Julia Alvarez, illustrated by Beatrix Vidal (Dominican Republic), is the Dominican legend of Our Lady of Altagracia. It's lovely and my girls always enjoy it. (owned)
** Cendrillon: A Caribbean Cinderella by Robert D. San Souci, illustrated by Brian Pinkney (Creole / Martinique), is a Cinderella tale illustrated by the fantastic Pinkney. I love it, and so did my girls.
** Martina the Beautiful Cockroach retold by Carmen Agra Deedy, illustrated by Michael Austin (Cuba), is the story of a beautiful cockroach awaiting her suitors who receives unexpected advice from her abuela: to spill coffee on each one. Hilarity and wisdom!
Red Knot: A Shorebird's Incredible Journey by Nancy Carol Willis (spans North and South America), follows a single red knot on her round-trip journey from the southern tip of South America to the northern tip of North America and back again. (owned)
Miro in the Kingdom of the Sun by Jane Kurtz, woodcuts by David Frampton, (Inca) is the story of a young girl who saves her brother and the prince with courage and help from the birds, her friends.
Chaska and the Golden Doll by Ellen Alexander (Peru) is based on the true story of Chaska, a young girl who longs to go to school but whose village school is too small to hold all of the children. When she finds an old Incan idol, she is allowed to decide what to do with it.
** My Name is Gabriela/Me llamo Gabriela by Monica Brown, illustrated by John Parra (Chile), is a story of Gabriela Mistral written in both English and Spanish. It is one of my favorite picture books.
Mia's Story, a sketchbook of hopes and dreams by Micheal Foreman (Chile, Andes Mountains) - Mia, a young girl whose village is essentially in a garbage dump, befriends a dog who runs away. While searching for him, she discovers a beautiful place high in the mountains and gathers armfuls of flowers to remind herself of it. She and her father then sell the flowers in the marketplace. The illustrations are wonderful though I imagine her home is less idyllic than the book shows. I like how the people are just people and the story isn't about poverty; it's exactly what it says: a story about Mia. I wonder, though, if the publisher and author/illustrator shared any of the proceeds with Mia's family.
** Love and Roast Chicken: A Trickster Tale from the Andes Mountains by Barbara Knutson (Andes Mountains) is a delightfully hilarious book in the trickster tradition. Cuy the Guinea Pig tricks the Fox. To escape his wrath, he ingratiates himself with the farmer but ends up in trouble again when he is caught by the farmer's trick. Will he escape a second time? The illustrations are rich and colorful, just as enjoyable as the story.
Mariana and the Merchild: A Folk Tale from Chile by Caroline Pitcher, illustrated by Jackie Morris (Chile), is a tale of a lonely woman who cares for a merchild. The merchild becomes a bond between her and the children of her people that comforts her when the merchild must return to the sea.
** Peter Claver, Patron Saint of Slaves/Pedro Claver, Santo Patrono de los Esclavos by Julia Durango, illustrations by Rebecca Garcia-Franco (Colombia), one of my favorite picture books, is about St. Peter Claver, a courageous example of dedicating your life to the poor and weak. (owned)
** The Pied Piper of Peru by Ann Tompert, illustrated by Kestutis Kasparavicius (Peru), tells the legend of how St. Martin de Porres led all the mice from his monastery without hurting any of them but to the satisfaction of the monks who were disinclined to live with mice. St. Martin de Porres is one of my absolute favorite saints and any Catholic family traveling around South America should read about him. Martin de Porres: The Rose in the Desert by Gary D. Schmidt and illustrated by David Diaz is another delightful book about the saint, one I learned of after our study (and which we now own). He's also one of the two saints on my favorite Glory Story audio CD. (I purchased this CD; this is not an affiliate link.) It's funny, even for parents, and neither of the saints featured is martyred for the faith. (Those stories are good, too, but they always make me cry.)
My Mama's Little Ranch on the Pampas by Maria Cristina Brusca tells of a young girl's experiences on the small ranch her mother buys and runs in Argentina. It's a companion to On the Pampas by the same author. Both of these books give a wonderful light-hearted look at the hard work on a Pampas ranch. We read My Mama's Little Ranch on the Pampas together and they read On the Pampas on their own.
Animal Poems of the Iguazú: Animalario del Iguazú poems by Francisco X. Alarcon, illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez (Argentina), is a wonderful book of bilingual poems written by the poet (mostly) while visiting the Iguazu Waterfalls. It was a fantastic addition to our study.
The Farmyard Jamboree by Margaret Read MacDonald, illustrated by Sophie Fatus (Chile), is the simple tale of animals. It was fun for the little ones to hear the different animal sounds. It's definitely better for younger children.
** Waiting for the Biblioburro by Monica Brown, illustrations by John Parra (Colombia), is another of my favorite picture books. We've read this book many times together. When First Son (now 12) saw it over my shoulder while I was writing this post, he asked me to request it from the library again.
So Say the Little Monkeys by Nancy Van Laan, pictures by Yumi Heo (Brazil), is an origin tale of tiny monkeys who live along the Amazon but never make a permanent home. Second Daughter loved this book. The rhyming text is full of noises and silly sounds, perfect for young listeners.
Over in the Jungle: A Rainforest Rhyme
by Marianne Berkes, illustrated by Jeanette Canyon (rainforest) - It's Over in the Meadow, but in a rainforest, and not so beautifully illustrated (though I'm partial to Keats in general). This was nice for the little ones.
The Umbrella by Jan Brett (rainforest setting) is just as you'd expect from Jan Brett. The children enjoyed it.
Looking for Jaguar: And Other Rain Forest Poems by Susan Katz, pictures by Lee Christiansen (rainforest), is a book of poetry on animals of the rain forest. I enjoyed the illustrations in this book; they reminded me of paintings. A few pages at the end give more information on the animals.
Dancing Turtle: A Folktale from Brazil by Pleasant DeSpain, illustrated by David Boston (Brazil), is the tale of a turtle destined for soup who tricks a boy and his sister into helping her escape.
Mira and the Stone Tortoise: A Kulina Tale retold by Melinda Lilly, illustrated by Charles Reasoner (Brazil), is also a tale of a dancing turtle. I like both the text and the illustrations better in this version than in Dancing Turtle (above), but it's a lot of text for little ones.
We're Roaming in the Rainforest by Laurie Krebs and Anne Wilson (Amazon rainforest) shows a group of three differently-shaded children observing wildlife in the Amazonian rainforest. The brightly colored illustrations and rhyming text are well-suited to young listeners.
The Pot That Juan Built by Nancy Andrews-Ceobel, pictures by David Diaz (Mexico), is written in the same style as "The House that Jack Built." Longer text (in a smaller font) on each page gives a more developed biography of Juan Quezada, a potter who revived an ancient process and style. An afterward includes more details on the process and photographs of a beautiful completed pot.
A Mango in the Hand: A Story Told Through Proverbs by Antonio Sacre, illustrated by Sabastia Serra (unspecified country but Spanish-speaking), tells the story of Francisco and his quest to procure mangoes for his name-day feast. Proverbs (like "Better one mango in the hand than a hundred in the tree") appear throughout the story.
First Daughter will be in fourth grade next year, so we'll read many of these books again with the younger two. It will be fun to revisit them!
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