I apologize for my odd absence, I’ve been traveling between San Francisco, Las Vegas, currently in Southern California and soon will be in Mexico (where besides being on vacation, hoping to find some books).
The book I am choosing to cover this time is Just a Minute: a trickster tale and counting book by Yuyi Morales, a Mexican American author/illustrator. Death comes for Abuela/Grandma on her old birthday, and she keeps stalling by finding things to bring to the party. She counts all the way to ten in Spanish, finding ten different things to gather.The book is filled with objects that will be familiar to readers whether spoken in Spanish or English, so while it is not bilingual, it does offer many words to learn in Spanish.
I was actually able to find this book being read out loud on YouTube, check it out here, albeit that the reader seems a little spooked for the first few seconds (it kind of made me chuckle) but I am very grateful that this type of review for a book exists for those that are wondering what certain books are about!
Death is getting impatient and eventually decides to leave, but promises to come back. This Pura Belpre award winner is popular for Dia de los Muertos or touching upon the subject of death in probably the most subtle way ever. But I think this book could easily fit in for every day reading.
Yuyi Morales has lots of other amazing books she illustrated and wrote, that are worth checking out and bringing home. Especially because a subject like Dia de Los Muertos/Day of the Dead is not a largely celebrated event outside of Mexico (perhaps in pockets of areas in recent times), so many children can learn a little about it even through this one book.
I will begin by saying that this book is very personal for me, and in many ways. It was one of the very first books I encountered by esteemed author, Pat Mora. I had the honor of seeing her speak at a library perhaps one or two years ago. Also, when I was attending UC Riverside, the library was named for Tomas Rivera, the subject of Mora’s book. After my own research because of not know knowing, finding out who he was - that he had been the chancellor of the University, the first ever of Hispanic descent for any of the UC’s. At the same time I attended, France Cordova was the chancellor at helm at UCR as the first Latina to hold that position (she was a NASA scientist and currently the chancellor at Purdue).But also because I am a child of immigrants as well.
Tomas and the Library Lady tells of a Mexican American boy (Tomas) who travels with his family of migrant workers traveling from state to state finding work in the fields picking. While his adult family members work hard, hot, and long hours, Tomas and the other younger kids bring them water, play, and listen to stories. The kids love to hear old tales from their grandfather, but at one point he recognizes that Tomas knows all of them already, and tells Tomas to go to the library where there are more stories for him.
There the librarian checked out books under her name so that he could take the books home. Where Tomas would read the stories to his family, even grandfather, brand new stories but also ones in English. He began to learn more English from these new books, and while he was at the library, he would teach the librarian Spanish. He spent the whole summer there learning new tales, visiting new places, all through the books. It mentions of how they would visit the dump as a family at times, looking for things to keep, and how Tomas would always look for books. Tomas found whole new worlds to explore through the books.
When the picking season comes to an end, the family has to leave, and Tomas sadly goes to the librarian and tells her that he is leaving. But he takes with him a breadth of memories, stories, and a brand new book she gave him to take on the road.
The illustrations are soft watercolor/pencil type drawings that give each character their own personalities. Best suited for maybe Kindergarten and higher since the story is not particularly short.
This story may seem simple at first, but go ahead and read on more about Tomas Rivera and see what he did and what he became up until the time of his death. He was an author, poet, and educator amongst other things. We need to find books like these to set examples for children that there are many different types of career possibilities that are not just for white children to dream about. Pat Mora is an amazing author to convey ideas like this.
What I loved about hearing Pat Mora speak was her emphasis on what he called creating a family of readers. Because essentially, that is the best and most effective way to think of it. A family reading together, learns and grows together. A child alone, well, they find the road much bumpier. Mora is also the creator of El día de los niños/El día de los libros (Children’s Day/Book Day) which tries to connect books to children and families. Pat Mora has a large catalog of different types of books that I think you will enjoy. Have you read any of her books, including Tomas and the Library Lady? What do you think of them or this?