MTYT: All Around Us

This month’s My Take/Your Take discussions focus on the 2018 American Library Association (ALA) award winners. Mary Fahrenbruck and Tracy Smiles begin with a discussion of All Around Us, winner of the 2018 Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor Book. The story by Xelena Gonzalez and illustrations by Adriana M. Garcia pair perfectly to give readers a sensual literary experience.

All Around Us

MARY: My first encounter with this book was when I saw the cover while reviewing the 2018 Pura Belpré award winners. I had to have it!

My first experience with the authors was at the 2018 Tucson Festival of Books with you, Tracy. We participated in their session on the Story Blanket with a group of very young children. At first, I wasn’t sure that young children would engage with the story–it seems too abstract. For example, in the beginning, Grandpa talks about how a rainbow is a circle, but we only see half of it because the other half is underground. The children on the Story Blanket surprised me when they seemed to grasp this concept despite seeing only the top half of the rainbow in the beautiful illustration. They also found examples of circles on other pages when Xelena asked them to name items that were shaped like circles. My favorite reader response activity was the song that Xelena sang to the audience to the tune of “Pop Goes the Weasel.” If I remember correctly, the lyrics are:

All around the garden there are foods of many colors.
Can you name a ____________ (say a color) food? Can you name another?

My favorite response was when a child offered “Cheetos” as a food for the color orange! As a primary grade teacher, I can easily imagine myself reading this story to young children and engaging them in the response activities. Did you have a favorite activity during the session?

TRACY: It was, indeed, a special opportunity to see an author and illustrator present to a young audience, the intended audience, of a book they collaborated in writing that won such a prestigious award. I don’t think the kiddos on the story blanket cared much about the award, however.

The song may have also been a favorite activity, but I also LOVED the Tai Chi-inspired routine Xelena led the children through. The graceful way she represented specific elements of the story through gentle, smooth movements was fascinating to me–like when I take Zumba class. I imagined that I looked like her as I moved through the routine. However, I did not. In fact, having never done Tai Chi, I learned it is quite challenging.

This book has it all; and I, like you, can imagine engaging young children in many ways with this book that also offers cultural details through a subtle landscape and familial themes with which all readers can identify. Garcia’s illustrations are extraordinary, and the premise of circles are presented beautifully through Gonzalez’ prose. I am glad you insisted we attend this session. It was perhaps the best session I saw at the Tucson Festival of Books–definitely had the best audience.

Circles All Around Us-TFOBMary: Speaking of the best audience, I took a photo of Adriana interacting with children while she demonstrated how to draw a human face. Even though Adriana is an award-winning illustrator, she is still humble enough to take a few drawing tips from the kiddos!

Title: All Around Us
Author: Xelena Gonzalez
Illustrator: Adriana M. Garcia
Publisher: Cinco Puntos Press
ISBN: 9781941026762
Date Published: October 17, 2017

This is the first installment of April 2018’s My Take/Your Take. To follow the whole conversation, check back each Wednesday.

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