By María V. Acevedo-Aquino and Myriam Jimena Guerra, Texas A&M University-San Antonio, San Antonio, TX
This last week of September Myriam Jimena and María talk about their final book authored and/or illustrated by Lupe Ruiz-Flores and Carolyn Dee Flores. The main character, Alicia, will remind young readers that children can support peers and adults to develop new awarenesses.
MARÍA: Alicia was dancing, singing, and clapping at Mexican Independence festival when she tasted aguas frescas for the first time. There were different flavors to choose from. The aguas frescas were so good that Alicia and her mother decided to make aguas de fresa at home. The next day Alicia learned that one of her friends was being tested for diabetes. Alicia and her mom talked about how her friend’s body was experiencing high levels of sugar. Her mom also explained that sodas were not good because they had a lot of sugar. The following day Alicia saw all her teammates drink sodas after their futbol game. She decided then to invite all the team to her house to make aguas frescas. The team loved the aguas frescas de fresa! From that day on, Alicia decided to learn how to make new flavors so she could take them to future games.
MYRIAM: Exposing children to healthy eating habits through a storybook, rather than a didactic text, is a powerful idea. When Alicia discovers the taste of real fruit, she decisively makes a choice and opt for replacing sodas for aguas frescas or fruity drinks. This book displays the enactment of children, particularly a girl’s agency in making their own decisions with regards to consumables. Speaks directly to children to start playing an active role while developing healthy habits. It is relevant from the cultural perspective, Alicia’s decision to continue to prepare fruity drinks, in the same way it has learned in her own family through different generations. While learning how-to-make something new, Alicia discovered also, sharing her one wealth among the community it is a regarded value. I liked the idea of this story, to appeal to the good nature in every young child.
MARÍA: Yes, Jimena! Similar to Let’s Salsa/Bailemos salsa and Lupita’s First Dance/El primer baile de Lupita, this story encourages children’s agency. After learning about diabetes, Alicia stopped drinking soda to decrease her sugar intake. She also learned how to make aguas frescas for her teammates to support a healthier diet and lifestyle. A double spread-sheet shows the whole soccer team grabbing soda cans from one of the caregiver’s cooler after winning their game. This illustration suggests that Alicia could also support adults in learning about the dangers of sugary drinks like soda, and the benefits of drinking aguas frescas. To this point, the mother explains that the aguas frescas should be enjoyed with the natural sweeten of the fruits, instead of additional extra sugar. At the end of the story, Alicia shares her goal of making more aguas frescas as a way to help her teammates change their eating habits over time. This ending depicts a strong bilingual child challenging one of the biggest products and cultures of the U.S. diet.
MYRIAM: I agree with you María, the main characters from our book selections, enact their own agency and take their own decisions and take action. Alicia leads on healthy habits, and displays solidarity with her young friend who gets sick with diabetes. She questions her mother if she could have that disease, but takes a more proactive attitude and decides to fight on by preventing it, lowering the sugar intake, and instead making the choice of incorporating fresh fruits on her diet. The illustrations initially capture authentic activities happening during a Mexican Independent Day Festival. Then, taking us to Alicia’s own kitchen, where her mother teaches her to make her own strawberry drink. We observe Alicia’s jubilant expression while seeing and tasting the fruity drinks, which is narrated with colorful language: “Alicia saw a row of gigantic glass jars filled with red, yellow, green, orange and brown juices.” This story has the potential to appeal to young readers to emulate Alicia, and learn how to adopt healthy habits, so important as a prevention strategy especially during this COVID-19 pandemic.
Title: Alicia’s Fruity Drinks/Las aguas frescas de Alicia
Author: Lupe Ruiz-Flores
Illustrator: Laura Lacámara
Publisher: Piñata Books
PubDate: May 31, 2012
Throughout September 2020, Myriam Jimena and María explore the contributions of two authors of children’s literature living in San Antonio, TX: Lupe Ruiz-Flores and Carolyn Dee Flores (mother and daughter). Check back each Wednesday to follow the conversation!