Isabel visits her aunts on Saturdays. They dance, dress up, and make empanadas.
“My name is Ana. Every year, my family makes tamales for Christmas. This year, I am six, so I get to mix the dough, which is made of cornmeal. My sister Lidia is eight, so she gets to spread the dough on the corn husk leaves. I wish I was eight, so that my hands would be big enough to spread the dough just right–not too thick and not too thin.” And so the years pass, and Ana turns eight, ten, twelve, fourteen, sixteen. But every year, big sister Lidia is always two years older. Ana envies her elder sibling and wishes she could do what Lidia does: put just the right amount of meat inside the tamales and roll them up; steam the tamales without scalding herself with the hot, hot steam; chop and cook the meat for the tamales without cutting or burning her hands. When she turns eighteen, though, Ana knows she will keep making tamales and she will be able to do all of the steps herself in her very own factory. When Christmas comes around, Ana will deliver tamales to all of her customers around the world, in delivery trucks that say “Ana’s Tamales.” And maybe Ana will even let Lidia work for her. Gwendolyn Zepeda’s rhythmic prose is combined with April Ward’s bright illustrations to create an affectionate and amusing story about sibling relationships that introduces an important Hispanic holiday tradition–making tamales!
On El Rancho Grande, the grandchildren are not so interested in how Grandpa bought the ranch, but in what can be done on the ranch. The children play hide and seek in cornfields, under “the canopy of green leaves, golden threads and giant ears of corn.” They feed the family horses, ride the rambunctious pigs, and take frolicking dips in the duck pond. But through all of the outdoor escapades, their family stories are circling in the air, like the “sunflower wind” blooming around them. While drinking ice-cold lemonade in the sunshine, they hear about how Grandpa’s song of sorrow won him El Rancho. They hear about chickens that have abandoned their coops to live in Abuela’s chicken tree, and they even discover a story about a boy who cried chocolate tears. In those days of running and jumping, the narrator, Tito, did not realize that he was hearing the stories that would wrap him up “like an enchanted sarape to keep me warm for the rest of [his] life.”
Enrique, a young boy in Peralta Middle School, faces abuse at home and danger on the barrio streets. Yet he is driven to succeed by the desire to join that “other America” he sees on TV and in the movies, and is aided in his quest by compassionate teachers. His ambition finds expression in his determination to drop his ESL class in favor of taking French, and his story begins, “Call me Henr.”
Lorraine Lpez (author of Soy la Avon Lady and Other Stories) has created a vivid picture of barrio life, filled with honesty, insight, and humor for young adults. She paints a balanced and detailed landscape of Enrique’s world. Although Enrique is confused and angered by his mother’s refusal to stand up for him against the abuse of his stepfather, he also draws strength from the supportive and loving family of his friend Francisco. While some of his teachers are uncaring or inept, others provide help and encouragement at critical moments in his life.
When Enrique witnesses his friend Horacio gunned down in a drive-by shooting and is seen by the assailants, gang members set out to kill him. As the novel reaches its climax, Enrique must make some agonizing decisions.
Although specifically about barrio life, this novel is universal in its themes-the drive for success, the desire for love and family support, and the need for true friendship. Lpez’s fully delineated characters provide a rich and credible mural of our human comedy.
Lorraine Lpez‘s Soy la Avon Lady and Other Stories was selected for the Marmal Prize, and also won the IPPY Award for Multicultural Fiction.
An award-winning title now available in Spanish
Born in 1927 in Yuma, Arizona, César Chavez lived the hard-scrabble life of a migrant worker during the Depression. Although his mother wanted him to get an education, César left school after eighth grade to work. He grew to be a charismatic leader and founded the National Farm Workers Association, an organization that fought for basic rights for farm workers. In powerful poems and dramatic stylized illustrations, Carmen T. Bernier-Grand and David Díaz pay tribute to Chavez’s legacy helping migrant workers improve their lives by doing things by themselves for themselves.
“The Cucuy is a tall, furry, three-eyed, four-armed monster with a mouth full of huge teeth,” Papo tells his granddaughter. And, he warns, if she doesn’t behave, the Cucuy will take her away! She used to be afraid of the Cucuy, until one day she meets him and learns that he is not the frightful beast her grandfather described. Instead, he’s cute and likes to play. His fur is blue, and his teeth are small. He may not be just like her, but he does have two arms and two eyes. And the Cucuy also likes to play catch, blow bubbles, and eat candy. Best of all, though, the young girl learns that he doesn’t kidnap naughty children! First-time children’s book author Claudia Galindo and illustrator Jonathan Coombs vividly bring to life a character known to generations of Latino children. Although this time, the Cucuy isn’t a scary monster but instead is a fun playmate.
Family Pictures is the story of Carmen Lomas Garza\’s girlhood: celebrating birthdays, making tamales, finding a hammerhead shark on the beach, picking cactus, going to a fair in Mexico, and confiding to her sister her dreams of becoming an artist. These day-to-day experiences are told through fourteen vignettes of art and a descriptive narrative, each focusing on a different aspect of traditional Mexican American culture. The English-Spanish text and vivid illustrations reflect the author\’s strong sense of family and community. For Mexican Americans, Carmen Lomas Garza offers a book that reflects their lives and traditions. For others, this work offers insights into a beautifully rich community.
See the review at WOW Review, Volume 3, Issue 2