Portuguese/Brazil Language and Culture Kit

Language and Culture Kit for Portuguese-Speaking Countries

Amazon Boy. Lewin, Ted. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1993. ISBN-13: 9780027573831, 32p.
Paulo and his father travel downriver on a small steamer, see fishermen selling their catch in the city’s harbor, and admire a huge filhote, a species endangered by overfishing. After wandering the market, they set out for home, the father commenting sadly on the thoughtless depredation of forest and river. Lewin rounds out his simple story with Paulo catching a valuable filhote and letting it go; but the most persuasive part of his nicely understated message is his art. The light-filled pictures, dense with detail, reinforce the theme that the riches of the rain forest must be protected.

Asphalt Angels. Holtwijk, Ineke. Asheville, NC: Front Street & Lemniscaat, 1995. ISBN-13: 9781886910249, 187p.
This novel by a Dutch journalist graphically depicts life on the streets for a 13-year-old boy in Rio de Janeiro after his mother dies. Glue sniffing, stealing, prostitution and panhandling are all part of the daily routine for Alex’s gang, called the Asphalt Angels, which is headed by a 19-year-old thief and his 16-year-old “wife,” and whose youngest member is a 10-year-old addict. The author based the novel on a boy she met in a shelter for street children in Rio. Alex is a sympathetic protagonist, living the roughest life a child could have. His most fervent wish is for a mother and a bed. The greatest strengths of the book are its cast of living, breathing characters and its unparalleled depiction of life on the streets, where stealing seems a perfectly logical response to hunger.

Brazil: The Culture. Hollander, Malika. New York: Cabtree Publishing Company, 2003. ISBN-13: 9780778797081, 32p.
The rhythms of samba music fill the streets and dancers and musicians parade by in fancy costumes – it’s Carnival time in Rio and the city is host to the world’s biggest party. Packed with fascinating details and full-colour images, this book explains the many and varied cultural celebrations of South America’s largest country. Special spreads explain the origins of religious festivals and the music and dance of Brazil. Topics include: the many religions and spiritual beliefs of Brazil’s people; the music of Brazil’s barrios; a “how to” lesson for Samba dance; the national foods of Brazil and their history.

Brazil: The Land. Hollander, Malika. New York: Cabtree Publishing Company, 2003. ISBN-13: 9780778797067, 32p.
Brazil has been called the giant of South America and the closest thing to paradise on Earth. From sandy coastal beaches to dense Amazon jungle, Brazil is home to the second longest river in the world and the world’s largest flood plain. The amazing Amazon is a focus of the book, with beautiful full-colour images of the river, and its tributaries, as well as the people and animals that live on the river. The topics include: the many rivers that run through the country and their hydroelectric potential; the diversity of life in a rainforest; rainforest destruction; the Pantanal, the world’s largest wetland; cities and towns in the Amazon; the incredible “planned” city of Brazilia; and the country’s many coastal cities.

Brazil: The People. Hollander, Malika. New York: Cabtree Publishing Company, 2003. ISBN-13: 9780778797074, 32p.
Almost half the population of South America lives in Brazil. A melting pot of indigenous, African and European cultures, Brazil is also home to some of the poorest and some of the wealthiest people in South America. Individual spreads illustrate how Brazil was an early plantation colony of Portugal; how Brazil’s indigenous peoples live today, and the different ceremonies and celebrations of the country’s many people. The topics include: the first Brazilians; the arrival of the Portuguese; indigenous Brazilians; a Yanomami wedding; life in the rainforest and threats to the people of the rainforest; the spiritual beliefs of Brazilians; and life in the cities.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you See? Urso Castanho, Urso Castanho, O Que é Que Tu Vês? Bill Martin, Hr. Illustrated by Carle, Eric. London, UK: Mantra Lingua, 2010. ISBN-13: 9781844441594, 32p.
Exuberant coloured artwork and favourite animals make this rhythmic story the perfect introduction to looking and learning colours. This edition is bilingual, Portuguese and English, which can be a useful resource for introducing the Portuguese language to children through a well-known book.

Capoeira. Ancona, George. New York: Lee & Low Books, Inc., 2007. ISBN-13: 9781584302681, 48p.
Full-color photos and lively text introduce a sport that “combines dance, music, and acrobatics with fighting techniques.” Ancona explains the basics of the game before delving into its history, helping readers with no background on the subject gain an understanding of the art before putting it into context. His discussion of the beginnings of capoeira, which was developed primarily by African slaves brought to Brazil. Short biographies of the two founders of the sport’s most common modern schools are presented before returning to modern photographs that show some of the differences in styles of play. The participants represent a wide range of ages and ethnicities, reflecting the game’s multicultural heritage.

Carnaval. Ancona, George. San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1999. ISBN-13: 9780152017934, 48p.
A vibrant photographic journey that takes readers through Olinda, a city in northeastern Brazil. The odyssey begins by highlighting the weeks of preparation leading up to the five-day celebration, and follows with information about the unique traditions of this region. The author offers vignettes of costume and mask making, as well as of the local art of making bonecos gigantes (giant puppets) with corresponding photographs that support the text well. He then describes the traditional dances and parades, including explanations of Spanish and Portuguese terms. He offers profiles of local inhabitants and their respective roles in the festivities. Stunning photographs capture the spirit of the festival with pictures of revelers dressed in a dazzling array of colorful costumes.

Cassio’s Day: From Dawn to Dusk in a Brazilian Village. Campos, Maria de Fatima. Great Britain: Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2009. ISBN-10: 1847800912. 32 p.
Cássio spends much of his school day outside, and he especially likes learning to grow vegetables in the school garden. He and his friend push each other home from school in Cássio’s carrinho (“barrow”), stopping to buy their favorite sweets (doce-de-leite) on the way. When it comes to the evening meal, his mother always cooks extra so that there will be enough if friends or family want to come. Cássio’s Day is a photographic informational book concentrating on the daily life and experiences of children in rural Brazil. It also contains a glossary of words and customs in Portuguese.

Cultures of the World: Portugal. Heale, Jay & Koh, Angeline. New York: Marshall Cavendish Benchmark, 2006. ISBN-13: 9780761420538, 144p.
The book covers history, government, economy, and geography; however, its strength is in their coverage of contemporary culture. Particularly useful is the information on religion, the arts, food, leisure activities, and social roles. The book also covers the topics: the Moors, the Revolution of 1974, and the European Community. At the end, it offers a map of Portugal, a timeline, and a glossary with important terms.

The Dancing Turtle: A Folktale from Brazil. DeSpain, Pleasant. Illustrated by Boston, David. Little Rock, Arkansas: August House Little Folk, 1998. ISBN-13: 9780874835021, 32p.
The main character of this Brazilian trickster tale is a chubby turtle with an engaging smile, who loves to play her flute and dance. A man captures her and takes her home for a turtle-soup feast the next day. That afternoon, when he leaves her in his son and daughter’s care and goes out to work the fields, Turtle promises to dance for the children if they let her out of the cage. Once freed, Turtle pretends to fall asleep, and subsequently escapes. The father returns home and vows to recapture the cunning animal. An ambiguous conclusion allows readers to determine Turtle’s fate. An introductory source note explains that although indigenous peoples of Brazil created this folktale, it is now also told as far away as Nicaragua and Costa Rica.

For the Love of Soccer. Pelé. Illustrated by Morrison, Frank. New York: Hyperion Books, 2010. ISBN-13: 9781423115380, 32p.
In his first book for children, Pelé offers a pithy recap of his illustrious career in terms that are general enough to give artist Morrison latitude to tell two stories at once. Facing pages simultaneously track the renowned Brazilian from childhood to superstardom while following an androgynous young soccer enthusiast through practice sessions and games on an urban pitch. Both figures explode with infectious, winning enthusiasm and are usually posed in midair, arms and legs flung wide to propel a ball past opponents and into the goal. Both also look entirely delighted to be doing what they’re doing. A more detailed version of Pelé’s accomplishments caps this exuberant double introduction to the world’s most popular sport and to one of its most enduringly popular figures.

From Another World. Machado, Ana Maria. Illustrated by Brandão, Lucia. Toronto, Ontario: Groundwood Books/Douglas & McIntyte, 2002. ISBN-13: 9780888996411, 128p.
When their parents decide to turn a farmhouse and its outbuildings into a country inn, Mariano and his friends Leo, Elisa, and Teresa spend a night in the very old barnlike annex, which has been renovated and partitioned to create guest rooms. After they hear crying in the night, they meet Rosario, the ghost of a nineteenth-century slave girl. She tells them of a tragic event that killed her and most of her family, and she appeals to them for help. Later, as they listen to Leo and Elise’s grandmother relate family history, the kids piece together the rest of the story. A reluctant narrator, Mariano begins by asking for the readers’ patience, saying that he can barely sit still to read a book, much less write one.

Fulustreca. Machado, Luis Raul. Illustrated by Mello, Roger. Rio de Janeiro, RJ: Ediouro, 1994. ISBN-13: 9788500226663, 32p.
Through poetry, the author plays with design to talk about a “being” who goes through its vivid life leaving happiness wherever it passes by.

The Great Kapok Tree: A Tale of the Amazon Rain Forest. Cherry, Lynne. Singapore: Harcourt, Inc., 1990. ISBN-13: 9780152005207, 40p.
If a tree falls in the forest… someone or something will always be there to hear it. Many, many creatures will feel the effects when their source of sustenance and shelter falls to the earth. So when a man is sent into the Amazon rain forest one day, under instructions to chop down a great kapok tree, many eyes watch him nervously. It’s not long before he grows tired, though, and the “heat and hum” of the rain forest lulls him to sleep. One by one, snakes, bees, monkeys, birds, frogs, and even a jaguar emerge from the jungle canopy to plead with the sleeping ax-man to spare their home. Finally, a child comes out –each whisper in his ear about the terrible consequences of living in “a world without trees” or beauty, about the interconnectedness of all living things. When the man awakens, startled at all the rare and marvelous animals surrounding him, he picks up his ax as if to begin chopping again, then drops it and walks away, presumably never to return.

The Great Snake: Stories form the Amazon. Taylor, Sean. Illustrated by Vilela, Fernando. London: Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2008. ISBN-13: 9781845075293, 64p.
As the author travels up the Amazon River in Brazil, he introduces readers to the people he meets and stories they tell. From an old woman, he hears the story of the jurutaí, a bird that sings a love song to the moon. Others tell of a giant snake that overturns boats in the river, and of the curupira, a creature covered in blood-red hai0r that protects the rain forest. Three times he is told of dolphins that appear as men dressed in suits and hats: the spread of a fisherman taken to the bottom of the river by such a stranger is particularly chilling. He hears trickster tales of Fox and Jaguar as well as Tortoise and Vulture, and on a very hot day he delights in the story of very slow Three-Toed Sloth.

Henry the Navigator: Prince of Portuguese Exploration. Ariganello, Lisa. New York: Cabtree Publishing. ISBN-10: 0778724697, 32p.
The book traces the beginnings of the European Age of Exploration through the sponsorship of voyages by Prince Henry of Portugal. The book traces the adventures of his sailors as they voyaged down the West Coast of Africa in the 1400s, laying the foundations for a Portuguese colonial empire.

How Night Came from the Sea: A Story from Brazil. Gerson, Mary-Joan. Illustrated by Golembe, Carla. Canada: Little, Brown & Company, 1994. ISBN-13: 9780316308557, 32p.
In sure-footed prose brushed with delicate poetry, Gerson retells a Brazilian story of how night was brought to earth from the sea. Before the arrival of darkness there was “only sunlight and brightness and heat.” When a daughter of African goddess Iemanja leaves her ocean home to marry “a son of the earth people,” she sorely misses the cool cover of darkness, the shady mantle of dusk. Only a bag of night from her mother’s kingdom can restore her happiness, and soon the earth people come to know the beauty of night.

Jabutí the Tortoise: A Trickster Tale from the Amazon. McDermott, Gerald. Orlando, FL: Voyager Books, 2005. ISBN-13: 9780152053741, 32p.
The reputed trickster Jabuti gets his comeuppance when a jealous Vulture offers to fly the tortoise and his flute to the King of Heaven’s festival of song, then wickedly drops his passenger down from the skies. The King of Heaven chastises the vulture, and the birds who put Jabuti’s smooth shell back together again gain new feathers as their reward. Though Jabuti’s shell is “cracked and patched,” his “song is sweet.” Oddly, Jabuti doesn’t possess a trickster’s lively intelligence or cleverness, and the story’s plot is resolved by the God of Heaven’s intervention rather than by the protagonist’s cunning. The story begins with the animals that Jabuti has tricked, but they all disappear immediately in favor of a pourquoi tale about how the tortoise got the cracks on his shell.

Limpopo Lullaby. Jolly, Jane. Illustrated by Huxley, Dee. Publisher: Simple Read Books, 2006. ISBN-13: 9781894965583, 32p.
In 2000, as Mozambique was ravaged by floods, many people found that their only choice was to take shelter in trees. The media spotlight fell on one tiny village where a woman, stuck with her family in a tree, was about to give birth. The remarkable story of this woman and her miraculous child is the inspiration for Limpopo Lullaby.

Milet Picture Dictionary English Portuguese. Turhan, Sedat & Hagin, Sally. Chicago, IL: Milet Publishing, LLC, 2009. ISBN-13: 9781840593570, 48p.
Through colorful art work, the dictionary brings some common words found in Portuguese, such as colors, plants, animals, shapes, food, home, school, clothing.

The Moon has Written you a Poem. Letria, José Jorge. Illustrated by Letria, André. Publisher: WingetChariot Press, 2005. ISBN-13: 9781905341009, 60p.
Subtly capturing the innocence and imagination of childhood, this magical poetry collection captures the innocence and imagination of childhood focuses on the importance of family. Deftly translated verse captures the lyrical rhymes of the original Portuguese while providing a whimsical escape for the entire family to enjoy. A free, downloadable booklet with suggestions for further activities is available at www.wingedchariot.com.

My First Book of Portuguese Words. Kudela, Katy R. North Mankato, MI: Capstone Press, 2011. ISBN-13: 9781429661690, 32p.
The book contains a list of common words you will find in Portuguese (with the English translation) and the pronunciation. Each themed spread features a large, scene-setting photo, providing context for the translated words. This book explores the world, teaching children how to say the things they see in a new language.

Nina Bonita. Machado, Ana Maria. Illustrated by Faria, Rosana. La Jolla, CA: Kane/Miller Book Publishers, 1996. ISBN: 1929139115, 24p.
A young girl living in a coastal South American town has a blacker skin tone than any of her family members or playmates. A white rabbit, entranced by the girl’s skin, “dark and glossy, just like a panther in the rain,” implores her to reveal her beauty secrets. Nina Bonita, who doesn’t really know why she’s so dark, gives the rabbit three ridiculous possibilities, which he duplicates with disappointing results. Persistently, the rabbit asks for a fourth explanation, and the final one is provided by the girl’s mother-the child is the same color as her black grandmother. The white rabbit, satisfied with a truthful answer, proceeds to marry a black rabbit and produce a plethora of children of various hues.

Nzingha: Warrior Queen of Matamba, Angola, Africa, 1595. McKissack, Patricia. New York: Scholastic Inc., 2000. ISBN-13: 9780439112109, 136p.
In 1595, Nzingha is the strong, intelligent daughter of the Ngola (leader) of the Mbundu people of Ndongo (in modern-day Angola), loyal to her people and willing to fight for them. Unfortunately, because she is a girl, her brother is the favored child, in training to become the next Ngola, even though he is whiny, stupid, and slow (according to Nzingha). But Ajala, a respected seer, believes that Nzingha is destined to be the leader of Ndongo, and begins preparing her for this future. Nzingha’s father fights to keep the Portuguese from taking over their homeland, yet it is Nzingha, ultimately, who acts as the go-between for her people and the Portuguese, negotiating acceptable relations in order to keep peace and power for the Mbundu. Based on true historical events, places, people, and customs, this novel portrays the fascinating details of a remarkable young woman’s strength and courage in defending her world against subterfuge, spies, and the onslaught of the Portuguese.

O Menino Maluquinho. Pinto, Ziraldo Alves. Brazil: Editora Melhoramentos Ltda, 2002. ISBN-13: 9788506000137, 106p.
This is a story of a young boy who is just a normal child, he loves games, he messes up the house, but at the end, after his family’s shouting and screaming, he is just a child who is much loved. The book can also be seen online at http://omeninomaluquinho.educacional.com.br/ It contains games and many other resources which will make it fun and easy to talk about it with the kids.

Portuguese Colonies in the Americas. Parker, Lewis K. New York: The Rosen Publishing Group’s, Inc., 2003. ISBN-13: 9780823964741, 24p.
This book offers a historical account of Portugal’s colony in Brazil, including dates, the types of resources they used, and problems with other countries which wanted to colonize Brazil as well. In sum, it describes the establishment of a Portuguese colony in Brazil in the sixteenth century, the problems with the Dutch and French, the activities of the Portuguese colonists, their interaction with the native inhabitants, and the eventual fate of Brazil.

Seaside Dreams. Bates, Janet Costa. Illustrated by Davis, Lambert. New York: Lee & Low Books Inc, 2010. ISBN-13: 9781600603471, 32p.
This poignant tale of a special relationship between a young girl and her grandmother showcases the joy of gift giving as well as the importance of family connections. On Grandma’s seventieth birthday, family from near and far (they’re from the Cape Verde Islands) come together to celebrate. Sadly, Grandma’s sister Aura remains on the island where they grew up; Grandma’s sadness echoes the bittersweet feelings of many people far from their families and their birthplaces. Grandma tells Cora about a mantenha, or message, that might be received from someone far away, and that night Cora has a dream about Aura that inspires her birthday gift to Grandma: a jar of shells, sand, and water that perhaps Aura may have touched on her side of the ocean.

Victoria Goes To Brazil. Campos, Maria de Fatima. Great Britain: Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2009. ISBN-13: 9781845079277, 40p.
Victoria’s mother was born in Brazil, but she and her daughter live in London. Now it’s time for a visit to the country where Mom grew up. From a coffee farm to a saint’s day procession, from a street children’s shelter to a huge family barbeque, Victoria learns about her mother’s country and enjoys getting to know her large Brazilian family. Using vibrant photographs and a first-person narrative based on the fresh perceptions of a child, Victoria Goes to Brazil stimulates young imaginations by showcasing the unfamiliar yet fascinating food, clothing, customs, and culture of this colorful and diverse country.


3 thoughts on “Portuguese/Brazil Language and Culture Kit

  1. Sue Thorne says:

    Books look quite compelling Would be interesting to present Brazil /the Amazon as a unit of study for better world understanding of the threats that agribusiness pose to the “lungs of the earth!” Ancient folktales would be fun added spice!!

  2. Priscila M. Costa says:

    This is an impressive list covering many aspects of various Portuguese-speaking countries. As a Brazilian educator and native speaker of Brazilian Portuguese, I missed seeing more titles published by other renowned Brazilian authors like Ziraldo and Ana Maria Machado (both included in this list), which would dissolve the stereotyped image that Brazil is all about the Amazon Forest, exotic fauna and flora, soccer, and carnival. The Portuguese language is beautiful, Brazilian literature is rich, and children there read engaging texts infused with cultural aspects of the country without tokenizing it.

  3. Thanks for your suggestions. We do have limitations on what is published in the U.S. because there are many more excellent books published in Brazil that are not available in the U.S. We will look again to see if other books are now available that were not before and consult with our Brazilian collaborators who put this book list together. It has not been updated for several years so there are hopefully some new books we can add. Our collaborators did worry about the issue that you mention, that these connections are significant to Brazil but not the whole of Brazil and should not be overrepresented.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *