Posted in Uncategorized

Celebrating Ignacio (Nacho) Anaya on National Nacho Day!

Nacho’s Nachos: The Story Behind the World’s Favorite Snack, by Sandra Nickel and Oliver Dominguez, (Aug. 2020, Lee & Low), $18.95, ISBN: 9781620143698

Ages 6-10

Not all heroes wear capes. Ignacio Anaya was born in Northern Mexico in 1895, and raised by a foster mother who made him delicious quesadillas. He grew up and became well-respected in the restaurant industry, handling everything from waiting tables to greeting guests and making sure everyone was well taken care of and happy. When a famous foodie asked him for “something different” one night in 1940, Ignacio – called “Nacho” for short – searched the kitchen until he noticed a bowl of fried corn tortillas. Thinking of his foster mother’s delicious quesadillas, he put his own spin on them, by melting cheddar cheese on them, topping each with a piece of pickled jalapeño pepper, and serving them up as “Nacho’s Special”. And, my friends, a legend was born.

Nacho’s Nachos tells Ignacio’s story, from the beginnings at his foster mother’s table through to his fame as the creator of a dish that appealed to everyone, everywhere, including actors and presidents; even allowing him to open a restaurant of his own. Ignacio’s original recipe is included in the back matter, along with an afterword on his life. There are sources and an author’s note addressing the somewhat tall tales that have arisen about Nacho’s life. Sandra Nickel creates a wonderfully inspirational biography, and Oliver Dominguez’s mixed media artwork is realistic and has gorgeous earth colors alongside colorful nightlife scenes. A fantastic addition to picture book biographies.

Warm up some cheddar cheese, have some nachos, and celebrate the life of Nacho Anaya today! Check out the National Nachos Day website for recipes and the history of the celebration.

Posted in Fiction, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction

Got a mystery? Julieta’s on the case!

Julieta and the Diamond Enigma, by Luisana Duarte Armendáriz, (June 2020, Lee & Low Books), $18.95, ISBN: 9781643790466

Ages 8-12

Winner of the 2018 Lee & Low/Tu Books New Visions Award, Julieta and the Diamond Enigma is a fun whodunit with a smart heroine who has a penchant for finding trouble. Julieta is the nine-year-old daughter whose parents both work at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts (BFA). Her mom is due to give birth to her baby brother soon, and her dad, an art handler, needs to fly to Paris to collect pieces for a new BFA exhibit. After some great Paris sightseeing, Julieta and her dad are ready to pack up and head home – until she and her dad walk in on a burglar stealing the prized Regent Diamond! The diamond was going to be a key piece in the BFA exhibit, and all eyes are on Julieta’s father. Julieta starts putting together some clues, desperate to save her father’s job and reputation, all the while hoping they can get home in time to be there when her baby brother is born. With nods to to Greek mythology (especially the goddess Athena) and smartly placed clues that will lead readers to the answers alongside Julieta, this is a fun cozy mystery for burgeoning whodunit fans. Museum fans will love seeing what goes on behind closed museum doors – a realistic Night at the Museum, so to speak. I loved reading about Julieta’s goofing around with her parents in the museum and Back matter has the true story of the Regent Diamond, the goddess Athena, the art mentioned in Julieta and the Diamond Enigma, and a handy glossary of terms. A note at the beginning of the book has a helpful glossary of Spanish and French words, as words and phrases come up during the course of the story. A great book to introduce to readers that are moving from intermediate chapter books to more detailed middle grade fiction.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

#readyourworld with Sumo Joe this Multicultural Children’s Book Day!

This year, I’m so excited to be shining a spotlight on Pragmatic Mom Mia Wenjen‘s book, Sumo Joe, illustrated by Nat Iwata. I was gifted this book to review for Multicultural Children’s Book Day by the author, and am thrilled to talk about this fun, gorgeous book.

Sumo Joe, by Mia Wenjen/Illustrated by Nat Iwata,
(June 2019, Lee and Low), $18.95, ISBN: 9781620148020
Ages 3-7

A girl named Jo and her older brother, Joe, share breakfast together before she heads out and he welcomes students into his home dojo, where he teaches two boys the art of sumo. When Jo returns home and wants to join in, the boys push back against having a girl in their sumo space, but she puts her aikido skills up against Sumo Joe and his students!

Sumo Joe has all the best things about a good picture book: a fun, positive story, engaging text that introduces readers to new words (bolded for emphasis) and beautifully illustrated spreads to assist with context, and rhyming verse that just begs for read-alouds. Sumo Joe is a sweet older brother, as evidenced by Jo’s relationship with him and his attention to his students; Jo is a spunky young lady who wants to be in the room where it’s happening – in this case, “it” being sumo lessons”. Pastel illustrations make this a happy read that just wraps you up in good feelings. An author’s note and illustrated glossary on sumo and aikido make this a perfect book to have on your shelves. Publisher Lee and Low has a free, downloadable teacher’s guide on their website.

Thank you again to Mia Wenjen for sending me a copy of Sumo Joe, and to MCBD for inviting me to be part of another year of celebrating diverse books!

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2020 (1/31/20) is in its 7th year! This non-profit children’s literacy initiative was founded by Valarie Budayr and Mia Wenjen; two diverse book-loving moms who saw a need to shine the spotlight on all of the multicultural books and authors on the market while also working to get those book into the hands of young readers and educators.

Seven years in, MCBD’s mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in homes and school bookshelves continues.

MCBD 2020  is honored to have the following Medallion Sponsors on board

 

Super Platinum

Make A Way Media/ Deirdre “DeeDee” Cummings,

Platinum

Language Lizard, Pack-N-Go Girls,

Gold

Audrey Press, Lerner Publishing Group, KidLit TV, ABDO BOOKS : A Family of Educational Publishers, PragmaticMom & Sumo Jo, Candlewick Press,

Silver

Author Charlotte Riggle, Capstone Publishing, Guba Publishing, Melissa Munro Boyd & B is for Breathe,

Bronze

Author Carole P. Roman, Snowflake Stories/Jill Barletti, Vivian Kirkfield & Making Their Voices Heard. Barnes Brothers Books,  TimTimTom, Wisdom Tales Press, Lee & Low Books,  Charlesbridge Publishing, Barefoot Books Talegari Tales

 

Author Sponsor Link Cloud

Jerry Craft, A.R. Bey and Adventures in Boogieland, Eugina Chu & Brandon goes to Beijing, Kenneth Braswell & Fathers Incorporated, Maritza M. Mejia & Luz del mes_Mejia, Kathleen Burkinshaw & The Last Cherry Blossom, SISSY GOES TINY by Rebecca Flansburg and B.A. Norrgard, Josh Funk and HOW TO CODE A ROLLERCOASTER, Maya/Neel Adventures with Culture GrooveLauren Ranalli, The Little Green Monster: Cancer Magic! By Dr. Sharon Chappell, Phe Lang and Me On The Page, Afsaneh Moradian and Jamie is Jamie, Valerie Williams-Sanchez and Valorena Publishing, TUMBLE CREEK PRESS, Nancy Tupper Ling, Author Gwen Jackson, Angeliki Pedersen & The Secrets Hidden Beneath the Palm Tree, Author Kimberly Gordon Biddle, BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 by Mia Wenjen, Susan Schaefer Bernardo & Illustrator Courtenay Fletcher (Founders of Inner Flower Child Books), Ann Morris & Do It Again!/¡Otra Vez!, Janet Balletta and Mermaids on a Mission to Save the Ocean, Evelyn Sanchez-Toledo & Bruna Bailando por el Mundo\ Dancing Around the World, Shoumi Sen & From The Toddler Diaries, Sarah Jamila Stevenson, Tonya Duncan and the Sophie Washington Book Series, Teresa Robeson  & The Queen of Physics, Nadishka Aloysius and Roo The Little Red TukTuk, Girlfriends Book Club Baltimore & Stories by the Girlfriends Book Club, Finding My Way Books, Diana Huang & Intrepids, Five Enchanted Mermaids, Elizabeth Godley and Ribbon’s Traveling Castle, Anna Olswanger and Greenhorn, Danielle Wallace & My Big Brother Troy, Jocelyn Francisco and Little Yellow Jeepney, Mariana Llanos & Kutu, the Tiny Inca Princess/La Ñusta Diminuta, Sara Arnold & The Big Buna Bash, Roddie Simmons & Race 2 Rio, DuEwa Frazier & Alice’s Musical Debut, Veronica Appleton & the Journey to Appleville book series  Green Kids Club, Inc.

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also works tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.

Co-Hosts and Global Co-Hosts

A Crafty Arab, Afsaneh Moradian, Agatha Rodi Books, All Done Monkey, Barefoot Mommy, Bethany Edward & Biracial Bookworms, Michelle Goetzl & Books My Kids Read, Crafty Moms Share, Colours of Us, Discovering the World Through My Son’s Eyes, Educators Spin on it, Shauna Hibbitts-creator of eNannylink, Growing Book by Book, Here Wee Read, Joel Leonidas & Descendant of Poseidon Reads {Philippines}, Imagination Soup, Kid World Citizen, Kristi’s Book Nook, The Logonauts, Mama Smiles, Miss Panda Chinese, Multicultural Kid Blogs, Serge Smagarinsky {Australia}, Shoumi Sen, Jennifer Brunk & Spanish Playground, Katie Meadows and Youth Lit Reviews

FREE RESOURCES from Multicultural Children’s Book Day

TWITTER PARTY! Register here!

 

Hashtag: Don’t forget to connect with us on social media and be sure and look for/use our official hashtag #ReadYourWorld.

 

 

Posted in Non-Fiction

Galápagos Girl/Galapagueña Blog Tour Stop: A note from author Marsha Diane Arnold!

So now that you’ve read about how I loved Galápagos Girl/Galapagueña, here’s a little somethin’ extra: a guest post from author Marsha Diane Arnold about the editorial process, and “the words that got left behind”. Enjoy the post and photos, and thank you so much to Ms. Arnold for sharing with us!

The Words I Left Behind – Galápagos Girl by Marsha Diane Arnold

Thank you, Rosemary, for inviting me to blog about my newest picture book, Galápagos Girl, coming September 18th. This book is dear to my heart. It began on my 2007 trip to the Galápagos where I met Valentina Cruz, our naturalist guide. She was born and raised on the Galápagos Island of Floreana. She and the unique animals of the islands inspired my book. I wanted to write about the fantastic Galápagos creatures from the perspective of a young girl who grew up on the islands, surrounded by wild nature.

Valentina on left, with fellow travelers.

 

But it’s now 2018! This book was a long time coming. There were so many stories Valentina told me about her family and growing up on these exotic islands. I wanted to share them all with the world, but of course, I couldn’t. Cut! Cut! Cut! There are dozens of unique animals on the islands. I wanted to share them all in my book too, but they wouldn’t all fit. Cut some more!

Some of the beautiful Galápagos birds that didn’t make it into the book.

 

Top left – Galápagos Hawk, top right – Nazca Booby

 

Bottom left – Oystercatcher, bottom right – Flightless Cormorant

“Kill your darlings” is advice that has long been given to writers. It’s a challenge to us to delete extraneous text and get rid of phrases we hold closest to our hearts. But our books all have to face the “killing of darlings.” Galápagos Girl was no exception.

I wrote scores of drafts, trying to decide which stories, which animals, and which words to keep. In the manuscript I submitted, Spanish words and phrases were sprinkled throughout. I’d spent hours deciding where to place these and confirming my translation was right. When it was decided to make the book entirely bilingual, most of these phrases were deleted. Also, because we were now approximately doubling the words that would fill the book, the text needed to be…Cut!

Valentina shared many stories of her father. They could easily make a book of their own. Once, she wrote to me that her father, who loved the ocean, “had the scent of the sea in his skin.” Now her young son tells her she has “the scent of the sea in her skin.” I loved this thought and included it in a few drafts. But my writers group didn’t think it worked. Cut!

The text below is from a 2009 draft, where I again drifted toward telling Papá’s story. Valentina’s tales of him where inspiring me, just as his life had inspired her. Valentina even had an old photo of him riding their donkey, Pepegrillo. But I needed to get back to Valentina’s story. Cut!

“Papa, the teacher, the sailor, the fisherman, the farmer,

taught Valentina to read and showed her the ways of nature.

He liked to ride his donkey into the village

and take a book with him to read along the way.”

Eliecer Cruz Cevallos and Pepegrillo

 

Looking over more old drafts, it was obvious I wanted that cute Pepegrillo to be in my book. In a 2010 draft, I wrote:

“Sometimes Valentina walked the two miles to school barefoot,

Sometimes she wore old shoes,

Sometimes her older brother and sister carried her on their back.

On special days, she got to ride Pepegrillo, the donkey.”

 

You guessed it.  Pepegrillo and these lines had to be…Cut!

When I asked Valentina if there was anything she didn’t like about growing up on the Galápagos, she emphatically replied, “No.” She loved every minute of it and felt it was a privilege to be able to live there with her family. Her stories made me want to be part of her family too; these feelings show up a little in the following text. It also mentions the broken tortoise shells Valentina found, which was a plot line I had followed. Yes, this was all…Cut!

“The family’s farm was called The Well – El Pozo.

In the kitchen, Valentina helped Mamá make papaya and guava jam.

From the acacia tree, Valentina and Papá watched boats come into port.

When Valentina’s eleven older brothers and sisters

milked cows and weeded gardens,

Valentina fed bananas and plums to Santa Cruz and Isabela.

When they searched hillside caves for pirate treasure,

Valentina searched for a Floreana tortoise

to keep Santa Cruz and Isabela company.

All she found were broken shells.”

I originally called the turtles Santa Cruz and Isabela, but in the book, they are Carlitos and Isabela. There’s a story behind that too.

 

A few of the amazing Cruz family.

 

Though many stories are not in the book, we now have the delightful Galápagos Girl, thanks to my agent Karen Grencik, my editor Jessica Echeverria, the entire Lee & Low team, many helpful scientists and researchers, the wonderful artist Angela Dominguez, and, of course, Valentina Cruz.

Just a few words now, that were not cut!

“And every day she danced.

Bopping up and down

With lava lizards

Stamping her feet with

Blue-footed boobies

Twirling pirouettes

with sea lions.”

 

If you want to hear more Galápagos stories, I’d love to share them with you when I visit your school or festival. You can contact me on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/MarshaDianeArnoldAuthor/, www.earthsvoices.wordpress.com., or the “Write Marsha” link at  www.marshadianearnold.com, my main website, which is being restored.

Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction, picture books, Preschool Reads

How islands raised an activist: Galápagos Girl/Galapagueña, by Marsha Diane Arnold

Galápagos Girl/Galapagueña, by Marsha Diane Arnold/Illustrated by Angela Domínguez, translated by Adriana Dominguez, (Sept. 2018, Lee & Low Books), $18.95, ISBN: 9780892394135

Ages 4-8

This bilingual English/Spanish story is based on the life of Galápagos Islands conservationist Valentina Cruz. Raised on the island, Valentina grew up surrounded by beauty: the blue-green sea, the playful penguins and sea lions, the sounds of the waves crashing against the rocks, and her father’s two tortoises, Carlitos and Isabela. Valentina goes away to school, but promises the animals and her islands that “I will not forget you… And I will help to keep you safe.” It’s a promise she keeps, returning to the islands on school holidays, camping out on remote islands to live and learn among the different flora and fauna, eventually becoming a biologist who returns to the islands to teach visitors to love her home as she does, and about the importance of preservation and conservation.

Author Marsha Diane Arnold met Valentina on a 2007 trip to the Galápagos and was inspired to write Galápagos Girl in the hope that readers would learn, as Valentina did, to help keep nature safe. Under threat from invasive species, active tourism, and encroaching humans, plant and animal life on the Galápagos is increasingly vulnerable. With bright, tropical colors and bold illustration, Pura Belpré Honoree Angela Dominguez transports readers to the magical islands; she communicates the feeling that we’re seeing something truly special as Valentina moves among unique plants and animals that aren’t found anywhere else on Earth. We’re given a special, secret pass to paradise as we turn each page of Galápagos Girl, and reading it with an unabashed sense of wonder will inspire that spark in a storytime group. An author’s note and a note about the Islands explains Marsha Diane Arnold’s first meeting with Valentina and provides background on the Islands. Five pages of information about the animals introduced in the story adds nice background information to the story, as does a solid bibliography. The bilingual text makes it accessible to Spanish and English-speaking readers.

The storytelling gives readers a glimpse at Valentina’s passion for conservation and illustrates how growing up with a respect for nature creates a better world for everyone. Galápagos Girl is a worthwhile add to storytime collections, bilingual collections, and natural history collections. There’s a free Animals of the Galápagos matchup download available at the Lee & Low website.

Marsha Diane Arnold is an award-winning picture-book author. Her past titles include the Smithsonian Notable Book The Pumpkin Runner and Lost. Found., which received three starred reviews. Marsha was inspired to write this story after traveling to the Galápagos Islands, where she met Valentina Cruz and had the opportunity to swim with sea lions and dolphins. She lives with her family in Alva, Florida. You can find her online at marshadianearnold.com.

Angela Domínguez is the author and illustrator of several books for children, including the Children’s Book Press title Let Me Help! / Quiero ayudar!Marta Big and Small, and Maria Had a Little Llama, which received the Pura Belpré Illustration Honor. In 2016, she received her second Pura Belpré Honor for her illustrations in Mango, Abuela, and Me by Meg Medina. When Angela is not in her studio, she teaches at the Academy of Art University, which honored her with their Distinguished Alumni Award. She lives in Virginia. Visit her online at angeladominguezstudio.com.

Posted in Fiction, Intermediate, picture books, Realistic Fiction

Black History Month: As Fast as Words Could Fly

As Fast As Words Could Fly, by Pamela M. Tuck/Illustrated by Eric Velasquez, (Apr. 2013, Lee and Low), $18.95, ISBN: 9781600603488

Recommended for readers 6-10

I had to start my Black History Month reviews off with this gorgeous book by Pamela M. Tuck. As Fast As Words Could Fly is inspired by Ms. Tuck’s father, who – along with his brothers – integrated a North Carolina school, and by her grandfather, who was active in the Civil Rights movement. Mason Steele is a 14 year-old who helps his father’s civil rights group by writing letters for them, shining light on injustices. Mason’s father brings home a manual typewriter, transforming Mason’s life and letting his words fly across the pages. At the same time as Mason receives his typewriter, his father tells him and his brothers that they will integrate the local high school rather than continue busing to one twelve miles away. Integration is tough on Mason and his brothers: buses drive right by them and teachers and students alike make it known that the boys aren’t welcome there, but Mason endures and uses his typewriter to increase his skill and earn some money. He also uses his typewriter to make a change: he defies racism to keep his job at the local library and to represent his school in a typing contest. For Mason, the words on the paper speak loud and clear.

This was Pam Tuck’s first published story, which won the Lee & Low New Voices Winner. I was lucky enough to see her speak about her experience, and her family’s experience, at KidLitCon back in November, and I got my own copy of As Fast As Words Could Fly signed for my kiddo. Pam’s voice comes through so clearly in her story; I can hear her, even now, telling me about her grandfather and father’s story. I mentioned that I was a fan of her illustrator, Eric Velasquez, and she sat with me; as we went through the book together, she pointed out her favorite pieces of artwork. I mentioned that I loved Mr. Velasquez’s books, Grandma’s Records and Grandma’s Gift, and his talent for creating warm, loving family artwork, and she told me that the spread where Mason’s father tells his boys that they are going to a new school was perfectly recreated: she pointed out areas of her grandparents’ kitchen that she remembered, and said that Pa’s posture and hands were spot-on; the artist had given life to her grandfather.

As Fast As Words Could Fly is a strong story about a family during the Civil Rights movement, and it’s the story of a young man who was determined to make a change on his own terms. I love this story, and would love to see it on more bookshelves. Find a teacher’s guide and interviews on the Lee & Low website, and learn more about Pamela Tuck here. See more of award-winning illustrator Eric Velasquez’s artwork at his website.

Posted in Early Reader, Intermediate, Non-Fiction, Non-Fiction, Non-Fiction

Tales from the Backlist: Christy Hale’s Dreaming Up

dreamingup_1Dreaming Up: A Celebration of Building, by Christy Hale, (2012, Lee & Low Books), $18.95, ISBN: 9781600606519

Recommended for ages 5-10

When I started at my current library last year, the younger kids were in the middle of a school project on architecture. I was able to give them books like the most current picture book retelling of Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem, Block City and Byron Barton’s Building a House, but after I exhausted the fiction section, I was stumped. Luckily, a quick tour of my nonfiction section brought me to Christy Hale’s beautiful book, Dreaming Up: A Celebration of Building.

Dreaming Up combines illustrations of multiethnic children at work on their own constructions, with rhyming text building and swirling in construction of its own, and pairs each illustration with a photo and description of a notable work of architecture. Kids will experience the works of Frank Lloyd Wright and Antoni Gaudi, and they’ll see such masterpieces as the open-air church in Cartegena, Columbia, inspired by Gothic cathedrals; a temporary Chinese school constructed by students and teachers from plywood and recycled paper tubes, and New York City’s Gugghenheim Museum. It’s an exciting way to experience the world and emphasizes the importance of play in the creative process.

dreamingup_2

I put this book out during a storytime for my preschoolers, and just read the rhyming text. After storytime, I brought out stacking cups, blocks, and foam building pieces, and let the kids go to work. Watching the little ones work with their parents was amazing; there were walls, buildings, and winding roads by the time they were done. This is a great book for school-age kids, but you can easily modify it for younger ones. Booktalk it, let them draw or work with their hands, and see what the kids can create for you.

dreamingup_3

Dreaming Up has received multiple awards and honors, including Boston Globe-Horn Book Award Honors, the International Reading Association (IRA) Children’s and Young Adult Book Award Honor, and the 2012 California Book Award. It has been designated a Notable Children’s Book by the American Library Association (ALA) and was included on the Read! Build! Play! Summer Reading list of Books that Inspire Play, ALSC (Association for Library Service to Children) and LEGO.

dreamingup_4

Posted in Uncategorized

Cuddle your kids all over the world with How Far Do You Love Me?

how far_1How Far Do You Love Me?, by Lulu Delacre, (2013, Lee & Low Books), $11.95, 9781600608827

Recommended for ages 4-8

Based on a bedtime game the author played with her daughters, “How Far Do You Love Me” takes readers all over the world, comparing their love to the 13 breathtaking sights and locations in the modern world. “I love you… to the place where the eagle is lost gliding along the rim of the sky”, reads one spread, with a parent holding a child above her head, the Peruvian mountains of Maccu Picchu surrounding them. Each spread takes readers to a different locale and illustrates adults and children together, enjoying the natural beauty around them and each other’s company.

This is a great bedtime book, and paired with a similar “I love you” book like Sam McBratney’s Guess How Much I Love You, gives kids a loving sense of security and a wink and nudge to their competitive nature. My little guy and I have extended our game to the planets these days: he loves me to Pluto and back, and I love him three times around the sun and back. We name the planets we encounter along the way, adding a little bit of science to our I Love You game. You can bring in a similar game here, going further around the world, naming famous places (“I love you to the Empire State Building… I love you to the Grand Canyon!”), states, or countries.

The art is colorful, with a spread for each location. The colors are bright but subdued, realistic, and with shadowing that gives each landscape a breathtaking depth. A nice addition to bedtime stories and books about the world around us.

Lee & Low offers a comprehensive teacher’s guide for How Far Do You Love Me?, including discussion questions, ELL activities, and ways to expand on the story.

Lulu Delacare also authors the Raffi y Rosi easy readers series. Her author webpage contains information about author visits, her books, and links to educator guides for several of her books.

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Realistic Fiction

A school can be anywhere: Armando and the Blue Tarp School

armandoArmando and the Blue Tarp School, by Edith Hope Fine, Judith Pinkerton Josephson/Illustrated by Hernán Sosa (March 2014, Lee & Low), $12.95, ISBN: 9781620141656

Recommended for ages 5-8

Armando’s family are pepenadores -trash pickers – living off things they can use, recycle, and sell from the city trash dump community where they live. Armando works with his father to help support the family, but dreams of being one of Señor David’s regular students. Señor David sets up a blue tarp in his colonia and teaches the children how to spell, count, and learn words in English, and says a school can be anywhere – even on a tarp in a colonia. At first, Armando’s parents discourage him from attending the school, saying that they need him to help the family and that they have always been pepenadores, but slowly, his father sees the importance of an education and allows Armando to attend the school. Shortly after, a fire burns down several homes in the colonia, Armando’s included, and it’s Armando’s picture of the blaze that runs in a newspaper and calls support to the colonia. Money and support come into the community, allowing for a new school building to be built.

Inspired by the real-life Señor David: a New York City special education teacher in the 1980s who went to Mexico to teach children living in the Tijuana colonia – Armando and the Blue Tarp School shows kids that education is a privilege not every child enjoys. Armando desperately wants to learn; he saves bits of erasers, paints, and paper he finds while working alongside his father in the trash dumps, and is thrilled when Señor David returns to his area. Kids will also see that not all parents understand the value of education: Armando’s father scoffs at his son’s “dreams of school”. To many parents in poverty-stricken areas, education takes time away that could be spent working and earning money for the family. For many families, work is survival and education is an expense they can’t afford.

This is a great book to use in classroom, library, and home discussion about how education is perceived throughout the world, and it opens up a chance to find out from kids what they think about education. Do they understand how important it is in the long run? Ask themselves to think about Armando, and put themselves in his place. There are some activities at the Blue Tarp website, some discussion questions, and suggestions for expanding on the story’s theme.

Armando and the Blue Tarp School was a nominee for a California Young Reader Medal and was turned into a stage production in 2009; kids can listen to one of the songs from the show and watch video taken from the show at the Lee & Low blog.

An author’s note at the end of the book provides more information about David Lynch, his Responsibility organization, and the Los Angeles Times article about his work in Mexico that prompted an anonymous donor to donate money to build a school in the Tijuana colonia. There are photos of Lynch and his colonia students, success stories of previous students, and a glossary and pronunciation guide.

A valuable addition to #weneeddiversebooks and school-age collections.