Unfortunately, your access has now expired. But there’s good news—by subscribing today, you will receive 22 issues of Booklist magazine, 4 issues of Book Links, and single-login access to Booklist Online and over 200,000 reviews.
Your access to Booklist Online has expired. If you still subscribe to the print magazine, please proceed to your profile page and check your subscriber number against a current magazine mailing label. (If your print subscription has lapsed, you will need to renew.)
Free Trial, activate profile, or subscribe
Find more Classroom Connections: My Family / Mi Familia
Invite children of all backgrounds to discover shared experiences with these Latino family stories and Common Core–linked activities.
Each Monday in my kindergarten classroom, students were asked to draw a picture and write about what they did over the weekend. Each of these “Weekend News” installments revealed anecdotes featuring family parties, outings, and (much to their parents’ chagrin) the excitement of playing video games and watching cartoons! At the end of the year, the Weekend News articles were compiled into a keepsake book for each child to take home.
The books that follow are, in their own way, versions of Weekend News stories. Some stories talk about mundane experiences (e.g., going to the grocery store or looking for a bathroom), while other stories are an invitation to dance and dream. All of these books take the time to celebrate the lives of children as revealed through the relationships with their families. In these titles, children connect with their families’ pasts (Lynn Reiser’s Tortillas and Lullabies / Tortillas y cancioncitas and Eric Velasquez’s Grandma’s Records); work together as a unit (Leyla Torres’ The Kite Festival and Sonia Manzano’s No Dogs Allowed!); and reveal the unique qualities of each member of a family (Ina Cumpiano’s Quinito, Day and Night / Quinito, día y noche, Sandra Cisneros’ Hairs / Pelitos, and Mi familia calaca / My Skeleton Family, by Cynthia Weill). All of the stories emphasize that a child’s family is critical to his or her sense of self.
Schools consistently emphasize the critical importance of the home-school partnership in a child’s education. The following book list is a practical response to this partnership challenge and additionally benefits the child who speaks Spanish at home and English at school. These books were selected for their integration of the Spanish language and their primary focus on the young Latino child in a family setting. Read at home, these books send the message that schools value family life. Read in the classroom, these stories reinforce the notion that home culture is important in the context of school, too.
Abuela. By Arthur Dorros. Illus. by Elisa Kleven. 1991. 40p. Dutton, $16.99 (9780525447504); Puffin, paper, $7.99 (9780140562255). K–Gr. 2.
Look up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s . . . Abuela! By land, air, or sea, a little girl and her dear abuela are always keen on travel and adventure. The story’s textured, patterned illustrations have a dreamlike quality. Dorros and Kleven have created a related additional adventure in Abuela in La Isla (1995).
Bebé Goes Shopping. By Susan Middleton Elya. Illus. by Steven Salerno. 2006. 36p. Harcourt, paper, $6.99 (9780152061425). K–Gr. 2.
The fact that this book was not titled Mama Goes Shopping immediately tells the reader that Bebé is going to take us, and his beloved mama, on a joyous, albeit challenging, ride through the grocery store. For further adventures with Bebé, read Bebé Goes to the Beach (2008).
A Birthday Basket for Tía. By Pat Mora. Illus. by Cecily Lang. 1992. 32p. Aladdin, paper, $6.99 (9780689813283). PreS–Gr. 1.
A thoughtful little girl assembles a special present for her great-aunt’s ninetieth birthday in this moving picture book. Her cat is her constant companion as she carefully selects items that remind her of special moments that she has had with her relative.
Fiesta! By Ginger Foglesong Guy. Illus. by René King Moreno. 2003. 34p. Greenwillow, paper, $6.99 (9780060882266). PreS–K.
This concept book about numbers has a bilingual text. The simple text is matched with illustrations that are rich with information and subtext in images of children carefully selecting and purchasing items from a local market and then, at the story’s end, using their purchases in a fiesta. Pair this with Guy’s Siesta (2005).
Floating on Mama’s Song / Flotando en la canción de mamá. By Laura Lacámara. Illus. by Yuyi Morales. 2010. 32p. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen, $16.99 (9780060843687); e-book, $11.99 (9780062183965). K–Gr. 3.
In this bilingual book, a little girl arrives home to find that both her mama and her dog are flying! Mama confesses that when she sings, she is filled with such joy that she floats. Soon, Mama’s joy lifts the girl, her brother, and the family dog into the air. Grandma frets; the neighbors complain. What will Mama do?
Grandma’s Records. By Eric Velasquez. Illus. by the author. 2001. 32p. Walker, paper, $8.99 (9780802776600). K–Gr. 3.
A grandmother and her grandson bond over their love of music. Grandma’s records remind her of growing up, and her love of her music and family send her and her artist grandson to a special concert. Pair this with Velasquez’s Grandma’s Gift (2010), which shares additional memories of the author and his grandmother.
Hairs / Pelitos. By Sandra Cisneros. Illus. by Terry Ybáñez. 1994. 32p. Dragonfly, paper, $6.99 (9780679890072). PreS–Gr. 1.
This bilingual book takes its text from a chapter in Sandra Cisneros’ classic novel The House on Mango Street (1984). Cisneros and Ybáñez introduce the readers to members of a family by focusing particularly on the differences in their hair.
Kitchen Dance. By Maurie J. Manning. Illus. by the author. 2008. 32p. Clarion, $17.99 (9780618991105). PreS–Gr. 1.
When a brother and sister sneak downstairs after bedtime to investigate suspicious noises from the kitchen, they discover their parents having a dance party and singing in Spanish and English. After a family dance tires out the children, they end as they began, tucked back in bed.
The Kite Festival. By Leyla Torres. Illus. by the author. 2004. 32p. Farrar, o.p. Gr. 1–3.
After each member of an extended Colombian family packs necessary items for a road trip, those objects foreshadow what will be used to create a homemade kite at a festival. This book successfully integrates and affirms the benefits of spontaneity, resourcefulness, and persistence. Directions for how to build a hexagonal kite are on the last page of the book.
Mi familia calaca / My Skeleton Family. By Cynthia Weill. Illus. by Jésus Zárate. 2013. 32p. Cinco Puntos, $14.95 (9781935955504). K–Gr. 1.
This bilingual family story is told from a girl’s point of view. Hence, her brother “is a brat,” while, conversely, her pets are her “best friends.” The simple text has many high-frequency words for beginning readers, while the story is greatly extended with striking papier-mâché portraits.
My Abuelita. By Tony Johnston. Illus. by Yuyi Morales. 2009. 32p. Harcourt, $16.99 (9780152163303). Gr. 1–3.
This award-winning title is a storyteller’s book for storytellers! The reader receives clues throughout the book about Abuelita’s job. She readies herself for the day by stretching, yodeling, and assembling props. Her grandson, her loving and constant companion, is in awe of his very special abuela.
My Colors, My World / Mis colores, mi mundo. By Maya Christina Gonzalez. Illus. by the author. 2007. 24p. Lee & Low, paper, $8.95 (9780892392780). PreS–Gr. 2.
This bilingual book is both a story about a young girl’s celebration of her identity as well as a concept book featuring colors. As an added bonus, Gonzalez shares a picture of herself as a child at the end of the book.
No Dogs Allowed! By Sonia Manzano. Illus. by Jon J. Muth. 2004. 32p. Simon & Schuster, paper, $7.99 (9781416938385). Gr. 1–3.
This story introduces a lively and loving extended family who, despite their differences, are all alike in their loving resourcefulness after they discover that their dog cannot join them on the beach for their planned picnic.
Oh No, Gotta Go! By Susan Middleton Elya. Illus. by G. Brian Karas. 2003. 32p. Putnam, $15.99 (9780399234934). PreS–Gr. 1.
Written in both English and Spanish, this book deals with a universal subject: when you gotta go, you gotta go! The story keeps kids on the edge of their seats: Will the book’s little girl make it to the bathroom on time?
Quinito, Day and Night / Quinito, día y noche. By Ina Cumpiano. Illus. by José Ramírez. 2008. 32p. Children’s Book Press, paper, $9.95 (9780892392964). PreS–K.
Young Quinito welcomes the reader into his home. He walks the reader through his house and introduces the members of his family. The bilingual text is deliberately sprinkled with opposite words, which are listed in a glossary at the end of the book. Quinito’s Neighborhood (2005) is an additional title about Quinito.
Tía Isa Wants a Car. By Meg Medina. Illus. by Claudio Muñoz. 2011. 32p. Candlewick, $15.99 (9780763641566). PreS–Gr. 2.
The title is a chanting refrain in this picture book, which tells a timeless immigration story of an extended family coming to America from the viewpoint of a young Latina girl, who shares a room with her aunt, Tía Isa, in a city tenement.
Tortillas and Lullabies / Tortillas y cancioncitas. By Lynn Reiser. Illus. by Corazones Valientes. 1998. 40p. Greenwillow, $17.99 (9780688146283); paper, $6.99 (9780060891855). PreS–Gr. 2.
This bilingual book follows the family traditions of several generations of women. Everyday activities, such as making tortillas, gathering flowers, washing clothes, and singing lullabies, are the “same, but different.”
The following are suggestions for sharing books about Latino families across the curriculum while implementing the Common Core State Standards. You can find more information about the standards at www.corestandards.org.
In the Classroom: Prior to reading Ina Cumpiano’s Quinito, Day and Night / Quinito, día y noche to the class, explain to students that the title of the book gives a clue to the reader that the book is going to be filled with opposite words (e.g., day and night). Ask students to brainstorm additional “opposite” words. Suggest to the class that some of those words may be in Cumpiano’s book. After reading the story, ask children if they can recall hearing any pairs of opposite words. As a follow-up activity, these words can be combined with illustrations (either drawn or printed from clip art) to create a classroom Memory game. Since many kindergarten students struggle while playing competitive games, consider creating a large-scale Memory game on the floor and have the children play collaboratively.
Common Core Connections
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.K.5.b. Demonstrate understanding of frequently occurring verbs and adjectives by relating them to their opposites (antonyms).
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.K.10. Actively engage in group-reading activities with purpose and understanding.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.K.2. Confirm understanding of a text read aloud or information presented orally or through other media by asking and answering questions about key details and requesting clarification if something is not understood.
In the Classroom: After reading Pat Mora’s A Birthday Basket for Tía aloud, tell students that you have collected five items in a basket that remind you of someone in your family and the things that you like to do with this person. Each student will then receive a large paper bag with the following information printed on a piece of paper glued to the bag: the child’s name, the directions, and the due date for when the child will present his or her bag to the class. The directions should read: “Your child just read the book A Birthday Basket for Tía, by Pat Mora. In the book, a little girl collects items from around her house (a book, a mixing bowl, a flowerpot, a teacup, flowers, and a red ball) and puts them in a basket. Each item reminds her of activities that she loves to do with her aunt. Please help your child to select five items that will fit in the bag that remind him or her of activities that he or she enjoys doing with other family members.” Each child will present a bag to the class on a different day.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.K.1.a. Follow agreed-upon rules for discussions (e.g., listening to others and taking turns speaking about the topics and texts under discussion).
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.1.4. Describe people, places, things, and events with relevant details, expressing ideas and feelings clearly.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.1.8. With guidance and support from adults, recall information from experiences or gather information from provided sources to answer a question.
In the Classroom: After reading and discussing Hairs / Pelitos, by Sandra Cisneros, have each student create a self-portrait. Take a head-shot photograph of each student to use as a reference while drawing. Additionally, draw a 7-by-10-inch rectangle in the center of a 9-by-12-inch piece of white construction paper for each child, allowing for a 1-inch border as a frame. Using any available art supplies, each child will create a self-portrait in the inner rectangle and, in the border, will draw pictures that represent activities, people, or things that each loves. These portraits can be assembled into a classroom book, displayed as a welcome board, or used as a classroom slideshow for a school open house.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.1.7. Use illustrations and details in a story to describe its characters, setting, or events.
In the Classroom: Before reading Ginger Foglesong Guy’s Fiesta! and Siesta to the class, prepare the following words on index cards with corresponding illustrations (drawn or clip art).
Fiesta objects: basket, horns, little animals, airplanes, tops, gum, whistles, rings, candles, streamers, children, and a piñata
Siesta objects: backpack, jacket, flute, book, flashlight, clock, and blanket
Explain to the class that they will be reading two books by the same author. One of these books will be about a party, and one will be about taking a nap. As a class, the children will read the cards and decide which item belongs in which book. Ask the children to justify their answers (e.g., “I love to snuggle with my blanket when I take a nap, so I think that ‘blanket’ belongs in this book, Siesta”). After reading both books, discuss students’ answers to see if there are any surprises.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.K.5.a. Sort common objects into categories (e.g., shapes, foods) to gain a sense of the concepts the categories represent.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.1.5.a. Sort words into categories (e.g., colors, clothing) to gain a sense of the concepts the categories represent.
Kristin Rydholm, a frequent contributor to Book Links, has worked as a teacher, reading specialist, and school administrator.
Free Trial, activate profile, or subscribe