Friday, January 8, 2010

REVIEW: The Storyteller's Candle/La Velita de los Cuentos

The Storyteller's Candle/La velita de los cuentos

Gonzalez, L.  (2008).  The Storyteller's Candle/La Velita de los Cuentos.  San Francisco, CA:  Children's Book Press.


Appetizer: Set during the Great Depression, The Storyteller's Candle shares the story of Hildamar who is preparing for her first Christmas in New York City after her family emigrated from Puerto Rico.

Kay, so this is the type of book that's meant to make librarians and teachers happy.  It includes kids begging to go to the library (and then shows that the resulting trip to the library is a family and friend affair), a bit of biographical information on a very noteworthy librarian and Puerto Rican representation.

This duel-language picturebook shares the English version on the left and the Spanish version of the story on the right.  Since both of these languages are read left to right, I did feel like this format privileged the English a little more than the Spanish.  Also, since this story is text heavy, the fact that a child will open the book and see that there are several paragraphs of text on EVERY SINGLE PAGE may send some grade school readers running.  A teacher will have to make sure students know quickly that since the text includes two languages, there's no need to flee in terror of all that text.

I especially liked that this book shares information of Pura Belpre, the first Latina librarian in New York public library.  She now has an ALA award named for her, focusing on Latino children's literature.

(By the way, only ten more days until the new award winners are announced!!!!  SQUEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!)

I like the illustrations done with oil washes and  paper collages by Lulu Delacre, who also included touches of news paper print on every page, which reinforces the importance of literacy.  Since the lines of print are actually  included into the architecture of the images of New York City, it would be possible to argue that reading can serve as a foundation for people to build their lives upon.

Dinner Conversation:

"Hildamar shivered with cold as she walked home from school with her cousin Santiago.  The icy afternoon wind froze their hands and burned their faces.  It was the last week of school before winter break.  It was also Hildamar's first Navidad in New York!"

"Hildamar, Santiago and Titi Maria passed a tall building with windows that seemed to invite them inside.  This building was different from the dark apartment buildings that stretched from one street corner to the other.
"Titi Maria, what's inside?" Hildamar asked.  "Can we go in?"
"That's the library."

"Ms. Belpre invited the children to visit the library during winter vacation.
"The library is for everyone, la biblioteca es para todos," she said.
Hildamar chouldn't wiat to tell everyone in El Barrio the good news."

"They speak Spanish at the library!" Hildamar shouted.
"Can we go to the library today?" Santiago begged."

"Inside, children filled the story room.  Ms. Belpre welcomed them with a smile.  "Bienvenidos!  Welcome!" she said.
The storyteller's candle was lit and soon the story began."

To Go with the Meal:

Oh my gosh you guys, the discussion topics!  So many!  It might make my head explode!  A teacher can discuss immigration from a historical perspective, or discuss it in terms of representing the experiences of students who have recently immigrated and are still adjusting to a new culture and climate and missing home.  How different cultures and countries celebrate various holidays (Three Kings' Day is described in the story).  The significance of Three Kings' Day.  Performing in local holiday pageants.  New York City neighborhoods.  A teacher can discuss a love for reading.  How to use the public library.  When the local library does story hour and hosts other community events.  The history of the library in America (*nods* to Ben Franklin).  And so on.

This would be a good book to share before having a librarian visit a classroom.  A teacher could focus on how many local libraries try to accommodate the diversity in their community and focus on how even if a child isn't confident of their ability to read or speak English, a librarian should be able to welcome them and help them find a book for them to enjoy.

Tasty Rating:  !!!!

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