March 24, 2017

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Hands-on Projects and Titles that Celebrate Maker and Latino Cultures | Libro por libro

A scene from Newbery Honor winner Margarita Engle’s Drum Dream Girl.  Illustration by Pura Belpré Award winner Rafael López.

A scene from Newbery Honor winner Margarita Engle’s Drum Dream Girl.
Illustration by Pura Belpré Award winner Rafael López.

Imagine that you are entering a library with a brand-spanking-new maker space. This same library has a largely Spanish-speaking clientele. It features a glass-enclosed area formerly used as a computer lab. The space is flexible, with furniture designed to be easily movable and to accommodate multiple stations. To celebrate the new configuration, the library has decided to host a community Maker Faire. Families are invited to partake in an all-day immersion of maker culture with a Latino twist.

Making Art

Inside, the current maker-in-residence, a local Latina artist, is leading children and their parents in an art project—they are making papel picado, a Mexican folk art, in which paper is cut into elaborate designs. Prominently displayed on a table featuring books from the library’s collection is Magic Windows by Carmen Lomas Garza and its companion title Making Magic Windows (Children’s Book Press, 2014).

Libro-Garza_Magic-WindowsLOMAS GARZA, Carmen. Magic Windows: Cut-Paper Art and Stories as told to Harriet Rohmer/Ventanas Magicas: Papel picado y relatos de Carmen Lomas Garza contados a Harriet Rohmer. tr. by Francisco X. Alarcon. Children’s Book Pr. 2003. pap. $9.95. ISBN 9780892391837.
Gr 1-4–This 2000 Pura Belpré Award winner for illustration exhibits a strong sense of extended family ties and was inspired by Lomas Garza’s grandfather. One of the illustrations was created as an offering for him. Each of the exquisite paper cuts are accompanied by a one-page story. Many of the images portray things from nature such as a nopal cactus, flowers, horned toads, hummingbirds, fish, deer in a corn field, and the Mexican symbol of the eagle with a rattlesnake. The beauty of this title is not only the artwork, but the way in which Lomas Garza turns her creations into a tribute to her family and her culture. This book is really about connections across generations.
Young patrons can create their own papel picado by trying out these simple instructions.

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The walls of the maker space have been coated with a special paint that turns them into erasable whiteboards, and a colorful mural by the maker-in-residence is taking shape. Children are invited to add their own drawings to the scene of people dancing and playing instruments in a carnival-like setting.

Libro-Ortiz-Sofi-Magic-Musical-MuralORTIZ, Raquel M. Sofi and the Magic, Musical Mural/Sofi y el mágico mural musical. illus. by Maria Dominguez. Piñata Bks. 2015. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781558858039.
PrS-Gr 3–When Sofi is sent on an errand to the bodega to get some milk, she gets sidetracked on the way home. The bodega is just at the end of the block, but the mural, The Pueblo Sings, painted on the side of the building, is a huge distraction with its “musicians, dancers, tropical fish” and a vejigante, or trickster. After she buys the milk, she stops to admire the mural again, and it comes alive. One of the musicians stretches out his hand, and Sofi finds herself in the world of the mural. She dances and becomes part of the celebration, eventually becoming a vejigante herself. Then she is back in the real world with the jug of milk at her feet.
The titular mural isn’t presented in all of its glory—only pieces. The kids in our imaginary maker space could have a great time fleshing it out. They can also try their hand at making their own vejigante masks.

Making Music

Two former study rooms have been converted to music and video recording studios. Inside one of them is a drummer laying down tracks with her cajón, a six-sided box-shaped percussion instrument. She was inspired to learn percussion when she learned about Millo Castro Zaldarriaga.

Libro-Engle_DrumDreamGirlENGLE, Margarita. Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music. illus. by Rafael López. HMH. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780544102293.
Gr 2-5 –Engle, writing in her familiar free verse, tells the story of Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, a girl of Chinese, African, and Cuban ancestry who broke the gender barrier in the male-dominated Cuban salsa scene. Millo dreams and practices on her drums until she gets the opportunity to play her bongos in a cafe. The author’s note shares more about the young musician’s story, inspiring readers to learn about this heroine who broke through the drumhead ceiling. López’s illustrations here are among his best. There’s a magical realism cast to the images. When Millo taps out rhythms on the table at home, López depicts her and the table floating dreamlike in the air. The illustrator creates poetry using the vibrant visuals. His intriguing use of perspective makes the drums seem bigger than the birds and fauna pictured in the background. This book will be a hit with young, budding musicians, and any kids who want to do something that they are told they cannot.

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In the other studio, a young girl with a vihuela is recording a song she has written.

Libro-Torres-FINDING_THE_MUSICTORRES, Jennifer. Finding the Music/En pos de la música. illus. by Renato Alarcão. Lee & Low. 2015. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9780892392919.
Gr 2-5 –Reyna accidentally damages her grandfather’s vihuela, which is smaller than but similar to a guitar. The instrument hangs above a booth in her family’s restaurant, until Reyna knocks it from the wall, gesticulating wildly because of her frustration with the behavior of twin boys who are misbehaving in the next booth. Reyna journeys throughout the neighborhood to find a way to get the vihuela fixed. The journey takes her to someone who not only knew her grandfather but also has an old recording on which her grandfather played.

The vihuela is a very important part of mariachi music, as an author’s note makes clear. Take the opportunity to explore mariachi music by having local musicians join in on a fiesta-themed storytime. For related hands-on projects, check out these maracas and drum craft ideas on Pinterest.

Making Fun

In the upcoming weeks, the library’s maker-in-residence, who also belongs to the local lowrider club, will be teaching attendees how to use the brand-new 3-D printer by creating parts for her vehicle. Included on the list of related library materials is the graphic novel Lowriders in Space.

Libro-Camper-Lowriders-in-spaceCAMPER, Cathy. Lowriders in Space. illus. by Raúl the Third. Chronicle. 2014. Tr $22.99. ISBN 9781452121550; pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781452128696.
Gr 3-6–This graphic novel is a maker book if there ever was one. In a world occupied by animals and insects, the wolf Lupe Impala and her sidekicks, the aptly named mosquito Elirio Malaria and Flapjack Octopus set out to win the Universal Car Competition. They take an old junker and fix it up. Lupe and friends are going to need a lot of fixtures to get the vehicle running. They don’t have a lot of money, so they improvise with things they find at an old, abandoned airplane factory. They come upon the mother lode—an unopened box of random rocket parts. The friends trick out the car (Raúl the Third’s illustrations show the trio’s designs sketched out on graphing paper) and make it look like new. With the spare rocket parts, the car jets off into space, getting a makeover of an extraterrestrial kind.

With its terrific retro three-color comic illustrations, the ingenious design of the spreads, the Latino cultural references and Spanish (including translations) sprinkled throughout, and particularly the breezy, easy-to-read text, this book is a perfect vehicle for getting reluctant readers engaged.

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The 3-D printer expert will also be on hand to help kids design and print out their own mini Lucha Libre wrestler action figures. Yuyi Morales’s Niño Wrestles the World (Roaring Brook, 2013) and Xavier Garza’s books are just the thing to get kids excited for the future session.

Libro-Nikko--Great-and-MightyGARZA, Xavier. The Great and Mighty Nikko! A Bilingual Counting Book. Cinco Puntos. Aug. 2015. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781935955825; pap. $7.95. ISBN 9781935955832.
K-Gr 3–Garza takes the traditional bedtime story and gives it a festive twist. Nikko is playing with Lucha Libre action figures on his bed. His mother, of course, doesn’t want him wrestling on the bed. Nikko is not wrestling; it’s the Lucha Libre fighters. His mother points out that they are just toys, but Nikko tells her that his bed has become a Lucha Libre ring. The wrestlers come out one at a time until it’s nine against one—it’s Nikko himself who emerges triumphant. What makes this work particularly distinctive is Garza’s art, which is big and bold, with strong colors. The title’s art style has a comic book feel, down to the Growls! and Roars! of the wrestlers. This is a book that celebrates not only Mexican culture, but the universal joys of imaginative play.

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The Maker Faire’s last stop is a kite-making booth, complete with recycled materials and an educator discussing the physics of kite-flying with the young participants. The following volume serves as an excellent read-aloud to conclude the program.

Libro-Kleipeis_Franciscos-KitesKLEPEIS, Alicia. Z. Francisco’s Kites/Las cometas de Francisco. illus. by Gary Undercuffler. tr. by Gabriela Baeza Ventura. Piñata Bks. 2015. pap. $17.95. ISBN 9781558858046.
PrS-Gr 3 –As he looks out his window and sees kites flying, Francisco decides that he wants to make kites himself. He doesn’t have money to buy supplies, but he scours the area around his apartment building and finds junk and scrap, all perfect for making a kite. When Francisco finally gets to fly his creation, he is approached by Mr. Morales, the owner of a recycled goods shop who says he wants Francisco to make kites that he can sell. Once the boy’s mother gives her approval, Francisco makes the kites, which sell out. The child uses his earnings to take his mother out to a Salvadoran restaurant for her birthday. The notion of creating things of beauty with recycled materials makes this book perfect to share with budding makers. Check out these kid-friendly instructions for creating kites.

Making Food

To finish off the day, refreshments are served—homemade salsa in molcajetes with chips. Jorge Argueta’s Salsa is on display, along with all his other “Cooking Poem” titles (Groundwood).

Libro-Argueta-Salsa-by-JorgeARGUETA, Jorge. Salsa: Un poema para cocinar/A Cooking Poem. illus. by Duncan Tonatiuh. tr. by Elisa Amado. Groundwood. 2015. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781554984428.
PreS–2–Argueta’s cooking poems have all been gems, and it’s surprising to realize that up until now he hasn’t covered salsa. Argueta places the yummy treat into historical context, beginning with the traditional vessel in which salsa is made—the molcajete, which is fashioned from volcanic rock. The first illustration depicts a volcano, giving the whole process a sense of awe and wonder. Argueta connects the making of salsa with ancestors and ancient tradition. Modern-day children are depicted in the style of ancient Aztec art as they make the salsa from fresh ingredients. The salsa makes them want to dance in the style named after this delicious, spicy condiment. The poem, presented bilingually, shines in both languages.
Those at the cooking station can use the verses that are highlighted in Argueta’s text or this easy-to-follow and kid-friendly recipe—adult supervision always required—to concoct the flavorful sauce.

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You leave the maker space amazed and gratified by the way that the activities and technology are galvanizing the community. You are grateful that, no matter how advanced the technology, makers are still inspired by books and stories.

This article was published in School Library Journal's May 2015 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Tim Wadham About Tim Wadham

Tim Wadham (wadhambooks@gmail.com) is a library administrator and the author of Wordplay for Kids (ALA Editions, 2015).

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Comments

  1. I loved this article especially all the wonderful Authors that were Bilingual the activities are great and I hope to use some of the books and activities in my next year’s “Dia de los Ninos /Dia de los Libros Celebration.”

  2. Kathleen Murphy-Morales says:

    This absolutely excites me to no end. I teach in a dual immersion school with a 40% Latino population. I am always looking for books and ideas to share for our family nights as well as collaborative days of celebration. Muchísimas gracias! Este año usaremos esto para inspiración! ❤️