It’s Done

Thanks so much Keri, Vasilly, Ari and Doret for your assistance with the Latino summer reading list. This is what I came up with:

grades 7-9

Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz RYAN/Esperanze Renance

School Library Journal: Grade 6-9-Ryan uses the experiences of her own Mexican grandmother as the basis for this compelling story of immigration and assimilation, not only to a new country but also into a different social class. Esperanza’s expectation that her 13th birthday will be celebrated with all the material pleasures and folk elements of her previous years is shattered when her father is murdered by bandits. His powerful stepbrothers then hold her mother as a social and economic hostage, wanting to force her remarriage to one of them, and go so far as to burn down the family home. Esperanza’s mother then decides to join the cook and gardener and their son as they move to the United States and work in California’s agricultural industry. They embark on a new way of life, away from the uncles, and Esperanza unwillingly enters a world where she is no longer a princess but a worker. Set against the multiethnic, labor-organizing era of the Depression, the story of Esperanza remaking herself is satisfyingly complete, including dire illness and a difficult romance. Except for the evil uncles, all of the characters are rounded, their motives genuine, with class issues honestly portrayed. Easy to booktalk, useful in classroom discussions, and accessible as pleasure reading, this well-written novel belongs in all collections.

Reaching out  by Francisco JIMANEZ/ Mas alla de mi

School Library Journal Grade 8 Up—Jiménez, the son of Mexican immigrants, left behind a life of hard work and poverty when he entered Santa Clara University in 1962. Here, he chronicles his college years and introduces people who befriended him as well as those who had prejudices against Mexicans. Throughout his story, the difficulties of his transition from family life to college life are evident. His palpable fear of failure was mitigated by those who helped him recognize his worth and develop and strengthen his character. The book ends as he is bound for graduate school at Columbia University. This sequel to Breaking Through (2001) and The Circuit (1999, both Houghton) again brings to the forefront the daily trials of poor immigrant families. The author poignantly relates his family’s struggles and how their teamwork enabled him to attend college. While the book relates his trials and successes, it also tells how his family members overcame their own obstacles. Using the style of a good storyteller, Jiménez gives  voice to strong familial bonds with an intensity that is both compelling and honest.

Whole Sky Full of Stars Rene  SALDANO

School Library Journal Grade 6-9–Barry Esquivel and Alby Alonzo, two Mexican-American teens growing up in a Texas suburb, have been friends since first grade, but their relationship is challenged by Alby’s secret gambling. In debt to Ciro, a thug who runs poker games in his garage, Alby convinces Barry, whose recently deceased father trained him as a boxer, to enter a local competition so they might split the prize money. Barry is reluctant but agrees in order to help his mother through their financial difficulties. Remembering his dad’s advice to aim for the liver, Barry wins all of the matches, and even though the prize money is only a fraction of the boys’ expectations, Alby has bet on the fight and wins big. Then his true motives and his callous exploitation of Barry’s emotions are revealed and the boys become estranged. Refusing to take any of Alby’s ill-gotten winnings, Barry must sell the 1964 Ford Galaxy he and his father had been restoring in order to help his mother. In an unexpected show of character and wisdom, Alby’s father, portrayed earlier as a boastful car salesman, comes up with a way to help his son redeem himself. Minimal character development, a mere passing nod to the boys’ ethnicity, false-sounding dialogue, and the simplistic resolution keep this novel from realizing its potential, but its brevity and vivid descriptions of the boxing matches are likely to attract male reluctant readers.

Tortilla Sun by Jennifer Cervantes

Amazon description: When twelve-year-old Izzy discovers a beat-up baseball marked with the words ‘Because magic’ while unpacking in yet another new apartment, she is determined to figure out what it means. What secrets does this old ball have to tell? Her mom certainly isn’t sharing any especially when it comes to Izzy’s father, who died before Izzy was born. But when she spends the summer in her Nana’s remote New Mexico village, Izzy discovers long-buried secrets that come alive in an enchanted landscape of watermelon mountains, whispering winds, and tortilla suns. Infused with the flavor of the southwest and sprinkled with just a pinch of magic, this heartfelt middle grade debut is as rich and satisfying as Nana’s homemade enchiladas.

The Surrender tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom by Margarita L’ENGLE

School Library Journal: Grade 9 Up—Often, popular knowledge of Cuba begins and ends with late-20th-century textbook fare: the Cuban Revolution, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and Fidel Castro. The Surrender Tree, however, transports readers to another, though no less tumultuous, era. Spanning the years 1850–1899, Engle’s poems construct a narrative woven around the nation’s Wars for Independence. The poems are told in alternating voices, though predominantly by Rosa, a “freed” slave and natural healer destined to a life on the lam in the island’ s wild interior. Other narrators include Teniente Muerte, or Lieutenant Death, the son of a slave hunter turned ruthless soldier; José, Rosa’s husband and partner in healing; and Silvia, an escapee from one of Cuba’s reconcentration camps. The Surrender Tree is hauntingly beautiful, revealing pieces of Cuba’s troubled past through the poetry of hidden moments such as the glimpse of a woman shuttling children through a cave roof for Rosa’s care or the snapshot of runaway Chinese slaves catching a crocodile to eat. Though the narrative feels somewhat repetitive in its first third, one comes to realize it is merely symbolic of the unending cycle of war and the necessity for Rosa and other freed slaves to flee domesticity each time a new conflict begins. Aside from its considerable stand-alone merit, this book, when paired with Engle’s The Poet Slave of Cuba: A Biography of Juan Francisco Manzano (Holt, 2006), delivers endless possibilities for discussion about poetry, colonialism, slavery, and American foreign policy.

Pele King of Soccer/el ry del futbol Monica BROWN author, Rudy GUTIERREZ illustrator

Booklist Twisting multiple perspectives, adding swirls of color, and limning distorted figures with loose auras of yellow and blue, Gutiérrez creates high-energy, full-bleed illustrations that kick up the unexceptional English-over-Spanish text of this tribute to Pelé, still soccer’s O Rei (The King). “Every evening, no matter how tired they were, Pelé and his father, Dondinho, would play soccer in the streets. Whoops! Sometimes Pelé accidentally broke a window or kicked a ball over a fence.” Brown retraces Pelé’s youth and swift rise to fame, closing with a dramatic account of his 1,000th goal. He went on to score 280 more, and has remained active since his retirement, but readers will find that sort of information only in the fine-print author’s note at the end.

Rogelia’s House of Magic by Jamie MARTINEZ-WAND

School Library Journal I Grade 7–10—Set in Southern California, this novel is about three teens who find a common bond and grow in their relationships as they learn the healing arts from a curandera (folk healer). Marina, from a newly wealthy Hispanic family, struggles with her mother’s insistence that she forget her Mexican heritage and barrio roots. Fern, whose Colombian family still lives in the old neighborhood, is a free spirit who has trouble trusting a potential boyfriend. When Rogelia Garcia, a wise curandera from Mexico, becomes the maid at Marina’s house, the girls befriend her granddaughter, Xochitl, who grieves for the twin sister she recently lost in a tragic accident. Rogelia takes the girls on as apprentices and helps them to understand and control their innate magical powers (Marina hears voices from the beyond, Fern sees auras, and Xochitl has the ability to disappear) while teaching them that by caring for and healing others, they can help and heal themselves. The narrative is well written and descriptive, incorporating Spanish phrases that are easy to understand in context and add flavor to the telling. The characters and their relationships with others are solidly developed.

Heat by Mike LUPICA

Grade 5-8–Growing up in the Bronx and playing Little League baseball in the shadow of Yankee Stadium, it’s no surprise that 12-year-old Michael Arroyo loves baseball, especially the New York Yankees, even though he can’t afford to buy a ticket to watch them play. Michael’s the best Little League pitcher in the district, and seems destined to lead his all-star team to the championship game, which will be held inside Yankee Stadium, with a trip to the Little League World Series on the line. But all that changes when a jealous rival coach challenges whether Michael is as young as he claims in this novel by Mike Lupica (Philomel, 2006). Placed on the sidelines, Michael desperately tries to find a way to get his birth certificate from Cuba while at the same time keeping social services from finding out that he and his older brother are living on their own following the recent death of their beloved papi. Michael needs all the help he can get from his best friend Manny and from a beautiful, mysterious girl he meets at the baseball field. Although the story moves slowly in a few spots, Paolo Andino’s excellent narration will make listeners pull for Michael and his teammates. As good as the baseball games are, though, the best part of the book is when Manny’s actor uncle impersonates Michael’s father in an attempt to get the social services worker out of their hair. A sure hit with baseball fans.

I Wanna Be Your Shoebox by Christina GARCIA

School Library Journal Grade 6–8—Yumi Ruíz-Hirsch attends a Southern California middle school. She likes to surf; she’s a musician, and she’s the daughter of a truly contemporary, international family (her mother is Cuban and her father has a Japanese mother and a Jewish dad). Yumi loves her divorced parents, even though she isn’t thrilled with the idea of her mom’s approaching marriage, and her punk-rocker father isn’t all that successful. Additionally, the bright and sensitive eighth grader is learning to cope with the impending loss of her grandfather, who is dying from cancer. She wants to learn everything she can about him while she still has him. Interspersed throughout the book are Saul’s stories of his life, which reveal not only his colorful past, but also provide insight into his relationships and resilience. Yumi gleans self-awareness from her grandfather’s stories, and their lessons punctuate her reflections. In all, this is a fast, funny, and surprisingly plausible book with likable, slightly off-beat characters who interact and relate genuinely, often movingly.

Confetti Girl by Diana LOPEZ

School Library Journal Grade 4-8–Lina attends middle school in Corpus Christi, TX, has a crush on classmate Luís, loves science and sports, and has a sock obsession as a result of her pants never being long enough for her tall body. Her best friend, Vanessa Cantu, lives across the street with her mother, who is still bitter about a divorce that happened a few years earlier. Lina’s mother died last year, and her father is still grieving but struggling to live up to his responsibilities. Dichos, Spanish sayings or proverbs, are translated at the top of every chapter. Spanish phrases are sprinkled throughout the text, reflecting Lina’s bilingual community. The budding romance, and typical middle school events such as detention, lunchroom disasters, and reports, keep things moving. Lina is essentially a sunny, happy child and her sadness and anger are more blips on the radar than real angst. A subplot about Luís’s stuttering seems extraneous. Quite typical in characters, plot, and style, this story is most notable for its casual introduction to Spanish language and culture, overtly accessible to all.

The Keeper by Mal PEET

Grade 8 Up–When acclaimed South American journalist Paul Faustino begins his interview with World Cup soccer star El Gato, he expects to be recording the thoughts of a goalkeeper at the height of his career. He never envisioned hearing about a young, lonely boy growing up in the middle of a rain forest, who wandered upon a mysterious soccer field and an apparition that appeared to him daily and trained him to become the greatest goalkeeper ever known. Is El Gato mad? Is he suffering from hallucinations due to the stress of the game? Is there some truth to be discovered in his fantastic tale? Only at the conclusion of the interview and the resolution of who the Keeper really is and what he is waiting for will readers even think of putting down this fascinating book. Peet achieves his expressed desire to write an entirely new kind of soccer story, not only including the experience of play, but also mesmerizing readers with a supernatural mystery in a tale about relationships, loneliness, and believing in oneself. This is a well-written, fast-paced sports story that addresses far more than just the sport itself.

grades 10-12

The Good Girls Guide to Getting Kidnapped by Yxta Maya MURRAY

Booklist The pace never slows in this gripping novel that begins when 15-year-old Michelle blasts past her competition at a regional track meet. What even her best friend, Kiki, doesn’t know is that Mish is running just as hard from her past, when she was known as Princess P, the daughter of a leader in one of South L.A.’s toughest gangs. While her family is in jail, Michelle has turned her life around with the help of a great, if neurotic, foster dad. Then the gang resurfaces and kidnaps Kiki and Michelle. In her powerful narrative, Michelle slides into gangsta mode, explaining jargon and gang behaviors to Kiki, and uninitiated readers, without distracting from the story. The characters are all developed and memorable, especially Michelle and Kiki, who almost hurtle from the pages, and the sense of place is vivid. Even as the cinematic action and violence races along, readers will never lose track of the story’s driving question—can Michelle ever leave her past behind?—as they race to the ambiguous conclusion. Grades 9-12

Marcelo in the Real W­­­­­orld by Francisco STORK

School Library Journal Starred Review. Grade 8 Up—Like Christopher Boone, the protagonist in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Doubleday, 2003), Marcelo Sandoval is a high-functioning, extremely self-aware teenager with Asperger’s syndrome. He has an empathetic mother and a father, Arturo, who appears to be less empathetic as he pushes Marcelo to live in the “real world.” The form the real world takes is a summer job in the mailroom at Arturo’s law office. The teen is forced to think on his feet, multitask, and deal with duplicitous people who try to take advantage of him. Over the course of a summer, Marcelo learns that he can function in society; he is especially surprised to find that he can learn to read people’s expressions, even to the point of knowing whom he can and cannot trust. Writing in a first-person narrative, Stork does an amazing job of entering Marcelo’s consciousness and presenting him as a dynamic, sympathetic, and wholly believable character. At a little over 300 pages, the story drags at some points, bogging down in the middle. However, the dilemmas that Marcelo faces are told in a compelling fashion, which helps to keep readers engaged.

Always running: La Vida Loca: Gang Days in L.A. by Luis  RODRIGUEZ/ El Testimonio de un Pandillero

Publishers Weekly As the preface of this admirable but ultimately disappointing memoir states, Rodriguez, an award-winning poet and publisher of the small press Tia Chucha, decided to document his youth as an East Los Angeles gang member in an effort to steer his teenaged son, Ramiro, away from the gang that he recently joined.

Zoot Suit: A bilingual edition by Luis VALDEZ

From the publisher: Experimenting with brash forms of narration, pop culture of the war era, and complex characterizations, this quintessential exploration of the Mexican-American experience in the United States during the 1940s was the first, and only, Chicano play to open on Broadway.

Soccer the ultimate guide by Martin CLOAKE

Amazon description Building on the success of Soccer: the Ultimate Guide, DK’s bringing the world’s game to young readers in a revised and updated edition. More pages, more pictures, more facts, stats, and info make Soccer: The Ultimate Guide truly ultimate. Updated and revised in time for the 2010 FIFA World Cup!

Graffiti world: Street art from five continents by Nicholas GANZ

School Library Journal Adult/High School–This book is packed with full-color photographs representative of graffiti styles and artists from around the world. Though there is still a level of lawlessness involved in some who practice in the traditional way, many of the murals shown are commissioned works of “urban art.” The frequent use of nicknames and disguised photos shows that often these artists are still “underground” even as their art form becomes more recognized. The encyclopedic arrangement, first by continent and then by artist’s nom de plume, serves the book well. Each continent also gets a foldout that demonstrates the best local artwork. Most of the textual information about the artists and their work is contained in a back “information” section, keeping the focus of the book on the art. This beautifully designed volume is respectful and knowledgeable about its oft-misunderstood subject matter. Budding artists everywhere will be thrilled to see the level of expertise that can be achieved in the graffiti format.

Graffiti Girl by Kelly PARA

Raised by her single mom (who’s always dating the wrong kind of man) in a struggling California neighborhood, Angel Rodriguez is a headstrong, independent young woman who channels her hopes and dreams for the future into her painting. But when her entry for a community mural doesn’t rate, she’s heartbroken. Even with winning artist Nathan Ramos — a senior track star and Angel’s secret crush — taking a sudden interest in Angel and her art, she’s angry and hurt. She’s determined to find her own place in the art world, her own way.

That’s when Miguel Badalin — from the notorious graffiti crew Reyes Del Norte — opens her eyes to an underground world of graf tags and turf wars. She’s blown away by this bad boy’s fantastic work and finds herself drawn to his dangerous charm. Soon she’s running with Miguel’s crew, pushing her skills to the limit and beginning to emerge as the artist she always dreamed she could be. But Nathan and Miguel are bitter enemies with a shared past, and choosing between them and their wildly different approaches to life and art means that Angel must decide what matters most before the artist inside of her can truly break free.

Mexican White Boy by Matt DE LA PENA

School Library Journal Grade 9 Up—No matter where he lives, 16-year-old Danny Lopez is an outsider. At his private high school in wealthy northern San Diego County, “nobody paid him any attention…because he was Mexican.” It didn’t matter that he was half white. But when he visits the Mexican side of his family in National City, just a dozen miles from the border, Danny feels “Albino almost” and ashamed. He doesn’t even speak Spanish. Rather than learning to blend in, Danny disengages from both worlds, rarely speaking and running his mind in circles with questions about how he might have kept his absent father from leaving the family. He decides to spend the summer in National City, hoping to get closer to his dad’s roots and learn how to be “real” and stop feeling numb. Instead, he finds that, by the end of the summer, he has filled the void through unexpected friendship and love. In this first-rate exploration of self-identity, Danny’s growth as a baseball pitcher becomes a metaphor for the conflicts he must overcome due to his biracial heritage. Dialogue written in a coarse street vernacular and interwoven with Spanish is awkward to read at first—like Danny, readers are made to feel like outsiders among the hard-edged kids of National City. But as the characters develop, their language starts to feel familiar and warm, and their subtle tenderness becomes more apparent. A mostly linear plot (with occasional flashbacks), plenty of sports action, and short chapters make this book a great pick for reluctant or less-experienced readers.

The Last Summer of Death Warriors by Francisco  STORK

School Library Journal Grade 8 Up—Orphaned Pancho’s 20-year-old mentally disabled sister is found dead in a New Mexico motel room. He meets D.Q., dying of a rare cancer, at a home for boys. D.Q.’s mother, Helen, forces him to undergo experimental chemotherapy, despite the gruesome side effects. Pancho cares for D.Q. during his stay at a Ronald McDonald-type residence. The one bright spot is Marisol, who works there. D.Q. knows that Pancho plans to find and destroy Rosa’s killer. He tries to teach his new friend the way of the Death Warrior: only when you love do you truly live. Though Pancho plots the murder methodically, his plan is never believable. This derails the novel considerably and cancels any mystery that might have quickened the pace of the story. However, the New Mexico landscape is vivid and the author explores Anglo/Mexican relations subtly. Stork’s characterizations are solid, from D.Q.’s probing intensity to Pancho’s silent rage. Female characters are vivid as well, from Helen’s passive aggression to Marisol, who displays a soulful intelligence. The narrative is dialogue heavy, but even philosophical conversations between steely Pancho and effusive D.Q. are natural, and often funny.—Johanna Lewis, New York Public Library

Sofi Medoza’s Guide to Getting Lost in Mexico ALEGRIA

School Library Journal Grade 9 Up—Sofi is a California teen obsessed with clothes, boys, and trying to escape the strict controls of her immigrant parents. Fed up with their rules, she tells them that she is spending the weekend with a friend, cramming for finals. Instead, she sets off for Mexico with two girlfriends. Instead of the anticipated romantic encounter with her big crush, Sofi experiences drunken make-out sessions and American tourists behaving badly. Eager to return home, she is stopped at the border and told that her green card is a fake. Hysterical, Sofi calls home to discover that she and her parents are not legal citizens, and that she is trapped. Unable to speak Spanish, she goes to stay with her father’s sister. Far away from iPods, Internet access, and a working phone, Sofi is forced to review her life and realize the sacrifices her parents made to give her better opportunities. The plot is paced well, with Sofi gradually evolving from a spoiled American teen into a bicultural, bilingual young adult. The Spanish language and foreign setting are well integrated into the book. While the Americans are more shallowly developed, the Mexicans whom Sofi encounters are vivid and well-rounded. Although there are occasional clichés, the writing is emotional and engaging. The author’s Estrella’s Quinceañera (S & S) and Laura Resau’s What the Moon Saw (Delacorte, both 2006) also explore a young woman’s struggle with a bicultural identity.

Brothers Torres by Coert Voorhees

School Library Journal Starred Review. Grade 9 Up—Frankie Torres Towers knows his older brother, Steve, is endangering his college scholarship by staying out all night with the local cholos and picking fights with his soccer teammates. Accepting of his sibling’s good looks and macho charm, Frankie figures Steve is just looking for respect and covers for him, deflecting his parents’ questions and picking up the slack at Los Torres, the family’s New Mexican restaurant. Frankie’s primary obsession is getting a date with Rebecca Sanchez for the Homecoming dance. When he exhibits some bravado against rich kid and soccer jock John Dalton, he only hopes to win her attention, but he unintentionally incites a series of incidents that forces his brother to defend him. Adding insult to injury, Frankie’s working-class parents begin secretly negotiating the sale of Los Torres to the Daltons. Protected by his brother’s squad of toughs, Frankie seeks revenge but soon learns what these warring factions of older boys are willing to risk. Frankie is as memorable a character as Sherman Alexie’s Junior Spirit in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (Little, Brown, 2007). He exhibits a resiliency that is hopeful, and his colorful language and humor both confirm and dispel ethnic stereotypes. Flecked with Spanish phrases and authentic street slang and colloquialisms, Frankie’s story is as poignant as it is hip and funny and will be a welcome addition to collections serving teens.

Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood by Benjamin Alire Saenz

School Library Journal Grade 9 Up–Sammy Santos–responsible, bright, and self-contained–grows up in the Hollywood barrio of Las Cruces, NM, during the last half of the 1960s. Sáenz provides the Mexican-American teen with a voice that is genuine and compelling, realistic in its limitations and nuances as he comes to grips with the death of Juliana, his first love, and the increasingly complex demands and needs of his remaining friends, as well as of his family and neighbors. Subplots involve the role of the Church in the barrio, the movement from authoritarian school administrations to the loosening of rules during the Vietnam War period, the realistic portrayal of what happened to too many gay teens during this period (and continues to happen today), the effects of the draft on poor young men of color, the roles adopted by individual teens as they mature within a community’s social order, and family ties that require people to choose sometimes for themselves and sometimes for others in the family. Sáenz works through all this material neatly and so effectively that Sammy deserves to become a character of lasting interest to both casual readers and literature classes. Expletives appear throughout as do large helpings of Spanish, without italics and not always with English echoed afterward, in perfect keeping both with Sammy’s world and his self-perception. His hopes and plans for a better life, beyond the hold of Hollywood are poignant and palpable. This is a powerful and authentic look at a community’s aspirations and the tragic losses that result from shattered dreams.


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