Librarians Subverting Opportunistic Book Sellers

Opportunity; 193 options available to borrow a free copy of Michelle Serros’ landmark book: Chicana Falsa, and other stories about death, identity and Oxnard. Another 289 options for her follow up How To Be a Chicana Role Model. A quick search through OCLC’s WorldCat shows that Serros’ work can be found on the book shelves of libraries as far away as the University College Cork Library and the National Library Board in Singapore. 4,900 and 8,400 miles away from Oxnard, Fresno, Berkeley…

serros2

On the other hand, a peek at Amazon will show you that both texts in question are now available for up to $197.40 and $178.70 (dis)respectively.

serros

In the library world, most of us are familiar with the magical Inter-Library Loan (ILL) process, however, it is possible that some of our friends and extended communities are unaware of how the process works. If you want to find out if any of Michele Serros’ work is available at a library near you follow this link. It is very likely you can borrow a copy for free via your local public or academic library. The ILL process is painless and libraries do it all the time. Some may charge a small fee to cover incidental costs and others will be able to acquire materials free of cost.

OCLC’s WorldCat is an invaluable resource, you can even find the dvd for season of The George Lopez Show that Serros worked on.

In the event that you would like to contribute funds to honor the life and work of Michele Serros, you can visit the  GiveForward campaign that was set up to help with her medical expenses.  

c/s

Magical Border Crossings

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Gathering the Sun: An Alphabet in Spanish and English

Title: Gathering the Sun: An Alphabet in Spanish and English | Author: Alma Flor Ada | Illustrator: Simón Silva | Publisher: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books | Date of Publication: 1997 | ISBN: 978-0-68813-904-9 | Number of pages: 29  | Grade Level: Preschool – Grade 5 | Literary Trend: Spotlight on Diversity

Ada, A.F. (1997). Gathering the Sun: An Alphabet in Spanish and English. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers.

        Alma Flor Ada distinguishes herself from an excellent field of alphabet book authors in Gathering the Sun, a book that champions the spirit and dedication of the Mexican farmworker. The poetic passages for each letter are illuminated by the brilliant illustration work of Simón Silva in a transcendence that is equaled only by the great Mexican master painters like Rufino Tamayo and Jose Clemente Orozco. Each page jumps out at readers and offers beautiful poem after poem and stunning vistas of the farmworker experience. Young readers who encounter this book will learn new words and be introduced to the concept that some Spanish words and emotions are not translatable, but rather exist in a beauty that is just beyond the grasp of mono-lingual culture.

        Flor Ada rearranges the common format of bilingual alphabet book and often an english word like Tree is set amongst the page for Á, as in “Árboles compañeros de mi infancia…” Also gone are the transitional “is for” text, which serves to strongly reinforce the power of each passage. She also mashes up letters like E and F for ¿Estrellas o Flores? (Stars or Flowers?) and emphasizes how a letter fits into a larger word or meaning like niÑa or farmWorker to great effect.

        As powerful as Flor Ada’s text is, it impossible to separate the imagery from the true value of this book. Readers may wonder if the illustrations provided the inspiration for the text or vice versa and might be inspired to learn more about the collaborative process of picture books. Fittingly, Gathering the Sun represents the farm worker cultural emphasis on family collaboration and the spiritual process. R and S are illustrated by a father and son planting seeds in an infinite glowing field, T shows a family preparing dinner together Z is adorned by a father carrying his young, sleeping son in one arm and freshly picked basket of carrots in the other as the sun sets on another day of hard labor and family bonding.

        Booklist declares that Gathering the Sun is “brimming with respect and pride… (and) will add much to any unit on farming and Mexican American heritage.” School Library Journal expresses that it is perfectly suited to be read aloud to students regardless of their native language, yet touch on issues of authenticity in the English translations that do not “match the Spanish originals in rhythm, assonance, or meter.” Curiously, Flor Ada, renowned for her bilingual and English books, did not provide the translations herself and informed readers might wonder what the translation process involved, but this minor detail is not likely to detract from the power of this selection.

        Most importantly, Flor Ada reinforces her belief that putting poetry to song makes for stronger readers and Gathering the Sun is a perfect introduction the her highly praised works.

Suni Paz sings the letter N for Nopalera from Gathering the Sun.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Title: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe | Author: Benjamin Alire Sáenz | Illustrator: Cover illustration of landscape and sky: Mark Brabant | Hand-lettering and illustrations in sky: Sarah Jane Coleman | Publisher: Simon & Schuster BFYR | Date of Publication: 2012 | ISBN: 978-1-4424-0893-7 (pbk) | Number of pages: 359 | Grade Level: 7 and up | Literary Trend: SPOTLIGHT ON DIVERSITY

Sáenz, B.A. (2012). Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.

        Winner of countless awards and honors, Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s, young adult novel of teenage angst and love is a rare opportunity for young readers to indulge in fine literary fiction that is not watered down or peppered with contemporary cultural references for the sake of tapping into the profitable young adult market. Set in late 1980’s Texas, Aristotle and Dante meet amidst a wash of expressionless peers and quickly their poetic tendencies create a bond that reignites Aristotle’s passion to explore life. Over the span of a summer vacation the two friends daydream about life and the oncoming reality of becoming adults. Tragedy is intersected more than once and readers are left to anticipate how the characters will react to each new challenge.

        Alire Sáenz styles this novel with a cautious blend of anticipation and hopefulness, and the titular characters are seemingly on the verge of discovering their true selves at any given moment. Just as summer comes to a close, Dante is pulled away to join his parents for a semester in Chicago and Aristotle takes a chance at being the ennui-free teen he has become as school resumes. Letters are sent from Dante, each increasing tale-telling of his true feelings for Aristotle. Eventually as the boys reunite again for good, Dante is no longer withholding of his sexuality and Aristotle begins a slow descent into denial about his own feelings. Young Adult readers will attach onto the beautiful dialog between the boys and the heart wrenching inner dialog of Aristotle’s narration throughout the book. Similarly, the compassionate family dynamic of both boys will assure readers that the outcome, however tragic or beautiful, will be manageable and the boys will not be left alone to deal with their feelings.

        Booklist cites the slow pace of the novel as “careful” and allowing of the characters “to find their place in the world, and to find each other” and Publishers Weekly describes the book as “a tender, honest exploration of identity and sexuality… a passionate reminder that love should be without shame.” The longevity of Alire Sáenz and his role as a serious author/poet who occasionally dips his feet in the Y.A. pond is a tribute to the books humble success. And the writing, doesn’t feel forced or an attempt to grab at the heartstrings of as many people as possible, readers will either ‘get it’ or move on. This book is a must for L.G.B.T.Q. youth, their allies, parents and teachers. Critical praise aside, the novel has also become a sort of Y.A. underground phenomenon, there is even an entire Tumblr hashtag devoted to anything Aristotle and Dante: block quotes, selfies of people holding their copies, fan art, fan fiction, pleas for a sequel, pleas for no sequel, and even ‘mix-tape’ tributes for the novel’s heroes.

        The paradoxical nature of Aristotle’s character will give readers a chance to abandon their preconceived notions of what a young Mexican American boy can be, as he is tough and sensitive in the same breath. He has a muted sense of romanticism that is ready to burst at any moment and is slightly reminiscent of Goethe’s poor young Werther, and to a certain extent, Daniel Chacón’s Joey Molina, who is the epitome of the modern Strum und Drang Chicano.

RadioMan

Title: RadioMan | Author: Arthur Dorros | Spanish translation by Sandra Marulanda Dorros | Illustrator: Arthur Dorros | Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers | Date of Publication: 1993 | ISBN: 0-06-021548-8 (lib. bdg.) | Number of pages: 40 | Grade Level: 1-5 | Literary Trend: Spotlight on Diversity

Dorros, A. (1993). RadioMan. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers.

        Radioman is a touching tale of Diego and his family that spend most of the year following crops as migrant workers. Spanning the course of one season, Diego’s family travels from dusty Texas through small farming communities in Arizona, California and Washington. In Texas, Diego and his best friend David hope to reunite one day as their families plan to migrate once again. Diego, having been given the nickname Radioman by David, is always scanning the airwaves for music that his family can listen to while they work in the fields. Readers will be fascinated to see the perspective of young children who work alongside their families and read along as Diego transverses the south west, reuniting with friends and family along the way.

        The book, written and illustrated by Arthur Dorros, offers a refreshing glimpse of life on the road for Spanish speaking migrant families and like La Maríposa by Francísco Jíménez, is a light read that does not call on cathartic plot devices to bring emotion to the characters. As the story progresses, subtle clues to the hard work that the entire family endures are laid out in the illustrations and an especially poignant scene where David, his dad and Grandfather sit in the front seat driving through the night is illuminated by the tiny vignette of his mother and sister sleeping in the back seat as seen from the rear-view mirror. At other times, Diego scans the rows of melons at a roadside market and wonders to himself if “those were the melons he and his family had picked.” Dorros’s illustrations are colorful and springy, and most certainly are reflective of careful research on the field conditions of farm workers, yet step back from showing the darker side of the harsh conditions that most migrant workers face, and instead offer a glimmering and hopeful perspective, which of course is ideal in a children’s book.

        Both Booklist and Publishers Weekly are drawn to the “spot art” illustrations that separate the English and Spanish text “that effectively coordinate with the full page art” and text. Publishers Weekly places the story in high regards next to other tales of migrant farm workers, like Amelia’s Road and declares that Diego would be “just as interesting” regardless of his social environment. And Kirkus Review agrees that the “upbeat but largely realistic picture of migrant life” offers “an entertaining boost to bilingualism.” Published in 1993, Radioman arrived at a time when anti-immigration xenophobia was yet again rising in the southwestern United States. Dorros’s touching picture book, as Kirkus Reviews hints at, can be used as strong advocacy tool for the support of farm workers and their children.

        Radioman offers young readers and their parents or teachers a chance to begin a dialog about the lives of migrant families in a way that is not unsettling, yet full of valuable learning moments that will allow them to ask “why do children work?” and “where does this food come from?” And they will also learn how people who are constantly on the move, kept in touch with loved ones by calling into radio programs, a practice that is still common even today.

When Marian Sang

Title: When Marian Sang:The True Recital of Marian Anderson | Author: Pam Muñoz Ryan | Illustrator: Brian Selznick | Publisher: Scholastic Press | Date of Publication: 2002 | ISBN: 978-0439-26967-4 | Number of pages: 40 | Grade Level: Pre-School-3 | Literary Trends: Spotlight on Diversity, Tough Girls, Intriguing Non Fiction

Ryan, P.M. (2002). When Marian Sang: The True Recital of Marian Anderson. New York, NY: Scholastic Press.

“Audiences heard not only words, but feelings too: spirited worship, tender affection, and nothing short of joy.”

        Pam Muñoz Ryan, author of 30 plus books for children presents in a masterfully illustrated and printed book, the life of Marian Anderson, the world famous opera singer. Illustrated by Brian Selznick, When Marian Sang provides young readers with the intimate details of the childhood of a young African American girl, who is blessed with a singing voice and a supportive community that allows her to nurture her gift. Quickly, young Marian is heralded as a divine talent in her church going community and is invited to neighboring communities to share her talents. In a type of early 20th century crowd-sourcing campaign, her community is determined to see to Marian’s dreams and pledge to gather funds for her music education. In this historical account of Jim Crow era America, young readers how are studying African American history will discover the sorrows that African American’s encountered and be delighted to watch Marian’s assent to the highest stages of the world despite of the troubling segregation she faced with in her native country.

        The narrative of When Marian Sang is delicately accompanied by rich sepia-toned panoramas and close-up depictions of Marian in her deep meditative singing pose. The title page of the book acts as a type playbill for the life story of Marian and the books adds a wordless opening page that shows Marian’s neighborhood as a backdrop set inside a grand opera house, that is later to be revealed as the Metropolitan. Carefully placed lyrical interludes are inserted into the narrative that reflect her life story, and the author and illustrator take their time to display Marian’s deep dedication to her talent. Young readers will be introduced to opera vocabulary and lyrics from some of the early 20th century’s musical masterpieces. With its dedication to detail, it is unfortunate that this book does not have a compact disc to accompany it as readers will likely want to hear “the voice of the century” upon finishing the book. Thankfully there is an abundance of archival footage of her work available online and families will delight in exploring her work further as her voice comes alive once again for a new generation and a “Encore” offers a closer look at the historical details during Marian’s life.

        Kirkus Review gravitates towards the strong visual element and rhythm of the text and describes the work of Ryan and Selznick as a “magical collaboration” and gives rightful credit to Ryan’s attempt to make Anderson’s life “accessible” to young children. Publishers Weekly also strongly attaches the visual elements of the book to its success and points out that key moments in Anderson’s life are allowed to glow and “shimmer with emotion” and gives praise to Selznick’s “range of shading (that is) as versatile as Anderson’s three-octave voice.” Indeed, When Marian Sang is not likely meant to be a casual read, readers will likely be deeply moved as they turn each page and wonder what other golden voices are yet to be heard.

Welcome to My Neighborhood! A Barrio ABC

Title: Welcome to my Neighborhood! A Barrio A B C | Author: Quiara Alegría Hudes | Illustrator: Shino Arihara | Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books, Scholastic INC.
| Date of Publication: 2010 | ISBN: 978-0545094245 | Number of pages: 32 | Grade Level: Pre-School-3 | Literary Trend: Spotlight on Diversity

Hudes, Q.A. (2010). Welcome to my Neighborhood! A Barrio A B C. New York, NY: Arthur A. Levine Books.

        This thoughtful alphabet picture book offers readers a peek into the urban neighborhood of a young girl as she gives a tour to her new friend. From one page to the next, culture and regionally specific landmarks are showcased as vital parts of the community. Humor and joy are dominant themes and children will be entertained by viewing the worldview of the young narrator. Open fire hydrants on a summer day, walking past grandmothers sitting at their open windows, a young muralist painting a wall, and swinging at the playground are all a part of the daily routine. The book however, does not omit some of the other elements of urban life, abandon automobiles and burned down buildings are intersected with minimal fanfare.

        Although the picture book is not offered as a bilingual edition, the Spanish language version ¡Bienvenidos a Mi Barrio! Mi Mundo de la A a la Z, offers a near identical translation, with some crucial variations that are allowed to rely heavier on the Spanglish speaking community nomenclature and offer a less dismal view of the neighborhood at times, Nosy Neighbors, for instance, become laid back social interactions, and dangerous Z street becomes Zona escolar (school zone) where young pedestrians always have the right of way. These slight variations appear to be second thoughts as some illustrations seem to work better than others depending on the language, but young readers will likely not take this into account.

        Booklist offers an interesting perspective on the format of the book when it points out the advanced level text and “sophisticated concepts” for an alphabet book might confuse new and advanced readers alike. School Library Journal observes the muted tone of the illustrations as an accurate rendition of the urban landscape and but that occasionally “profiled or turned faces restrict readers from viewing the emotion to match the strength of the author’s words.” Similarly, I found that the book would be more powerful and useful as a bilingual text, as the cultural and literacy didacticism that is exhibited in this book is ideal for second language learners, both from Spanish to English and vice versa.

        Welcome to My Neighborhood! offers early cultural literacy and is aimed perhaps more towards a family read along rather than an individual reading. Other titles however, offer similarly complex cultural glossary in alphabet book form that might have a stronger effect on young and advanced readers, such as the book A is for Activist, printed in board book format and written in sing-song verse, allowing for a diverse range of reading styles, but definitely geared towards co-reading by parent and child. Welcome to My Neighborhood! is more straightforward in its pacing and depending on the reader, an introduction may be necessary for a true understanding of the sometimes sophisticated poetic text and cultural references.

La Maríposa

 

Title: La Maríposa | Author: Francísco Jíménez | Illustrator: Símón Sílva | Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Company | Date of Publication: 1998 | ISBN: 0-395-91738-7 (SP RNF), 0-395-81663-7 (ENG RNF) | Number of pages: 40 | Grade Level: Kindergarten-3 | Literary Trends: Spotlight on Diversity, Bullying, Survival Stories

 
Jíménez, F. (1998). La Maríposa. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Company.

        In this glorious auto-biographical picture book, by author and educator Francísco Jíménez, young Francisco, a child from a migrant family living in central California during the early 1950’s, is excited to finally start school. Quickly, he realizes that he is at a major disadvantage compared to his classmates, he doesn’t speak English and Spanish is strictly prohibited. Taken from the pages of the award winning book The Circuit, this short story is brought to life for young readers by the incredible artwork of renowned illustrator Símón Sílva. Young Francisco is depicted with a humble determination to break through the difficult language barrier and is quickly confronted by foes and friends. This story about the first months at school will be relatable to children from all nationalities and cultures and readers will stay with young Francisco to the very end. The difficulties of starting at a new school for Francisco are supplanted in part by his affection towards the class “pet” a caterpillar preparing for chrysalis and a new found technique of daydreaming in class because he cannot understand any words that were being spoken.

        La Mariposa gives readers a chance to explore with Francisco the interpersonal relationships that children have with adults and their peers, from a loving a supportive family life, to a slightly oppressive (at first) teacher/student dynamic of bullying and peer-supported integration. Like its parent book, The Circuit, in this title we see, despite his lack of English, Francisco’s metamorphosis from scared child to modest student leader, as his classmates and teacher cheer him on when he receives first prize for his drawing of a butterfly. Children will also learn that children from migrant families, like Francisco, often have a very difficult time assimilating to their new environment, as they read of his challenge to learn only a few simple English words all year.

        School Library Journal describes the book as “especially suited for schools with an E.S.L. population” and “an excellent choice for raising awareness and creating an opening for dialog.” And Kirkus Reviews praises Jíménez for an “unembellished and straightforward narration” that depicts “the confusion and isolation of the protagonist.” Reading from any of Jíménez’s works offer a similar modest narration that allows for natural emotional reactions, rather than being forced by stimulated cathartic plot developments. While School Library Journal declares that the book is “open ended, with no real resolution” readers of this title will be delighted to discover a trio of young adult novels that are easy to read and written in the same anti-pathos narrative style by Jíménez as well as another auto-biographical picture book, The Christmas Gift.

        An important distinction Jíménez’s writing is his ethereal balance of beautiful family moments and difficult hardships, especially his writing on life in the ‘tent cities” and clapboard houses of the 1950’s migrant worker era. His book The Circuit has been compared to The Grapes of Wrath on many occasions, and has even been used as a supplement to community readings of the Steinbeck masterpiece. Jíménez himself credits his writing career to reading the Steinbeck novel in his sophomore year of high school at the encouragement of his English teacher. Most importantly, Jíménez is able to cross the borders of the written language in his equally masterful Spanish editions of his books. In fact, in Spanish, La Maríposa takes on a slightly different tone of hopefulness that the young Francisco will endure, offering young Spanish readers a potential role model as they embark on their own English language learning.

Summer of the Mariposas

Title: Summer of the Mariposas | Author: Guadalupe Garcia McCall  | Jacket design: Isaac Stewart  | Publisher: Tu Books, an imprint of LEE & LOW BOOKS Inc.  | Date of Publication: 2012  | ISBN: 978-1-60060-900-8  | Number of pages: 355 | Age Level: 11-16 | Literary Trend: Spotlight on Diversity, Tough Girls, Survival Stories

McCall, G.G. (2012). Summer of the Mariposas. New York, NY: Tu Books.

        While taking a leisurely swim near the U.S. and Mexico Border, five sisters are unexpectedly confronted with mortality in the form of a dead man’s body. Odilla and her sisters presume that the man must have been crossing the border when he drown and almost instantaneously, the sisters decide to return the dead man back to his home town and possibly visit their grandmother in the process. They rationalize that since they are the epitome of “latchkey” children, mother working all the time and absent father, they won’t be missed if they cross over for a short while. Like the mariposas (butterflies) that dominated the summer sky in South Texas that year, the sisters magically cross the borders of reality and epic fantasy in a modern day Southwestern ode to Homer’s Odyssey. Along the way the sisters, led by Odilla, are confronted by supernatural challenges from some of Mexican mythologies greatest villains and spooks and their own sense of self-worth as they struggle with the abandonment and socio-economic related identity issues.

        Guadalupe Garcia McCall offers readers a primer to south western mythology and includes a helpful 16 page glossary that explains the Spanish text that she uses liberally in the book. Her frequent code-switching might leave some young readers puzzled, but those that are multilingual will appreciate her inclusion of esoteric language that is often heard only at home. The frequency of Spanish text however, might have been better served with footnotes rather than a glossary at the end of the book, in order to keep the story flowing for non-Spanish speaking readers.

        Kirkus Reviews declared Mariposas one of the “Best Teen Books of 2011,” yet offer that the story “is sometimes bogged down by moralizing and adventures that don’t always seem to support the plot” and that it displays “dialog-heavy… reflection (at) a level of maturity incongruous with behavior exhibited in prior pages.” School Library Journal focuses on the altruistic nature of the plot and finds that some readers might find the “magical elements somewhat upsetting…”

        Bell Hooks, author, educator, and social activist, in her book Feminism is for Everybody states that, “Children’s literature is one of the most crucial sites for feminist education for critical consciousness precisely because beliefs and identities are still being formed.” McCall persistently brought up how Odilla felt inferior ethnically, economically, and with her body image, yet she fails to “offer constructive strategies for change,” which Hooks explains are necessary for “developing healthy self-esteem and self-love” in order to be fully “liberated.” Some my question whether the lack of resolution to these problems makes McCall complicit in the perpetuation of these forms of oppression. Even the cover of the book, which features five slender young girls floating towards a beautiful sunset is a contrast to the body images that are described in the plot. Furthermore, the dialog is a bit tedious and simplistic at times that readers, especially older teens and adults, might choose to skip some pages altogether and unintentionally miss out on key points in the story. The well thought out plot of Summer of the Mariposas might have been better suited with a stronger narrator’s voice and minimal dialog considering the vast morbidity of the tale.

        Readers who are actively seeking books with adventure driven plots set in the southwest might want to explore the works of Victor Villaseñor, which carry similar magical scenarios, but are penned to perfection. Similarly, the title Into the Beautiful North by Luís Alberto Urrea offers a masterfully written border crossing plot that explores themes of redemption, faith and humor, which young adult readers will be able to navigate just as easily as Summer of the Mariposas.

Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood

Title: Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood | Author: Benjamin Alire Sáenz | Publisher: Cinco Puntos | Date of Publication: 2004 | ISBN: 0-938317-81-4 | Number of pages: 294 | Grade Level: 9+ | Literary Trends: Spotlight on Diversity, War, Bullying

Sáenz, B.A. (2004). Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood. El Paso, TX: Cinco Puntos.

        Jimmy Ruffin recorded the song What becomes of the broken hearted? in 1966, a few years later, in Benjamin Alire Sáenz young adult novel, we get a glimpse of what life was like for a small group of young Chicano kids growing up in Hollywood, New Mexico, and yes heartbreak seems to follow the stoic teens in this book set amidst the Johnson era escalation of the Vietnam War. Unlike the more famous Hollywood, the residents of this New Mexico barrio live deep in the margins of society and economy, yet teens like Sammy Santos manage to grow stronger and wiser every day. Regardless of their perseverance, the teens in this novel are defenseless to the atrocities of adult life and eventually, almost all get picked apart by the haunting effects of a world at war for no apparent rhyme or reason.

        Alire Sáenz, an award winning author, poet and professor, uses all of his literary tools to offer young readers a chance to view a world where bleakness runs amok and the consequences of the adult world effect a vulnerable youth culture. Sammy Santos, a reluctant leader, is a gust of fresh air in amongst his Mexican American friends, the girls have crushes on him, boys rely on his wisdom to figure out their next moves and his father urges him to move forward with his life. Many of the social issues of the time seep into the life and times of Sammy Santos, most notably, the persistence of racism and a deep distrust of authority. Throughout the book, Santos and his friends take small defiant steps that begin to form their identities and as they come of age, they often learn much from each other.

        School Library Journal and Booklist hint at Sammy’s potential downfall as he gets pulled further into the lifestyle of Hollywood and both agree that the authenticity of the characters and dialog provide a valuable insight of the poverty ridden Vietnam era. Undeniably, Sammy and Juliana reads like it could be born from the pages of the critically acclaimed anthology Aztlan and Vietnam: Chicano and Chicana Experiences of the War, which offers a stunning mix of non-fiction, fiction, poetry, critical assessments and archival communiqué written during and about the tragic war. Similarly, the character of Sammy Santos reflects many of the attributes and shares experiences with that of Jose Angel Gutierrez, whose autobiography, The Making of a Chicano Militant: Lessons from Cristal, recounts his life in politically segregated rural Texas in the 1960’s and subsequent rise to a political activism.

        Young Adult readers who are struggling with authority and those who seek to understand how social change can emanate from conflict zones, such as those found in Hollywood, New Mexico during this era, will learn a lot from Sammy’s modest leadership style.

Welcome to Mamoko

Title: Welcome to Mamoko
Author: Aleksandra Mizielińska and Daniel Mizieliński | Illustrator: Aleksandra Mizielińska and Daniel Mizieliński | Publisher: Big Picture Press | Date of Publication: 2013 | ISBN: 978-0-7636-6891-4 | Number of pages: 16 | Grade Level: Kindergarten-3 | Literary Trends: Science Fiction, Novels in Cartoons, Spotlight on Diversity

Mizieliński, A. & Mizieliński, D. (2013). Welcome to Mamoko. Somerville, MA: Big Picture Press.

        Aleksandra Mizielińska and Daniel Mizieliński authors of Welcome to Mamoko challenge readers to “Use Your Eyes!” on the cover of this fantastic wordless picture book.  Although there is some text on the opening ‘end paper’ of the picture book, readers will likely start decoding the images as their eyes wander about the meticulously detailed illustrations of Mamoko.  Each page paints a picture of daily life in this animal run city and beautiful moments can be found all about.  A chicken taking its chick for a stroll, two cats moving into a new apartment, an alligator having coffee on his balcony and a giraffe that is late for work, introduce readers to another storyline in this imaginary land.  As the day progresses, readers are transported to the city park, town square, commercial district, promenade, and the arts district, in a slice of life narrative.  Without a real need for introduction, the characters that make up Mamoko, go about their day and offer clues to an overall larger story of the town.  From a child’s perspective, this might be similar to how they view their world up to a certain point and reading this book will reflect or remind readers of any age, to a time in their life when things just happened and they were left to bear witness to the wonders of society.

        Welcome to Mamoko seems innocuous enough, the goings on are nothing out of the ordinary, yet still wondrous, however towards the end, readers may spot a few clues of a “suspicious” activity and likely start to scan the book once again for more clues to the mystery.  As the “instructions” tell the readers, “Use your eyes and follow the adventures of each of these characters in every scene” there is in fact at least 24 reading options to this book and it is very likely that this title will be read time and again.

        Kirkus Review confronts the “undoubtable comparison to Candlewick’s Waldo series,” but places value in the Mizieliński’s revisiting of the “find and search theme.”  Unlike Waldo however, the Mamoko universe has a less manic graphical feel and the illustrations are not out to “trick” readers, rather they are more soothing and didactic, much to the agreement of Kirkus’s observation that Mamoko presents a world where the “creatures… encounter problems, help each other find solutions and exhibit a range of emotions.”  The Wall Street Journal echoes the sentiments that a young reader “can disappear unaided” into the world of Mamoko, and it is likely that the anthropomorphic Mamoko universe will be called upon often by children who are fortunate enough to encounter the title.