Please welcome my guest author today, Emma Otheguy. She is the author of the bilingual picture book, Martí’s Song for Freedom/Martí y sus versos de la libertad, a biography of Cuban poet and independence leader José Martí. We are giving away one signed copy of her book. To enter, please fill out the Rafflecopter at the bottom.
Martí’s Song for Freedom by Emma Otheguy, illustrated by Beatriz Vidal. Translated by Adriana Domínguez.
As a boy, José Martí was inspired by the natural world. He found freedom in the river that rushed to the sea and peace in the palmas reales that swayed in the wind. Freedom, he believed, was the inherent right of all men and women. But his home island of Cuba was colonized by Spain, and some of the people were enslaved by rich landowners. Enraged, Martí took up his pen and fought against this oppression through his writings. By age seventeen, he was declared an enemy of Spain and forced to leave his beloved island.
Martí traveled the world, speaking out for Cuba’s independence. But throughout his exile, he suffered from illness and homesickness. He found solace in New York’s Catskill Mountains, where nature inspired him once again to fight for independence.
Written in verse, with excerpts from Martí’s seminal Versos sencillos, this book is a beautiful tribute to a brilliant political writer and courageous fighter of freedom for all men and women. [picture book, ages 7 and up]
Bonus: If you’re a teacher or librarian, share how your classroom will be using José Martí’s poetry this April using the hashtag #ReadMartí for a chance to win prizes for your students. Looking for inspiration? Donwload free bilingual poetry cards and find a Teachers Guide here.
This National Poetry Month, I’d like to see a range of diverse poets celebrated in our classrooms and homes. I was lucky enough to grow up in a household where my parents read me poetry. They shared poetry that they’d learned to recite in school in Cuba, and newer poems that they had picked up over the years in New York City. I would have loved to see this poetry celebrated in my school, and hope that more schools this year will teach Latinx poetry in April. By integrating Latinx poetry into our National Poetry Month celebrations, we help students make deeper text-to-text connections that will stay with them all year long.
In this round-up I’ve highlighted five picture books for elementary-school aged kids. These five books are just a window into the richness of bilingual and Latinx poetry picture books: every children’s author listed here has multiple books, each of which deserve attention, and new Latinx poets are being published every year. I recommend following Latinx in KidLit (@LatinosinKidLit) to stay in the know!
Top 5 Latinx Poetry Picture Book List
5. Family Poems for Everyday of the Week/Poemas familiares para cada día de la semana by Francisco Alarcón, illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez
True to its title, this book is organized by days of the week and describes everyday events from the child’s perspective. It’s perfect for the lower elementary school grades as children learn the rhythms of school and family life during the week. The authentic illustrations by Maya Christina Gonalez are engaging and child-friendly. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
4. A Movie in My Pillow/Una película en mi almohada by Jorge Argueta, illustrated by Elizabeth Gómez
These poems simultaneously introduce young readers to the sights and sounds of San Francisco’s Mission District and the longing for a lost home that permeates the lives of so many Latinx children. Children from a range of Latinx backgrounds will identify strongly with the experience of biculturalism and distance in this book, as well as the rich sensory details. Also look for Jorge Argueta’s cooking poem books, such as Salsa. [picture book, ages 5 and up]
3. Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People by Monica Brown, illustrated by Julie Paschkis
As kids get older, introduce them to great Latin American and Latinx poets. New picture books and translations make their verse and the story of their lives accessible to readers in the United States. In this picture book, Monica Brown describes the exciting life of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda and his penchant for green ink. I adored how illustrator Julie Paschkis wove Neruda’s words into the illustration. The hand-lettered poetry turns the illustrations into something like a hidden pictures puzzle: pause on each page to let the child get lost in the words. Also check out Monica Brown’s picture book about Neruda’s mentor Gabriela Mistral: My Name is Gabriela/Me llamo Gabriela. [picture book, ages 6 and up]
2. Schomburg: The Man Who Built the Library by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Eric Velasquez
This book of poems introduces kids to the life of Arturo Schomburg, the great Afro-Puerto Rican law clerk and bibliophile. Like Bravo (below), the format gives older elementary school readers the chance to appreciate the rhythm and beauty of verse while also learning about an important historical figure. Eric Velasquez’s oil-on-paper illustrations are vivid and detailed. [picture book, ages 9 and up]
1. Bravo! Poems about Amazing Hispanics by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Rafael López
If your upper elementary school student is looking for a topic for a biography project, I recommend starting here. Margarita Engle has packed this picture book with the lives of everyone from poets to athletes to politicians, representing an array of Latinx backgrounds.
If your child is enjoying a dip into Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls every night, consider reading a poem from Bravo alongside it each night and exposing your child to poetry and Latinx culture all at once. Also available in Spanish: Bravo: Poemas sobre hispanos extraordinarios. [picture book, ages 8 and up]
Martí’s Song for Freedom Signed Book GIVEAWAY!
We are giving away one signed copy of her book. To enter, please fill out the Rafflecopter below. We can only ship to U.S. addresses due to the high cost of shipping.
Emma Otheguy is a children’s author and historian who writes both fiction and non-fiction. Her debut picture book, Martí’s Song for Freedom, is published by Lee and Low Books.
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