Thursday, July 21, 2011

Dancing Home, by Alma Flor Ada and Gabriel Zubizaarreta (ages 8 - 12)

Many of our students are drawn to realistic fiction because they see a slice of themselves or their friends in the stories they read. A new book I'm looking forward to sharing with students is Dancing Home, by Alma Flor Ada and her son Gabriel Zubizarreta, which tells the story of two cousins, one raised in the U.S. and the other in Mexico, and how their lives begin to intertwine.
Dancing HomeDancing Home
published simultaneously in Spanish:
Nacer Bailando
by Alma Flor Ada and Gabriel Zubizarreta
NY: Atheneum / Simon & Schuster, 2011
ages 8 - 12
preview available on Google Books
available at your local library, favorite bookstore or online at Amazon
Margie works hard to fit into her 5th grade class in California. She loves sitting in the front of her class next to her best friend, Liz. But all that changes the day that Margie has to bring her cousin, Lupe, to school with her. Lupe has just arrived from Mexico to live with Margie's family, and the principal insists that she should join Margie in her 5th grade class. Margie tries to tell her teacher that she doesn't really know much Spanish and won't be able to translate for Lupe, but none of the adults seem to understand. Even though Margie's parents were born in Mexico and speak Spanish at home, Margie has been speaking mainly English since preschool.

Nacer Bailando (Dancing Home) (Spanish Edition)Dancing Home follows both Margie (originally Margarita) and Lupe as they come to know each other. Readers are brought into both of their experiences, and will appreciate the author's kind, caring tone throughout the book. I know that many children in our school will relate to the experience of being caught between two cultures, trying to figure out where you belong, what to claim as your own. The character development in this story is heartfelt and genuine; the authors don't shy away from difficult topics of identity and immigration, but they also talk about them from the children's point of view.

Kids will appreciate how hard it is to make changes, to adapt and fit into a new environment, and to figure out your own identity. At times, I wished that the authors showed more of the character's interactions, rather than relying on telling us about their feelings. But I don't think children who enjoy realistic fiction will be bothered by this. The strength of this story is sharing these girls' story, giving us people we care about who are struggling with situations we can relate to.

I especially like the following excerpt, from Margie's first day bringing Lupe to her school. Please click the box below to read this sample from Google Books:

I have long admired Alma Flor Ada's work, both picture books and chapter books. One of my favorite chapter books to recommend to 3rd graders is: My Name Is Maria Isabel / Me llamo Maria Isabel.

The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, Simon and Schuster / Atheneum. Alma Flor Ada will be a guest speaker at the United States Board on Books for Young People Conference, at Fresno State from October 21-23, 2011.

Review ©2011 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books.

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