A bilingual celebration of family, Family Poems for Every Day of the Week (Poemas Familiaries para cada día de la semana) is a collection of poems that reflect the multicultural life experiences of many Latino children today. The poems were written by Francisco X. Alarcón and are based on his childhood experiences and his family. Maya Christina Gonzalez beautifully illustrates these poems with vibrant colors and swirling patterns that immediately captivate the reader.
There are multiple poems for each day of the week that describe the feelings and events of that particular day. From a sleepy and grumpy Monday, to a trip to el mercado (the market) on Wednesday, followed by a day of non-stop play on Saturday… the week is always full. Each day is linked to a planet as a nod to the historical roots and rich worldwide heritage of the concept of the week while also highlighting the similarities between Spanish and English.
This collection of poems describes each day of the week as a member of a family (much like that of the author), where every one is a unique individual but fits together perfectly to create one amazing whole.
This book was published posthumously as Alarcón passed away in 2016. However, the legacy he left behind as a celebrated poet whose words have impacted the lives of many children will continue to live on through his many works. Maya Christina Gonzalez used the illustration of this story as a way to honor Alarcón and all of the work they had created together.
Inspired by Mexico’s indigenous crafts, the patterns and images of this book were designed to bring history into the present and enhance the way we see the world. The circle imagery throughout the book is Gonzalez’s way of celebrating and continuing the life of Alarcón by pulling his work back into his family. The themes of timelessness and the cyclical nature of the world drive this story and allow it to share a special message with the reader: each day will come and each day will go, but regardless of what happens every day is to be celebrated, appreciated, and loved.
Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales
Viva Frida (which translates to Frida Lives) by Yuyi Morales is one of the hottest children’s books out right now. Since being released just a little over a year ago, Viva Frida has won several awards, like the Caldecott Honor and the Pura Belpre 2015 Illustrator Award, and has been mentioned on numerous popular book lists including The Association for Library Service to Children’s Notable Books for 2015 list. Viva Frida is based on the life of artist Frida Kahlo who is famous for her self portraits. This book looks at Frida’s life through poetry; using very few words to describe her big inspirations for painting.
So why is Viva Frida getting so much attention?
The first thing that makes Viva Frida so unique and memorable is that it’s not quite a biography, but it’s not quite a poem. It’s a little of both! The illustrations contain a lot of images that were relevant to Frida’s life and art. For example, her pet monkey, the blue house she lived in, her husband Diego, and the bird/flying motif. While the text does not provide specific biographical information about Frida, it does mention some of her inspirations and motivations behind her artwork. The text is not a narrative biography, but rather a poem. This poem contains a mere 32 English words (27 Spanish) so you really have to squeeze all of the meaning out of each word. I found it helpful to go back and reread the poem after reading the biographical information at the end of the book.
The second reason VIva Frida really stands out is that it’s written entirely in Spanish with English translations below. Beyond making this book more memorable, it begins to expose children to a language that may be different than what they’re used to. Additionally, having the text in Spanish reflects the author’s respect for how Frida “unapologetically filled her paintings with old and new symbols of Mexican culture in order to tell her own story” (Morales 29). Again I think children who speak Spanish will love reading a book like this that crafts their language so beautifully.
Viva Frida is written entirely in Spanish with English translations.
Morales’ attention to detail really shines
The third thing that makes Viva Frida truly outstanding is the illustrations. Crafted in stunning color, these illustrations were created primarily with stop-motion puppets and photography. The attention to detail Morales had with the scenes she photographed is incredible. Coupled with her use of computer imaging software, Morales created breathtaking illustrations for Viva Frida that reflect classic Mexican art and culture (Including the works of the real Frida); for which she received a Caldecott Honor.
Overall this trendy book is definitely worth checking out. I would recommend it for ages 8-10 because the reader does need to be able to read between the lines a little bit to understand the story. Although readers may call this book overly simplistic, Viva Frida shows Children’s Literature that beauty and worth is often found in the simple things in life.