Tuesday, April 21, 2015

KidLit in Chicago

I've been yearning to go to Chicago for years now, and I finally got my chance last week when I attended the American Educational Research Association (AERA) annual meeting.  The city did not disappoint!  (I didn't want to leave.  Can I go back now?)  When I wasn't doing conference stuff, I had several opportunities to get out and explore.  Here are some highlights:

Colonial-era painting of La Virgen de Cayma (Perú) @ the Art Institute of Chicago

This looks better than any of the pictures I took.

My favoritefavoritefavorite excursion, however, was visiting the Pilsen neighborhood and the National Museum of Mexican Art on the Lower West Side.  In addition to a beautiful permanent collection -- with everything from Mesoamerican sculpture to contemporary video art -- they have a few temporary exhibits, like the brand new collection inspired by Sandra Cisneros and her landmark novel, The House on Mango Street, which is set in Chicago.

I wish I could've taken pictures of the artwork because the collection included paintings by two of my favorite artists / children's book illustrators: Carmen Lomas Garza and Rafael López.  (Photography isn't allowed in temporary exhibitions at most museums, though.  Oh well.)  Fortunately, there was another Garza painting in the permanent collection, so I snapped a picture of that one:

Las posadas (2000)

Even better, the gift shop had a great selection of Latin@ and Latin American children's books, many of which I'd never seen or heard of before.  One book that really caught my attention was El gusto del mercado mexicano / A Taste of the Mexican Market by Nancy María Grande Tabor.

In this dual language book, Tabor -- who's from Loreto, Mexico -- guides readers through a traditional market, showing them popular Mexican foods and asking questions that reinforce math and science skills (e.g., "If we choose two of each [pastry], how many will we have?" and "Which of these ripe fruits are still green?").  I love this book, not only because of what it teaches, but also because of how Tabor presents the information.  Instead of presenting this Mexican cultural practice as exotic and strange to US readers (as many books about international cultures do, unfortunately), she depicts visiting a market as an interesting (but ordinary) practice that some people do.  Good stuff.

Another great book was Lotería by Patty Rodriguez, a dual language board book by a publisher called Lil' Libros.

Each page spread features a super-cute representation of a lotería card with Spanish and English captions.  Since there are lots of bilingual babies in my life, I bought a copy and was able to test it out on my friends' seven-month-old little dude as soon as I got back to Georgia on Saturday.  He focused intently on each page, laughed when I made Spanish and English rooster noises, waved his chubby little arms, and then shoved the book in his mouth when we finished reading.  So... SUCCESS.

Chicago is a beautiful stronghold of Latin@ (especially Mexican-American) culture, so if you get a chance to visit and are in the market for some great Latin@ children's literature and cultural experiences, they can hook you up.  I miss it already.

And now I leave you with the song that's been stuck in my head for a week:

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