Saturday, July 10, 2010

Yum! ¡MmMm! ¡Qué rico! Americas’ Sproutings – Hispanic/Latino Literature

Mora, Pat. 2007. Yum! ¡mmmm! ¡qué rico!: Americas’ sproutings. Illustrated by Rafael Lopez. New York, NY: Lee & Low Books, Inc. ISBN 978-58430-271-1

Plot Summary
This book is a collection of Haiku poems written by Pat Mora. Each poem is about some food indigenous to the Americas, mostly Latin America and originally enjoyed by the native people of the land. Accompanying each poem are interesting facts provided by scholars and experts in the fields of botany, anthropology, and the origins of food about the subject of the poem as well as colorful illustrations.

Critical Analysis
This delightful book not only teaches readers about haiku poetry but also about foods native to the Americas. The poems incorporate a couple of Spanish words and one mentions tortillas which are generally thought to be from a Latin American culture, but mostly the poetry identifies with no particular culture. It is through the illustrations and accompanying facts about the poem’s subject matter that the Latin American culture comes through.

First, the illustrations depict characters who look and dress in the Latin American style – darker skin, dark hair, scarves, skirts, and wide brimmed hats. The colors used in the illustrations are bright and vibrant blues, yellows, oranges, and reds – a reflection of a pallet often representing the Latin American culture. The animals and plants drawn also reflect those of the culture.

Also, the accompanying facts tell about foods native to Latin America and the native people who first enjoyed the foods. These paragraphs give the origins of the words used to describe the foods as well as how the foods were originally used. Generally, this is a wonderful book full of color and cultural information.

Professional Reviews
From Julie Cummins (Booklist, Dec. 1, 2007 (Vol. 104, No. 7))
Starred Review* This inventive stew of food haiku celebrates the indigenous foods of the Americas. Each of the 13 poems appears on a gloriously colorful double-page spread, accompanied by a sidebar that presents information about the origin of the food. From blueberries to prickly pears to corn, the acrylic-on-wood-panel illustrations burst with vivid colors and stylized Mexican flair. The poems capture the flavor of the item in a way children can easily understand Chocolate: Fudge, cake, pie, cookies. / Brown magic melts on your tongue. / Happy, your eyes dance; Pineapple: A stiff, spiky hat / on thick prickly skin, inside / hide syrupy rings. The print of the text in the sidebars is too small, but otherwise this will provide lots and lots of lip-smacking fun that teachers can use to supplement social studies and language arts units; they can also share one poem at a time, between other subjects. An author’s note, which addresses lingering scientific debate about the geographical origins of some of the featured foods, also includes a warm celebration of diversity: We do know that all these plants were grown and enjoyed . . . long before Christopher Columbus or any other Europeans had ever tasted such wonderful foods. The world’s variety is amazing and delicious. Grades 1-4

From Deborah Stevenson (The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, December 2007 (Vol. 61, No. 4).)
Veteran poet Mora celebrates fourteen foods, alphabetically progressing from blueberries to vanilla, native to this hemisphere. Each foodstuff receives a haiku of tribute counterpointed by a sidebar of informative text; aside from prickly pear, they’re all likely to be at least conceptually familiar noshes to most kids, but their histories and industrial uses may hold a few surprises. Haiku seems a strange form for an American-centered collection, but Mora works the vivid imagery in lyrics that are pretty lip-smacking in their own sonorous right (the tomato squirts seedy, juicy splatter), making them tasty candidates for reading aloud. The intensity of Lopez’s acrylic illustrations is so unvaried as to make compositions unfocused, but the tactile element of the wood surface of the art and the crisp edges of the illustrative elements help balance the boldness of the hues and result in a pleasing culinary vision. While curricular connections are plentiful, some kids will just enjoy nibbling their way through the collection, snack in hand to quell the inevitable pangs of appetite Review Code: R -- Recommended. (c) Copyright 2006, The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. 2007, Lee & Low, 32p., $16.95. Grades 3-5.

This book could be used in a lesson about haiku poetry. It could also be used to discuss the origins and uses of foods (other than for eating). An art class could also use this book to teach the use of color in illustrations.

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