Sunday, February 26, 2012

Under The Mesquite

McCall, Guadalupe Garcia. 2011. UNDER THE MESQUITE. New York: Lee & Low. ISBN 978-1600604294 [Suggested Grade Levels 6-12]

This is McCall’s first work for young people and it’s a strong beginning earning her a Pura Belpré award. It’s the compelling, contemporary story of a teenage girl, Lupita, oldest child in a large Mexican American family faced with taking charge as her mother’s dire illness affects the family. She struggles with her own feelings, with family responsibilities, with changing friendships, and with pursuing her own artistic ambitions. The setting includes family on both sides of the Texas-Mexico border and the language incorporates Spanish words and phrases fluidly throughout the poems.

Lupita’s journey is a difficult and painful one, but she is encircled by a loving family that supports and encourages her. The difficulties of balancing one’s duty to family with one’s individual aspirations within a specific cultural context are realistically and powerfully presented.

Lupita finds an effective outlet in participating in theater at school. Invite volunteers to perform those passages; involve a theater teacher or local actor to discuss the role of theater; encourage young readers to consider participating in area theater.

Learning language and writing is an important part of Lupita’s story. Note the poems that focus on this aspect. Encourage discussion of experiences in learning a new language.

Other novels in verse about cultural identity:
Burg, Ann. ALL THE BROKEN PIECES. ISBN 978-0545080927
Engle, Margarita.
Lai, Thanhha. INSIDE OUT AND BACK AGAIN. ISBN 978-0061962783 Thompson, Holly. ORCHARDS. ISBN 978-0385739788

By Sylvia M. Vardell

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