I am an elementary school librarian in an urban setting in Massachusetts. Through the work of creating a more representative and inclusive library collection for my students, I learned a lot about the politics of the publishing industry, the accepted institutional racism and purposeful exclusion of communities in books and that we should be outraged at the continued disenfranchisement of our children.
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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Digging In: Dear Primo: A Letter To My Cousin

Dear Primo: A Letter To My Cousin, by Duncan Tonatiuh

In grades 1 and 2 students begin to study letter writing. Of course, Ezra Jack Keats's "A Letter to Amy" is a classic, and the newly published, "The Crayon Box That Talked" is a hoot. But, Dear Primo adds another dimension to the conversation.

The author and illustrator, Duncan Tonatiuh, celebrates the unique and special cultures of both Mexico and the United States. As a citizen of both countries, he is uniquely seated to do so.Two cousins, one in Mexico and one in New York, write each other letters about what they eat, what they like to do on weekends and their favorite games to play. At the end of the book, each cousin wants to visit the other and share in his experiences.

The illustration in this book is quite unique. The characters are only drawn in profile, reminiscent of native Mexican art. The illustrator also uses photographs and collage to ultimately create a one of a kind visual experience. Students will definitely want to view these pictures up close.

Please be sure to include the author's note in your read aloud. Tonatiuh describes his experiences growing up in San Miguel and Western Massachusetts. He ends his note with the following:

"I am both Mexican and American (literally; I have two passports), and what I've discovered is that despite the apparent differences between these two countries- the buildings, the food, the day-to-day routines, physical appearances, the politics- at the end of the day, we are more similar than different. People are people."

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