Danza!: Amalia Hernández And El Ballet Folklórico de México (Duncan Tonatiuh)

Hola amigos, y feliz Cinco de Mayo! In celebration, our book today is Danza!: Amalia Hernández And El Ballet Folklórico de México by Duncan Tonatiuh, a picture book history of Mexico’s celebrated dance company and the woman behind it.

Amalia – or Ami – Hernández grew up watching traditional local danzas, and immediately fell in love with dance. Her family supported her passion, and she studied ballet and modern dance, often choreographing numbers that incorporated the styles of traditional dance she had grown up loving as a child. Ami had a vision: she wanted to create a dance company that performed traditional danzas and bailes from across her beloved Mexico, using live musicians, elaborate costumes, and colorful sets. Hernández often combined the traditional dances with modern styles or music, creating a new style that honored Mexican tradition. Eventually, she opened her own dance school, and her Ballet Folklórico is a world-renowned dance company that performs internationally to this day.

Wonderful! If you’ve never seen a performance of baile folkórico, the dance style that Hernández created, you should absolutely take the opportunity to do so. Tonatiuh’s story and art pays lovely homage to both Amalia and her work, with a story that is told with excitement and appreciation, but never feels slow. The folk-art-inspired illustrations that are Tonatiuh’s signature shine especially bright here, bringing to life the shapes, colors, and energy of the dancers. The length is very manageable for little bookworms, and JJ adored it. A wonderful way to celebrate a mainstay of Mexican culture and art, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

¡Sí, Se Puede!/Yes We Can!: Janitor Strike In L.A. (Diana Cohn)

¡Hola amigos, y feliz cinco de Mayo! To celebrate, we wanted to read a book that recognizes a group of brave Latin-Americans, as well as their language, with the wonderful ¡Sí, Se Puede!/Yes We Can!: Janitor Strike In L.A., written by Diana Cohn and illustrated by Francisco Delgado, the story of the 2000 L.A. janitor’s union strike through the eyes of one Mexican-American family.

Carlos, or Carlitos as his mother calls him, is tucked in every night with her warm words: “Sleep with the angels.” Then his Mamá takes a bus downtown and spends all night cleaning the office buildings. As hard as she works, she still must work two more jobs to make ends meet, and she cannot afford Carlos’s abuelita’s medication. So one night, she sits Carlos down and explains that she and the other janitors in her union are going on strike, demanding fair compensation for all the hard work they do. Carlos supports his mother’s choice, and wishes he could help her. Finding that his classmates also have family members on strike, he knows exactly what to do. Following his mother’s example, he organizes, makes signs, and takes the lead to support the striking workers in their fight for fair pay.

This was a wonderfully moving story about a strike that changed that lives of many disenfranchised workers. Through the events of the strike, Cohn also tells a story of family, community, and the fundamental right to equal pay for equal work. The illustrations are gorgeous, blending the colors and styles of traditional South American art with a modern tale. The length might be stretching it for the littlest readers, but JJ sat through it happily and loved the art. Best of all, the text is presented in both English and Spanish, so readers of all ages and levels of fluency in each can enjoy the story AND connect the two languages to each other. This book is positively fantastic, and we highly recommend it. Definitely Baby Bookworm approved!