Reading Log: folk tales & poetry

Federico and The Wolf by Rebecca J. Gomez & Elisa Chavarri (traditional tale)

Gomez, Rebecca J. and Elisa Chavarri, illustr. Federico and the Wolf. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2020.

Federico and the Wolf is a spicy retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, bringing the story up to modern times and featuring a Latinx protagonist, the tale borders on being a fractured, trickster fairy tale. In this story, the boy, dressed in a red hoodie, outwits el lobo and rescues his abuelo, hurling hot peppers in order to send the wolf running. The tale is modified and updated just enough to keep kids guessing what will happen next, but still predictable. A mother sends Federico to the outdoor market to collect ingredients to bring to his grandfather at his shop. Along the way, he bikes through the woods encountering the archetypal hungry wolf along the way. When he reaches the shop Abuelo hasn’t shaved (the fur), and the familiar lines ring out, (the better to see you with!). The clever kid himself is able to save the day making the wolf sneeze himself silly (kids will love talking about the time they ate something spicy, or if they like spicy food) so that he and abuelo can make some Wolf’s Bane Salsa. The text is sprinkled with words in Spanish. Bilingual Spanish-speakers will enjoy hearing their native tongue while students who don’t know Spanish will be able to easily understand based on context. While the text is funny and engaging, the illustrations from Chavarri will also keep children hooked on the page. Chavarri also illustrated the bilingual books Rainbow Weaver and Sharuko: Peruvian Archaeologist Julio C. Tello. The illustrations are vibrantly colorful and just plain fun to look at. They are reminiscent of folk art Words in Spanish and English are included on almost every page for students to practice reading.


As Vardell suggests (90), students can create their own version of Little Red Riding Hood after reading and listening to this tale. Does grandma get eaten, or just put in a box like Abuelo? How will they outsmart the wolf? Kids can act it out, draw it as a comic strip, record a flipgrid, or write the story to create their own fractured fairy tale. Since food plays such a prominent role (the pico recipe is shared at the end), students could also be encouraged to share a recipe that is special to them and make up a story to go with it. Be careful if reading in a community with high food insecurity.

Click here to go to the author’s website.

Click here to go to the illustrator’s website. (Access a free coloring page for the book here.)


Talking with Mother Earth: Poems / Hablando con Madre Tierra: Poemas by Jorge Argueta, pictures by Lucia Angela Perez (poetry)

Argueta, Jorge. Talking with Mother Earth, Poems / Hablando con Madre Tierra. Toronto: House of Anansi Press, 2017.

This book is a wonderful compilation of bilingual poems paying tribute, in prose and art alike, to the beauties of Mother Earth and indigeneity. Originally published in 2006, this review is of the 2017 printing. The author is an award winning poet for children, a native Salvadorean and Pipil Nahua Indian. Poems address and rebuke the racism experienced by the poet as a young child who looked different than his peers (“and in my chest my heart would boil/ like a volcano getting ready to explode”). He writes of the solace he was able to find in the lessons of his ancestors and in connection with the Earth (“the east is in my belly / where I feel the sun / like a heart warming me / every morning.” The verse is simple yet full of imagery in a way that is suitable for children young and older. The progression of poems acts as a sort of coming of age as the author conveys the emotion of growing up and dealing reckoning with his place in the world. 8This collection of poetry is powerful in its words, and acts as a counter to indigenous erasure of the Americas. Each poem is mirrored in its Spanish and English versions and vocabulary in the native language Nahuatl is incorporated a bit too. The pastel illustrations are light and vibrant and demonstrate the themes of each poem they accompany, incorporating depictions of the young boy surrounded by natural scenes, as well as with imagery of Nahual ancestors. Color and shapes are abundant (“she turns / everything into life /into songs/ into colors”) perfectly pairing with the fragrant text.

Talking with Mother Earth / Hablando con Madre Tierra

Poetry month and Earth day both fall in April and this would be an amazing text to bring to students attention in a study of poetry and appreciations of Earth. Students could write their own odes / poems to Mother Earth, along with an illustration. It could be used for multilingual learners to strengthen vocabulary in English or Spanish in order to talk about the natural world. There is also some language included in Nahuatl!

If librarians are looking to add more bilingual texts or Spanish poetry to their collections, this is a strong choice.

Check out this article from Rethinking Schools for more ideas on how one teacher used Jorge Argueta’s poetry in her classroom, including using this text in lessons on ecosystems!

*Reviewer’s note: I have only a basic understanding of Spanish so I am basing my observations on the English versions of the poetry. However, in sharing poems from the story in both English and Spanish with \Spanish speakers I have received positive feedback!

Click here to visit the author’s website.

Click here to visit the illustrator’s website.

Click here to visit the publisher’s site.

Talking with Mother Earth / Hablando con Madre Tierra

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