Southwest Children's  Literature

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Yum! ¡MmMm! ¡Qué Rico! America's Sproutings

Book Review:

This lively and engaging concept book presents 14 delicious foods native to the Americas. Author Pat Mora provides a paragraph of information about the source of each food along with descriptions and use. (Did you know the Aymara Indians of Bolivia developed over 200 varieties of potatoes? Did you know a papaya can weigh as much as 20 pounds?) She supplements the informative paragraph with a haiku for each food. Award-winning illustrator Rafael López contributes glowing, vivid and magical illustrations to engage a child's interest.

The foods are presented in alphabetical order from blueberries to vanilla. The colors are bright and pure. The people represent the cultures of the Americas. The landscapes are exciting. There are children flying through the air on the back of a giant bluebird or diving into a chocolate cake; there is even a dancing pineapple. This book is like a party on paper!

Although haiku is an unusual choice, it works quite well. When read aloud, the paragraphs about each food hold the reader's attention, but might be somewhat dry if presented alone. However, just as a child might feel as if he or she had learned enough about tomatoes, for example, here comes:

Round roly-poly
Squirts seedy, juicy splatter
Red bursts in your mouth.

This book could actually be used as a beginning ethnobotanical text--the information is that good--and there is a reason. Mora credits her husband, anthropologist Vern Scarborough, who teaches a course on the Origins of Agriculture, and Tucson's own Gary Paul Nabhan, ethnobotanist extraordinaire and author of Gathering the Desert, for their assistance.

In the classroom, Yum! ¡MmMm! ¡Qué Rico! could be used to supplement a study of the food products of different countries within the Americas, perhaps as an alternative to the traditional Thanksgiving story. It would also lend itself very well to a study of the haiku form if a class were doing a unit on poetry. Haiku, with its 17 syllables, is a simple form to grasp and can be written by teachers and children together as a group activity, or quite easily by students in small groups or alone.

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