Go to book: Guacamole | How Chile Came to New Mexico | A Perfect Season for Dreaming | Grandma Lale’s Magical Adobe Oven | Grandpa’s Magic Tortilla | Dance of the Eggshells | Grandpa Lolo’s Matanza | The Farolitos of Christmas | Benito's Bizcochitos | Bless Me, Ultima | The Day it Snowed Tortillas | A Spoon for Every Bite
“Yummy, yummy guacamole!” Jorge Argueta has written a catchy cooking poem to teach young chefs how to cook a Mexican side dish known as guacamole. The story, Guacamole, is told from the point of view of a young girl who wants to make guacamole for her mother, father, brother, and sister. Our young chef gathers her ingredients, ties her apron, and dances around the kitchen. After all, “food tastes better when you sing and dance.” Then, she walks the audience through picking four large avocados, slicing them, removing the pits, and adding their flesh to a dish. She adds salt, cilantro, and lime to her dish before mixing everything up. The end result is delicious guacamole that will make any reader’s mouth water.
How Chile Came to New Mexico by Rudolfo Anaya is a reimagining of how chile might have made its way into New Mexico to become the most favored dish in the area. Somewhere in a New Mexican pueblo, Young Eagle is madly in love with a girl named Sage. When his father and he approach Sage’s father to propose marriage, a quest is presented to Young Eagle. Sage’s father will allow Young Eagle to marry his daughter if he travels to the land of the Aztecs and retrieves chile seeds. Angry spirits lurk on the journey ready to deter Young Eagle from achieving his quest. Will he succeed in his quest, marry Sage, and bring Chile to his people?
A Perfect Season for Dreaming written by Benjamin Alire Sáenz is a brightly illustrated book that children ages 4 to 8 will enjoy. Octavia Rivera is a seventy-eight-year-old man who absolutely loves to take his afternoon siesta and dream up a new world. This summer he dreams of kissing turtles and coyotes in mariachi suits. Octavio longs to tell someone about his dreams and often feels lonely. He worries that his closest family and friends might not understand his dreams and think him crazy, or at the least, think he has a serious case of indigestion. That is until Octavio Rivera remembers that his granddaughter is a beautiful dreamer just like him and would be the perfect confidant.
Grandma Lale’s Magical Adobe Oven by Nasario Garcia is the third book in a series that follows the life of now nine-year-old Junie Lopez. Junie has moved away from the Rio Puerco Valley, where the first two books took place, and now lives in the city of Albuquerque. He struggles to relate to the city kids as he’s lived a ranchero life for so long. However, during a class speech he talks about his grandmother’s magical horno, or adobe oven.
Grandpa’s Magic Tortilla by Demetria Martinez and Rosalee Montoya-Read is a picture book that celebrates family and creativity. Grandpa Luis is a pro at making the tastiest homemade tortillas in all of Chimayo, New Mexico. However, distracted by his grandchildren, Luis burns a tortilla by leaving it on the stove too long. Grandma Elvira saves the tortilla for later because she secretly likes them toasty and crunchy. Their grandson Benny looks at the tortilla and is convinced the burnt spot looks like a bear. But his brother Daniel is convinced he sees a dolphin. As the children examine the tortilla, they realize that the burnt spot is morphing into different animals right before their eyes!
Carla Aragon’s story Dance of the Eggshells is infused with beautiful representations of New Mexican culture. Libby and J.D. are spending time with their Grandmother Socorro in Santa, Fe New Mexico. However, like brothers and sisters do, the two bicker back and forth. This is when grandma decides to teach them about the Baile de los Cascarones, the Dance of the Eggshells. She walks them through working together to remove the egg from the eggshell, soak them in cold water, filling the eggs with confetti, and decorating the shell. Grandma shares that many families in Northern New Mexico participate in Lent, a religious practice where participants do not eat meat for forty days. After Lent, people dressed in their fiesta outfits and danced to celebrate! If you wanted to dance with someone, you broke a cascarone over their head and colorful confetti would spill out. With confetti in their hair, they danced the night away!
Grandpa Lolo’s Matanza by Nasario Garcia is a picture book that describes what it’s like growing up a ranchero in New Mexico. Junie, an eight-year-old boy lives with his family and extended family on a large farm. Towards late October, Junie’s grandfather prepares for his annual matanza. A matanza is a gathering of families and sometimes towns around the killing of a pig. In the story, Junie struggles with understanding why the pigs he took care of all year must be killed. His family explains to him that the animals must die in order to feed them, “Pa vivir, hay que morir.” Junie learns the difficulties of the circle of life, and enjoys a cultural celebration that’s been happening for decades.
The Farolitos of Christmas by Rudolfo Anaya is a bilingual picture book that tells the fictional story of how the first farolito was created. A farolito is a small candle in a paper bag, typically placed outside at night around Christmas. In the story, a young girl named Luz lives with her grandfather and mother while her father is away at war. Each year on Christmas, her grandfather builds a luminaria (bonfire) out of piñon wood as a promise to Santo Niño. The Santo Niño is a saint that protects Luz’s father while he is away at war. The Luminaria attracts Los Pastores as they walk to church, keeps them warm as they sing prayers, and eventually leads them into Luz’s house for warm posole. The act of serving Los Pastores pleases Santo Niño. However, this year Luz’s grandfather is sick and cannot work outside to create the luminarias. Luz worries for her father’s safety and wants to help her grandfather keep his promise to Santo Niño.
Benito's Bizcochitos, written by Ana Baca is one mother’s tale of how their family learned about the New Mexican sugar cookie, bizcochito. Cristina and her mother are making bizcochitos for Christmas when her mother decides to tell her the story of Benito. Benito is Cristina’s great-grandfather. Benito lived on a farm and would one day become a poor shepherd like his mother and father. Saddened by his future, Benito runs away from home. He survives out in the cold for a while before an old shepherd agrees to house him only if Benito takes care of his sheep while he is gone. Angered by the turn of events, Benito runs further from home.
One of Rudolfo Anaya’s most popular books, Bless Me, Ultima is a story that encompasses the struggle of growing up and learning about the harsh realities of the world. Antonio Marez is a six year old boy living in a small farming town in New Mexico during the 1940’s. His family invites a curandera, a healer woman, named Ultima to live out her final days with them. Ultima teaches Antonio about the connection human’s have to the earth, the herbs, and animals. Soon enough Antonio accompanies Ultima to many villages to heal people who are sick or cursed by evil. As time passes, Antonio learns secrets about his family and religion that leave him off balanced. Antonio and Ultima must protect one another from those that wish to hurt them, or take away their gift to heal.
The Day It Snowed Tortillas by Joe Hayes is a humorous story about a slow-witted man and his very clever wife. The woodcutter began and ended his day like any other, except on this day he stumbled across three bags of gold. He brought them home and showed his wife the spoils of his day. His wife told her husband not to tell a soul about the gold because surely there were bandits looking for it by now. However, she knew that her slow-witted husband could not keep a secret, so when he fell asleep that night she stayed up and cooked hundreds of tortillas! She tossed them outside and, in the morning, when her husband woke, she told him it must have snowed tortillas.