Fun Facts About the Creators of Too Many Tamales
by Alana Pedalino and Alexie Basil
You may know Too Many Tamales by Gary Soto as a perennial Thanksgiving read. But there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes!
We put together some interesting information that you can use to help elevate this award-winning and timeless book in your classroom. Read on to discover even more about what makes Too Many Tamales so special…and if there’s such a thing as “too many tamales”!
1. What is a tamale?
According to Merriam-Webster, a tamale is “cornmeal dough rolled with ground meat or beans seasoned usually with chili, wrapped usually in corn husks, and steamed.” And that’s exactly what we see Maria making in the book!
But what exactly is she kneading? Masa!
Masa is corn dough that tortillas are typically made from.
After Maria spreads masa on corn husks, her family adds a spoonful of meat. Then her father wraps up the tamales and steams them!
Merriam-Webster states that the word tamale has South American origins, but tamales are often associated with Mexican culture, even if not all Mexican American families make them around the holidays.
2. Who is Gary Soto?
The author of Too Many Tamales, Gary Soto is multitalented and wears many hats. To start, there’s “Children’s Book Writer Gary,” the Gary we know and love from Too Many Tamales. But that’s hardly his only book. He’s written a variety of stories for children.
There’s “Prizewinning Poet Gary,” who often writes about Mexican American life and whose poem “Oranges” from his book A Fire in My Hands has been featured in poetry anthologies numerous times.
And, maybe most surprisingly, there’s “Tour Guide Gary,” who occasionally gives tours of his namesake museum located at his alma mater, Fresno City College in Fresno, California. It must be pretty awesome to give tours at your own museum!
3. Who is Ed Martinez?
Ed Martinez is the Caldecott Honor–winning Argentinian American illustrator behind Too Many Tamales! After the enormous success of this holiday classic, Ed moved on to a new full-time passion: portrait painting. You can find his work in the homes of dignitaries and heads of state all over the United States.
Clearly, he is extremely talented at painting vibrant and expressive humans. But we absolutely love his pet portraits! Maybe we should bring Clifford by his studio sometime.…
Today, Ed lives in a restored farmhouse in rural Connecticut with his wife (another artist) and two children, Oliver and Gabriella.
4. So will there ever be Too Many Tamales?!
Too Many Tamales is a favorite in the classroom and beyond. Teachers love to create games and activities around the book for their students.
And directors, actors, and writers love working with the material in plays:
But most of all, this unique, multicultural, fun read can be used as a jumping-off point to discuss family traditions, funny holiday stories, and thankfulness in the classroom—and what better time to discuss food, family, and tradition than Thanksgiving?
So can there be too many tamales? We don’t think so! Read this book aloud with your students to see for yourself.
These Books Are Available from Scholastic Book Clubs
’Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving by Dav Pilkey
No Turkey for Thanksgiving by Jacqueline Jules, illustrated by Kathryn Mitter
Strega Nona by Tomi dePaola
Too Many Tamales by Gary Soto, illustrated by Ed Martinez