by Judy Newman with Alana Pedalino
She comes to us in winter, leaving behind her sunny house that rested between two snaking rivers.…
“Abuela belongs with us now, Mia.”
But I still feel shy when I meet this far-away grandmother.
These are the opening details that set the award-winning story of Mango, Abuela, and Me—written by Meg Medina and illustrated by Angela Dominguez—in motion. Mia and her grandmother—just meeting for the first time—struggle to overcome their language barrier and make themselves understood. Then Mia has the excellent idea to use word cards and to bring a certain parrot (un loro) into the mix.
Mia and her grandmother’s story is beautiful, simple, and relatable. I read it multiple times in preparation for this week’s post, and I thought often about my close relationships with my own two grandmothers: Nana Rae and Nana Min.
While I did not have the same language barrier with my nanas that Mia has with her abuela, we did have other barriers: different schedules, different attitudes, and definitely different priorities. But learning to communicate with both of my grandmothers, respecting their points of view, and finding ways to share my experiences with them resulted in deep, wonderful relationships that were cornerstones of my childhood and are foundational to the person I am today.
Needless to say, I hope my own relationship with my new granddaughter will be rich and rewarding and that we will learn from each other at every stage.
We are featuring Mango, Abuela, and Me as the Scholastic Book Clubs Book of the Week because in addition to being a great title to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, this Pura Belpré Honor book—with its gentle and accessible story—is wonderful to use all year long with kids of all ages. It teaches young people the importance of reaching across communication barriers to find a common language and ways to better understand each other.
In her candid interview in Behind the Scenes, author Meg Medina explains what life was like when her own grandmother came to live with her when she was a girl. (“The only family I knew in this country was my mother and my sister, right? And then suddenly, my mother springs on me that mi familia was coming, and I just didn’t know what to make of it.”) Meg’s personal experience—which Angela Dominguez taps into and brings to life in her emotional and joyous illustrations—speaks to the universality of this story.
My colleague Alana Pedalino, who works with me on the blog each week, believes that when we sit down to read a book, we are searching for some facet of ourselves in them. And if we don’t find ourselves, we get a window into experiences that make us more empathic—and give us an access point to generate discussions with our family, friends, and others whom we know well (and not so well) in our lives.
“This warm family story is a splendid showcase for the combined talents of Medina, a Pura Belpré Award winner, and Dominguez, an honoree.” —Kirkus Reviews
I think Alana is right. Everyone I know who has read this book connects with it in a special way. One of the beautiful things about Mango, Abuela, and Me is that the story of Mia and her abuela resonates with so many people on so many different levels. Readers of all ages connect the story to their own lives.
My friend and colleague David Vozar was inspired by Mia and Mango to reflect on his own tendency to express himself through his pets:
This week, the Book Boys—Max, Allister, and Elliott—talk about how they identify with Mia’s situation.
And just the other day when Alana searched Instagram’s Mango, Abuela, and Me hashtag to see what conversations were happening around this book, she discovered a beautiful post by @speechiebilingue0220, a mother and speech language pathologist, according to their bio. In the post was the cover of Mango, Abuela, and Me and a picture of them and their grandmother with a bilingual caption: “This is a beautiful story that depicts the bond between a grandmother and her granddaughter.…It reminds me a bit of my unbreakable bond with my own grandmother.”
Meg Medina and Angela Dominguez also share their personal connections to Mango, Abuela, and Me in Behind the Scenes. You and your class will love these candid interviews and glimpse into the creative process.
Plus this week on the blog, you can:
• Discover how one kindergarten teacher uses Mango, Abuela, and Me to help her students share their own culture, language, and traditions in Book Talks
• Encourage your students to flex their bilingual muscles with a free downloadable translate-and-draw activity in Cooked Up from a Book
I hope that you and your students enjoy Mango, Abuela, and Me and that it helps you inspire the young people in your life to appreciate the importance of reaching across communication barriers to empathize and share their stories.
Happy reading, and hasta luego!
This Book Is Available from Scholastic Book Clubs