What Can You Do With a Paleta

Author: Carmen Tafolla

Illustrator: Magaly Morales

Publisher and Year: Dragonfly Books, 2009

Number of Pages: 28

Genre: Fiction


IMG_3566            This story is about a young girl and her love for paletas and her barrio. A paleta is an icy fruit popsicle, and a barrio is a neighborhood. On each page she talks about all the roles that the paleta plays in her neighborhood.

This book is in English and in Spanish. On the left page there is the English text and on the right there is the Spanish translation. Since this book is in both Spanish and English it can function as a mirror and window. For a reader who is from a Mexican American background this book would function as a mirror. This would be a mirror because the reader would be able to connect with the language and the culture of the text. On the other hand this text could function as a window for a reader who doesn’t come from a Mexican American background. This reader would just be able to get a glimpse of this culture. They are probably unable to connect with the story the way a Mexican American would be able to but they can still learn and take away some new knowledge from this text. Since this text has translations of some words in the back it can also function as a door for readers. With the translations in the text readers are able to apply the words in their lives making them more a part of a different culture. Only one culture is represented in this text and that is the Mexican American culture. I gained a lot of knowledge from this culture just from a few pages. I had no idea that fruit popsicles was a big part of some Mexican American neighborhoods. I was also able to learn some new Spanish words that were within the text.

The images in this text are beautiful. They are full of color and I noticed that the color schemes are similar to the different colors of the paletas, which are mostly primary colors. The images are very detailed and in the backgrounds of the images the reader is able to see into houses and stores. On page 2 in the background the reader is able to see into the house of the main character. In the house her mother is cooking a traditional Mexican American meal of tortillas, tacos and fruit. I love how there is so much detail in the pictures because it allows the reader to see into the life of someone who is from a different culture. Overall I really enjoyed this book because it teaches about a different culture in a beautiful and colorful way.IMG_3567

The Color of Us

Author: Karen Katz

Illustrator: Karen Katz

Publisher and Year: Henry Holt and Company, 1999

Number of Pages: 24

Genre: Fiction


            The Colors of Us is a picture book about a young girl named
Lena. Her mother is an artist and shows Lena how to paint skin color. Lena at first only thin
ks that brown is brown so her mom takes her around town and
shows her all the different colors of skin there is.

            This book can function as a mirror or a window. On every page of this book there is a character from a different culture. Since there is so much culture a lot of readers can relate to the book if they see their own culture or similar skin color within the book. For a reader who hasn’t been exposed to the cultures that are in the text then it would function as a window. These readers are then looking into this book and seeing different cultures they may have never seen before. There is a lot of diversity within this text. Every page has a different race. On each page Lena sees someone she knows and points out the color of their skin and compares it with food. For example on page 7 there is a picture of Lena’s friend Jo-Jin who looks to be of Chinese decent and Lena compares her skin to the color of honey. I really like how the author describes the different colors of skin using food. For young readers they will have a better time imagining the colors when they are described using something they know. This way they will not just consider someone who has a darker completion as brown. Young readers will see that there are so many different shades of brown and that it’s okay to be darker or lighter than the people around them. Another thing I liked about this text is that in the image there are no gender stereotypes. The girls are playing sports, listening to music, or dancing. They are not confined by their gender to certain activities.

            This text is full of beautiful colors. The images mirror the text perfectly. For example when Lena states that one of her friends skin is a “light cocoa brown” or ‘butterscotch” (Katz, page 9) the images actually resembles those foods. All the images are very close up and very detailed. On each page there is only one character with a busy background like a city street of restaurant. Even though the backgrounds are very small they are still filled with culture from the character that is taking up the page. I really enjoyed this book it has beautiful illustrations and the message that we are all the same just different shades is very clear.IMG_3561

Buffalo Dreams

Author(s): Kim DonerIMG_4387

Illustrator/Photographer: Kim Doner

Publisher and Year: WestWinds Press in 1999

Number of Pages: 38

Genre: Fiction


This story is about the Bearpaw family and how they decide to make a trip to visit the only white buffalo on earth which is a symbol in the Native American culture for a spirit named White Buffalo Calf Woman, and the children believe that touching the calf will bring them magic. The oldest child, Sarah, is given an eagle feather from her grandfather’s headdress which is supposed to represent strength to her dreams, and she decides she wants to give this feather to the calf so that “her dreams can grow, too” (Doner p.11). In the end, the two children accidently end up in the buffalos’ pen and have a close encounter with the white buffalo calf’s mother, but before they end up escaping from the mother buffalo, the calf comes over and puts her head into Sarah’s palm.

The illustrations are large and usually take up the whole two-page spread. The images are also unframed which makes the reader feel like they are also experiencing everything with the characters. The images are also very detailed and realistic which again add to the reader feeling like they, too, are a part of the scene. I also noticed that at the bottom of each two-page spread was a dreamcatcher, but it showed the progression of making a dreamcatcher from its beginning stages in the beginning of the story to the completed dreamcatcher at the end. The characters in this story are both described and illustrated as Native Americans which are accurately represented in relation to their culture, not just the stereotypical idea of how Native Americans look, act, or dress.

When first reading this story, I thought that it was just a story about a Native American family visiting a rare white buffalo because they thought it was magical. However, after reading the author’s note and the legend of the White Buffalo Calf Woman in the back of the book, I realized that this story was inspired by a Native American legend about a White Buffalo Calf Woman who helps answer the dreams of believers, and an actual white buffalo calf that was born in 1994 named Miracle. I believe this story is a great window for children to learn about the Native American culture because it includes Native American legends and traditions. I also think that this story works as a mirror for modern day Native American children because there are not many stories which talk about Native Americans in a modern day setting. Overall, this story is a great way to introduce Native American culture into children’s literature.


I Have Heard of a Land

Author(s): Joyce Carol ThomasIMG_4391

Illustrator/Photographer: Floyd Cooper

Publisher and Year: HarperCollins Publishers in 1998

Number of Pages: 26

Genre: Historical Fiction


This book is about an African American woman who is travelling westward to claim land in Oklahoma. It describes the challenges that African American pioneer women faced, like having to sleep in a sod hut with a saddle as a pillow, but it also illuminates the pride and freedom that they now have. The story is based on the westward movement in the 1880s, and more specifically, the author’s own family experiences while moving to Oklahoma.

The illustrations in this story both mirror and add to the text of the story. For example, the illustrations describe what the text is saying, but in more detail. Also, every illustration covers the entire page, there is no white space on any page, therefore, every image is unframed. This causes the reader to feel like they are there experiencing the westward movement with the characters. The colors of the images are all shades of brown which give an earthy and powerful mood to the story, but the darker shades of brown portrays a more serious and sorrowful mood. I also noticed that the main character is usually facing or looking to the right of the page which can symbolize her determination to keep moving until she finds her own piece of land.

This story can be used as a mirror to teach children about the Oklahoma Land Runs which allowed not only African Americans to settle and gain land, but also single women. I believe it could also be a window for children to begin to learn about the hardships that African Americans, especially females, were facing at this time in history. I also believe that it could be a mirror for African American females because not often are African American women depicted in literature as tough, hard-working, and independent. This story also touches on the idea of self-perseverance and personal journeys by the way that the main character never gives up on her westward journey even though she may face unexpected challenges along the way. Therefore, I believe this could function as a door to encourage children to always follow their dreams, but also realize that it will not be easy and it will take a lot of hard work and determination but it is worth it. All in all, this story is did a great job of retelling an often looked over event in history that gave African Americans and females the chance at freedom and opportunity.

Oh No, Gotta Go!

Author(s): Susan Middleton ElyaIMG_4360

Illustrator/Photographer: Brian Karas

Publisher and Year: P. Putnam’s Sons in 2003

Number of Pages: 28

Genre: Fiction


This book is about a little girl who forgot to go to the bathroom before she got in the car and she tells her parents that she cannot hold it in. As the story continues the little girl and her parents are on a journey to find somewhere to stop so she can use the bathroom, speaking mostly English and using various Spanish words throughout. Then at the end of the book, the family finds a restaurant where the little girl can use the bathroom, but when they get inside the line is super long and they end up going to the front of the line because she cannot wait any longer, and then the little girl feels relieved after using the restroom.

The illustrations in this book are all brightly colored and have many zig zag lines and shapes, these both representing the high energy and troubled emotions that the family feels while scurrying around town looking for a bathroom. The images are definitely needed to help young readers understand the meaning of different Spanish words. In fact, on one page all the stores are labeled with their Spanish name. It was interesting to read a mostly English book that included a variety of Spanish words, but I feel that this is a great way to introduce young readers to a second language, as well as another culture. The illustrator also did a great job of including a variety of ages, genders, and races within the characters; however, I felt that the main characters who were depicted as a Spanish speaking family were misrepresented and looked very White. Another observation I had was that almost all the female characters in the story were wearing either a dress or skirt, which I feel is a stereotype of the way females dress.

When I initially read the story, I perceived it to be a funny story which included some Spanish words. But I believe that this story could be a window for students to learn more about a second language, specifically Spanish, which can be very helpful in teaching young children how to appreciate another culture and language other than their own. I also think this is a great book for children who may come from a dual language household to recognize the value and importance of being able to speak and read in more than one language. Overall, the book can be a great tool for introducing Spanish to young children.

A Dance Like Starlight: One Ballerina’s Dream

Author(s): Kristy DempseyIMG_4365

Illustrator/Photographer: Floyd Cooper

Publisher and Year: Philomel Books in 2014

Number of Pages: 28

Genre: Historical Fiction


This story is set in New York in the 1950s, and is about a little African American girl who goes with her mother to work, which is at a ballet school, and she falls in love with ballet. The story continues with the young girl always wishing and dreaming of becoming a prima ballerina, and one day the Ballet Master sees her dancing backstage and allows her to join ballet lessons at the school. At the end of the story, the little girl’s mother takes her to see Janet Collins perform at the Metropolitan Opera House, as she debuts as the first African American prima ballerina, and the little girl then realizes that she can do anything she sets her mind to.

The illustrations in this book are large and drawn with detail. All the images have a pinkish-brown color scheme, which I believe adds warmth to the images and makes the reader feel comfortable with the main character. The illustrations are also unframed and take up the whole page, which helps the reader to feel as though they are also experiencing everything with the characters. Also, the way the text is placed on each page almost resembles movement and dancing, which can be related to the little girl’s never ending dream of becoming a dancer and how she is always moving towards her end goal.

When first reading through this story I thought it was a great story about a little girl who never gives up on her dreams of dancing, but after reading through the story again, and reading the author’s note, I realized that there was a deeper message within this story. The author was inspired to write this story based on the true event of Janet Collins becoming the first prima ballerina to be hired from the Metropolitan Opera, and the story briefly touches on segregation within the U.S. pre-Civil Rights Movement. I believe that this story could be used as a window for children to learn about segregation and how everyone was not allowed the same opportunities. However, this story does not explicitly state anything about segregation or the Civil Rights Movement, and the young girl is portrayed in a way that is very happy, which does not send the reader the correct message about the hardships that many African Americans may have faced during the 1950s. I also think this book can be used as a mirror for African American children who may feel like they have struggled with having the same opportunities as white children, and also for children who are living with a single parent who has to work a lot in order to provide support for their family. This book could also be used as a door to teach children to never give up on their dreams. Overall, I believe this story does a great job of encouraging children to follow their dreams, but I am not sure that this book accurately represents the way many African Americans felt during segregation.

The Reverend Thomas’s False Teeth

Author: Gayle Gillerlain

Illustrator: Dena Schutzer

Publishing Information: BridgeWater Books, 1995.

Number of Pages: 30

Genre: Non-fiction, Picture book

teeth 1 teeth 2


Reverend Thomas was coming to Gracie’s home for dinner. Gracie and her family were so busy preparing the dishes for Reverend Thomas. However, he accidentally lost his false teeth overboard. Everyone tried to get the teeth for Reverend Thomas but they all failed. Finally, clever Gracie helped him find the teeth and they all enjoyed the delicious meal together.

This book includes spiritual and religious elements. The text serves as a window for children to look at one specific aspect of culture. Through the book, readers can have a glance at what the life of a Christian family is like. Therefore, readers can better connect the story with their own life.

I find this book problematic in various ways. Firstly, gender stereotypes and discriminations are presented. In the story, Gracie stayed at home and helped her mother prepare the dinner. We can see that her father was not doing anything because he is only mentioned by “Daddy rushed off with Will” (P. 8). Her brother was playing outside and not helping either. Besides, when people tried to think of methods to get Reverend Thomas’s teeth, nobody listened to Gracie. Secondly, when things happened accidentally, people pray. However, with all due respect, praying is not the way to actually solve the problem. After Reverend Thomas dropped his false teeth, the only thing he did was “praying for the safe return of his lost teeth” (P. 8). All of the neighbors helped him look for the teeth and Gracie’s brother Will even jumped into the water. It is not fair for everyone else to do the job for him even if he is honorable. Thirdly, when I read the method Gracie used to get the Reverend’s false teeth, I got a little confused. I think the author should elaborate it a little bit more about how Gracie used chicken for bait to catch the teeth.

Perceptually, the illustrations use bright colors to depict the joyful atmosphere. The pictures are not framed. Therefore, readers can have the view from within. Structurally, text and images overlap. Ideologically, the book teaches children to use their wisdom to solve problems instead of doing things without thinking.

Town Mouse Country Mouse

Author/ Illustrator: Jan Brett

Publishing Information: Scholastic Inc., 1994.

Number of Pages: 30

Genre: Fiction, Picture book

mouse 1 mouse 2 mouse 3


The town mice want to experience the quiet and peaceful countryside while the country mice want to live in a town where food is ready all the time. Therefore, they trade houses. They all have a difficult time living in environments which are completely different from what they are used to. In the end, they realize that their own homes are the most comfortable. So they trade back.

It is a classic story with wonderful illustrations. The text functions as both a mirror for children to reflect themselves during everyday life and a window for them to look at the differences between living in town and in country. The mice trade houses and experience another kind of lifestyle, and finally realize that what suits it best is the best choice, a rule which can be applied in many different aspects such as view of life and view of love.

One problem I found in the book is the class stereotypes presented in the text. Town mice stand for people who live in cities while country mice stand for people who live in the countryside. Town mice always have food prepared for them while country mice have nothing but the beautiful view and natural habitats. Nowadays, people concern more about environment and humanity construction in the city while focus on technology development in rural area.

Perceptually, the book uses a lot of dark colors to depict the confined situation where both the country mice and the town mice are not used to their new living conditions. The pictures are framed for readers to look into the story. The frames are in different artistic styles which attract younger readers. Structurally, text and images overlap. Ideologically, first of all, the book teaches children that the ones that suit them best are the best choices. Secondly, the story stresses family bond. What individuals have outside is not the most important, as long as they have their family company. Thirdly, the author tries to eliminate the class differentiation by pointing out both the advantages and disadvantages of living in the town and living in the countryside.

Papa is a Pirate

Author/ Illustrator: Katharina Grossmann-Hensel

Publishing Information: North-South Books Inc., 2009.

Number of Pages: 24

Genre: Fiction, Picture book

papa 1 papa 2


The little boy’s father makes up a story about himself being a pirate. He depicts his life on the ship to his son. He tells the little boy what pirates eat on board and how they send messages by floating them off in bottles. At first the little boy is skeptical about the story his father tells him. But after his father’s vivid description, the boy finally believes that his father really is a pirate.

The text functions as a window for children to look at what pirates’ life is like on board. It is an interesting book which gives children enough space for imagination. The book includes a lot of details which makes the whole tale more reliable. For example, when they are talking about the language usage on board, Papa says, “While Daffy Dan was scrubbing the deck, Petey squawked,’Avast there, ye landlubber! Yo ho ho!’” (P. 6). Another example is that Papa says to the little boy, “I sleep out under the stars. They are the best compass and guide my way” (P. 15). When Papa is telling the story, not only does he describes the plot, he also explains each of his actions. The other advantage of this book is that, in the story, the little boy’s mother is portrayed as a pirate as well. Papa tells the little boy that Mom could be both a princess and a pirate (P. 18). Gender discriminations are eliminated.

One thing I found the book problematic is that all of the characters in the book are white. Children should learn about diversity of different races in literature. Although the boy’s mother is also a pirate, males still exist as rescuers through the story. In the images on page 17 and 18, Papa is illustrated as tall and strong while Mom is small and weak.

Perceptually, the book uses various kinds of colors to depict the compact plot development. The pictures are not framed so that readers can better put themselves in the story. When they are trapped in the desert, all the characters are facing right which conveys a sense of less security. But after they are rescued and heading back home, the ship is moving towards left which demonstrates an increasing sense of security. Structurally, text and images do not overlap. Ideologically, the book teaches children to be brave when facing difficulties.

Puzzled By Pink

Author/ Illustrator: Sarah Frances Hardy

Publishing Information: Penguin Group, 2012.

Number of Pages: 30

Genre: Non-fiction, Picture book

pbyp 1 pbyp 2


Rose is a little girl who loves pink. She wants everyone coming to her birthday party wear pink fairy wings and tutus. However, her sister Izzy hates pink and tutus. She does not believe in magic or the wand. Suddenly, the wand works and turns Izzy’s cat into a dragon. They play together at the party downstairs.

The text functions as a window for children to look at the story of other people’s life. The author and illustrator really did a great job presenting diversity through the story. There are both boys and girls coming to Rose’s party and boys can be fairies. Children who show up at the party have different skin colors. It teaches children that people of different races or different genders can be friends.

In the story, the character Izzy is kind of mean to her little sister Rose. It was Rose’s birthday but in the text Izzy never congratulates her or even wishes her a happy birthday. It is not the right way how sisters should treat each other. Even though Izzy comes to the party downstairs and plays with Rose in the end, the reason she does that is to escape from the dragon instead of celebrating her sister’s birthday. A possible revision of the text could be even though Izzy won’t wear pink things, she still helps Rose prepare for the party and has fun. Also, for me, the ending is a little confusing. The fact that the dragon shows up as a vicious creature at first but then it comes downstairs to play with children might confuse readers.

Perceptually, the book uses contrastive colors to demonstrate the differences of personality between Rose and Izzy. Rose always wears pink while Izzy wears black and white. The images are not framed so that readers can actually participate in the story. When Izzy decides to go upstairs and has her own party, she moves to the right which conveys a sense of less security. Structurally, text and images do not overlap. Children might not have any insightful takeaways from the book but they can notice the diversity of people through this interesting little story.