Saturday, October 29, 2011

Dancing Home

This week I seem to be in the mood to read some tween novels. Considering the fact that I have checked out two huge stacks from the library, this is a good thing.

Dancing Home by Alma Flor Ada and Gabriel M. Zubizaretta is the book I have been searching for to have in my school library. My school has a large number of Latino students and many could identify with Margie and Lupe. Margie is intent on being American despite her Mexican heritage. When her cousin Lupe moves in Margie is embarrassed at first because Lupe only speaks Spanish. Margie is worried what her friends at school will think of her.

Lupe arrives to live with her aunt and uncle and cousin. She misses her family in Mexico and also wants to find her father who has come to the United States but has not contacted her family in a few years.

I loved this story - a family coming to a new country, trying to fit in, and eventually accepting who they are. I could see so many of my students in this story. While at first I feared this was going to be a predictable story about two girls who did not get along, this book was so much more that.

I am always on the lookout for novels that feature Latino characters, and this one is a must read (and must own for elementary libraries).


Anonymous said...

Funny enough, I just finished an Alma Flor Ada novel today. It's younger middle grade, but it's called My Name is Maria Isabel. It's a good one to read out loud with the little ones, too. If you enjoyed Dancing Home, I'd recommend it!

Alma Flor said...

Dear Tina: What a joy to know that you have enjoyed Dancing Home. Although this novel is not autobiographical, my son Gabriel and I represent the experiences of the two protagonist. I have been an immigrant to this country. He was born here. We both have met many children who reflect the feelings of Margie/Margarita and Lupe. Gabriel two older daughters, my granddaughters Camille and Jessica became, along with her little sister Collette, real characters in the book. The girls read the story and made some excellent suggestions and feel comfortable being the character friends of the two protagonists. So the book while being fiction has some true characters in it.
I'd be delighted to hear from your students. You can always write me at
Thanks so much for your kind comments. It means so much for me that after such a long journey to create this book it is now in the hands of young people.
All best wishes to you and all who read this blog. Alma Flor Ada

Alma Flor said...

What a coincidence, and what a delight for me, that Jess had just discovered My Name is Maria Isabel. Many teachers who have shared that book with their students are now pairing both books, since they show two sides of an issue.
Maria Isabel wants to retain her name as it is. She does not recognize herself in the Anglicized version of a name that for her is intimately link to her grandmothers and her family history. Margarita, on the other hand, want to Anglicize her name, hoping that will help her fit better.
Students can engage in interesting reflections and compare and contrast dialogue when analyzing the two books.
Thanks for sharing your interest in My Name is Maria Isabel. It continues being a favorite of many classrooms. Feel free to contact me at All best wishes.