Although I wasn’t at ACTFL, one of my favorite Latin teachers was there, so of course I sent her a long list of new books to buy me to add to my FVR library. I was so excited to see that Señor Jordan on YouTube has written a new book called La Estatua. It is a brand new book, and I was hooked. I loved it for many reasons:
The illustrations were great! It would be easy to discuss the pictures alone if you were going to read it as a class. You could also just put some up around the room to pique student interest before putting it into your FVR rotation. When you get a new book in your library, make sure that you do a little “promotion” of the book. You could easily copy a few pictures, do a picture talk of them and then add it to your library.
The Mexican culture embedded into the novel was great and felt natural. One point, they have huevos rancheros. I also appreciated how Lola refers to her father as Apá. Jeremy also manages to discuss the weather patterns of Mexico without it seeming awkward. The story also revolves around the story of chac mool and the myths around it.
I also felt like the language itself seemed more natural. Since it was made for level 2, the words didn’t seem as repetitive. Some of the Spanish readers that I have read rely upon a lot of cognates, but this book did not. (Not that it didn’t seem comprehensible! The word count is around 300 new words.)
As far as grammar, the story is predominantly in the present tense with some past tense scattered throughout the book.
I appreciate a new voice in comprehensible novels. Just like with regular novels, some students will naturally drift to certain authors because they like the way that they write. Jeremy’s voice provides an great addition to an already amazing cast of authors. Plus, Jeremy is so popular with many students, so that may engage some reluctant readers.
I would say that the book is a bit scary, so if you have students who do not like scary books, I would be cautious. As I have noted before, I don’t love scary books, but I wasn’t too scared. For me, it was more engaging than scary. I would not use it in Middle School unless I knew that I had a group of students who were really into scary stories. You could easily use it in High School. Also, another note, I have read El Ekeko, and I am planning on using it with my level 1 class at the end of the year. I found some similarities with these two books. I wouldn’t teach both in the same year; however, if you have a student who loves El Ekeko, I would buy this book as a great follow-up book. (Same thing goes, if you have a student who loved La Estatua, I would encourage you to purchase El Ekeko to continue on a similar theme and for students to read during FVR.) It would also be interesting to create literature circles with either book, and then have students compare and contrast the novels at the end. I highly recommend adding this book to your library/class novel rotation! Let me know if you have any questions about it.
Have you noticed how awesomely easy to read are the novels by Craig Klein Dexemple? I have not read this one yet, but in my mind this author is trustworthy to promote without having read. In addition, this book has over 200 illustrations and the author’s students report that it is among the easiest to read novels in his classroom library. Hey, level 3 students LOVE easy to read novels. Follow this link to take a closer look at the novel on Craig´s website.
A.C. Quintero has a knack for writing really interesting plots, tightly designed for low-level readers. It is rare to find reading for level 1 that feels like easy reading. However I recommend adding these readers to an FVR library for all levels, because even heritage learners are going to enjoy the awkward social situations in these books.
Last year I was offered an opportunity to test out a draft of Bryan Kandel´s new novel in my level 3 classes. I presented it to my students as a choice reading option for the end of the year. Among the students who chose to read Los Sobrevivientes, they were really into it! The novel is a gripping action story based on the true story of a plane full of Uruguayan rugby players which crashed in the Andes on its way to Santiago de Chile. Presumed dead, two men decide that they must hike their way out– without mountain climbing supplies, food, or even a clear idea of where exactly they were.
The short story for intermediate learners of Spanish that is sweeping the nation. “Ángel” is the story of 19-year old Diego Torres who harbors a secret until circumstances force him to reveal what he’s hiding. Poignant, timely, and defying stereotypes and genres, “Ángel” is the story that every student in Spanish should read.
Elena is a seventeen-year old girl who claims to hear the Virgin’s voice. Concerned, her parents and priest think it’s wise to put her under psychiatric care. But does Elena really belong in a clinic? As in VanPatten’s first story, “Ángel”, this story defies stereotypes and takes us into the mind of an intelligent teenager. “Elena” is a story that hits all the right notes for students of Spanish, consisting of nine segments plus a short prologue and a short epilogue. It is just the right length for students of intermediate Spanish.
Three tales of ghouls, ghosts, and gruesome deeds in graphic format in Latin! The stories are designed for the intermediate Latin student with limited vocabulary and grammar to ensure readability. In addition, the book contains a full glossary, grammatical index and description of the historical setting of each story. Learn Latin through compelling reading.Click here to read moreand see samples from the book orclick here to buy it from Amazon.
If being in the minority in a particular demographic isn’t demanding enough, Yamila discovers a family secret that threatens to derail the success she has encountered thus far at her competitive high school, even given the economic challenges confronted by her and her family. Experience the trials that Yamila faces in contrast to the seemingly carefree life of her best friend, Ashley, as the two characters illustrate their differences all while maintaining their relationship. La Niñerais a common story, but one rarely told in accessible Spanish. As a level-two reader, students of Spanish have access to rich vocabulary, a review of the present tense and an introduction to the past tenses in context through a story whose cultural content also presents topics worthy of discussion.
El Entierrois a short Spanish novel written for third/fourth year Spanish students. It has a glossary in the back, arranged by chapters, so the reader can easily access those words that are new and specific to the story. In Latin America there are lots of myths and legends that are part of our oral traditions. This story is inspired by some of them. “Amalia Mosquera es una joven enfermera que acaba de alquilar una casa vieja en el pueblo. Rápidamente se da cuenta que ella no es la única que vive en la casa. Hay alguien más, que la sigue a todos lados y no la deja en paz. ¿Podrá ella vivir en esa casa por mucho tiempo? O ¿Se cansará y se irá rápido, como lo han hecho todos los que han vivido antes allí?
A collection of short, non-fiction entries that excite a different kind of reader
People sometimes ask me how I keep students from getting bored of my schtick creating class stories day after day. The key, of course, is that I am not doing the same thing every day. On some days we create class stories together, some days I tell a fable, some days we discuss the plot of short video clips or a Spanish language tv show that we are watching in class, and some days we discuss our own personal stories through student interviews. But there is one kind of story that feels so different: non-fiction.
The readings in Bryce´s book excite a different kind of reader: the child who spends hours curled up with a magazine like Ranger Rick, Popular Science or National Geographic. This book rounds out a classroom library by focusing on interesting non-fiction that is comprehensible to novice learners of Spanish. Whether offered as an independent reading selection, read in small groups or part of a whole-class reading activity, these readings are a necessary complement to the fiction that is central to my classes.
I like to do a few of these readings as a whole class activity to hook students on the pleasure of reading non-fiction. Not all students enjoy reading about the animals of Latin America (for example), and that is okay. Then I leave the book out for FVR. Those who long for “something real” will be attracted like magnets to Bryce´s book and, in turn, will be much more attentive during the fiction stories spun in class because they recognize that one part of the class was designed just for them.