Our mission is to not only raise awareness for the kid’s books that celebrate diversity, but to get more of these of books into classrooms and libraries.
Author: Janet Balletta
Illustrator: Estella Mejia
Publisher: WRB Publishing, November 29, 2013
Topic: Multicultural, Colombian Legends, Mermaids, Morals & Values: Obedience, Cultures and Traditions: Religious observance: Good Friday
Opening: A long time ago in a town called Valledupar, Colombia, lived a young girl, her little brother, and their parents in a house at the edge of the Guatapuri River.
Summary: Young Judith and her little brother plays by the side of the Guatapuri river known to have mermaid who loves to steal children who disobey the rule of swimming during the holy week leading to Good Friday. When her brother goes missing, she must summon her courage and find a way to get her brother back before the mermaid turns him into a mermaid too.
The author provides a teaching guide at the end of the story. It includes a vocabulary list and discussion questions.
Other extended learning activities could include:
Research Colombia. It's people, currency, weather, holidays, language, education, games, etc.
Research Guatapuri River. Where is it located? How long/deep is it? What kind of animals live in and around the river?
Compare and Contrast: Religious or cultural traditions are different for each family or community. How does your family or community observe Good Friday or other religious or cultural holiday similar to it?
All About Legends? What is a legend? How are legends different from myths? Do you know any legends from your country, state, or town?
The Legend of the Colombian Mermaid combines Colombian cultural and religious traditions surrounding the Good Friday holiday. The legend follows that a young girl disobeyed her parents and went swimming in the river during the holy observance of Good Friday, something that was strictly forbidden. The young girl disappeared into the river and was said to have turned into a mermaid. Now, La Sirena, lonely, wants playmates to keep her company. So she steals children who come to swim in the river during the Holy Week of Good Friday.
Judith and her brother are like most children, they love the outdoors and they live near a river and love to go swimming. While they know well the legend of the mermaid, La Sirena, they still proceed to go playing at the edge of the river, despite their parents warning not to. The minute Judith turns away from her younger brother, he goes missing. Frantic, she gets help from the animals native to the river. They help her come up with a plan to win her brother back from La Sirena before it is too late and she turns him into a mermaid forever.
This story is nice in that children and students are introduced to a legend from another country and culture. They are introduced to a religious holiday practiced among many Christians and Catholics. Teachers and parents have the opportunity to help their students research a new culture with different traditions. Children can learn about Colombia, the Guatapuri River, animals that live in that area. While the story did feel a bit didactic and did a lot of 'telling' as oppose to 'showing', it is nice to see stories that promote religious and cultural morals and values such as obedience, faith, honesty and courage, values that are universally shared around the world. While I could appreciate the story, I was not a huge fan of the illustrations. There was one illustration though that really stood out, it looked like it was done in oil paints on canvas, drastically different from the other illustrations. It was really pretty.
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Classroom Reading Challenge:
Help spread the word on our Classroom Reading Challenge . This very special offering from MCCBD offers teachers and classrooms the chance to (very easily) earn a free hardcover multicultural children's book for their classroom library. These books are not only donated by the Junior Library Guild, but they are pre-screened and approved by them as well.
What we could really use some help with is spreading the word to your teacher/librarian/classroom connections so we can get them involved in this program. There is no cost to teachers and classrooms and we've made the whole process as simple as possible. You can help by tweeting the below info: