Publishers Weekly describes Alma Flor Ada's beautifully written chapter book this way: "Armed with her new blue bookbag, María Isabel bravely faces her first day at a new school. But when she meets her new teacher, she is told there are already two other Marías in the class. 'Why don’t we call you Mary instead?' her teacher suggests, unaware that María was named for both her grandmothers, a grandfather and her father. María's inability to respond to 'Mary' leads to more problems. Simply told, this story combines the struggle of a Puerto Rican family’s efforts to improve their life with a shared sense of pride in their heritage. The author’s carefully drawn characterizations avoid stereotypes, thus increasing their appeal and believability. An essay involving a wish list gives María a chance to reclaim her name, and allows her teacher to make amends."
Reading is Fundamental has several excellent activities for the book that you can adapt and make your own:
- A guide for educators that includes a prediction chart template.
- A tic-tac-toe of activity options, with math, science, geography, art, and writing extensions for the book. I LOVE these!!!
- A guide for parents and families that includes a recipe for beans and rice.
You and your kiddos can read Alma Flor Ada's biography and watch a video interview with her over at Colorín Colorado, a fabulous site worthy of its own post, and soon!
When I read My Name is María Isabel with a group of 4th graders several years ago, I asked them to write an essay about their "Greatest Wish" as María did; one of them brought me to tears. My sweet student wrote about how much she wanted to see her sister who lives in Mexico with their grandmother, and whom she hasn't seen since she was two years old. What a heartfelt, and mature, wish from a precious little girl!
(Note: one of the activities suggested by Reading is Fundamental is writing just such an essay.)
Enjoy this wonderful book, available at Amazon, with your kiddos! Teach them the important vocabulary - attentively, Hanukkah, manger, menorah, misunderstanding, pageant, strumming, Three Kings' Day, troublesome. Discuss the realistic fiction genre. Have them write, look for evidence and cite it, learn about measurement using the recipe, and much more.
And as always, let it help cure your Common Core blues!