Monday, September 30, 2013

YUM! MMMM! QUÉ RICO! by Pat Mora


1.      BIBLIOGRAPHY
Mora, Pat. 2007. Yum!  Mmmm!  Qué Rico!. Ill. by Rafael López. NY:  Lee and Low Books.
ISBN 978-1-58430-271-1

2.  PLOT SUMMARY

This picture book celebrates 14 foods native to the Americas, providing a short bit of information about each food’s origins in addition to offering a descriptive haiku of each food.  Each food receives a two page spread with colorful illustrations.

3.      CRITICAL ANALYSIS

Pat Mora uses her gift with words to describe food in lush, vivid ways that children can easily relate to.  With Pat Mora, children can learn to love poetry.  When describing chocolate, Mora writes, “Fudge, cake pie, cookies/brown magic melts on your tongue./ Happy, your eyes dance.”  Children can understand the sensation of chocolate melting on their tongue and most children are indeed very happy while eating it!  In the informational section about chocolate, she rounds out the fun description with historical information about the origins of chocolate, from the seeds in the pods of the tropical cacao tree.  She also talks about how the Aztecs roasted them, giving credit to an ancient people group from Central America who first discovered this popular food.

She uses figurative language to make the food come alive in our minds.  Cranberries are described as, “Scarlet fireworks,” blueberries are represented as summer in the metaphor “a bowl heaped with summer,” and chilies are “green mouth-fire.”  The role of poetry is to capture the truth of an experience or thing in as few words as possible while maximizing the beauty of language.  Her figures of speech about these foods do all of that.

Mora sprinkles some Spanish in like candy topping, celebrating the Spanish language by including it in her poetry smoothly and seamlessly.  She provides a short glossary of the few Spanish words in the t.p. verso page on the back of the title page, across from the dedication page. Our class notes say, "Now the trend is for Hispanic authors to share their own stories and experiences in a combination of English and Spanish.  The text is generally in English, but there is an interlingual use of Spanish.  Some authors then provide glossaries for the Spanish words, others expect the story's context to help with the meaning" (Vardell, n.p.).  This is the way Pat Mora works in this book, though the amount of Spanish she uses here is less than in some of her other works.  Spanish language is a large issue for Latinos, as "Latino children are faced with societal prejudice against their home language" (212, Smolen and Oswald.)

The fun, celebratory poetry is well matched by so many happy, fun-filled colorful illustrations (acrylic on wood panel) by Rafael López, such as the little boy about to eat a dripping ice cream cone while a girl cavorts with a kite and a dog dances on its hind legs in hopes of catching a drip. Stylized, magical images such as kids floating down from the sky to eat papaya or a giant pineapple with a face and a mouth full of pineapple rings, brings elements of fantasy to the book. These types of images provide a feeling of whimsy.  Some scenes, though, are more serious portrayals of indigenous people, such as one showing a family eating corn, for example.  The home in the background is an authentic adobe home or cave dwelling and the individuals are seated on a blanket with traditional Native American designs around the edges.  Their skin tone is authentic, as is their hair. Yet on another page, a castle of chocolate floats in the sky on a cloud, and a little red-headed girl savors a chocolate chip cookie. The smiling suns, the trumpet playing peanut butter sandwich and laughing children truly combine to create a powerful image of fun.  The warm, rich, bold colors have a very southwestern flair. 

Children of all ethnicities are represented, though it is fair to say that the Latino community is shown more than others—as it should be, in a book about foods native to the Americas.  As Pat Mora says in her reader’s note at the end, “We do know that all these plants were grown and enjoyed by the peoples of the Americas long before Christopher Columbus or any other Europeans had ever tasted such wonderful foods.” It is a good book to have for many reasons, not the least of which is that it distinguishes between different parts of Latino culture, such as Peruvian, Mexican, southwest American and Brazilian.  Dr. Vardell writes, "As we learn more, we begin to realize that we can't lump all Latino cultures together.  There are distinctive differences even between Cuban, Puerto Rican, Nicaraguan, and Mexican cultures, for example."  While this book is not written from the point of view of all these different cultures, Mora is careful to mention a great many of them and give credit to them when a fruit comes from their history or country.

Her informational sidebars are as bursting with information as the illustrations are bursting with color and fun.  We learn that the pineapple is the leading fruit crop in Puerto Rico and that potatoes are native to the Andean mountains of Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador in South America.  She educates about the important role these Latin countries have in the world in part through the food and food history they offer.


4. REVIEW EXCERPT(S)

This concept book serves as a delicious introduction to 14 types of food, all of which have their origins in the Americas.  Snippets of information and a haiku poem accompany each one, ranging from blueberry and chili pepper through papaya, prickly pear, and vanilla.  Using English and a smattering of Spanish words, Mora crafts a playful introduction to each one, as in, “Pumpkin”: “Under round luna,/scattered tumblings down the rows,/autumn’s orange face.”  The sense of whimsy is further unscored in López’s colorful acrylic on wood-panel illustrations.  Artful compositions and brilliant complementary colors bear out the book’s multicultural themes.”  -- School Library Journal, Sept. 1, 2007.

“*Starred Review* This inventive stew of food haiku celebrates the indigenous foods of the Americas.  Each of the 13 [sic] poems appears on a gloriously colorful double-page spread, accompanied by a sidebar that presents information about the origin of the food.  From blueberries to prickly pears to corn, the acrylic-on-wood-panel illustrations burst with vivid colors and stylized Mexican flair.” – Booklist, Dec. 1, 2007.

5. CONNECTIONS
  • Have students take turns reading each haiku out loud.  Count the syllables per line to study the form of the haiku.
  • Have students write their own food haiku, about their favorite foods or foods from various countries you may be studying in geography.
  • Write Pat Mora a letter, telling her thanks for her work.
  • Read other Pat Mora books and compare how her prose differs from her poetry.
  • Research a food and write a short report about it in the style of Pat Mora’s informational sidebars.  Combine it with a poem about the food and do your own illustrations.


6.  PERSONAL REACTIONS

The art is so joyful that I would love to frame some of the images!  I found the facts interesting and the haikus delightful.  This has become my favorite Pat Mora book so far.


Works Referenced:

 Smolen, Lynn Atkinson and Ruth A. Oswald, ed.  2011.  Multicultural Literature and Response:  Affirming Diverse Voices.  Santa Barbara, CA:  Libraries Unlimited.


Vardell, Sylvia.  2008.  “Overview” Culture 3 Hispanic Lit.  Texas Woman’s University.  Blackboard class LS 5653, Multicultural Literature for Children and Young Adults.  Web.  Accessed September 27, 2013.  

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