Harlem’s Little Blackbird

More  now than ever before, I find myself asking, “What can I do to support anti-racism movements and how might I aid in bringing about social change?”

I consider myself to be open-minded, empathetic, kind and just.   My first car, a 1985 maroon Honda Accord that was passed down from my mom to my sister to me when I  finally learned to drive, flashed a Celebrate Diversity  bumper sticker with a rainbow background.  In college, I chose to live in the international dorm at UC Berkeley with students from around the world.  I have been committed to learning a second language as an adult and I seek out cultural events to attend with my family.  For heaven’s sake, I write a blog called Sail Away Story…a celebration of children’s literature from around the world!

And yet, I am aware that I have so much to learn about the complexities and intricacies of white privilege and systematic racism.  I also know that the question above “What can I do?” has a different answer for every individual.

While some may be moved to protest in public places, others may be inspired to write powerful testimonies.  While some may be inclined to lead, others may be motivated to educate or be educated.

What can I do?  What is my calling in the movement of anti-racism and social change?

First and foremost, I acknowledge that I am learning.  I am asking questions.  I am reading articles.  I am listening.  I am accepting that my personal awareness plays a role in a collective awareness.

Second, I accept that as an educator and a parent, I can engage in meaningful action to build a better future for my children and the children in my care.  I can begin to generate social change by:

  1.  Including diverse books in both my home library and school library.
  2.  Reading diverse books to my children and my students.
  3. Creating a safe environment in both my home and my school for children to ask questions about racism and social justice.
  4. Listening deeply to our youth.
  5. Modeling anti-racist behavior for my children.

While I recognize that the road to dismantle  institutional racism is long and rigorous, I know that there are small steps I can take now.

Earlier this week I virtually joined the KidLit Rally 4 Black Lives, created by Kwame Alexander, Jacqueline Woodson, and Jason Reynolds and sponsored by The Brown Bookshelf.   Today I ordered a copy of Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds.  Tomorrow I will read Renee Watson’s, Harlem’s Little Blackbird, The Story of Florence Mills to my daughters.

Perhaps you will join us!


Click on the link above to hear Renée Watson read from and discuss the creation of her book, “Harlem’s Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills,” with third grade students and compare the challenges she faced in her competitive career with those of her real-life protagonist, singer Florence Mills. The program in the Library of Congress Young Readers Center was co-sponsored by the nonprofit literacy organization, EverybodyWinsDC.

*Forward to 13 minutes to hear the story without previous commentary.

Renee Watson asks of white educators, librarians and youth workers to “not only share stories about our pain, but  about our joy too.”  Harlem’s Little Blackbird is Florence Mill’s story told by Renee Watson and illustrated by Christian Robinson.  The book is a  poetic biography about justice, equality, struggle, success and….joy.

Born to parents who were both former slaves, Florence Mills knew at an early age that she loved to sing, and that her sweet, bird-like voice, resonated with those who heard her. Performing catapulted her all the way to the stages of 1920s Broadway where she inspired everyone from songwriters to playwrights. Yet with all her success, she knew firsthand how prejudice shaped her world and the world of those around her. As a result, Florence chose to support and promote works by her fellow black performers while heralding a call for their civil rights.

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Family Discussion:

1. What was Florence passionate about?  What are you passionate about?

2. How would you feel if someone told you that you couldn’t do what you love because of the way you look?

3. What are a few of the examples of racism/discrimination that Florence encountered during her life time?

Racism is  is when a group of people are treated unfairly because of their race. Some groups of people are even treated violently because of the color of their skin.

4.  Have you heard the word racism in conversations recently?  In what context?

5.  What are a few examples of racism that Black Americans face today?

6.  What small or big steps can you take to be anti-racist?

Family Activities:

  • Learn more about Florence Mills here.
  • Make a self portrait of yourself participating in an activity that you are passionate about similar to the portrait of Florence below:


  • Explore the lives of other inspiring Black Americans who have influenced social change by reading their biographies.  A few of my favorite titles include:









When Sadness is at Your Door/Tristeza–manual de usario

*Español abajo

I’ve been feeling sad.  Have you?

We are quickly wrapping up the month of May,  and March already feels like a lifetime ago.  I remember mentally preparing for my day-to-day schedule to change as a result of stay at home orders and I confess, in the early days, I secretly smiled inward as I delighted in the “opportunity” to nurture my domestic spirit.  Within a matter of days, my routine was halted.  Schools nationwide were suspended.  Classes at  Puerta Abierta Atitlan were canceled.  My travels to communities within Guatemala to train teachers disappeared.  I often catapult myself into a million projects; one of my biggest struggles is saying “no,” and yet my true inner self often wants nothing more than to live a slow life, one that includes home cooked meals, lazy days in my garden and afternoon naps.

Me siento triste. ¿Y tú?   ¿Cómo has sentido?

Estamos por terminar el mes de mayo, y marzo ya parece que fue hace una eternidad. Recuerdo que hace 10 semanas, me estaba preparando mentalmente para los cambios en mi vida que resultaria como parte de las ordenes de permanecer en casa. Confieso que, en los primeros días, sentía un alivio por tener la “oportunidad” de nutrir mi espíritu domestico. De repente, mi rutina se detuvo. Las escuelas del país fueron suspendidas. Las clases en la Puerta Abierta fueron canceladas. Mis viajes a comunidades dentro de Guatemala para capacitar maestros desaparecieron.  Normalmente  me catapulté en un millón de proyectos y unos de mis mayores dificultades es decir “no”. Sin embargo, mi verdadero yo interior no quiere nada mas que vivir una vida sencilla, una que incluye comidas que yo he preparada en casa con amor, días de descanso en mi jardín y siestas por las tardes.

For a few weeks I discovered joy in baking bread, making nature mobiles in the garden, catching up with far away friends on Zoom, and  reading for hours in the cozy corners of my house.  COVID 19 was evolving around the globe and I had moments of concern, compassion, worry, and sadness for the world at large, but the feelings were fluttery and ephemeral.

Al principio, descubrí la alegría de hornear pan freso, hacer móviles de la naturaleza en el jardín, conectarme con amigos lejanos por Zoom y leer montones de libros en los rincones acogedores de mi casa. COVID 19 estaba evolucionando en el mundo entero y sentí momentos de preocupación, compasión y tristeza por la sociedad colectiva, pero los sentimientos fueron como temblorcitos, breves y cortos.

As the days turned into weeks, and the weeks morphed into months, I found my moods also transitioning.  Alas, last week I felt myself sliding into a deep sadness.

Los días se convirtieron en semanas, y las semanas se transformaron en meses; descubrí que mi estado de animo también estaba en transición. La semana pasada sentí que yo estaba deslizando en una tristeza profunda.

Most days now are a jumble of emotion, but last week was a gleaming low.  I sensed “sadness” seeping in.  I saw sadness on the faces of the masked people rushing through town, burdened to purchase daily goods before the eminent curfew.  I heard sadness in the conversations with my teenage daughter who longs to leave the house and see her friends.  Most prominently, I felt sadness…a heavy melancholy that evoked sorrow and introspection.

Mis días ahora son un revoltijo de emociones, pero la semana pasada fue una valle expansiva de tristeza entre  montanñas de emociones. Tuve la sensación que la tristeza me estaba absorbiendo. Vi la tristeza en los rostros de la gente enmascaradas que corrían por las calles, con prisa para comprar sus insumes antes del eminente toque de queda. Escuche la tristeza en las platicas con mi hija adolecente que anhelaba salir de casa y reunir con sus amigos. Y sentí la tristeza como una melancolía pesada que evocaba introspección profunda.

On the home-front, we are all coping in different ways.  My eldest daughter ignites disagreements with her younger sister more frequently than usual.  My youngest daughter holds her frustrations deep inside until she can no longer contain them, and then has emotional meltdowns.  My husband defaults to drama and worst case scenarios, and I turn inward and quiet…often retreating to cleaning and organizing (outer clutter contributes to my inner chaos).

En mi hogar, todos los miembros de mi familia están enfrentando la tristeza en diferentes maneras. Mi hija mayor está encendiendo desacuerdos con su hermanita con mas frecuencia de lo normal. Mi hija menor guarda sus frustraciones adentro hasta que ya no puede contenerlas y por fin resulta en una explosión de emociones. Mi esposo actúa en una forma muy dramática y formula los escenarios peores .  Yo  me vuelvo hacia adentro, preferible en silencio…a veces dedicando mis horas a la limpieza y orden de mi casa (el desorden externo contribuye a mi caos interno).

I am aware that thoughts and feelings come and go…last night I marveled at our tiny moon hanging like a little canoe  over the lake and today I ran through the sprinklers in the garden with my family which was glorious. Poco a poco…day by day:) 

Entiendo que los pensamientos y los sentimientos van y vienen. Anoche me maravillé de nuestra diminuta luna colgando en el cielo como una pequeña canoa.  Hoy corrí libremente entre las mariposas (regaderas) de mi jardín con mi familia, lo cual fue glorioso. Poco a poco…día por día.

I am becoming more familiar with and accepting of sadness.  Whereas in the past I would turn away from the discomfort of the  emotion, I can now embrace it, like an old friend returning for a visit.

Me estoy familiarizando y aceptando la tristeza. Mientras que en el pasado me alejaba de la incomodidad de la emoción, ahora puedeo abrazarla, como un viejo amigo que regresa de visita.

I adore Eva Eland‘s children’s book When Sadness is at your Door in which we meet “sadness”  who is not  a grey rain cloud or a dark blue monster, but rather a soft, friendly marine-green character.  We are invited to welcome sadness, sit with sadness, drink hot cocoa with sadness, hug sadness, talk with sadness until, like all feelings, it departs.

Celebro el libro infantil por Eva Eland, La Tristeza en que nos encontramos con “tristeza”. En el cuento, la tristeza no es una nube de lluvia gris ni un monstruo azul oscuro, sino un personaje verde marino, suave y amigable. Estamos invitados a dar la bienvenida a la tristeza, sentarnos con la tristeza, beber chocolate caliente con la tristeza, abrazar la tristeza, hablar con la tristeza hasta que, como todos los sentimientos, se vaya.

We learn how to recognize and cope, embrace and care for an emotion we are often tempted to neglect.

Aprendemos como reconocer y hacer frente, abrazar y cuidar una emoción que normalmente estamos tentados de abandonar.

*Click on the link below to hear When Sadness is at Your Door in English and Spanish!  *Haz un clic en el enlace abajo para escuchar  Tristeza en en inglés y español.


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Family Discussion:

  1.  Have you felt sad recently?  If so, can you paint a picture of the feeling with words?
  2. What do you imagine that sadness looks like?
  3. What does the child do in the story with his/her sadness?
  4. What do you do when you feel sadness that helps you to cope with or begin to overcome this feeling?

Discusión familiar:

  1. ¿Te has sentido triste recientemente? Si es así, ¿Puedes pintar una imagen del sentimiento usando sus palabras?  
  2. ¿Qué hace el niño en el cuento con su tristeza?
  3. ¿Qué haces tu cuando te sientes tristeza?

Family Activities:

  1.  Using water colors, paint your own version of sadness.  What colors/shapes represent sadness for you?
  2.  Make a family list of activities you can participate in when you feel sad (sit under a tree, talk with a friend, listen to music, etc.)
  3. Draw a picture of a visit you have had with sadness in the past or that you  may have with sadness in the future.  What might you share together?

Actividades Familiares:

  • Usando acuarelas, pinta tu propia versión de la tristeza. ¿Qué colores/formas representan tristeza para ti?
  • Haga una lista familiar de actividades en las que pueda participar cuando se sienta triste (siéntese debajo de un árbol, hable con un amigo, escuche música, etc. )
  • Haga un dibujo de una visita que haya tenido con la tristeza en el pasado o que pueda tener con la tristeza en el futuro. ¿Qué actividades podrían compartir (tu y la tristeza) juntos?



Arroz con leche–Rice Pudding

*Español abajo

Surely there are many challenges of staying put at home for days, weeks, months…daily squabbles with our family members are becoming more frequent, we are missing social gatherings and we crave to have mobility outside of our own garden.

Entiendo que no es fácil quedarse en casa por días, semanas, meses…las disputas familiares son cada vez mas frecuentes, extrañamos salir y pasear con amigos, deseamos cruzar las fronteras de nuestros propios patios.

And yet, we are discovering the silver lining of our new circumstances.  Life moves slower…we spend entire afternoons in our garden marveling over small discoveries like caterpillars, sunflowers and wild mushrooms.  We are falling in love with the books that have been forgotten on our shelves the over years.  And our pantry has never been more organized.

Y, sin embargo, estamos descubriendo el lado positivo de nuestras nuevas circunstancias. La vida se mueve despacito…pasamos tardes completas en nuestro jardín maravillándonos con pequeños descubrimientos como orugas, girasoles y hongos silvestres. Estamos encontrando libros y cuentos olvidados en nuestras estanterías. Y nuestra bodega de comida nunca ha estado tan ordenada como hoy en día.

We’ve been spending more time in our kitchen…baking bread, making salads with home grown lettuce and experimenting with dessert creations.

What has your family been making/baking/creating?

Today’s Sail Away Story post  is a bilingual poem and recipe.  Enjoy!

Hemos pasado mas tiempo en nuestra cocina…horneando pan, haciendo ensaladas con lechuga cosechada en nuestro propio huerto y experimentando con postres.

¿Qué han cocinado/horneado/creado?

El post de hoy es un poema y una receta bilingüe. ¡Que disfruten!

Book:  Arroz con leche/Rice Pudding

Author:  Jorge Argueta

Illustrator:  Rafael Yockteng

*Click on the link below to hear me (Amanda:) read Rice Pudding with my friend Juanita!  Haz un clic en el enlace abajo para escucharme (Amanda) leer Arroz con leche con mi gran amiga Juanita!


Family Discussion:

  • Do you have any special family recipes?  What are they?
  • What is your favorite dessert?
  • Are there any foods that bring you comfort when you are having a difficult day?  What are they?

Discusión familiar:

  • ¿Cuáles son tus favoritas recetas familiares?
  • ¿Cuál es tu postre favorito?
  • ¿Hay algunas comidas que te ponen a sentir mejor cuando hayas tenido un mal día? ¿Cuáles son?

Family activities:

  • Make rice pudding!  Follow the recipe from the book here.
  • In the style of Rice Pudding, write a poem about a food that you adore.
  • Create a recipe book of family recipes.


Actividades familiares:

  • ¡Prepara arroz con leche. Sigue la receta aquí.
  • En el estilo de Arroz con leche, escribe un poema sobre una comida que adoras.
  • Crea un libro de recetas con tus propias recetas familiares.

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Balam, Lluvia y la casa

*Español abajo

Today’s Sail Away Story post is our fifth edition  of  “A little birdy told me…” in which we feature guest writers sharing about their favorite children’s books and schools from around the world.  

El post de hoy de Sail Away Story es la quinta edición de “Un pajarito me conto…” en la que presentamos invitados que comparten sobre los libros que les inspiran.

Meet today’s “little bird,” Diana Lopez.  Diana is a children’s literature enthusiast and the mother of two abundantly curious children, Valentina and Ignacio.  She lives in Guatemala City with her children and husband, surrounded by volcanos, lush forrest and books.  Diana believes that books are powerful tools for constructing a better world.  She edits and distributes books, especially those that speak to her heart.

Diana es una entusiasta de la literatura infantil. Es maestra porque naturalmente se convirtió en una al ser mamá de dos chiquitos curiosos: Valentina e Ignacio. Vive en Guatemala con sus hijos y esposo. Los libros para ella son un disfrute y su medio de vida. Cree que son una herramienta para construir un mundo mejor. Edita y distribuye aquellos libros que su corazón le dicta, y que a su juicio sumen a favor de una mejor sociedad.


En sus palabras/In her words:

TÍtulo:  Balam, Lluvia y la casa

Autor:Julio Serrano Echeverría (Guatemala)

Ilustradora: Yolanda Mosquera (España)

Temática: amistad, familia, humor

Themes:  friendship, family, humor


En pocas ocasiones tengo la oportunidad de conocer cual fue la semilla que floreció en la mente del autor para crear una obra hermosa. Esto me sucedió con el libro Balam, Lluvia y la casa. El autor me contó que fue inspirado en los comentarios que recibió en su cuenta de Twitter sobre travesuras secretas de la niñez de sus seguidores. De esa forma, Julio creó poesía con algunos de los recuerdos compartidos y Yolanda, la ilustradora, resonó con los versos, logrando delicadas imágenes que me conectaron con mi niñez.

We rarely have the opportunity to understand the original seed of an idea for a children’s story that eventually blossoms into a book.  However, I had the pleasure of conversing with Julio Serrano Echeverría who shared the inspiration for Balam with me.  After receiving messages from his followers on Twitter about mischievous childhood antics, he created poetry from the collected memories.  With the help of illustrations by Yolanda Mosquera, Echeverría has achieved the creation of delicate images that bring us all back to our youth.

Balam y Lluvia, los protagonistas de estas historias, son hermanos y muy traviesos. Y como los niños, el texto está lleno de humor, ternura y desenfado. Recorrer uno a uno los 17 poemas del libro fue un verdadero gozo. En ellos encontré mis propios recuerdos.

Balam and Lluvia, the protagonists of these poetic stories are mischievous siblings.  Like children, the text is full of humor, tenderness and grit.  Passing through the 17 poems in this book was a true pleasure.  In the stories I found my own childhood memories.

El título del libro nombra a los protagonistas como el centro de atención, pero también deja claro su campo de acción: la casa. El autor logró, a mi juicio, que cada área de la casa dejara de ser una estancia más y se convirtiera en algo vivo. La mayoría de los poemas tienen el nombre de alguna parte de la casa, logrando que este elemento fuera también una especie de protagonista.

The title of the book names the protagonists as the center of attention (Balam and Lluvia), and also highlights the scene of the story: the house.  In my opinion the author achieved transforming each area of the house into a living moment.  The majority of the poems are named after a room in the house, allowing la casa to  also takes on  the role of a main character.

Esta obra la leí “por partes” como si cada poema fuera un elemento independiente. “El patio”, es uno de mis favoritos, la profundidad e inocencia del texto me transporto a lugares de mi niñez que hacía mucho tiempo no visitaba. Otros como “La pared de la cocina” me han hecho reír a más no poder. Uno a uno, los 17 poemas me llevaron a recorrer distintas estancias, me invitaron a darle un nuevo sentido a objetos o lugares cotidianos y más de alguno me recordó a personas que amo y que ya no están. A primera vista el libro es hermoso y cuando conoces su interior descubres que es fantástico. Es de aquellos libros que cuando lo lees, llenan tu corazón de felicidad. No puedo ponerlo en otras palabras.  

I read Balam y Lluvia in segments as if each part was an independent element.  “El patio” is one of my favorites, the profoundness and innocence of the text transported me to places of my childhood that I hadn’t visited for many years.  Others like “La pared de la cocina” evoked uncontrollable laughter.  One by one, the 17 poems invited me to travel in time, to bring new feelings to daily objects and places, and to remember fondly people in my life who I have loved, some who are no longer with me.  At first site, the book is beautiful, and yet when one begins to read the text, the books becomes unforgettable.   Balam y Lluvia is the type of book that will fill your heart with happiness…there’s simply no other way to describe it.


Preguntas para discutir con los lectores del libro:

  1. ¿Cómo es la casa donde vives? Reflexiona sobre los diferentes espacios que podemos habitar. ¿Conoces casas muy diferentes a la tuya? ¿Cómo son esas casas?
  2. Piensa en cómo se compone tu familia, con quienes compartes el espacio donde vives. ¿Tienes hermanos o primos muy cercanos? ¿Quién cuida o cuidaba de ti cuando eras niño? Reflexiona sobre los tipos de familia que existen. ¿Conoces alguna familia muy diferente a la tuya? ¿Cómo es?
  3. ¿Cuál fue tu historia favorita del libro? ¿Por qué? ¿Te recordó algún momento de tu vida?

Discussion questions:

  1.  What is your house like?  Reflect about the different spaces that can be inhabited in your house.  Have you seen houses that are different than yours?  Describe them.
  2. Think about your family.  Who do you live with?  Do you live with extended family?  Who took care of you when you were little?  Reflect about the different types of families that exist.  Can you think of a family that is very different from your own?  How so?
  3. What was your favorite story in Balam y Lluvia?  Why?  Was there a story that brought back a memory for you?

Actividades de conexión con el libro

  1. Reflexiona sobre las situaciones que se viven en una casa. Existen situaciones alegres, divertidas, fastidiosas y tristes. Comenta alguna experiencia que hayas tenido. ¿Has hecho alguna travesura secreta? ¿Puedes contarla? ¿Te animas a dibujarla?
  2. Dibuja tu casa y haz un plano de ella. ¿Cuál es el lugar de tu casa donde suceden más cosas?
  3. Habla con alguno de tus abuelos (o algún adulto mayor), pregúntale como era su casa cuando era niño y que travesuras hacía. ¿Con quienes compartía su casa? ¿Las travesuras han cambiado con el paso del tiempo?

Connection activities:

  1.  Reflect upon the situations that “live”  in a home.  We can find moments of happiness, fun, love, anger and sadness.  Share about a “moment” connected to a feeling that you have had at your home.  Where did the moment occur?  Have you ever done something secretly naughty at home?  Can you tell us?  Can you draw a picture of it?
  2. Draw a picture of your house and make a blueprint sketch of of it.  Identify the area of your house where you spend the most time.
  3. Converse with one of your grandparents (or an elder) and ask how his/her house was when he/she was a child.  Who did he/she share their house with?  Were they naughty sometimes?  How so?

Gracias Diana por compartir con nosotros!  Pueden consiguir el libro de Balam, Lluiva y la casa en MISTUAMANUENSE  en Guatemala  o en Amazon en los EEUU.

Thank you Diana for sharing a story that you love with us!  You can purchase  Balam, Lluvia y la casa at MISTU and  AMANUENSE  in Guatemala  or on Amazon en the United States.


Dragons Love Tacos/Dragones y Tacos

*Español abajo

Hello, World!

Our family is 6 weeks into sheltering-in-place, and it seems that with each passing day, we become increasingly silly.

We love to play what if/imagine games when the afternoons grow long or the meal conversations run dry.  A few of our favorite communication starters include:

  1.  Would you rather be quarantined in place A or B?
  2. Would you rather be quarantined with person A or B?
  3.  Would you rather live without supply A or B?
  4. And most recently, where would you most like to travel once the boarders open?  (We live in Guatemala and all boarders have been closed for 5 weeks).

Unanimously our family has decided that we will travel to Mexico City once we are “free” to flap our wings and migrate north.  And, what do we most love about Mexico City?  Tacos!


Today’s story, Dragon’s Love Tacos by Adam Ruben is in honor of taco lovers around the world  who may be feeling confined in their homes.

Hola, Mundo! Nuestra familia lleva 6 semanas refugiándose en casa, y parece con cada día que pasa, nos volvemos cada vez mas ridículos (silly:).

Nos gusta inventar y jugar juegos como “si fuera/imagínate” cuando las tardes se alargan demasiado o la conversación de la cena se acaba antes de la comida.

Algunos de nuestros juegos de comunicación incluyen:

1.  ¿Preferirías estar en cuarentena con persona A o persona B?

2.   ¿Preferirías estar en cuarentena en lugar A o lugar B?

3.  ¿Preferirías vivir sin provisión A o sin provisión B?

4.  Y mas recientemente, ¿a dónde te gustaría viajar una vez que se abran las fronteras? (Vivemos en Guatemala y todas las fronteras han estado cerrados por mas de 5 semanas).

Por unanimidad, nuestra familia decidió que viajaremos a la Ciudad de México una vez que estemos “libres” para extender nuestras alas y migrar hacia el norte. ¿Y que es lo que más amamos del Distrito Federal? ¡Tacos! La historia de hoy,  Tacos y Dragones por Adam Rubin es una  celebración para  todos los amantes de tacos quienes se sienten confinados en sus hogares.

*Haz un clic en los enlaces abajo para escuchar las historias de Dragones y Tacos en inglés y español.

*Click on the links below  to hear Dragons Love Tacos in English and Spanish.


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Family discussion:

  • Do you have a favorite food?  What is it?  Can you describe your favorite food using the 5 senses (taste, touch, smell, sight, sound).
  • Do you like parties?  What kinds of parties do you like?
  • Have you ever accidentally made a mistake?  What happened?  How did you resolve your mistake?

Discusión familiar:

  • ¿Tienes una comida favorita? ¿Que es? ¿Puedes describir tu comida favorita usando los 5 sentidos (sabor, tacto, olfato, vista, oído)?
  • ¿Te gustan las fiestas? Describa tu fiesta ideal.
  • ¿Alguna vez has cometido un error sin propósito? ¿Qué paso? ¿Cómo lo solucionó?

Family activities:

  • Create a taco party for your family!
  • Imagine what other foods dragons might enjoy.  Make a menu for a dragon family.  Remember to include appetizers, desserts, main meals and drinks.
  • Make your own mild salsa using the recipe here.

Actividades familiares:

  • ¡Hacer una fiesta de tacos para tu familia!
  • Imaginar que otras comidas podrían disfrutar los dragones. Haz un menú para una familia de dragones. Recuerde incluir bocadillos, postres, bebidas y platos fuertes.
  • Hacer tu propia salsa no-picante. Receta

And a little “punny” silliness to brighten your day:)

How to Catch a Star/Cómo atrapar una estrella


*Español abajo

Tell me, how are you quarantining/sheltering in place?  Most days I feel as if I am a bird in a nest, huddled in the safety of my home with family.  We have returned to our domestic roots and pass the days making meals, planting seeds, taking naps and telling stories.


This week’s Cuentos en Casa is one of my favorite-all-time stories, a gem for all ages, How to Catch a star,  written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers.

Cuéntame, ¿Cómo estas pasando el tiempo de cuarentena? La mayoría de los días siento que soy un pájaro en un nido, acurrucado en la seguridad de mi hogar con familia. Hemos regresado a nuestras raíces domesticas y pasamos los días haciendo comida, sembrando semillas, tomando siestas y contando historias.

El cuento en casa de esta semana es Cómo atrapar una estrella, escrito y ilustrado por Oliver Jeffers, sin duda, una de mis cuentos favoritos y una joya para todas las edades.

*Haz un clic en los enlaces abajo para escuchar las historias de Cómo atrapar una estrella en inglés y español.

*Click on the links below  to hear How to Catch a Star in English and Spanish.






Family discussion:

  • Do you remember all of the strategies that the boy used to catch a star?  What were they?
  • What would you do to catch a star?  What materials or tools would you use?
  • Is the star that the boy found at the end of the story the same as the star that he saw in the water?  How do you know?

Discusión familiar:

  • ¿Te acuerdas de todas las cosas que intentó el niño para atrapar una estrella? ¿Las puedes nombrar?
  • ¿Qué harías tú para poder atrapar una estrella? ¿Hubieras necesitado algún material, herramienta u objeto para lograrlo?
  • ¿La estrella que encontró el niño al final de la historia era la misma que había visto en el agua? ¿Por qué?

Family activities:

  • Spend a little time observing the night sky with your family.  Find constellations or create your own.
  • Check out the printable worksheets and crafts that accompany the story created by intheplayroom here.
  • Explore how to make a water-color night sky here.


  • Learn about Oliver Jeffers and view his initial drawings for How to Catch a Star here.

Actividades familiares:

  • Pasar un poco de tiempo observando el cielo nocturno con tu familia. ¿Puedes encontrar constelaciones o crear tus propias?
  • Imprimir las hojas de acompañamiento del cuento Cómo atrapar una estrella aquí.
  • Explorar como hacer un cielo nocturno con acuarelas aquí.
  • Aprender sobre la vida de Oliver Jeffers y ver sus dibujos iniciales de Cómo atrapar una estrella aquí.





*Español abajo

Many of us are nearly four weeks into social distancing, sheltering in place, lock-down or quarantine.  Today looks very much like yesterday, and, will most likely resemble tomorrow.  We’ve dabbled in on-line exercise classes, downloaded more Audible books than we could ever listen to in a year of hibernation, and, surely we have unfinished puzzles on our coffee tables.

Throughout the coming weeks, I’ll be posting many of my favorite diverse children’s books in video format on Sail Away Story in both English and Spanish.   They will be accompanied with family discussion questions and activities, providing us with yet another tool to cultivate meaning in our days:)


Muchos de nosotros hemos cumplido más de 4 semanas en casa. Hoy se parece mucho a ayer y probablemente se parecerá como mañana. Nos hemos metido en clases de ejercicios en línea, hemos descargado más libros audibles de los que podríamos escuchar en un año de hibernación y seguramente, tenemos rompecabezas inacabados en nuestras mesas.

A lo largo de las próximas semanas, exploraré muchos de mis libros infantiles favoritos en Sail Away Story que estarán acompañado con preguntas y actividades para cumplir en familia. En este sentido, tendrán una herramienta más para cultivar propósito en sus días.

¡Que disfruten!

We begin our “cuentos en casa” journey with an endearing story of migration and perseverance, Dreamers, written by the beloved author/illustrator, Yuyi Morales.

Comenzamos nuestro viaje de “cuentos en casa” con un cuento de alma, una historia de migración y perseverancia, “Soñadores,” escrito por la querida autora/ilustradora Yuyi Morales.


*Click on the links below  to hear Yuyi read her story in English and Spanish!  For the English version, forward to 31 minutes.

*Haz un clic en los enlaces abajo para escuchar las historias de Yuyi en inglés y español. Para la versión en inglés, saltar a 31 minutos.

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Family discussion:

  • What does “migrate” mean?  Why do you think that some people may migrate?  Other than people, what other animals migrate?
  • What does the word “dream” mean?  Do you have dreams?  What are they?
  • Yuyi Morales celebrates the children’s books that she connected with while exploring the library with her young son.  What are a few of your favorite children’s books?  What makes these stories special?

Discusión familiar:

  • ¿Qué significa “migrar”? ¿Por qué crees que algunas personas deciden migrar? Además de las personas, ¿qué otros animales migran?
  • ¿Qué significa la palabra “sueño”? Tienes sueños? ¿Qué son?
  • En su libro, Yuyi Morales celebra los cuentos infantiles que tuvieron un papel grande durante sus años explorando la biblioteca publica con su hijo. ¿Cuáles son algunos de tus libros infantiles favoritos? ¿Por qué estas historias sean especiales?


Family activities:

Learn how to make your own book, play Mexican lottery, create paper flowers and take a book scavenger hunt with the Dreamers-Event-Kit prepared by Holiday House here.

Actividades familiares:

Aprender como hacer su propio libro, jugar lotería mexicana, elaborar flores de papel y realizar una búsqueda de libros con el Dreamers-Event Kit preparado por Holiday House aquí.







Change of Plans


Hello World!

Like many of you, I have been collecting valuable lessons amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.  How have your thoughts, strategies and plans changed over the past two weeks?  What have you learned?

Here are a few life lessons that I have gathered:

  • Plans change -all-the-time- and, that’s ok.
  • Just as our plans change, so do our feelings.  Sometimes, sitting with our emotions and listening to our intuition can help us make choices and decisions.
  • There is beauty in slowing down and living a simple life.
  • Community is essential, both virtual and physical.
  • Always choose kindness over fear, always.

For the time being, Sail Away Story will be changing and evolving as I attempt to create community amongst appreciators and enthusiasts of children’s literature. In the coming weeks, you will find posts in both English and Spanish for our bilingual and Spanish speaking friends.  In addition, I will post book recordings and extension activities of favorite stories read by authors, illustrators and contributors that can be viewed and enjoyed at home.

And finally, an invitation to collaborate!  If you are a parent, educator or a fan of children’s literature and would like to create a post for Sail Away Story, please reach out.  I’d be overjoyed to include your voice and ideas.

With kindness,


I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

Some people have a weakness for handbags or designer shoes.  Some people are coffee  connoisseurs.  Some people live for garage sale bargains.  My father collects old phonographs and my mom has acquired an assortment of small wooden and ceramic chickens from around the world.  My husband adores tacos, my eldest daughter is devoted to sitcoms from the 90s and my youngest daughter is a puzzle enthusiast.

I love books…I love books more than ripe mangos and dark chocolate and nearly as much as I love travel…travel with books is my idea of heaven:)

My love for books runs deep.  On the surface I adore the rush of entering a book shop with aisles upon aisles of written word.  I like to trail my fingers over book covers and to read the biographies of authors and illustrators.  I feel secure and snug in my home office where shelves of my favorite novels and children’s books surround me.

And on a more profound level, I love what books provide me with…imagination, escape, contemplation, reflection and above all, perspective.  I am a 41-year-old woman from the United States living in Guatemala and yet when I open a book, I am given a ticket to enter  a world that may belong to a character whose life looks very different from my own.  This ticket is what Rudine Simms Bishop would call a “window,”  an opportunity that offers a reader a  view into the lives of others.

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika Sánchez was my invitation to experience and relate to the life of fifteen-year-old Julia, the daughter of Mexican immigrants, who is growing up in a gritty Chicago Neighborhood.

Let’s imagine, even if just for a moment, what our world could be if we took the time to relate to others, gain new and different perspectives, learn of the struggles and accomplishments from people who have stories that are not our own.   I am not a social scientist, but I am a preschool teacher, and I spend most work days  living in a microcosm of a mini society.  I predict that if we collectively read more diverse books that provided us with “windows” into the lives of others, empathy, kindness and compassion would  replace judgement, assumption and discrimination. 

Title:  I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

Regional/Cultural focus:  USA/Mexico

Author:  Erika Sánchez

Genre:  juvenile fiction

Themes:  cultural identity, family, coming of age, grief

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter is brilliantly told through the voice of teenage Julia.  She is grieving the death of her sister Olga, who had always been “the perfect Mexican daughter.”  Olga was everything that Julia is not.  Olga was dedicated and obedient.  She had an ordinary job and spent time in the evenings watching telenovelas with her mom.  Julia is rebellious,strong-willed, sassy and  confrontational.

After her sister’s  death, Julia is surprised to discover a few provocative accessories in Olga’s bedroom.  She is determined to learn more about Olga’s not-so-pristine identity and in the process, she gains new insight into her family, her friends and ultimately herself.

We journey with Julia through her day to day…in her house where her family is falling apart in light of  tragedy, in high-school with the complexities of friendships, in cultural worlds of meeting family expectations while following her academic dreams.

What I love:

  • Julia’s voice is deeply present throughout the novel…painfully vulnerable at times and shamelessly hilarious at others.
  • Erika Sánchez doesn’t sugar coat difficult themes in her novel.  She explores topics such as death, immigration  and depression in a way that is both real and approachable.
  • While not the focus of the novel, there is a touch of romance.


  • In the first chapter of I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter we learn that Julia is grieving the death of her sister.  Have you ever lost someone close to you?  What words come to mind when you remember that period of your life?
  • Julia feels that she is not meeting her family’s expectations of who she should be/who she should become.  What are the expectations that Julia’s family has for her?  How do they differ from her own hopes and dreams?  What are your hopes and dreams?  Are they the same as the expectations that your family has for you?
  • While Julia often feels alone, there are people throughout the book who play important roles in supporting her.  Who are they?  How do they help her?  Who are the role models/helpers in your life?


  • In many ways I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter is a story about identity.  Make a list of words that come to mind when thinking about your identity.
  • Write a short diary of your day-to-day, from morning to night.  What do the details of your daily life reveal about your identity?
  • Learn more about mental health resources and how you can be a support system for friends who are struggling with depression.






The Night Diary


The term historical fiction may sound like an oxymoron.  We believe history to be true and fiction to be a concept or idea invented by the imagination.  The word history is complex in nature, his-story (insert eye roll and a deep sigh here), which the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines first as:

1: tale, story

and follows with:

2: a chronological record of significant events (such as those affecting a nation or institution) often including an explanation of their causes

Our brains like to categorize…good and bad, young and old, fact and fiction, etc, hence the concept of historical fiction is difficult to grasp for many young readers.  However the content of historical fiction is often easier to contemplate and relate to than non-fiction.  Historical fiction gifts us the opportunity to meet and connect with characters from all over the world during a specific moment in history, learn about their lives (joys and struggles) and experience that very sweet spot in literature where fact and fiction mingle.

I have traveled to India consecutively over the past three years and I have learned a great deal about Indian culture and history from texts, conversation and films.  However, the history of India’s independence from Britain in 1947 and the complications that resulted in the division/creation of two countries (Pakistan and India) has remained a murky mess in my understanding of India’s past.

I recently read The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani and not only fell in love with the voice of 12 year old Nisha who narrates the story but also with Hiranandani’s talented writing skills.  She cleverly weaves fact and fiction together as she shares the complexity of Pakistan’s partition after India is newly freed from Britain.

Title:  The Night Diary

Regional/Cultural focus:  India and Pakistan (1947)

Author:  Veera Hiranandani

Genre:  juvenile historical fiction

Themes:  family, belonging, identity, social justice

Nisha receives a diary on her 12th birthday, a safe space for her to record her thoughts and feelings.  Nisha is shy and struggles to talk with others, hence she finds solace in “sharing” her words in her diary.  The year is 1947 and Nisha discovers that while some people are celebrating India’s independence from Britain, her family has little to rejoice in.  Nisha’s mother (who has passed away) was Muslim and her father is Hindu.  When the area of India that Nisha lives in becomes Pakistan, she and her family must flee.  Nisha and her family become refugees and embark on a dangerous journey to reach their new home on the other side of the border.

Told through a series of letters that Nisha writes to her mother in her diary, we learn of Nisha’s story and in turn, a dramatic moment in history.

What I love:

  • A diary!  Reading words in a diary format feels intimate and personal.
  • Nisha has a twin brother, Amil.  While siblings, they have different strengths and weaknesses  and provide the reader with varied points of view throughout the book.
  • Hiranandani’s words are heart-breaking and tragic at times.  She shares experiences that are alarming and real and yet, Nisha’s story is also one of hope, love and integrity.


  • The Night Diary is a refugee story.  What are some of the current refugee plights in the world today?
  • We see Nisha’s image of herself change throughout the book.  Often she doesn’t identify herself as being brave.  Do you think Nisha is brave?  Why or why not?
  • Hiranandani frequently writes about food and meals in The Night Diary.  Why do you think she has chosen to do this?  What is the importance of food and meals in your family?


  • The Night Diary is a story of identity.  Make a list of words that you would use to describe  your own identity.  Take your writing a step further and create a zine about your identity.
  • Hiranandani uses abundant figurative language (similes and metaphors)  in her book.  Some examples include: “I  needed all the feelings to stop boiling like a pot of dal and be cool enough for me to taste them” (p.36) and  “She was like an old, soft blanket that I barely even noticed was there” (p. 141).  What are a few of your favorite similes and metaphors from the story?
  • Nisha occasionally alludes to Gandhi.  Investigate, who was Gandhi?  What did he believe in?
  • Learn about the religions in the story including Islam, Hinduism and Sikhism.

Happy reading!

If  you love juvenile historical fiction as much as I do, you might also enjoy the following titles:

If you’d like to explore refugee stories, consider: