In 2020, Puerta Abierta Atitlan, the school that I adore and founded nearly 15 years ago, welcomed a new student into our program. To respect the privacy of our student, I’ll refer to him as *Lucas*. Lucas transferred to our center as a 4th grader. Prior to his arrival, he had bounced between a few different schools in our community where he struggled to fit in.

Lucas likes sparkles, rainbow sneakers, nail polish, and fashion. In fact, he dreams of designing clothes in the future and, when his mind begins to drift in class, he’s known to be making sketches of run-way ensambles. Lucas accessorizes with hair clips, purple socks and unicorn prints. He also loves to play sports, read books and participate in the school robotics club.

La Puerta Abierta was founded on principles of inclusion and our center is committed to providing EVERY child with a meaningful, quality and loving education. And yet in 2020, I felt challenged with preparing our staff with adequate tools and resources for creating a welcoming environment for Lucas. Our school is located in a rural Mayan village with strong religious and cultural influences. Themes of gender, identity, racism and sexism are just beginning to be acknowledged.

In January of 2021 our school pledged to spend a year exploring themes of gender, identity and inclusion with the intention of nurturing a safe space for children like Lucas. I have discovered that children’s books have been invaluable tools with teachers and students alike, for delving into concepts that are still uncharted in rural communities like Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala.

After talking with many friends, educators, activists and parents, I have compiled a list of my favorite picture books that connect with concepts of gender, identity and inclusion.

  1. BOW-WOW-MEOW by Blanca Lacasa and illustrated by Gómez is an exceptional book and has captured my heart. Lacasa introduces us to Fabio, a dog who really doesn’t like dog “things.” He doesn’t play fetch or search for bones. He doesn’t bark or hang his tongue out of his mouth when he is tired. Fabio’s family ALWAYS tries to inspire him TO BE a dog, but he simply doesn’t respond. Late one night, Fabio’s family discovers that he sneaks away from the house every evening TO BE a cat! He loves to climb walls, chase mice, play with yarn, and meow in the moonlight. Above all else, Fabio’s family observes that he is happy.

BOW-WOW-MEOW provokes discussion around inclusion, identity and and acceptance. This book is also available in Spanish as NI GUAU NI MIAU.

2. Award-winning Julián is a Mermaid, written and illustrated by Jessica Love, is a gem of a picture book, a story about Julian and his relationship with his abuela.

Jessica Love inspires the reader to explore the importance of being seen, accepted and loved. This book is also available in Spanish as Sirenas.

3. Daniela the Pirate, written by Susanna Isern and illustrated by Gómez, is a favorite at Puerta Abierta Atitlan amongst both teachers and students! We meet Daniela, a brave, courageous, smart, and capable girl who dreams of becoming a pirate on the legendary ship, the Black Croc. However, Capitan Choppylobe doubts that a girl can pass ALL the pirate tests. Could Capitan Choppylobe be inventing new challenges for Daniela, even more than the tests for boys, when he discovers that she is more than accomplished?

And even when Daniela passes the daring pirate trials, will she be accepted by the crew? Daniela the Pirate encourages discussion about gender roles, stereotypes and identity. This book is also available in Spanish as Daniela Pirata.

4. Me llamo Pecas, written and illustrated by Raquel Díaz Reguera, is near and dear to me. Pecas is the youngest sibling of three. She has an older sister and an older brother, and yet, throughout the entire book, we never learn if Pecas is a boy or a girl. In fact, Pecas inspires the reader to question if there truly are “girl” and “boy” activities, clothes, interests, etc. and if so, why? Me llamo Pecas is a powerful story that can be used to generate conversation around and question societal norms, stereotypes, gender and identity. For the moment, this book is only available in Spanish.

While I have discovered a variety of children’s picture books that explore themes of gender, identity and inclusion, the four stories listed above remain my all time favorites! They are approachable, workable in both Spanish and English, gorgeous in both word and illustration, and above all, impactful for both the child and adult reader. At la Puerta Abierta, these four books have opened conversation for our teachers and students, as we continue to learn how to provide safe spaces for all children, including Lucas.

I send a loud shout out to Nube Ocho, a publishing house that specializes in picture books for children and that is committed to values and diversity. Three of the four books on my list were published by Nube Ocho.

Book Fiesta!

Have you heard of Día? El día de los niños/El día de los libros (Children’s Day/Book Day), commonly known as Día, is a celebration of children, families, and reading that culminates yearly on April 30. Día, founded by author Pat Mora emphasizes the importance of literacy for children of all linguistic and cultural backgrounds. Día is an internationally recognized initiative that emphasizes the importance of literacy for all children from all backgrounds. It is a daily commitment to linking children and their families to diverse books, languages and cultures. The common goals of all Día programming are to:

  • Celebrate children and connect them to the world of learning through books, stories and libraries.
  • Nurture cognitive and literacy development in ways that honor and embrace a child’s home language and culture.
  • Introduce families to community resources that provide opportunities for learning through multiple literacies.
  • Recognize and respect culture, heritage and language as powerful tools for strengthening families and communities.

April 2021 is Día’s 25th anniversary! There are so many ways to celebrate our appreciation and love for books and children!

At Puerta Abierta Atitlan we have been sharing Book Fiesta, written by Pat Mora and illustrated by Rafael Lopez with with our students, staff and community and, as we approach April 30, we will continue to incorporate book appreciation into our school days. Book Fiesta is a delightful story (available in English, Arabic and Spanish) to introduce children and adults to the joy and wonder that books provide! Book Fiesta also contains the history of Día and offers suggestions for creating your own book fiesta!

Title:  Book Fiesta

Author: Pat Mora

Illustrator: Rafael Lopez

Regional focus: The Whole Wide World

Themes: book appreciation, reading, Book Day/Children’s Day

What I love:

  • Rafael Lopez is one of my all-time favorite illustrators. His pictures are vibrant, whimsical and full of joy!
  • Illustrations depict children from across the globe reading in all sorts of real and fantastical environments (under a tree, with a pet, in a submarine or in a hot-air balloon).
  • Pat Mora provides us with an opportunity to celebrate and honor books and the pleasure of reading as we would celebrate Mother’s Day, Father’s Day or a birthday.


  • Do you have a favorite book? What is it? What do you most like about this book?
  • Where is your favorite place to read?
  • Describe the party that you would like to host for Book Day/Children’s Day. Remember that there are no limits…use your imagination to design the book fiesta of your dreams.


  • Make your own mini-book. Follow the steps here.
  • Bake a book inspired cake!
  • Write a letter to your favorite author/illustrator and share with them why you LOVE their book.
  • Read a story to a friend (human or animal).

Happy Book Day/Children’s Day! Learn more about the celebration here.

From my window

I love “window” books. Do you?

In 1990, Rudine Sims Bishop, known as the “mother of” multicultural children’s literature stated, “Books are sometimes windows offering views of worlds that may be real or imagined, familiar or strange. These windows are also sliding glass doors, and readers have only to walk through in imagination to become part of whatever world has been created or recreated by the author.”

Window books invite us to engage with different worlds and lend us a passport to encounter distinct places, perspectives, circumstances and cultures. Ultimately window books play an important role in cultivating empathy when readers are able to understand or feel what another person is experiencing.

From my Window, an #OWNVOICES picture book written by Otávio Júnior and illustrated by Vanina Starkoff is a literal and figurative windows book. Junior gifts his readers the view from a window of a young child who lives in a favela (neighborhood) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In turn, we experience the joys and challenges, the beauty and struggle, and the daily rhythm of life in a favela.

Title:  From my Window

Publisher: Barefoot Books

Author: Otávio Júnior Illustrator: Vanina Starkoff

Regional focus:  Brazil

Themes: culture, neighborhood, community

What I love:

  1. I love that From my Window is an #OWN VOICES story. Otávio Júnior grew up in Complex do Alameo favela and writes “snapshots” of his childhood memories.
  2. Starkoff’s illustrations are bright and vibrant. One feels the energy of Brazil through her imagery. We see how city life mingles with jungle as the bustling favelas literally back up into lush rainforests.
  3. Otávio Júnior explores complex feelings of living in a neighborhood where there is beauty (music, rainbows, soccer) and hardship (violence) in a way that is approachable for children of all ages.


  1. What do you see from your window?
  2. What does the boy in From my Window see?
  3. How is your view the same or different from the character in From my Window?
  4. What do you notice about the illustrations in the story? How do the colors that the illustrator has chosen make you feel?
  5. Can you identify a moment in the story when the community works together? How do people work together in your community?


  1. Draw a picture with words or illustrations of what you see from your window.
  2. We learn that children often hear Brazilian music in the favela. What music do you here when you walk through your neighborhood?
  3. We see many kites in Otávio’s favela. Learn how to make your own paper kite here.

*I am grateful for the gift of this beautiful book from Barefoot Books in collaboration with Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2021, a story that gloriously depicts one of my favorite places in the world, Rio de Janeiro!

2020 Favorites

2020 has been challenging. We’ve had to accept changes in plans, fear of the unknown, losses of all sorts and, separation. This year has also revealed blessings…we’ve slowed down, discovered the tenderness of family,and reconnected with gardens, leafy trails and bird song. Books have marked my year; they have been my greatest companions and my saving grace. I am grateful for a home filled with shelves of beloved novels, picture books, and poetry, and, for sunny spots and cozy corners that invite me to cuddle up with the written word and a cup of tea.

The picture books below have been my 2020 favorite friends:

Hike, Pete Oswald

There is so much to love about Hike…a child-father relationship, experience in nature, POC as protagonists, family traditions, story telling through pictures.


In the cool and quiet early light of morning, a father and child wake up. Today they’re going on a hike. Follow the duo into the mountains as they witness the magic of the wilderness, overcome challenges, and play a small role in the survival of the forest. By the time they return home, they feel alive — and closer than ever — as they document their hike and take their place in family history. In detail-rich panels and textured panoramas, Pete Oswald perfectly paces this nearly wordless adventure, allowing readers to pause for subtle wonders and marvel at the views. A touching tribute to the bond between father and child, with resonant themes for Earth Day, Hike is a breath of fresh air.

Check out Hike connection activities designed by Maureen Schlosser of Library Lessons with Books here.


Layla’s Happiness, Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie

Layla’s Happiness had me smiling from start to finish.


Seven-year-old Layla loves life! So she keeps a happiness book. What is happiness for her? For you?

Spirited and observant, Layla’s a child who’s been given room to grow, making happiness both thoughtful and intimate. It’s her dad talking about growing-up in South Carolina; her mom reading poetry; her best friend Juan, the community garden, and so much more. Written by poet Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie and illustrated by Ashleigh Corrin, this is a story of flourishing within family and community.

Visit story-time at The Carle with literacy educator David Feinstein reading Layla’s Happiness here.


The Boy and the Gorilla, Jackie Azua Kramer

The Boy and the Gorilla is a gorgeous book in both illustrations and text.


A quietly thoughtful story of a young boy struggling with grief, and the imaginary gorilla who helps him find a path to healing.

Find educational resources connected to The Boy and the Gorilla here.


Here and Now, Julia Denos

A book that accompanied me throughout the year, reminding me of the importance of staying present.


A stunning celebration of mindfulness, meditation, and enjoying each moment. This lush picture book is a fantastic tool for engaging children 3-7 who are schooling from home who are eager to feel connected to their world while managing new anxieties.

Enjoy these Here and Now related activities!


Outside In, Deborah Underwood

A treasure of a book that lead me outside even when I felt like hiding inside.

Description:Outside is waiting, the most patient playmate of all. The most generous friend. The most miraculous inventor. This thought-provoking picture book poetically underscores our powerful and enduring connection with nature, not so easily obscured by lives spent indoors.
Rhythmic, powerful language shows us how our world is made and the many ways Outside comes in to help and heal us, and reminds us that we are all part of a much greater universe. Emotive illustrations evoke the beauty, simplicity, and wonder that await us all . . . outside.

Meet Deborah Underwood and Cindy Derby (illustrator of Outside In) in a short interview here.

Tell me, what books have been your favorite companions in 2020?

Here’s to a bright and booky New Year!

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.