My Name is María Isabel

My Name is María Isabel
Me llamo María Isabel

Book Descrip­tion

María Isabel, a His­panic child grow­ing up in the U.S., begins hav­ing prob­lems in her new class­room when her teacher changes her name to Mary. This com­pelling por­trait of an expe­ri­ence com­mon to many lan­guage minor­ity chil­dren inspires dis­cus­sions on self-identity and bicul­tur­al­ism. “Cap­tures the authen­tic fla­vor of Latino cul­ture in this warm, yet never sen­ti­men­tal, story: an entire fam­ily geneal­ogy is encap­su­lated in a Latino name, as well as spe­cial con­nec­tions between its bearer and the rel­a­tives for whom she was named. Pre­sented in real­is­tic terms, María Isabel’s strug­gles will ring true to many chil­dren in the US. Pair this with Bar­bara Cohen’s Molly’s Pil­grim for a fine mul­ti­cul­tural com­par­i­son.” (THE KIRKUS REVIEW).

Reviews

Pub­lish­ers Weekly

Armed with her new blue book­bag, Maria Isabel bravely faces her first day at a new school. But when she meets her new teacher, she is told there are already two other Marias in the class. “Why don’t we call you Mary instead?” her teacher sug­gests, unaware that Maria was named for both her grand­moth­ers, a grand­fa­ther and her father. Maria’s inabil­ity to respond to “Mary” leads to more prob­lems. Sim­ply told, this story com­bines the strug­gle of a Puerto Rican family’s efforts to improve their life with a shared sense of pride in their her­itage. The author’s care­fully drawn char­ac­ter­i­za­tions avoid stereo­types, thus increas­ing their appeal and believ­abil­ity. An essay involv­ing a wish list gives Maria a chance to reclaim her name, and allows her teacher to make amends. Abet­ted by Thompson’s straight­for­ward black-and-white draw­ings, this con­tem­po­rary tale serves as a good reminder that no two names are really alike. Ages 7–10.

School Library Journal

Grade 3–4: This gen­tle story tells of Maria Isabel Salazar Lopez, who finds her­self dubbed “Mary Lopez” when her fam­ily moves and she is placed in a class with two other Marias. Maria Isabel finds it hard to respond to a name that does not seem like hers. Her teacher doesn’t under­stand why it is so dif­fi­cult for her to answer to “Mary” until the child is inspired to address her paper on “My Great­est Wish” to the topic of her name. The result is not only a happy end­ing, but also an affirm­ing study of her­itage and how it is inte­grally bound up in an individual’s sense of self. The brief text, ade­quately extended by line draw­ings, reads aloud well and could cer­tainly be used in con­junc­tion with Gary Soto’s The Skirt (Dela­corte, 1992) to illus­trate the His­panic cul­ture that is part of the lives of many con­tem­po­rary chil­dren. –Ann Wel­ton, Ter­mi­nal Park Ele­men­tary School, Auburn, WA

Kirkus Reviews

When María Isabel Salazar López’s fam­ily moves, there are already two Marías in her new class, so the teacher decides to call her Mary López. Since she doesn’t read­ily rec­og­nize this new name, María Isabel is con­tin­u­ally scolded for being inat­ten­tive; worse, her pride in being named for her grand­moth­ers is dis­hon­ored. María Isabel’s reluc­tance to assert her wish to be called by her full name involves her in an appar­ent web of decep­tion when she doesn’t get a part in a pageant (she doesn’t rec­og­nize her name when the teacher is assign­ing roles) but lets her par­ents believe she’ll par­tic­i­pate. For­tu­nately, an essay assign­ment pro­vides a solu­tion: she finds the courage to write that her “great­est wish is to be called María Isabel Salazar López,” clearly explain­ing her rea­sons; and her teacher responds gen­er­ously to her plea. Cuban author Ada (The Gold Coin, 1991) cap­tures the authen­tic fla­vor of Latino cul­ture in this warm, yet never sen­ti­men­tal, story: an entire fam­ily geneal­ogy is encap­su­lated in a Latino name, as well as spe­cial con­nec­tions between its bearer and the rel­a­tives for whom she was named. Pre­sented in real­is­tic terms, María Isabel’s strug­gles will ring true to many chil­dren in the US. Pair this with Bar­bara Cohen’s Molly’s Pil­grim (1983) for a fine mul­ti­cul­tural com­par­i­son. (Fic­tion. 7–10)

Cita­tions

Once Upon a Hero­ine by Ali­son Cooper-Mullin, page 94, and page 168.
Let’s Hear It for the Girls : 375 Great Books for Read­ers 2–14 by Erica Bauer­meis­ter, page 102, and Index.
The Between the Lions ® Book for Par­ents : Every­thing You Need to Know to Help Your Child Learn to Read by Linda K. Rath, page 166.
The Children’s Lit­er­a­ture Lover’s Book of Lists by Joanna Sul­li­van, page 193.
Cart­wheel to the Moon: My Sicil­ian Child­hood by Emanuel Di Pasquale, Back Flap.
Fail­ing At Fair­ness: How Our Schools Cheat Girls by Myra Sad­ker, Back Matter.

Les­son Plan

http://readingtokids.org/Books/BookView.php?pag=3&bookID=00000503

READERS’ RESPONSES

Ideas for the use of this book in dif­fer­ent areas

Social Jus­tice Lit­er­a­ture for the Ele­men­tary Class­room
http://2009bookclubblog.blogspot.com

My Name Is Maria Isabel
By: Alma Flor Ada

Reflec­tion:

  • This chap­ter book is about a lit­tle girl, Maria Isabel, who has to go through the usual chal­lenges of being a new stu­dent. Her biggest prob­lem, how­ever, is to be called Mary Lopez by her teacher instead of the name she was born with and is supremely proud of-Maria Isabel Salazar Sanchez. To her, this name has so much mean­ing because of her grand­par­ents and feels that it is one of the most impor­tant aspects about her. Through­out the book she strug­gles to find the courage to stand up for the way she feels and to be under­stood by her teacher.
  • I like this book because it high­lights the His­panic cul­ture which allows Latino stu­dents to feel empow­ered but also encour­ages respect and accep­tance of other cul­tures since they are focused on as well. I also like that the book revolves around the issue of valu­ing student’s names and cul­tures and that it helps stu­dents and teach­ers to real­ize that these are extremely impor­tant aspects of a per­son that should be respected and understood.
  • Cur­rently, I am using Maria Isabel for a book club and will use it to teach lit­er­acy while inte­grat­ing social stud­ies, math, art, and issues of social jus­tice. Social stud­ies ideas: study­ing Puerto Rican peo­ple who have made a change in soci­ety, learn­ing about Puerto Rico’s rela­tion­ship with the United States. Lit­er­acy ideas: char­ac­ter analy­sis, read­ing com­pre­hen­sion strate­gies, learn­ing of lit­er­ary ele­ments, per­sua­sive writ­ing, text to self con­nec­tions, text to text con­nec­tions. Math ideas: graph­ing the increase of Maria Isabel’s courage through­out the book. Social jus­tice ideas: explor­ing their own iden­ti­ties (all of these stu­dents are of His­panic cul­ture), explor­ing meth­ods of how they can be coura­geous, learn­ing and explor­ing other cul­tures, learn­ing about the impor­tance of their names and cul­ture, explor­ing and accept­ing other people’s hol­i­days and tra­di­tions, teach­ing chil­dren conflict/resolution/communication strate­gies Arts ideas: cre­at­ing a web of prob­lems and how to get out of it and per­form­ing Amahl.
  • Ways in which it falls in the domains of sje:
    1. Chil­dren of His­panic cul­ture are encour­aged to love and accept themselves.
    2. Var­i­ous cul­tures are rep­re­sented in the book and encour­age accep­tance of other’s cul­tures, tra­di­tions, and holidays.
    3. This book deals with racism and oppression.
    4. The method in which Maria Isabel stands up for her­self is through a courage dri­ven, detailed essay to the teacher describ­ing why her cul­ture is so impor­tant and why devalu­ing her name and cul­ture is like over­look­ing the biggest part of her. Stu­dents will see how these small social move­ments can eas­ily be done within the class­room community.
    5. This book doesn’t directly apply to this domain.
  • This book can eas­ily con­nect to the lit­er­acy cur­ric­u­lar unit but not lim­ited to the sub­jects that have been men­tioned above.

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