Publisher’s Weekly likens Look Both Ways in the Barrio Blanco, the debut novel of Judith Robbins Ross, to Junie B. Jones/Ramona Quimby if Junie or Ramona had been a Mexican-American girl whose pre-teen concerns included “immigration, culture and language.” It is a good comparison, and I think readers who enjoy those characters will also love Jacinta, whose life takes a major turn when she meets Kate Dawson Dahl, a local news reporter.
Look Both Ways in the Barrio Blanco is a middle-grade novel. If you are exploring immigration with younger children, you will find a list of excellent resources below.
Jacinta and Kate’s worlds become intertwined through a chance encounter at a community center Jacinta attends after school when Kate arrives to do a news segment on teen pregnancy. The encounter changes both of their lives in ways they never would have imagined.
This middle-grade novel is being released for Hispanic Heritage Month and many might categorize is as an “immigration story.” However, what I liked best about the novel (told from Jacinta’s perspective) is that it is more than that. Jacinta’s story is truly universal. Yes, Jacinta’s interactions with Kate push her out of her neighborhood and comfort zone, which typically involves other immigrant families, but Jacinta’s pre-teen dilemmas are not exclusively based on cultural differences or even class differences, which are certainly relevant. Many of the struggles Jacinta works through in the book are universal adolescent and pre-adolescent struggles about how to fit in, how to find one’s place in their world, how to handle jealousy of one’s friends, how to deal with shifting family dynamics and much more — things that virtually ever 10-16 year-old youth can relate to.
For me, the universality of the book is its strength as it can allow youth to see that others they might assume are different from them are not so different after all — it highlights the shared humanity among us all, which is something that Jacinta and Kate discover as they seek to bridge the cultural and socio-economic divides that separate them. The two discover that they need each other and that they have much in common, despite the obvious differences between them (age, class, ethnicity). I also commend the author for writing a book that children like Jacinta can relate to — they can see themselves, their families, their neighborhoods, their friends in print, which remains all too rare.
Look Both Ways in the Barrio Blanco is both funny and heart-warming, and its characters truly leap off the page. You close the book feeling like you really know Jacinta and Kate and are better for having known them.
I recommend the book, but also hope that Look Both Ways in the Barrio Blanco will be one of the many books that are read to explore the topic of immigration and to highlight Hispanic Heritage Month as there is a wide array of voices, backgrounds and heritages that represent what it means to be Hispanic or Latino/a. Yes, immigration is relevant for many Latinos, but not for all — and there are immigrants from other parts of the world, not just Latin America.
If you want to explore the topic of immigration further, here are some additional resources:
- Chapter Books to Support 4th or 5th Grade Immigration Unit from Pragmatic Mom
- Picture Books About Immigration from No Time for Flash Cards
- Undocumented Immigrants in Children’s Books from Pragmatic Mom
- Children’s Books about the Immigration Experience from Latinas for Latino Lit
- Esperanza Rising (book) and Smuggled (film) reviewed by Mama Scout
- Names and Cultural Identities in Stories of Immigrant Children from Kid World Citizen
- New Film “Smuggled” and Immigration Resources for Kids from Kid World Citizen
Below you will find more wonderful resources to share Hispanic heritage with kids. We will be linking up posts all month long. You can also enter to win great prizes!
We are so excited for our FOURTH annual Hispanic Heritage Month series and giveaway! Through the month (September 15 – October 15), you’ll find great resources to share Hispanic Heritage with kids, plus you can enter to win in our great giveaway and link up your own posts on Hispanic Heritage!
Hispanic Heritage Month Giveaway!
Giveaway begins Monday, September 14 and goes through October 15, 2015.
Enter below for a chance to win one of these amazing prize packages! Some prizes have shipping restrictions. In the event that a winner lives outside the designated shipping area, that prize will then become part of the following prize package. For more information, read our full giveaway rules.
Sheet of Mexico themed nail wraps from Jamberry US & Canada Shipping Only
Large Latin American prize basket (scarves, purse, bracelets, books, map) from Spanish Playground US Shipping Only
Hola Hello CD from Mariana Iranzi US Shipping Only
Kids’ T-shirt from Ellie Elote US Shipping Only
Smaller Latin American prize basket (scarves, purse, bracelets) from Spanish Playground US Shipping Only
Hola Hello CD from Mariana Iranzi US Shipping Only
3 picture books: Finding the Music/En pos de la música by Jennifer Torres
Water Rolls, Water Rises/El agua rueda, el agua sube by Pat Mora
The Upside Down Boy/ El niño de cabeza by Juan Felipe Herrera (in honor of his recently being named the Poet Laureate) from Lee and Low Books US Shipping Only
Kid’s foreign language T-Shirt (available in Spanish, French, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Swahili, Hawaiian, Italian, in infant onesies, toddler and youth sizes tees and tanks; women’s tees and tanks SM-XL) from Mixed Up Clothing US Shipping Only
Smaller Latin American prize basket (scarves, purse) from Spanish Playground US Shipping Only
Mexican luchador piñata from Las Piñatas de Laly EU Shipping Only
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