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Books Open the World

A Little About Myself



Photo credit given to Ariya Martin


Ada, Alma Flor. Half-Chicken, Medio Pollito. 1995.
     New York: Dragonfly Books. ISBN: 0-440-41360-5.
Plot Summary:
Set in colonial Mexico, Half-Chicken is a humorous traditional folktale about the adventures of a one-legged, one-eyed, one-winged chicken that leads to the explanation as to where the chicken atop a weather vane truly originated from. 
Once Half-Chicken makes it to Mexico City to strut (as best he can) to the viceroy, he finds that he is not well received but rather thrown into a kettle of boiling water.  Fortunate for him he is rescued by some unlikely friends -- the elements of nature -- fire, water, and wind as he is blown to the top of a tower.
Analysis & Literary Considerations:
The story, told simultaneously in bilingual format (Spanish and English), is Ada's contribution to honoring a time period in Mexican history some young people might never have otherwise be exposed to.
The repeated phrase "hip hop hip hop" as Half-Chicken travels along his way coupled with the folktale tradition of threes, the author provides a wonderful real aloud children of all ages can enjoy.
Illustrator, illustrado, Kim Howard choses a mixed-media in red and gold hues with a batik-look.  Her brightly colored happy-go-lucky illustrations add a flavorful Hispanic tradition of patterns that quite nicely compliment (if not immensely move) this piece. 
This selection was one of my favorite "reads" this summer.  It is certainly my favorite Alma Flor Ada book thus far.  The author's unique ability to take a traditional folktale and add such cultural flavor to the stoy will capture the reader as he or she joins Half-Chicken on his adventure.
The connection this story brings to a weather unit is wonderful.  Using Half-Chicken as an introduction would be fun as questions are elicited about the origination, purpose, and use of the weather vane and whether or not they are truly used today.
Enjoyed by an upper elementary reader, I posed the question as to why she liked this story.  "It's just cute!", she said with a big smile on her face.  "I never would have thought that's how we got those things." (Speaking about the metal chicken -- weather vane on the top of barns and other structures).

Ada, Alma Flor. The Gold Coin. New York: Simon &
     Schuster Childrens Publishing Division.
     ISBN: 0-689-71793-8.
Plot Summary:
An original story written by children's author Alma Flor Ada and translated by Bernice Randall, The Gold Coin, La moneda de oro, closely parallels a traditional folktale.  Ada's story tells of the adventures of Juan and his mischief.  Humped over from creeping around at night, Juan follows "a generous curandera (healer) through the countryside" as he sets off to steal the gold of Dona Josefa.  As he approaches the window of Ms. Josefa, he sees her holding the gold and saying, "I must be the richest woman in the world". Overtaken by nature's beauty and the goodness of the people, Juan experiences a great transformation as he realizes the importance of life and the things around him.
Analysis & Literary Considerations:
Ada's first published book in English by a major American publisher, The Gold Coin is a piece inspired on her return from the San Francisco Bay Area after spendin time with a family of migrant workers.
The setting is beautiful South America and is quite evident in the illustrations by artist Neil Waldman.  Waldman choses a rainbow wash watercolor affect of lovely pale hues with an art nouveau feel.  He includes a small postage stamp-sized picture on the corners to adorn them and add to the story.
The Gold Coin, as previously mentioned, was inspired by migrant workers in the Bay Area, could not have been published without the determination of Ada's daughter Rosalma.  This book not only has been published in both Spanish and English, it subsequently has been included in most major reading series and on many school reading lists.  The story has even been dramatized by a group from the Zapotec Villae of Teotitlan de Valle in Oaxaca.  The performance was directed by Sylvia Dorta-Duque de Reyes of the San Diego County Office of Education.
Ada's The Gold Coin has been awarded the
Christopher Award, the NCS/CBC Notable Book in the Field of Social Studies, and Pick of the Lists -- American Book Sellers Association.
As stated so wonderfully by Hungry Mind Review, Fall, 1991, Ada presents a series of adventures of a young man who goes through each scenario with Dona Josef's gold just out of his reach.  They go on to say that The Gold Coin exhibits a "tension and releae rhythm", that of holding the reader in great suspense while Juan is transformed into a kindhearted soul. 
Alma Flor Ada, along with translator Bernice Randall and illustrator Neil Waldman and daughter Rosalma, have created a marvelous piece of Hispanic literature that should be looked upon as one that is included in all classrooms with multiculturally immersed curriculums. 
The moral lessons of love and faith behind The Gold Coin would be wonderful to include in a social studies lesson about character.  Even if Ada's book is not included in our reading series, it will certainly find its way on the shelf in my classroom library as well as the hands and hearts of the students I teach.

A selection of picture books and novels from Ada's over 250 children's stories.

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Experience it with me!!!