Juan Takes His Turn – JabberWalking with Juan Felipe Herrera

Juan Takes His Turn – JabberWalking with Juan Felipe Herrera

 

He calls a poem a burble.

A writing pad is a paperbag, or a newspaper, periodico, or whatever you want it to be.

All that matters is that you hurry, hurry, hurry.

And write down whatever you see in the world.

What you hear,

what you taste,

What you love.

He says whatever you breathe, whatever word lifts its soft, wet

nose to the tendrils of your mind, it matters. Keep a penny notebook

like Walt Whitman who wrote as he walked America.

Like Juan Felipe Herrrera, 21st Poet Laureate of America
writes America.

I’m reading Juan Felipe Herrera’s book, JabberWalking, Candlewick, 2018, (ages 10 and up) and I have to stop every few pages and fall into a poem of my own imagination – it’s that kind of book. It’s half memoir: Juan Felipe gathering up his Chinese Pitbull Sharpei named Lotus along with memories of his Mama Lucha and his Papa Felipe who are “somewhere in my heart life” and us, you and me the reader (any age), to board a jet to D.C. with Juan Felipe to assume his poet laureateship of the country. The first Mexican-American, the first any Latino-American U.S. Poet Laureate.  The other half is a sort of creative spirit guide. We are racing and Juan Felipe reels us, the reader, into our own selves, as poets, creators of burbles!, washing any grinding homeworkness of writing out of us. He says…

….I think to free us, loosen us, take us some place where we’re a little lost.

He assures us, “The poem does not want to know where it is going or what it is saying.”

It could begin like this, he says:

“Scribble your burbles, your words of things – that you see and think and feel but it is really not thinking or even feeling. It is plain ole bonified, fuzzy, puffy blue-cheese, incandescent, brave  Jabber!”

Write in  any language! Maybe two. And from this generated jabber, circle words you like, you want to play with. And…

 

Between his cheering for our unharnessed imagination, Juan Felipe tells us stories, about his mother – “Let me tell you, I sang as loud as I could from every corner of that tiny apartment and outside in the alley. Now it’s your turn, Juan.”   And his father – “He put words on newspapers! He wanted to make sure he could stop time and space, write history in a split second, even though he never went to school like yours or mine.” (97)

He invites us to write our family stories and memories on newspapers, put our words on words.

I love Juan Felipe’s memoir-stories, entries in what he calls his Jabber Notebooks to give us ideas for our own. His last one begins:

Writing saved my life. What could a campesino boy raised on the way-outskirts of farm towns and cities of California do?  What could I do with so many incredible things – tadpoles, newborn colts, my Papa Felipe making miracles out of pieces of ancient wood, busted metal, scuffed leather, Mama always teaching me the alphabet from a broken book she bought for twenty-five cents at la segunda, the secondhand store—my dear traveling farm-working parents with long legs and strong hands. (127)

This is a spread from Calling the Doves, a memoir by Juan Felipe Herrrera, with illustrations by Elly Simmons, Children’s Book Press, an imprint of Lee & Low Books

Writing saves lives.  It could save yours.

Cover of Juan Felipe’s memoir, Upside Down Boy, about his family settling in a town so that he could go to school for the first time.

Meet Your Immigrant-American Neighbor Giveaway

My Giveaways Continue on this late August day.  My theme is books about our immigrant neighbors. Some of the books tell stories set in the homelands of families now in the U.S.  It’s meeting immigrant families here in my state that has led to  read books to help me understand their cultures.  Here is one:  a memoir for teens and adults. ON TWO FEET AND WINGS.

Abbas Kazerooni offers the world a remarkable memoir as he tells of his escape from revolutionary Iran as a young boy. Faced with the prospect of never seeing his parents again, he struggles to find his way in Istanbul, where survival often depends on his skill in knowing who to trust and when to flee. This is a compelling story full of tension and heartbreak.  To enter, comment here. If you are an educator comment about how the book could support your work.

August Giveaway – Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote

August Giveaway –  Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote

Congratulations to the winner of my first August Giveaway – Amazing Books to Help Students Meet New Americans. One Good Thing about America by Ruth Freeman goes to a teacher in New Hampshire.  This week, it’s a story of migrations for the youngest of readers,  Duncan Tonathiu’s Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote. It’s an award winning hardback picture book, perfect for libraries. I’m reposting my original review that appeared in The Pirate Tree, Social Justice and Children’s Literature.

Photo journalist Sebastiao Salgado documents the movement of millions of the worlds people across countries and continents in his book Migrations. In the preface he writes about some things he came to believe after years of following and photographing people seeking a new home due to war and/or poverty. “More than ever, I feel that the human race is one,” he said and,  “When poverty becomes intolerable, people seek to move on.”  Mexican-American writer and artist Duncan Tonatiuh tells a tale of economic migration for the youngest of readers.  Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: a Migrant’s Tale is the next in Tonatiuh’s tales about families separated by the journey from Mexico to El Norte.  In Dear Primo, a Letter to My Cousin, Tonatiuh creates a cousin in Mexico and a cousin in the U.S.  Pancho Rabbit is the tale of a son in a family of rabbits. His father doesn’t come home to Mexico when he’s expected after months of work in the U.S., and the son follows in his father’s footsteps, traveling north to find him.  Soon he is beholden to Coyote who promises safe travel if the rabbit-son will give him all the food he owns, one item at a time, as Coyote demands it.  Children will fear for this young rabbit especially in the scene in which the coyote is shown as a dark shadow and threatens to roast and eat him. Father and son are reunited, return home to their family, but imagine the next trip north “if there is no food or work…” and danger looms. The illustrations are profound in the telling of this tale. Tonatiuh describes his paintings “as inspired by ancient Mexican art, particularly that of the Mixtec codex.”  He notes that his work is hand drawn, then collaged digitally. They are unique in children’s book illustration and deeply honor the Mexican cultural traditions in art. Tonatiuh  bridges two cultures, having been born in Mexico City, and grown up in both the United States and San Miguel de Allende with a Mexican mom and an America dad. He offers an extensive author’s note and links to research sites on humanitarian issues around illegal immigration into the U.S.

Enter by commenting here. Comment on how you use the book.