“Dear Abuelo” is a children’s book composed entirely of letters written from a young girl who moved to NYC back to the grandfather she left behind in Mexico. It is a heart-warming story that details how different it is to live and study in a big city with a new language.
Juana writes to her grandfather about the snowfall, her first day of school, how terrible she felt when the teacher mispronounced her name, learning the history of her name and even making a friend who helped her advocate for herself. In the end, she talks about one day writing a book in both English and Spanish. The closing is especially encouraging and a wonderful model for students who look and sound like Juana that they have a place in literature too.
Grecia actually took the time to speak to Bilingual Speech Resources about her inspiration for the book. She shared:
My inspiration for this story was my own story of coming to the US and my relationship with my grandfather. In Mexico, I was very close with him and that changed when I came to the US. I came to the New York from Veracruz, Mexico when I was 10 years. Keeping in touch with my family was hard through just phone calls, especially when you’re 10 and in a new country. I didn’t know how to explain my experience to them because it was so much different from Mexico. When I was in college and became a creative writing major, I wanted to talk to my grandfather more about his own writing. I bought stationary so I could write to him, but unfortunately, he passed away before I could send him any. Being undocumented, I was never able to go back home and see my family after I left at 10 years old and writing this book gave me an opportunity to rewrite that story and to have some closure.
When asked about her previous work with children and in education, Grecia responded:
I have worked with children in different capacities throughout my life. When I was in high school, I volunteered at the homework club of my local elementary school and I would help kids that were just learning English with their homework. As a kid that needed that once myself, it was important to me to be able to help in this way. When I was in college, I taught communion classes to 5-7 years at my church and it was a very, very, very small taste of what teachers have to do. It was one hour a week and it was incredibly hard trying to teach when some kids knew how to read and write and others didn’t. I think this experience made me truly respect teachers. The last time I worked with kids, I was an assistant teacher at Goddard School. It is daycare center, but we had to follow a curriculum that was appropriate for each age range. Now, I work with materials meant for children. We create literacy programs for kids and my favorite part of working in the editorial department has been to include stories where Latinx kids can see themselves. I don’t get to interact with the kids directly, but it is my hope that kids of all different shades and sizes can find a story they identify with because that makes learning more enjoyable for them.
“Dear Abuelo” is a breath of fresh air and a wonderful book to read with students. It is essential for our students to see themselves on the pages of the stories we read and Grecia’s latest publication will make a welcome addition to any student library.
Click here to buy a copy for yourself, a fellow educator or a special child in your life.