Monday, January 04, 2010

Children’s book explores differences in surnames

Book review by Daniel Olivas

René Has Two Last Names / René tiene dos apellidos
By René Colato Laínez
Publisher: Piñata Books
Illustrated by Fabiola Graullera Ramírez
ISBN 978-1-55885-530-4
Bilingual: Spanish/English; 32 pp., $15.99

René Colato Laínez is an award-winning children’s author who came to the United States from El Salvador when he was a teenager. Relying on his experiences adjusting to a new country, Colato Laínez has produced wonderful books that celebrate and explain differences in a way that validates Latin American culture while educating those who are of other backgrounds. He personalizes such books by making himself the main character.

In his newest book, Colato Laínez explores the Latin American tradition of giving children two last names: the first from the father, the second from the mother. The book begins: “On the first day at my new school, my teacher, Miss Soria, gave me a sticker that said René Colato. The sticker was missing my second last name. Maybe Miss Soria’s pen ran out of ink. I took my pencil and added it.”

On the schoolyard, the children tease René because his name is so long. He dreams that night that he has lost everyone in his mother’s side of the family because his last name has been shortened. Eventually, through a family tree project, René convinces his teacher that he should be known by both of his last names. At the same time, his classmates learn how wonderful it is to have two names that honor both sides of René’s family.

Perfectly complemented by Fabiola Graullera Ramírez’s festive and inviting illustrations, Colato Laínez’s latest book is highly recommended for libraries and classrooms.

[This review first appeared in the MultiCultural Review.]

Rigoberto González, and an award-winning writer living in New York City, reviews a new book of poems, Boomerang (Bilingual Press, $12 paperback) by Brenda Cárdenas. He notes, in part:

“What makes Boomerang shine as a Chicano book is that, though Cárdenas doesn't shy away from engaging such familiar territory as family, language and raza identity, these subjects are given fresh direction and energy as she wields her poetic powers with sensitivity, intelligence and skill.

Read the entire review here.

◙ The new issue of Somos Primos is now live online. Edited by Mimi Lozano, Somos Primos is "Dedicated to Hispanic Heritage and Diversity Issues" and is published by the Society of Hispanic Historical and Ancestral Research. Check out book news in the new issue. Of particular note is coverage of Graciela Limón’s latest novel, The River Flows North (Arte Público Press, $24,95 hardcover). I will be doing a book reading with Graciela at the East Los Angeles Library on January 25 at 6:30 p.m. We will be discussing magic and realism in contemporary Chicano literature. A reception and book signing will highlight the evening. Check the library’s events calendar for details. I will post more news on this event as we get closer to the date.

◙ That’s all for this Monday. I hope that you and yours had a healthy and happy holiday season. Despite the curveballs life seems to throw the more years I spend on this earth, I feel blessed in many ways including the wonderful contact I have with readers of La Bloga (not to mention the opportunity to work with the talented La Bloga team). So, in the meantime, enjoy the intervening posts from mis compadres y comadres. And remember: ¡Lea un libro!


Rene Colato Lainez said...

Thanks Daniel!

Gracias por tus lindas palabras.

Rene Colato Lainez said...

Thanks Daniel!

Gracias por tus lindas palabras.

Daniel A. Olivas said...

You're welcome...and you're welcome!