Pub. Houston, Tex. : Piñata Books/Arte Público Press, c2009.
Young Rene is from El Salvador, and he doesn’t understand why his name has to be different in the United States. When he writes Colato, he sees his paternal grandparents, Rene and Amelia. When he writes Lainez, he sees his maternal grandparents, Angela and Julio. Without his second last name, Rene feels incomplete, “like a hamburger without the meat or a pizza without cheese or a hot dog without a wiener.”
His new classmates giggle when Rene tells them his name. “That’s a large dinosaur name, one says. “Your name is longer than an anaconda,” another laughs. But Rene doesn’t want to lose the part of him that comes from his mother’s family. So when the students are given a project to create a family tree, Rene is determined to explain the importance of using both of his last names. On the day of his presentation, Rene explains that he is as hard-working as Abuele Rene, who is a farmer, and as creative as his Abuela Amelia, who is a potter. He can tell stories like his Abuelo Julio and music like his Abuela Angela.
This is a delightful book about family. When the book opens up Rene’s teacher gives him a name tag that leaves off part of his last name. Rene thinks that maybe her pen ran out of ink and adds the rest of his last name to the tag . As the kids in the classroom laugh at his long last name, the book opens into a whole discussion on why Rene’s name is important.
The book is told in alternating paragraphs of first in English, then again in Spanish. What a great book to share with kids about the importance of names, history, and of family! I think this book would open wonderful discussions with the children in your life. Beautifully illustrated with rich colorful pages , I read this three times through in one sitting…practicing the little Spanish I know as well!
My goal as a writer is to produce good multicultural children’s literature; stories where minority children are portrayed in a positive way, where they can see themselves as heroes, and where they can dream and have hopes for the future. I want to write authentic stories of Latin American children living in the United States.
I am René Colato Laínez, the Salvadoran award winning author of I Am René, the Boy, Waiting for Papá, Playing Lotería, René Has Two Last Names and The Tooth Fairy Meets El Ratón Pérez. My picture books have been honored by the Latino Book Award, the Paterson Prize for Books for Young People, the California Collection for Elementary Readers, the Tejas Star Book Award Selection and the New Mexico Book Award. I was named “Top Ten New Latino Authors to Watch (and Read)” by latinostories.com. I am a graduate of the Vermont College MFA program in Writing for Children & Young Adults.
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