My sister and I did a thing. We wrote a bilingual children’s book! As a former second grade, Spanish-side dual language teacher, I tried to find bilingual books authentic in language and culture. There are so many fantastic children’s bilingual books out there. Yet, I had trouble finding one that talked about Puerto Rican culture. My students seemed to enjoy ABC book stories, so I began to think. I decided to humor these ideas and thought to myself, what would honor Puerto Rican culture and heritage? A book about FOOD!! YES! So I had the idea; I selected the foods to highlight and visualized many of the stories and illustrations that would go with some of them. I was missing the essential piece! I needed a creative and talented writer! Let’s just say, creative writing is not my forté.
During this time, my sister Lizmer decided to temporarily move near our family due to the grave conditions in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. As soon as I looked at her face-to-face, I knew we would do this together! Lizmer is an amazingly creative writer, and we complement each other very well. I had the educator knowledge, she had the communications knowledge. Finally, we needed an illustrator! Our search led us to Manuel Santiago, who just happened to be my high school best friend!
This process began in the Fall of 2017. So, how long does it take to write a children’s book when you’re a mother, a wife, have a full-time job, and pursue an Ed.D? Way too long! But somehow, we did it!! Lizmer and I put so much love into this book. We shared many laughs while reminiscing about our childhood and our abuelas. Manuel did a fantastic job recreating our childhood experiences into illustrations. His attention to detail to display the Puerto Rican spirit was breathtaking!
Our hope is that this book provides all children an opportunity to learn how food, and the events around it, are a huge part of our Puerto Rican culture. We hope that this book provides adults the opportunity to talk to their children about their childhood, their recipes, and their traditions, regardless of where they’re from. We hope that this book allows each person’s legacy to be passed down to the next generation, keeping their culture alive.
Let’s teach our children to be proud of where they come from and their language! We never have to give up one for another. Being multicultural and multilingual is a beautiful gift. All cultures and all languages can live inside of us in harmony.
Lucy Ann Montalvo Blanton
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Lizmer & Lucy Ann MOntalvo
Dos hermanas puertorriqueñas viviendo en Virginia & compartiendo su amor por la isla y su cultura encantadora.// Two Puerto Rican sisters living in Virginia and sharing their love for the island & its enchanting culture.