#WeNeedDiverseBooks that share our traditions with the rest of the world and rekindle the art of storytelling.  When I was growing up as the daughter of Mexican immigrants in the southern-most tip of Texas, one of my favorite books was Stories That Must Not Die by Canadian-born Juan Sauvageau, a collection of the folktales and legends of that region.  The stories included La Llorona, Dancing With a Ghost, La Lechuza, and other terrifying tales that left my nine-year old brain wondering if they were real or not.  Because the stories were short, sharing them verbally with friends and family was easy and expected.  The book encouraged the dying art of storytelling.  

I recently looked for this book to share it with my children but was disappointed to discover it is out of print.  I have tried finding a similar collection but have come up empty-handed.  The Sauvageau book was notable because the stories were in both English and Spanish.  His prose was detailed, lyrical, and strikingly realistic.  I know there are children's books out there featuring Mexican/Latino characters and showcasing our legends, but not in a single, bilingual volume for kids.  

The irony that a book titled Stories That Must Not Die is now out of print is not lost on me.  In light of the recent #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign, I have been more acutely aware of the paucity of books that showcase the beauty of my Mexican culture.  It is much more than margaritas and sombreros.  Our culture is filled with stories that inspire, educate, entertain, and sometimes just downright serve to terrify.  I am so sad that while Stories That Must Not Die is highly reviewed on Goodreads, you cannot buy it unless you are willing to fork out anywhere from $80-300 to scammers.  What a shame!  

I wrote The Black Rose And Other Scary Stories That Really Happened To Me as an homage to Juan Sauvageau's collection, but also as a wish fulfillment of my own need for diverse books that share the beauty of my culture and encourage story telling.  When was the last time that you, as a parent or teacher or librarian or grandparent or aunt/uncle or older sibling, told a story to a child?  I hope that Black Rose, like Juan's books did for me, revitalizes the dying art of story telling.  We must not let our traditional stories die, even if they go out of print.  

Do you have any stories from your culture that you loved as a child?  Share them in the comments section!  And if you have an old copy of Stories That Must Not Die lying around, contact me through my website or Twitter.  Let's chat!  

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Who doesn't remember the scene from the 80's movie Crocodile Dundee where Paul Hogan's "Michael" explains that he went on a "walkabout" for 2 months that was really 18 months?  It is a great scene that shows us a lot about Michael's character but also introduces the concept of a walkabout to the American public.  A walkabout is an occasion in which an Australian Aborigine goes on a long walking journey on land that is far from towns and cities.  The purpose is to provide a time of self-reflection and to experience and learn new things.  

Chris and I are not Australian, but the idea of going on a nomadic trip to learn about the world is certainly appealing.  We will be using airplanes, trains, cars, and buses to supplement our walking journey though!  Our family is not new to the life of adventure.  During the summer of 2013, Chris and I sold our home and most of our possessions and moved to the highlands of Costa Rica.  Our kids, Kara and Tristan, attend a local, private, bilingual school while Chris works remotely for a private education company called Laureate Education, and I am a stay-at-home mom and writer.  I spent the last year working on The Black Rose and The Iris of Issoria.

We fell in love with Costa Rica, but after a lot of agonizing soul searching, we have decided to leave the land of Pura Vida in June.  Instead of returning for another year in Costa Rica as we originally planned, Chris and I decided to embark on our very own walkabout.  Starting in July of 2014, we will travel through South America, New Zealand, Asia, and Europe over the course of one year.  

We left the United States to give our children the opportunity learn about other cultures and to learn a simpler way of life.  We did accomplish our goal to teach our kids that you do not need a big house, a massive car, or a lot of toys to live a happy life.  With the walkabout, we want to take the lessons to a higher level.  We want to teach them that they can live with only the possessions that they carry on their backs.  We want to teach them to roll with the punches and adapt when life doesn't go their way, such as when the bus is late or a hostel loses our reservation or a restaurant doesn't serve mac and cheese.  We want to teach them to appreciate the value of an education when they see that there are so many children in other countries that don't have that privilege.  We want to show them the beauty of other cultures and people.  I know that we will hit many bumps on the road, literally and figuratively, but I also know that this is a great decision that will have a profoundly positive impact on Kara and Tristan.  Or maybe we are just a crazy family....

Noemi, Kara, Tristan, and  Chris

Noemi, Kara, Tristan, and Chris

I will continue to write while on the road.  You can subscribe to my blog or follow me on Twitter to  keep track of my adventures as a nomad writer.  

Have you ever thought about leaving your current life to embark on a brand new adventure?  Have you done a nomadic year?  Let me know in the comments below.  

 

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Posted
AuthorNoemi Gamel
CategoriesWalkabout Fun

I am about to confess one of my deepest, darkest secret.  This is a painful admission for a children's book author to make, but I feel I must come clean.  

My son hates to read.  

There, I said it.  Tristan, the 7 year-old apple of my eye, is what Chris and I euphamistically refer to as a "reluctant reader".  Both of us were in denial of this fact for a long time, especially because big sister Kara was born with her nose stuck in a book.  Chris and I are both voracious readers, educators, and I write children's stories for goodness sake. Yet, here we are the parents of a boy who has become a master at negotiating reductions in his required reading time.   

The first clue that we had a problem was that Tristan never picked up a book unless I put it in his hands and told him to read it.  When he finally would because I did not give him a choice, he insisted that I sit next to him while he read aloud.  He hated reading on his own. Then he would haggle with me to get his assigned reading time reduced.  "How about I read for just 10 minutes instead of 15?" or "Mom, please, just 5 pages instead of 10?".  

AAAAHHHHH!  While Kara was taking books to bed with her and reading until the wee hours of the night, Tristan was haggling down to the last paragraph.  

As with all problems, the first step towards coming up with a solution was admitting that we had a problem.  Once Chris and I waded out of the river of denial, we brainstormed ideas to get Tristan to read more.  The problem became a bigger issue when we decided to go on a round the world trip in which we would be home schooling the kids.  Their curriculum will include a lot of reading on their own.  Our strategy was the use the shotgun approach and toss all kinds of books at him to see what he liked.  We made two important discoveries with this scientific methodology.

The first discovery we made was that Tristan does not like to read for the sake of reading.  He needs to learn something or be wildly entertained by the story.  The second thing we learned was that our son's interests (violence, astronomy, math, adventure, fantasy) are topics that are written at a higher level than his current reading ability. 

After figuring these two issues out, we came up with a beautiful solution for our "reluctant" reader:  Comic books!  

Tristan loves to read comic books.  He reads them on his own, and he does not insist that I sit next to him while he reads because he can figure out a lot of the unknown words from the context provided by the graphics.  If he gets really stuck, he spells out the word for me and I tell him what it is.  

Kara loves to read classics like Flowers for Algernon and Because of Winn-Dixie, but she can also curl up with comic books......and The Dork Diaries. I am so grateful to Comixology because we can download comic books to the children's tablets, which is such a gift to us because we don't live in the USA and our nomadic lifestyle demands that we pack lightly.  

I know many of Tiger parents out there will probably look down on us because we let our kids read comic books.  All I can tell you is.... 😝

Comic books are an excellent strategy to get your "reluctant reader" to read and love it.  They are well-written, spark imagination, and most of them are conducive to the child expanding their vocabulary.  

What Chris and I learned in the process of finding books that Tristan would read is that we need to get over ourselves.  If our child is not learning from the way we teach, we will change the way we teach.  As parents, we need to get off our high horse and modify our teaching strategies to meet our goals.  At Tristan's age, the main goal of reading is to learn comprehension, grammar, and vocabulary.  Any written material accomplishes those goals whether you are reading a Newberry Honor book or Judy Moody.  In addition to comic books, Tristan also reads Captain Underpants, the "Stink" series, and interactive e-books on his iPAD. Once again I say this to you Type A professional Tiger parents...  😝

What strategies have you used to get your reluctant reader to read?  Please share them in the comments section because we have run out of ideas!  

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Posted
AuthorNoemi Gamel
CategoriesEducation

We are a family of readers.  Chris and I each always have a book that we are savoring.  My children read every day as part of their education.  My 12-year old daughter, Kara, is a voracious reader and always has a book by her side.  I require my 7 year-old son, Tristan, to read to me almost every day from a book at his reading level.  We also read as a family at bedtime every night.  

Our current bedtime selection is 360 Degrees Longitude, but I wanted to review/recommend a bedtime book we read a few months ago called Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan.  Pam won many awards and honors for this book, including the Pura Belpre Medal.  All of her accolades were well deserved.  

The story follows Esperanza, a tween girl who was raised as part of the aristocracy in Mexico, but through a dark twist of fate is forced to flee to the United States with her mother.  Like many immigrants in search for the "American dream",  Esperanza instead finds hardship, poverty, prejudice, and overcrowding while working the farm fields in California.  My children enjoyed the scene of Esperanza's first bath in America. She stands beside the tub and spreads her arms expecting the ladies to undress and bathe her as was the custom in Mexico.  Needless to say, she is in for a rude awakening!  

As with all the best books, Esperanza transforms right before our eyes.  Kara did not like Esperanza at the start of the book, but she fell in love with the character by the end.  Our protagonist changes from a privileged, entitled young girl to a hardworking, self-less, and tenacious woman.  The plot is well-structured and the writing is flawless.  This book generated excellent discussions with my children regarding social class, fair labor laws, immigration reform, racism, and courage.  

I highly recommend this book for your children to read on their own (ages 9 and up) or as a family read.  

Have your read Esperanza Rising?  What are your thoughts on the book?  Let me know in the comments below.  

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Posted
AuthorNoemi Gamel
CategoriesReading/Books

Welcome to my first blog post for my author website!  

Since you found my blog, you likely fit into one of the following 5 categories:

1.  You are one of my family/friends, and you thought it would be nice to stop by and support my new venture as a children's book author.  Or maybe a friend of yours sent you a link to my blog or website.  Grab a cup of coffee, read through the site, relax, and join the conversation!  If you’re already following me on Twitter you know that I love sparking conversation on a variety of topics related to books, strong female characters in children's literature, feminism, education, geek culture, writing/self-publishing, and traveling. I welcome comments so don't be shy.

2. You are interested in reading my children's books for yourself or your kids. That is wonderful!  My books are fun for the whole family.  Stay tuned to this website for more information on The Black Rose and Other Scary Stories That Really Happened To Me! which will be available digitally in May 2014 and The Iris of Rhiannon which will be available this summer.  Follow me on Twitter for the latest updates.  You can also subscribe my blog for excerpts and teasers (link below).  

3.  You are an aspiring writer that would like to connect with other members of the writing community.  You may be looking for encouragement, positivity and inspiration in your writer's life!   If so, welcome!  I am also new to the world of authorship and would like to meet other writers for support and networking.  A writer's life does not have to be lonely.

4.  You are a seasoned writer, buyer, agent, or publisher.  You are an expert on writing, publishing, or book marketing and are eager to share your expertise.  My website can be a platform to disseminate your own tips and advice. Sharing is encouraged, but please hold the spam.  If you like my writing and would like to represent or buy my treatments or other works of fiction, contact me through my website and we can chat!  

5.   You are a parent, teacher, older sibling, aunt/uncle, babysitter, or grandparent looking for book recommendations or educational resources for the kids in your life.  My children and I read every day.  I will be sharing the literary gems we find on my blog, so stay tuned.  You may also be curious about how in the world I am educating my kids while on a nomadic walkabout.  I will feature posts of our journey as my partner, Chris, and I homeschool our children on the road.  Join us as we learn through this process.  

Once again welcome to my website and blog.  I look forward to our journey together.  

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AuthorNoemi Gamel
CategoriesOn Writing