Tuesday, July 3, 2012

LA MARIPOSA by Francisco Jimenez

Jimenez, Francisco. La Mariposa. Illustrated by Simon Silva. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1998. ISBN 0-395-81663-7. $16.00. Ages 6-10.

Useful website:

Parent’s Choice Recommended Award
America's Commended List
Smithsonian’s Notable Book for Children

This is a contemporary realistic fiction picture book. Although it is listed as fictional, the book is autobiographical because it is based on the author’s life experiences. The purpose of the book is to address the topic of social acceptance as well as the acceptance of changes and adaptation in the midst of challenges.

The story is about a boy, Francisco, entering first grade in a sink-or-swim all-English classroom where he can’t understand anything. From the very beginning, Francisco fixes his attention to a butterfly in a jar. The butterfly’s metamorphosis takes place alongside the changes Francisco experiences. The message is a positive and inspiring one: that one can flourish by embracing change. The main character’s nuclear family is presented as an important factor in his metamorphosis into a bilingual and bicultural human being. The teacher, principal, and classmates are presented in a positive light because in the end, his teacher, Miss Scalapino, helps establish Francisco as an artist by awarding him a first-place ribbon for his drawing of the butterfly. Through the supportive modeling of his parents and brother, Francisco both finds his place and learns to be tolerant and forgiving of a boy who bullies him. The book ends on the positive notes of acceptance and tolerance.

This book is written in English and Spanish; it falls under the category of Literary Bilingualism, as it includes Spanish words which are italicized and a glossary at the end. Although there are only a total of 16 spanish words, they are very impacting because they are used within a sentence, as a bilingual child would do when code switching. Code switching may have been added to make a connection with the reader on a more personal level. It also implies that English language learners assimilate by adapting what they are acquiring to their own background knowledge. This book also supports linguistic transfer skills because it illustrates the idea that Spanish shares some syntax with English.

The target audience of this book is ages 6-10. Teaching examples might include when and what syntactic features transfer and which do not. Reading comprehension skills can be developed by focusing on text features such as italics. The book also uses the butterfly as a metaphor for the changes a young boy experiences through the acquisition of a second language and culture.

This book can also be used in an integrated lesson between Language Arts and Social Science, and Science. It is a perfect read aloud to introduce the life cycle of a butterfly, a lesson on social justice, contributions of different people in the United States, labor laws, and historical Chicano heroes such as Cesar Chavez. I would use this book to make connections for meaningful learning. I would highly recommend this book as it is a powerful resource that can serve many purposes.

Francisco Jimenez is also the author of The Circuit, Breaking Through, and Reaching Out. These books follow the author from grade school to college. Jimenez is also the author of other bilingual books for children, including The Christmas Gift/El Regalo de Navidad.

Reviewed by Silvia Andrado

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