Delicious Family Memories: May Your Life be Deliciosa
Written by Michael Genhart
Illustrated by Loris Lora
Published by Cameron + Company, 2021
ISBN # 978-1951836221
Grades PreK – 3
What kinds of food do you associate with family celebrations and holidays? In this visually appetizing Pura Belpré honor book, author Michael Genhart and illustrator Loris Lora welcome readers to a Mexican American family home inspired by their own childhoods in the same region of the country. Lora’s illustrations situate readers in Abuela’s (Grandmother’s) mid-century Southern California bungalow where the family is gathered to prepare tamales in celebration of Christmas Eve. Told through the point-of-view of young nieta (granddaughter) Rosie, Genhart’s prose offers a cyclical story about sharing and passing-down family stories, aspirations, recipes, and annual traditions from one generation to the next. An important addition to any classroom collection, this picturebook honors familial history and knowledge and values intergenerational relationships between children and their elders.
Teaching Ideas and Invitations
Note to our Readers: These ideas are not meant to be prescriptive. Choose one. Choose more. It’s up to you. Some ideas are bigger and will take a number of days to complete. Some are shorter. You can also choose to complete one part of a teaching idea, but not the whole thing. It’s up to you!
May Your Life be Deliciosa was one of the five books for children, ages 0 – 18, recognized by the American Library Association’s 2022 Pura Belpré Award for outstanding illustrations that portray, affirm, and celebrate Latino cultural experiences. This particular book features the work of Latinx illustrator and designer, Loris Lora. Invite students to investigate how the illustrations of each 2022 Pura Belpré honoree differ. Also examine previous Pura Belpré winners featured on the Classroom Bookshelf. (See below.) Encourage students to consider how the tone and quality of each story is influenced by the illustrations. Explain that in many instances, publishers select artists to bring writers’ narratives to life. Assuming the role of a publisher, students could then examine the work of other picturebook illustrators and discuss how the text of May Your Life be Deliciosa might pair with the work of other artists.
Three other picturebooks, Too Many Tamales (Soto, 1993), Family Pictures / Cuadros de familia (Garza, 1990), and Tamalitos (Argueta, 2013), likewise highlight the familial tradition of making tamales together. Read these books alongside May Your Life be Deliciosa and invite students to compare and contrast the different stories. Welcome students to create graphic organizers and/or Venn diagrams to organize their thoughts before sharing their ideas with classmates.
In his author’s note, writer Michale Genhart reminisces about his childhood experiences of making tamales with his family. He was especially fond of the way his grandmother told captivating stories about her childhood while directing the tamale-making process. He appreciated the way his family shared an oral history that was passed from one generation to the next. In May Your Life be Deliciosa, Abuela tells stories while cooking with her children and grandchildren. Invite students to reflect on the stories that their parents, grandparents, and other members of their families or communities share. When do the students’ families tell stories? What are the stories about? Employ this book as a mentor text for students to write and illustrate their own multimodal texts about storytelling in their own families or communities. Also examine other books about family storytelling featured on the Classroom Bookshelf. (See below.)
Familial Food Stories
Students could likewise cultivate their oral language and storytelling skills by retelling their food stories for audio and/or video recordings in addition to print. They could also hone their interviewing skills. Students might develop a set of questions to guide a conversation about food stories with persons in their lives who love to cook. Consult with a local librarian for recommendations and/or resources about conducting interviews for oral stories and histories. Also visit the Oral History Association website. The stories can then be curated in both a digital and print collection for the class and school community.
In this story, the young protagonist Rosie, who is based on the author’s mother, asks Abuela, “Where’s the recipe [for the tamales]?” Abuela laughs, explaining that the recipe is in her heart and she relies on her senses (sight, smell, touch, taste) to know what to do next in the tamale-making process. Although the exact ingredients and measurements are not stated, the general procedures are. Invite students to document the step of making tamales as depicted in this book and the other books (e.g., Too Many Tamales; Family Pictures). Afterwards, students could consult cookbooks, online recipes, and cooking videos to compare and contrast the procedures, keeping in mind that there are many different ways to make tamales. Then, with the help of parents, school staff, and/or community members, students could prepare tamales as a class project, using a recipe of their choice. There are many online resources for preparing tamales in electric pressure cookers / slow cookers, which can be used in classroom spaces that are safe for food preparation. This activity could culminate with the creation of a class “How To Make Tamales” book that students could read in class and share with others.
Food, Recipes, & Celebrations
In this book, Rosie and her family make tamales in preparation for their celebration of Christmas Eve in Southern California. Invite students to think about their own families and communities. What kinds of foods and/or special recipes to students associated with birthdays, celebrations, and holidays? Encourage them to consider why the preparation and sharing of food is an important part of familial and community celebrations. As an extension, appoint pairs or small groups of students to serve on the celebration committee for a holiday or event of their choosing, either real or make-believe. Instruct the teams to develop a menu and to create an invitation for the event. Provide a variety of menus and invitations for students to consult. As part of the process, have students identify any common elements across the menus and invitations. As a culminating activity, welcome students to engage their oral language and speaking skills in delivering short presentations about their events.
Family Hopes and Aspirations
Abuela has many aspirations for her grandchildren. She shares her hopes in discussing each step of the tamale-making process. For example, in preparing the dampened cornhusks, she tells Rosie, “May you always be flexible”. Filling the husk with just the right amount of dough she adds, “Like a cornstalk, may you always stand tall and proud.” After completing each of the steps in the process and folding the final tamale before steaming, Abuela wishes for her grandchildren, “May you have lots and lots of hugs.” What kinds of hopes and aspirations would students like adult family, school, and/or community members to share with them? Alternatively, what are some of the students’ hopes and aspirations for each other and/or for members of their families and communities? As part of this activity, also read other picturebooks about hope. (See below.)
Greeting Card Creations
Present students with an array of greeting cards for their examination. Explain that sometimes people select and give greeting cards to help them express their hopes, feelings, and care for the intended recipients. Invite students to assume the roles of greeting card writers and designers. What kinds of aspirational and/or inspirational messages would they include inside their cards? What kinds of illustrations will they feature on the outside? How might children’s picturebook images inform or aid the students in developing cover images for their cards? Encourage students to work together in dyads or triads to develop prototypes of their own lines of greeting cards. As an extension, invite students to develop their own sales pitch for encouraging vendors to carry their lines of cards. Have them consider what makes their cards special and appealing for others.
2022 Pura Belpré Illustrator Award Honorees
Winner: ¡Vamos! Let’s Cross the Bridge
Honor Medal: Boogie Boogie, Y’all
Honor Medal: Bright Star
Honor Medal: De aquí como el coquí
Honor Medal: May Your Life be Deliciosa
Previous Pura Belpré Honorees Featured on the Classroom Bookshelf
La Princesa and the Pea
Funny Bones: Posada and his Day of the Dead Calaveras
Food Related Books Featured on the Classroom Bookshelf
Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix
Additional Books About Hope Featured on the Classroom Bookshelf
Kids’ Tamale-Making Class in the News
Filed under: Announcements, Awards, Book Reviews, Fiction Picture Books, Picture Books
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