Sunday, October 20, 2013

El Arenque Rojo, a great tool for reading and writing in the Spanish Class


I had the pleasure of meeting Gonzalo Moure in 2009 when he was invited  to work with the Spanish bilingual schools in Calgary and Edmonton. Prior to his visit, students read and worked with some of his books to prepare for their exchange with Gonzalo. I was lucky to be present for most of his visits to schools and I have to say that he has the gift to spark students' curiosity and knows how  to communicate with them. I have worked in education for many years and I know how difficult it sometimes is to engage students in discussions and make them aware of realities far from their lives and Gonzalo is a master of this difficult art.

In one of  the classes there was an animated discussion about writing stories. Gonzalo told the students that he could write a story which contains love, passion, death and mystery with only 11 words: "la gacela pensó que el tigre era hermoso, un segundo antes". He was playing with the imagination of the reader who is going to build up a story suggested by only 11 words. To our astonishment, a young student said that she had created a short story which suggests so much with only 8 words: "Reina quería matar a Rico, pero le amaba". Now, when we work with "microrrelatos", flash fiction, I always give students these examples to prove how literature has the power of suggesting and making our imagination work.
 
Gonzalo has published over 30 books and has won numerous literary awards. Several of his books have also been recommended by the prestigious International Youth Library, The White Ravens. His books are written for children, teenagers and young adults who are and in many cases the main characters in his stories. I always say that it is not easy to write for children and teenagers because one has to write in an informative manner but in a way that the children would not feel like they are being patronized. Gonzalo is a master at achieving this.

I also find his books attractive since they deal with social or environmental issues. His love for nature and particularly horses is one of recurrent topics. He also has a passion to talk about his experiences with working with the refugees from the former Spanish colony in the Western Sahara, one of the harshest places in the world. He has committed himself to help the children in this community offering them access to books and reading with the project of the Bibliobus, a wandering library who takes books on an old bus to the refugee camps scattered in the desert.

There are many books that deserve to be blogged about and I will do it sooner than later. I just want to introduce El arenque rojo, published in 2012. The book has an attractive, original format and can be a beautiful tool to use in our classes.  The first striking thing is the fact that there is no text in the book. We follow the red herring in a park at different moments in a busy evening in Spain while we leaf through the pages. We follow El arenque rojo which is perhaps leading us to wrong conclusion  Around the herring, hundreds of stories are shown to us through the beautiful drawings by Alicia Varela, the illustrator. There are children playing, parents with kids, grand parents reading or passing through after shopping... even the author is watching everything while he rests on a bench. And there are as many stories as our imagination can tell. On the last page of the book, there is a surprise, an attached envelope with various of the stories happening in the park according to the author. But he invites us to write the rest or reinvent those already given.

I think the book can be a great resource to invite students to write or reinterpret stories. It will make it easy for students to realize about the power of imagination and how stories can be told in almost uncountable ways. A great tool to encourage students to enjoy reading and telling stories.

Gonzalo speaks about how the book was conceived and its goals in this post on his blog.

SM publisher introduces the book on its website where we can read some of the stories in the envelope and we are encouraged to publish our story in it.


I highly recommend El arenque rojo to work with our students. I also encourage schools to try to invite Gonzalo Moure to visit them. He is a master engaging students in all kinds of activities and I am sure during his visit students will enjoy an incredible experience.