Review: Joelito’s Big Decision (Multicultural Children’s Book Day)

Hi guys! So, some point last year I saw that there was a call out for book reviewers for Multicultural Children’s Book Day, which is taking place on the 27th January 2016.

The mission statement for the Multicultural Children’s Book Day Team is:

The MCCBD team’s mission is to spread the word and raise awareness about the importance of diversity in children’s literature. Our young readers need to see themselves within the pages of a book and experience other cultures, languages, traditions and religions within the pages of a book. We encourage readers, parents, teachers, caregivers and librarians to follow along the fun book reviews, author visits, event details, a multicultural children’s book linky and via our hashtag (#ReadYourWorld) on Twitter and other social media.

I thought this was fantastic – it ties into everything I feel about languages and education (and the fact that promoting diversity can only be a good thing) – and so I signed up to be a reviewer straight away. If you’re interested in finding out more about the event, then the co-creators are Mia Wenjen from Pragmatic Mom and Valarie Budayr from Jump Into a Book/Audrey Press.

The book that I was sent is titled Joelito’s Big Decision / La Gran Decisión de Joelito, which is an English-Spanish dual-language book, written by Ann Berlak, translated by José Antonio Galloso, and illustrated by Daniel Camacho. There’s a summary below, along with my review and activities!

Joelito Cover Two Boys Lo Rez

Summary (from Hard Ball Press):

Joelito Sanchez is a happy-go-lucky fourth grader. The highlight of his week is a Friday-night family dinner at Smiling Sam MacMann’s burger restaurant. One Friday things don’t work out as expected. The invisible becomes visible as Joelito begins to see that his best friend’s family cannot afford the basic things he takes for granted every day because of the low wages MacMann’s pays their workers.

Joelito learns to connect the dots between people’s private lives and troubles and the larger social forces that surround them. And he faces his first big decision: to give in to his desire for that juicy burger, or stand with his friend on the picket line.

Review:

First things first: I enjoyed this book. I think it tackles an important issue, one that a lot of children understand but don’t really want to or know how to articulate – and an issue that, if you don’t grow up having to cope with it or knowing other people or do, can completely pass you by. The issue is essentially the fight for a higher minimum wage, which is something that has been happening in the UK (the slow introduction of a living wage, albeit without so many protests) as well as other countries.

I think Joelito accurately represents a lot of children (and adults!) who don’t really notice this as an issue – he’s obviously not out to hurt his friends, he just hasn’t experienced what they have, so when his dilemma presents itself, he has to choose between carrying on the way he always has or standing by his friends and their family. What is great is that this is shown to be done out of compassion and solidarity, when it could have so easily appeared to be out of pity.

There’s also the ever-present looming of MacMann’s (their mascot sounds pretty creepy, to be totally honest… but maybe that’s just me!) and importantly: that there is a hierarchy that the people you usually interact with from these corporations are not really involved in. As far as I’m concerned this book can help to educate about this specific minimum wage issue, as well as the role and importance of huge corporations in our lives. Also, while I’m guessing it will mostly be read by people in the US, it still has a place in the UK/Europe – either for teaching about this issue abroad and relating it to the situation in your country, or for examining these different aspects.

It’s also a great dual-language book, especially if you’re raising children bilingually. It’s recommended for ages 6-12+, so for (most) schools in the UK the Spanish aspect might not be too helpful (unless you’re at some kind of bilingual school?), making it probably most effective in the home. However, I do think it could be used in secondary schools at the right level, especially if citizenship and work issues are involved in the curriculum. The fact that it’s a dual-language book does help, because students can just glance at the English if they’re not sure of the translation.

Activities:

First of all, there’s a great post-reading activity on the Hard Ball Press website, which involves making groups think of their own company and then work out how much to pay their employees.

I also think it could be fun (especially with younger students – this can be a bit arts and crafts-y) to think of your own protest as a class, or in groups. These don’t have to be hot button issues; they could be things like protesting homework, or certain lunch foods, etc., and then get the students to make their own protest signs like the ones mentioned in the book. If you wanted to do this with older kids in a language class, then just get them to do it in Spanish! Talk to them about why it’s important for protests to happen in large numbers and – if you split the class up and they have different issues – ask the other groups if they would join together on one issue.

Of course, there’s always a discussion to be had: What would they do in Joelito’s place? Do they know anyone who works in a minimum wage job like this? What other minimum wage jobs are there? What do they think will happen? Why might some people be against a $15 minimum wage (or a living wage)?

This also leads onto something that can be especially effective in an older class: a debate. Remind students that they should defend the statement, not their personal opinion, then split them and have half the class debate that there should be a $15 minimum wage and half the class debate that there shouldn’t. It depends on the class, but I find that if you can get them into it, things usually get lively.

Finally, if you’re at home (or have a maths-orientated class) then an interesting thing I think to get kids to do is a budget. Take the minimum wage in your state/country and the average work week (e.g. UK: current wage for age 21+ is £6.70, maximum you should work is 48 hours a week) and get them to make a budget (housing, utilities, food, travel, etc.) and then see how much they have left for extras. Then adjust the wage to a living wage (UK: £8.25 / £9.40 for London) and get them to recalculate and look at the difference. It can be interesting to try this both ways – to start low and get them to see what they could add if they earned more money and to start high and get them to see what they might have to cut if they didn’t.

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I hope you enjoyed this and there’s just a couple more things before you go:

Multicultural Children’s Book day 2016 Medallion Level Sponsors! #ReadYourWorld

Platinum: Wisdom Tales Press * StoryQuest Books * Lil Libros

Gold: Author Tori Nighthawk * Candlewick Press * Bharat Babies

Silver: Lee and Low Books * Chronicle Books * Capstone Young Readers * Tuttle Publishing * NY Media Works, LLC/KidLit TV

Bronze: Pomelo Books * Author Jacqueline Woodson * Papa Lemon Books * Goosebottom Books * Author Gleeson Rebello * ShoutMouse Press * Author Mahvash Shahegh * China Institute.org * Live Oak Media

Multicultural Children’s Book Day has twelve amazing co-hosts and you can use the links below or view them here.

All Done Monkey, Crafty Moms ShareEducators Spin on itGrowing Book by BookImagination SoupI’m Not the NannyInCultural ParentKid World CitizenMama SmilesMulticultural Kid BlogsSpanish Playground

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2 thoughts on “Review: Joelito’s Big Decision (Multicultural Children’s Book Day)

  1. This sounds like a great book for kids to think about the world around them and how their small actions like going to a fast food restaurant that doesn’t not pay a living wage impacts people that they know. I loved your review! Thank you so much for joining us for Multicultural Children’s Book Day!

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    • Thanks, I had fun! And yeah, I think it’s important to show them that their actions have an impact and that they can affect change – I definitely notice that lots of people seem apathetic about that, but this might encourage kids to grow up being a little more proactive.

      Like

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