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The First Tortilla: A Bilingual Story



Last updated Thursday, January 8, 2009

Author: Rudolfo Anaya
Date of Publication: 2007
ISBN: 0826342140
Grade Level: 3rd    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Jan. 2009

Synopsis: The First Tortilla is a moving, bilingual story of courage and discovery. A small Mexican village is near starvation. There is no rain, and the bean and squash plants are dying. Jade, a young village girl, is told by a blue hummingbird to take a gift to the Mountain Spirit. Then it will send the needed rain. Burning lava threatens her, but Jade reaches the top of the volcano. The Mountain Spirit is pleased. It allows the ants in a nearby cave to share their corn with Jade. The corn was sweet and delicious and Jade took some back to save the village. Jade grinds the dry corn, adds water, and makes dough. She pats the masa and places it on hot stones near the fire. She has made the first tortilla. Soon the making of corn tortillas spreads throughout Mexico and beyond.

Note to readers:
•  Read only English

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  What's on the cover?
•  What is the girl holding? Vocabulary:
•  Metate: a stone and slab used to crush grains
•  Rebozo: a shawl
•  Elote: corn
•  Masa: dough
•  Tortilla: Mexican flat bread

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  Do you think it's really the hummingbird talking to Jade?
•  Why is the rain important?
•  Do you think Jade might be dreaming?
•  When do you think this story happened?
•  (Read the author's background of the legend of corn)

Craft ideas:
•  Make a colorful mask of the Mountain Spirit. Use bright colors, circles, shapes and other items. Attach with string or glue to popsicle stick.
•  Make a mosaic picture. A mosaic is an item made by inlaying small pieces of variously colored materials to form pictures or patterns. Pre-cut different shapes and colors out of construction paper. Glue the different shapes or items to a piece of construction paper to create a mosaic.

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don’t have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!