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Nacho and Lolita

Last updated Thursday, May 28, 2020

Author: Pam Munoz Ryan
Date of Publication: 2005
ISBN: 0439269687
Grade Level: 3rd    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Sep. 2009

Synopsis: Like Leo Politi's "Song of the Swallows," this picture book celebrates the fascinating migratory patterns of the birds that call Mission San Juan Capistrano home for the spring and summer. Each year on the March feast day of St. Joseph, the swallows return to the Mission. This tale is told from the perspective of another avian wonder, a once-colorful pitacoche. How it becomes a plainer-looking creature is at the heart of this pourquoi tale. Nacho, an extravagantly colored bird who lands at the Mission, is unimpressed with the arid landscape, but nonetheless does his best to entertain the native peoples and friars with his haunting melodies and bright appearance. Human acclaim, however, does not compare with the company of other birds, and so he eagerly anticipates the rumored return of the swallows. Nacho bonds with them and in particular with a sweet little female named Lolita. Much as he would like to accompany the swallows when the flock departs, it proves impossible for the big, ungainly bird. Initially distraught, he channels his energy into creating a surprise for them upon their return, and as a by-product leaves a lasting legacy of color and beauty for the Mission. This plot progression is reflected visually as the fairly subdued, dry landscapes morph into vivid abundance of flowers and fruit trees by the story's conclusion. An author's note that details the sources for this Mexican folktale-inspired book should enhance readers' enjoyment of the playfully illustrated ode. From

Note to readers:
•  Vocabulary: panorama, mesquite, pitacoche, belfry, serenade, fledge, foraging
•  Pronunciation Key:
•  Alta = all-tah
•  Baja = bah-ha
•  Pitacoche = pee-tah-co-chay
•  Las Golondrinas = las go-lawn-dree-nas
•  Una familia fantastica = oona fam-eel-ee-ya fan-tas-tica
•  Un arullo = oon ah-roo-yo

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  Which one is Nacho and which is Lolita?
•  Where does this take place?

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  What is the longest trip you have taken?
•  Can you see the gray feather on Nacho?
•  Why does Nacho pull out his feathers?
•  Have you visited any of the California Missions?
•  Do you think it was hard for Nacho to give up his beautiful feathers for Lolita? Why or why not?
•  Have you ever given up something you liked (like a toy or a snack) to make someone you love happy?

Craft ideas:
•  Create a colorful Nacho bird. Have the students cut out a bird. Select several colors of construction paper and distribute one to each student. Have them cut out feathers and trade and share with the rest of the group. Glue the feathers on their Nacho bird.
•  Draw and color a beautiful mission garden.

*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!