*PO* Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell

Karana journey shows us strength, courage and the effects of human nature on our environment. Karana lost everything but her strength to stay positive and see things for what they were. The love she demonstrated for her brother was enough to return to him when he would have been left alone to fend for himself. I think that if I was put in Karana position I would have done the same thing in a heart beat. Trading my life for my sibling is not something I would ever question. Nature has a way of repaying Karana for her courageous act, she learns to survive this notion of solitude and loneliness she experiences in the island by making long lasting friendships with local animals.

I Think that the way the author demonstrates her connection with her animal friends is amazing. People all over the world consider their pets for instance, their dogs to be “mans best friend”, however, I don’t think a lot of people have had to really demonstrate their loyalty to their pets. Karana showed her loyalty to her animal friends the same way she demonstrated it to her brother. Who can say they have had an experience where they have not thought twice to give up their lives for someone else or even their pets?

Image  Definitely not Pocahontas!

Juan de Pareja by Elizabeth Borton Treviño


OM—-Getting our adolescents to read, especially our Inner City/Urban students is one of the the most challenging issues for educators. They often ask themselves the following questions:

Why should I read that book?

What does that book even have to do with me?

The truth is many of our adolescents do not see the connections to situation or characters and themselves.  However, I Juan de Pareja is one YA lit that I think is great to teach text connections; especially text to self connection. It became clear to me from previous experiences that adolescents think of themselves as slaves, but who are they enslaved to?  Are adolescents enslaved to  individuals like their parents, teacher, even their peer, or are they enslaved to society and its many rules that seem to contradict each other. One other question that one can really explore is what is slavery?  ,and are adolescents  enslaved physically  or mentally?


*The Picture above is Diego Velazquez*

Juan de Pareja Painting


Juan de Pareja Painting

Painting : Juan de Pareja
Artist: Diego Velasquez
Date: 1650
Medium: Oil on Canvas
Dimension: 32 by 27.5 inches
Current Location: Metropolitan Museum of Art : Gallery 618
Page 139 “Paint me , Master! Paint a portrait of me!” “Come , we will buy a canvas. Yes I will paint you Janico.”

Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson

A.K.B = In reading Chains, I feel like I can use this book in class to introduce African literature. Thinking back to my adolescent years , I cannot recall reading a novel or a piece of literature on slavery. The only time that I can even recall seeing the topic of slavery as a young adult was in social studies class. It is so much to speak about in this book and so much to research. I feel like this book would be good for some type of unit on history. What are your thoughts? What unit would you use with this book?

On I, Juan de Pareja

What a thoughtful and beautifully written post, LD!

Like you, I really enjoyed these two books. But I only want to write about I, Juan de Pareja because it’s my favorite of all the books we’ve read so far. For me, I, Juan de Pareja really illustrated the day-to-day realities of parts of history with which we are all familiar, but perhaps never understood or envisioned so vividly. For instance, Treviño describes Juan’s encounter with the plague quite graphically: “When she was taken away, to the tolling of sad bells, I could not follow, for I had fallen sick most suddenly and was past all thinking. I lay on my cot dreaming of water and burning with fever, suffering dreadful hallucinations and terrors, drenching sweats, horrible retchings and vomiting. I have no idea how many days and nights I lay thus at the point of death” (14). We also catch glimpses of aspects of Spanish culture, such as flamenco dancing and the class system that existed in Spain during the early seventeenth century. First, we follow Juan as he observes the hierarchical order of the Catholic Church (19). Later, after meeting Carmelo, we become aware of the ethnic makeup of Spain during this time, and we are witness to violent forms of racism. There are so many moving descriptions of Juan’s historico-cultural context, but the Renaissance (as the greater historico-cultural context) is probably the most inextricably bound to the progress we observe throughout the course of the novel.

Las Meninas, Velazquez

Las Meninas, Velazquez

Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez, as LD and OM have already pointed out, would not betray reality in his painting. This fact is significant as related to the Renaissance and the cultural “re-birth” it represents. Though literally meaning “re-birth,” the word “Renaissance” also connotes critical thinking and innovation. Velázquez epitomizes ingenuity through two actions: first, by rejecting the practice of portraiture aimed to please and second, by freeing Juan in order to prevent his persecution. However, as Treviño writes in her afterword, Velázquez painted truths because he did not “flatter himself” into thinking he could improve reality (178). Although Velázquez was powerless when it came to changing the fate of the Spanish people, he was able to change Juan’s fate, and he did. And even if unintentionally, I would argue that Velázquez changed the art world rather profoundly, especially through his innovation in paintings like Las Meninas. This story causes us to genuinely admire Velázquez and so he becomes its secondary hero.

Las Meninas, Picasso

Las Meninas, Picasso

The primary hero, of course, is Juan. His unfailing loyalty and self-sacrifice are remarkable. Plus, Juan is an artist in his own right. For me, the most memorable scene of the novel is the scene in which Juan organically and sort of unconsciously paints “a Negro madonna” (123). Juan’s Christianity and submissiveness run so deep that he thinks: “At first I was satisfied, even happy with my painting. Then I felt sorrow, for it seemed as if some devil had guided my hand and that I had painted Our Lady as a Negro maid in order to exalt myself and to protest that my race was the chosen one” (124). Later, Bartolomé helps Juan understand that this painting was no mistake, and Lolis helps point out their natural right to pride and in some cases, resentment. These ultimate realizations, viewed together with his bravery, faithfulness, and creativity, make Juan a complete Renaissance hero.

Posted by SD

Tenderness in male form

LD: What burns in my heart so, that I must lay down, in phrases all my own, a picture of my life that I invite you to walk around in, absorb, live, almost as I have lived it?

And Now Miguel and I, Juan de Pareja, are two touching and rich stories of male perspectives, one during a pivotal twelfth year; the other, a lifetime. Each book takes us deeply into a living person’s outlook, an evocative and leisurely stroll through specific landscapes and landmarks that define each tender soul on its particular journey. We learn about distinct subjects which serve as the frames to hold the internal subject of human love in many forms. In And Now Miguel, sheep-herding is the external love; in I, Juan de Pareja, painting is the love form. In both stories, the role of religious custom and belief plays a large role in how love is contained, reconciled and embodied.

And Now Miguel captures the soul of a sensitive and thoughtful boy as he moves across the threshold of his childhood into early manhood through  observations of the family, sheep and mountains that make up his world. With language that is peculiarly boyish, fresh, and questioning, we begin to see a changing person who allows himself to feel and consider everything around him. He has a young boy’s way of knotting things up in trying to be bigger than he is. The same love that he shares with his siblings and parents is also shown to the mountains and sheep that demand so much from everyone. One of the great pleasures of the book was the way Miguel embodies the dignified love of caring for life in all its many forms, and how that is shown as a family legacy; his willingness to take on the burdens and responsibilities of this caring were the most moving parts, as he grows in his ability to carry them.  Miguel’s religious life supports him in his exploration of life’s mysteries, and takes him into a surprisingly profound conversation with his older brother Gabriel, who is leaving. This conversation marks Miguel’s final transformation in becoming his own person, as he comes to his own conclusions, by himself. The final stage, beginning his sheep-herding in the mountains with his uncles and father, is the external reflection of his internal maturity.

In I, Juan de Pareja, a more adult and detached voice tells the story, yet as a slave, Juan must speak from forced submission, which is similar to the restraints Miguel feels at being stuck between the very young and the grown. Juan’s perspective is always colored by slavery, yet he finds opportunity to love, serve and even feel free, due to his painter master, Diego Velazquez, and his master’s submission to the calling of art. The slave learns much from the master about painting and devotion, as does the master from the slave; love grows through simple devotion to their individual tasks. Here, too, Catholicism provides deep sustenance, as Juan and his master ride the unpredictable waves of life in 16th century Europe. Both slave and master exhibit acceptance, and devotion in life, showing the great capacity for love each man has.

These two books were written in very different times; it would be hard to imagine these books being written now. The sensibilities are from a previous era.

So, why must you enter my world? I suppose the searing heat of hammered change in a soul is felt to be so powerful, so large, I must tell you, so you can tell me by reading my words: Yes, I understand your journey.

Both Miguel and Juan tell stories of great change with dignity and grace. It is their tender sensibilities that allow them to accept and adapt to reality through loving perspectives, showing us the beauty in their own lives.  As Velazquez tells his apprentice,

“Art should be Truth; and Truth, unadorned, unsentimentalized, is Beauty.”

Both books were beautiful.