As more and more people are writing Spanish novels, it can become overwhelming to decide what to buy! I have already reviewed Jeremy Jordan’s most recent book La Estatua and Señor Wooly’s second graphic novel La Casa de la Dentista. As my Spanish V students are able to read for longer, I have been able to read some more books that I have bought recently. I just finished Vidas Impactantes by Kristy Placido. I absolutely loved it!
This collection of biographies explained the life of Roberto Clemente, Azucena Villaflor, Celia Cruz, Julio Iglesias, Luis Urzúa and María Reiche. Overall, it was a strong collection because it included biographies of people from various professions and various countries. I felt like you could easily extend a variety of studies from each chapter to study even more. Each chapter discussed briefly current events that were occurring during the lives of each person. You could guide students on a study of these events or students could also complete an independent study with the book. This book alone is rich in many cultural aspects outside of the biographies. Some of the cultural aspects covered include:
- Latino baseball players and racism
- The government of Isabel Perón
- Recent developments of Los Desaparecidos
- Fidel Castro
- Art about Celia Cruz
- ETA in Spain
- Eurovision Song Contest
- Enrique Igelisas
- Quechua in Peru
This list alone could keep you busy for a whole year!
I don’t feel like I am a typical non-fiction reader, but both Vidas Impactantes and Frida Kahlo (another book by Kristy) have been fascinating to me. I could have easily finished it during one class, but I figured my students might notice if I really extended their reading time! I was hooked. Although I knew about many of these people from studying Spanish, they each had a story or two that I didn’t know. For example even though I knew about the Chilean miners, I had not read much about the life of Luis Urzúa. I believe that this would also be a good extension activity for upper levels as the book itself could serve as a template for biographies for other students.
I think that this novel would be perfect for a class novel for levels 3 and up. It is all written in the past tense. It would probably be challenging for level 3 if they have not had novels previously. You could also add it to your FVR library and recommend it for students who prefer non-fiction books. You could push a level 2 reader who would really be interested to read this independently. (Also if you haven’t checked out the CI non-fiction library, do so! And add some of your own non-fiction writing.) Also, each chapter is 10-12 pages long. It would be easy to break this up if you have a class that doesn’t meet as frequently. You could easily find a lot of authentic videos or articles to supplement what students have read. This book also inspires ME to implement even more biographical information into my classes. If you teach upper levels, you should check it out!