Summer can often be a time of celebrations and reunions as family members and friends travel to see one another. In Kat Fajardo’s graphic novel, Miss Quinces, Suyapa’s parents plan a trip to see their extended family in Honduras. Suyapa would rather spend her summer break reading books and hanging out with her friends. She is further dismayed when her mother surprises her with an elaborate quinceañera.
While turning 15 is a teen rite of passage, 9-12 year olds will appreciate the tug-of-war between personal desires and family expectations that Suyapa experiences. Miss Quinces also offers older children ways to explore themes of loss and grief as part of identity development.
Use one or more of these activities to help children engage the story from a spiritual perspective:
Traditions: When Suyapa expresses dismay over having a quinceañera, her grandmother Rita explains to her the tradition’s significance. The author also provides information about the different symbolic elements of the tradition following the story. Ask: What traditional elements of the quinceañera do you find interesting? What are some traditions in your family? What do these traditions mean to you?
Honoring the Dead: During her visit to Honduras, Suyapa’s grandmother dies. Suyapa and her family do many things to grieve and remember her. Suyapa even creates a graphic novel in honor of her grandmother. Identify some of the ways your family or community honor and remember family, friends, or pets that have died; for example, lighting a candle, planting a special plant, or burning a drawing or letter. Share with each other why you think these rituals are helpful (or not) for grieving.
Own It: In the beginning, Suyapa’s mother planned most of the quinceañera without listening to Suyapa’s opinions. After Rita dies, Suyapa and her mother work together and change many elements, like Suyapa’s dress, to make the celebration more reflective of Suyapa’s personality. Ask: How does this outfit better reflect Suyapa? If you were designing your own outfit, what would you want to include? Invite children to draw themselves in an outfit that reflects their personality.
Family Graphics: Suyapa and her family do not always get along. Her different perspectives and desires often place her at odds with her mother and sister. Pick a common argument (e.g., doing homework before playing video games, staying up late, going places with friends) that happens between children and parents/caregivers. Invite children to create a graphic cartoon of how the argument usually unfolds and another showing how they would like to resolve the argument differently.
Summer Memories: Suyapa’s teacher assigns her to create a graphic cartoon that reflects her summer experience. At first, she struggles with this task because she is upset about her summer plans. By the end of the novel, she relishes the chance to depict her experiences. Recall with children different experiences from the past year (including big events, celebrations, or learnings). Draw pretend postcards that visually describe these events.