culture, food, spotlight

Spotlight: Paletero Man/Meet the Latkes

Paletero Man (HarperCollins)
Written by Lucky Diaz & Dr. Carmen Tafolla
Illustrated by Micah Player

For ages: 3-7
Very few things are as satisfying as an ice-cold treat during these scorching summer months. A Latinx boy has the same idea, but he can’t find the Paletero Man. So he races down the streets, hearing the sounds of the Paletero Man’s bell. Along the way, he runs into other street vendors and shopkeepers encouraging him. Eventually, everyone in the neighborhood comes together, and the boy is so inspired he makes sure everyone gets to enjoy paletas. As temperatures rise, that sounds absolutely divine to experience.

Spanish words are dropped throughout the text, but the book does not contain a glossary page. I don’t think that inhibits a reader’s enjoyment of the book, but it may lead to some questions on translation. The book is based on Grammy award-winning singer-songwriter Lucky Diaz’s song of the same name, and a link to the music is included with the book. Micah Player’s bright, colorful illustrations help take us on a journey through a Los Angeles neighborhood brimming with people and life.


1. You should go ahead and find paletas in your community and have them ready before or after reading the book. They are not the same as popsicles, so students will appreciate the treat and learn about a culture’s foods.

2. After having a paleta, students should work in pairs or individually to write a comparison and contrast between paletas & popsicles. Once you have one and survey the flavors, you’ll see a lot of discussion to be had here. If you have Latinx students that want to share, allow them time to talk about paletas in their communities.

3. For your artistically and/or cuisine-inclined students, let them write about a new flavor of popsicle/paleta of their own making. If you’re doing this from home with your children, try making it and trying it out. Maybe you will discover the most fantastic treat ever made!

Meet the Latkes (Viking Books for Young Readers)
Written & Illustrated by Alan Silberberg

For ages: 3-7
With Hanukkah just around the corner, a family of latkes prepares. These walking, talking potato pancakes are introduced by Lucy, the daughter of the clan. Her parents fry jelly doughnuts while her grumpy teenage brother broods away in his bedroom. Grandpa Latke becomes very silly and starts making up stories to explain the holiday with a sprinkle of the truth. For Grandpa Latke, he remembers the Mega-Bees who fought alien potatoes from another planet. The Mega-Bees were low on honey and used a giant dreidel to hide inside (a la the Trojan Horse) so they could get the jump on the potatoes.

This book is soaking in the silly humor of the Borscht Belt, another wonderful Jewish tradition that kids will get a kick out of. Adult readers will definitely enjoy the avalanche of jokes and puns; children might need more explanation. Silberberg should have gone with an artist other than himself because these don’t look like latkes. All that said, this would make a good piece of a more significant lesson on the roots of Hanukkah.


1. Like with Paletero Man, you must have some latkes ready to eat. Anytime a text about an unfamiliar food is being used in class, you should have some of that food to give students context.

2. Have students choose a food associated with a holiday that their family celebrates. Research the food and write either an informational essay about its history or an explanatory essay on how to make it.

3. A cultural potluck in the classroom or home is a great way to experience unfamiliar foods and increase cultural understanding. If students can bring in the foods they researched in the activity above, that will extend the learning even further.

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