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Love, Amalia

By Alma Flor Ada, Gabriel M. Zubizarreta

Reading Group Guide

    A Reading Group Guide for

    Love, Amalia (Con cariño, Amalia)
    By Alma Flor Ada and Gabriel M. Zubizarreta

    About the Book

    Amalia’s best friend, Martha, is moving away, and Amalia is feeling sad and angry. And yet, even when life seems unfair, the loving, wise words of Amalia’s abuelita have a way of making everything a little bit brighter. Amalia finds great comfort in times shared with her grandmother: cooking, listening to stories and music, learning, and looking through her treasured box of family cards.

    But when another loss racks Amalia’s life, nothing makes sense anymore. In her sorrow, will Amalia realize just how special she is, even when the ones she loves are no longer near?

    From leading voices in Hispanic literature, this thoughtful and touching depiction of one girl’s transition through loss and love is available in both English and Spanish.

    Discussion Questions

    1. As the novel opens, Amalia’s abuelita tells her, “You are too quiet, hijita. Tell me what’s bothering you." Consider her grandmother’s ability to detect Amalia’s unhappiness: What can be inferred about their relationship through this interaction?

    2. Consider Amalia’s tradition of going to her grandmother’s house each Friday after school. Why does the inclusion of Martha in this ritual make Amalia’s grandmother more sensitive to Amalia’s sense of loss after Martha’s move?

    3. Describe Amalia. What makes her a dynamic person?

    4. Abuelita tells Amalia, “I know how hard it is when someone you love goes away. One moment you are angry, then you become sad, and then it seems so unbelievable you almost erase it. Then when you realize it is true, the anger and sadness come back all over again, sometimes even more painfully than before." Though she is trying to help Amalia deal with the move of her best friend, in what ways do her grandmother’s words foreshadow the profound loss that Amalia will have to experience? Have you ever had a similar experience where you lost someone with whom you were particularly close? If so, what advice would you give someone dealing with a similar loss?

    5. Look at the novel’s cover art. In what ways is the image represented symbolic of the events that transpire throughout the course of the book?

    6. Why do you think Amalia chooses not to open the package given to her by Martha? Do you agree with her decision? Why or why not?

    7. What does Abuelita’s focus on saving cards and letters from her family indicate about her character? Do you like to collect similar things from others? If so, what does doing so mean to you?

    8. How does Martha’s move and Abuelita's death profoundly impact and change Amalia's life?

    9. Why does Amalia ultimately choose to tell her grandmother about the theft incident at school before telling her parents? Do you think her grandmother was the best choice? In your opinion, was the principal’s punishment fair? What do you think Amalia ultimately learned from the experience?

    10. Though grieving the loss of her grandmother is particularly difficult, Amalia realizes she is luckier than her cousins. How is this so? Have you had an opportunity to become close to a grandparent, or another relative outside of your immediate family? If so, what has made that relationship special to you?

    11. After the death of her grandmother, how does Amalia uphold the customs and traditions of her abuelita? What is it about doing so that makes Amalia feel better? Do you have any traditions or customs that your family follows that are linked to family members who have passed away? What is it about preserving these that is so important?

    12. Why does being given Abuelita’s olive-wood box serve as a catalyst in changing Amalia’s attitude about Martha’s move and her grandmother’s passing? Do you have a special keepsake that connects you to someone? If so, what is it about that keepsake that makes it so special?

    13. Explain the significance of the title, Love, Amalia. In your opinion, does it accurately describe the events and relationships portrayed in the book?

    14. Using the phrase, “This is a story about . . .” supply five words to describe Love, Amalia. Explain your choices.

    Activities and Research

    1. Food plays an important role throughout the novel and in Amalia’s relationship with her grandmother. Using the recipes provided at the back of the book, invite a special person in your life to help you prepare one or more of the desserts shared in the book. When finished, take the time to enjoy the company and sweet treats!

    2. In our day of e-mails and text messaging, most people no longer write handwritten letters. Consider how Abuelita used her cards to share what others meant to her, and follow her example by creating cards with original art or handwritten letters. Remember, the sentiment (what you are trying to share) is the important part, so be carefree and have fun!

    3. In Love, Amalia, part of Amalia’s story focuses on her connection and relationship with her family and the people that matter the most to her. Think about your own special relationships. What makes these individuals so important? Compose a personal journal entry where you share your thoughts, and be sure to answer the following questions:

    •Who are the individuals who mean the most to you?
    •Why are these particular relationships so special?
    •What’s the greatest sacrifice you’ve made for the people you love?
    •In what ways have the changes you’ve experienced in your life affected those to whom you are closest?

    Share your writing with the group.

    4. Consider the variety of settings for Love, Amalia: Why is each of these places important to Amalia's development? Using the descriptions provided in the book, illustrate the places you believe to be most important to her story. In addition to the illustrations, include a short explanation of the significance of each, and why you believe it is important.

    5. Before Martha leaves, she gives Amalia a thick envelope, likely filled with items to help Amalia remember her by. If you were going to assemble a similar package for your closest friend, what would the contents be? Create a list of the items you would put inside for her or him and give a reason why each item would be significant to the two of you.

    6. Amalia’s extended family lives in a variety of interesting places throughout the world. Using the library and the internet, do research to learn more about Mexico City, a typical ranch in Mexico, Costa Rica and Puerto Rico. If you had your choice, which would you choose to visit and why?

    Guide written by Rose Brock, a teacher, school librarian, and doctoral candidate at Texas Woman’s University, specializing in children’s and young adult literature.

    This guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.

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