Cousins of Clouds

Cousins of Clouds
Tracie's NEW BOOK!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Under the Mambo Moon by Julia Durango

PUT on your poetic dancing shoes! My writing partner, and best pal, Julia Durango has a stunning new book out that combines lyrical poetry, latin music, and fascinating non-fiction. HOORAY, Julia!

Under the Mambo Moon
by Julia Durango
Illustrated by Fabricio VandenBroeck

About the book:
On summer nights
Marisol helps Papi
at the music store.

For those who stop by,
Tia Pepa,
music’s more than just music.

It’s stories—
dreams and memories—
poems that

With the rhythms of

Papi says you can
read people’s souls
by the music
they listen to.

About the author:
On summer nights Julia Durango likes to salsa dance and drink limonada. Julia is a children’s librarian and the author of several books for young readers, including Sea of the Dad, The Walls of Cartagena, and Cha-Cha Chimps. She is also the coauthor with Linda Sue Park of Yum! Yuck! A Foldout Book of People Sounds. Julia has a degree in Latin American studies and travels to Colombia whenever she can. When she’s not traveling she lives with her family in Ottawa, Illinois. Visit her at

About the illustrator:
Fabricio VandenBroeck is the illustrator of Uncle Rain Cloud, My Name is Jorge, Under the Breadfruit Tree, The Witch’s Face, My Shoes and I, and many other books for children. A former member of a rock band, he lives in Mexico City, where he creates his own sounds on the electric guitar. His musical tastes range from Latin jazz to world music to punk rock.

Author Interview:

1.       What first inspired Marisol’s story?

When I first travelled to Latin America as a teen, I immediately fell in love with the music.  Each type of Latin music that I encountered, from tango to salsa, merengue to mambo, seemed to tell a story about people transcending adversity and embracing life, with all of its pain and joy.  Marisol’s story is my thank you letter to an art form that has brought me so much pleasure through the years.

2.       How is writing poetry different from prose? What did it teach you as a writer?

Poetry is much like a song.  You have a brief amount of time (or words) to tell a story, evoke a feeling, or conjure an image.  It’s a small square of dark chocolate rather than a banana split, or a perfectly formed rosebud instead of a bouquet.  Writing poetry taught me to search for one delicious bite, one exquisite bloom in a forest of words.

3.       What can your fans look forward to next?

Another music-inspired offering!  My upcoming project, Dream Away, is both picture book and lullaby.  Illustrated by Robert Goldstrom and co-authored by songwriter Katie Belle Trupiano, Dream Away tells the story of a boy’s nighttime travels through the sea of constellations along with his father and crew.  You can read more about the book and listen to the song here:


What is your favorite kind of music? What types of instruments does it feature? Can you explain what you like best about it?

Discussion guide:

1.       Why do people come to the music store? What do they hope to find there? Why does music do more than just entertain us?

2.       What memory does Mrs. Garcia relive through music? What song takes you back to a great memory?

3.       What inspired João? How did he turn this longing into music?

4.       Explain how Dr. Solis feels young again. What takes him back to that time? Is there a song that you think makes your own parents feel young? How do you know?

5.       How does Catalina’s poem sound like the music it is talking about? Why do poets play with line breaks and the sounds of words?

6.       What event is Tia Pepa planning for?  What do you think will be the best part?

7.       Why is Tio Freddy like his accordion? What are you like?

8.       What instrument does Professor Soto like to listen to when he’s homesick? What is your favorite instrument? How would you describe its sound?

9.       What do you think the drums represented or symbolized to the people who played them in Uruguay?

10.   Describe Mr. And Mrs. Mayer while they dance. Describe how your own friends dance.

11.   What part of samba school would you like best?

12.   Explain why Susana’s  “whole body/sings?” When does yours?

13.   Where did the cumbia drums sound? Why were some people afraid of them? Does any modern music still scare others?

14.   How does dancing the salsa make Liliana feel? What makes you feel “like the whole world/will be okay?”

15.   How do Marisol and her own parents celebrate after a long day in the music store? What do you like to do under a “Mambo Moon?”



Listen to the different types of music described in the book and rate them using the following chart:

Type of music:
I like the rhythms and beat:
I like the sounds of the instruments:
I need to explore this music more:


Bossa nova









Son jarocho



Language Arts:

Inspired by Under the Mambo Moon, write a poem about your favorite type of music. Try to use at least one simile or metaphor like Julia did!


Memorize (or read dramatically) the poems for a performance. Play the music in the background to give it an authentic flavor!


Inspired by the illustrator, create a piece of art that shows people dancing from your own cultural tradition.


Through music, we are able to trace the influences of different cultures over time. Research how the traditions in the book intersected with each other and what resulted in history, music, and culture.

Tracie Vaughn Zimmer, children’s author and literacy specialist, created this guide.