This post was published in 2011 with support and permission of Francisco Alarcon. He passed away yesterday, but his generosity and love remain.
Sofia

I recently bought my grandniece Sofia a copy of Laughing Tomatoes and Other Spring Poems, by California poet Francisco Alarcon. She loves poetry and playing with words. Francisco’s poems delighted her and she wait to share them at school in El Cerrito.

Francisco’s beautiful children’s book is written in English and Spanish and illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez. (Children’s Book Press, 1997) I heard Francisco read from the collection a few months ago at the Sacramento Poetry Center and was charmed by his poems for children. Since Sofia’s mother is Mexican-American, Spanish is spoken at her house. But, her 4-year-old energy and giggles leap languages and continents. Her joy is totally international, which brings us to today — International Children’s Day — June 1.

Time to get your silly on! Sofia will, Francisco does. Today’s holiday is celebrated throughout the world with speeches on children’s rights and well being, children’s TV programs, parties, various actions involving or dedicated to children, families going out, singing, dancing, in other words, doing all the things my Grandniece Sophia loves, including laughing like tomatoes. Here is Francisco’s poem, along with some shots from my friend — Acclaimed Dominican Republic photographer and artist Julian Rodriquez:

 

Laughing Tomatoes

 

One year birthday

with flavor

laughing
they change

in our backyard

we plant
tomatoes

the happiest
of all
vegetables

with joy
they grow round

to red

Boy in hat

turning
their wire-framed
bushes

Two kids, New York 1972

into
Christmas trees
in spring

–Francisco Alarcon

What makes International Children’s Day special to me is the hope it spreads for the future of children, the builders of tomorrow, especially those children growing up in the world’s troubled places.

A new study by the United Nations on Violence Against Children is the first comprehensive, global look at all forms of violence against children. The central message of the study is that no violence against children is justifiable. The study reveals that in every region, in stark contradiction to states’ human rights obligations and children’s developmental needs, much violence against children remains legal, state-authorized and socially approved violence continues.

Limpiabotos

The Study aims to mark a definitive global turning point: an end to the justification of violence against children, whether accepted as ‘tradition’ or disguised as ‘discipline’. Find the study at http://www.unviolencestudy.org/

 

2 Julies

Francisco X. Alarcón (born in Los Angeles, in 1954) is the author of eleven volumes of poetry. His most recent book of bilingual poetry for children, Animal Poems of the Iguazú (Children’s Book Press 2008), was selected as a Notable Book for a Global Society by the International Reading Association, and as an Américas Awards Commended Title by the Consortium of Latin American Studies Programs. His previous bilingual book titled Poems to Dream Together (Lee & Low Books 2005) was awarded the 2006 Jane Addams Honor Book Award. He has been awarded the Pura Belpré Honor Award by the American Library Association a number of times. He has been a finalist nominated for Poet Laureate of California on two occasions. He teaches at the University of California, Davis.

Born in the Dominican Republic, Julian Rodriguez moved to New York in 1964 where he studied at Germain School of Photography. He worked for many years as a studio photographer and later did architectural and construction photography. He says his subject preference is people, especially children, because they’re the most spontaneous. After spending most of his life in the USA, Julian returned to his island home a few years ago where he continues his photography, as well as woodworking and painting.

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