Armando and the Blue Tarp School
This poignant picture book narrated by a young boy is based on a true story of a New York City teacher who set up a school on a blue tarp spread on the ground near a garbage dump in Tijuana, Mexico. Armando works all day with his father in the foul-smelling dump, picking through trash, “some to sell, some to use.” He begs his parents to let him go to the blue tarp school, and at last, his parents allow him to attend in the afternoons. Clear, unframed, double-page pictures in watercolor and ink with thick white outlines show the children on the tarp in the midst of the noisy colonia (neighborhood) and also the bond between the boy and his teacher. When a huge fire burns the neighborhood, Armando’s picture of the fiery night is printed alongside the story in the newspaper, and people send money to build a real schoolhouse. A lengthy final note fills in the facts and includes photos of the teacher and the pupils at the school now. Without melodrama, Armando’s story shows what poverty means and the hope that things can change.