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Celebrate Family, Community and the Thrill of the Ride with My Papi Has a Motorcycle

My Papi Has a Motorcycle

Written by Isabel Quintero and Illustrated by Zeke Pena

Published in 2019 by Kokila, an imprint of Penguin Random House

ISBN 978-0-525-55341-0

Grades PK-8

Book Review

“We become a spectacular celestial thing soaring on asphalt. A comet.”  With rich sensory language and colorful comic style-illustration, award-winning author illustrator team Isabel Quintero and Zeke Pena celebrate family, community and the thrill of a motorcycle ride in their latest picture book collaboration. In first person, Daisy Ramona describes the sights, sounds, and smells of an evening ride through the city on the back of her father’s motorcycle. An author’s note reveals the location to be Corona, California and the recollections and musings on change as autobiographical for Quintero, who is the daughter of Mexican immigrants. English and Spanish flow easily through text that describes community landmarks and their historical significance, as well as the community members the father-daughter duo encounters.  Young Daisy reflects on the changes she has experienced in her beloved city, pondering its past and its future, while leaving readers comforted by her final words of: “there are things that will always stay the same.” Pena’s digitally rendered illustrations incorporate broad lines and the soft pastels of a southern California sunset and feature fantastical elements, bilingual speech bubbles, and onomatopoeia. A sense of movement permeates these pages – readers can’t help but be carried along on this joyous ride.

Teaching Ideas: Invitations for Your Classroom

Grades PK – 6

“Funds of Knowledge”. One of the first things we learn about Daisy is that she knows about engines, tools, and working on motorcycles. Educational researchers Luis Moll and colleagues wrote about the importance of bringing children and families’ knowledge into the classroom. This approach positions learners and families as experts while also making classroom curriculum more relevant to students’ lives. After reading My Papi Has a Motorcycle, ask your students to list the areas of expertise that they and their family members hold. Students could draw, write, or collage to share this listing. Post their work in the classroom as a resource for you and for your students.

Food and Community. Food figures largely in Daisy and Papi’s travels through their community. Gather a collection of photographs of the food items mentioned in the story (if your school does not have food sharing restrictions, consider bringing in the food items themselves for students to sample). Read additional texts that feature local foods and eating practices (for examples from the Classroom Bookshelf see Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix and It’s Our Garden: From Seeds to Harvest in a School Garden). Ask students to discuss, write about, and draw their favorite community-based foods. If possible, arrange for a local field trip to a specialty restaurant or food truck in your community or bring in local chefs for interviews and to share food preparation demonstrations.

Community Stories. Read My Papi Has a Motorcycle as part of a text set focusing on communities. Include texts such as those featured on The Classroom Bookshelf: Trombone Shorty, Maybe Something Beautiful, Hey, Wall: A Story of Art and Community, Windows and Last Stop on Market Street. Construct an anchor chart to record patterns across the texts, noting how each features community members, landmarks, history, culture, events, and activism. Use favorite texts as mentor texts for students to co-write stories of your community (this could be your school community or community defined more broadly).  

Rituals with Special People. Daisy eagerly looks forward to her evening ride with her Papi. Invite your students to reflect on and share routines and rituals that they enjoy with special people in their lives. Students can share these experiences orally as preparation to write and draw. Partners can prompt students to include all important details and rich sensory descriptions. Seek additional picture books about special routines and rituals to share as examples. Classroom Bookshelf entry examples include Grandma’s Gift and Last Stop on Market Street.

Duet Model Reading. Pair a reading of My Papi Has a Motorcycle with a reading of Margarita Engle’s All the Way to Havana. Have students compare and contrast the family relationships, the journey, the communities, and the themes of these stories. Expand this text study with a reading of Last Stop on Market Street and then invite your students to write and draw about a special trip that they have taken with loved ones.

Representing Latinx Experiences. Latinx experiences remain underrepresented in children’s literature. After reading My Papi Has a Motorcycle, invite your students to survey your classroom and school library for additional picture book titles that feature Latinx children, families, and communities. Use resources such as We Need Diverse Books, Latinxs in Kidlit, The Pura Belpre Award and the Tomas Rivera Book Award to expand the Latinx titles available to your students. Search The Classroom Bookshelf for entries on Pura Belpre award winning titles.

Descriptive Writing. Following an initial reading and discussion, select and enlarge some of the descriptive passages in My Papi Has a Motorcycle. Ask your students to close their eyes and visualize the described scene as you read the passage aloud. Then unpack the techniques used by Quintero to help readers create vivid images in their minds. Mark up the enlarged passage, recording students’ observations about word choices. Guide students to notice the use of sensory information. Next, invite students to craft a piece of descriptive writing. Begin by having students draw or photograph a favorite person, place, or thing. Next, students should rehearse for writing by verbally describing the picture to a partner. After students have then drafted and revised their descriptive pieces, share them digitally or in the form of a class book.

Grades 5-6

Translanguaging. English and Spanish mix fluidly throughout My Papi Has a Motorcycle. The concept of translanguaging celebrates the knowledge and linguistic competencies of multilingual speakers (for more information see CLELE: Translanguaging and Picturebooks). Invite your students to pay attention to the ways that they, their classmates, and popular culture texts incorporate multiple languages orally and in writing. Gather a collection of children’s books that demonstrate translanguaging to read aloud and to have available for independent reading in your classroom. Classroom Bookshelf entry examples include: Juana & Lucas and La Princesa and the Pea.  Discuss the differences among bilingual books, translanguaging in written language, and translated books.   

Changes. Older students reading My Papi Has a Motorcycle will identify more readily with Daisy’s musings on the changes that she has experienced in her community. Ask students to reflect on changes they have experienced in their selves, their families, and in their communities. Discuss Daisy’s statement that “there are things that will always stay the same.” As you read texts throughout the school year, note the themes of change that surface, perhaps keeping an anchor chart of titles and examples.

Critical Literacy

What Makes & Who Builds a Community? In her author’s note, Quintera poses the question: “Who are the people who build our cities and form our communities? Who are the people who get streets named after them and who are the people who lay the asphalt?” Your middle grade students can investigate these questions about your own community. Invite your town historian to discuss the origins of your town or city, how it was established, and what roles different population groups have played in its history and development.

Further Explorations

Online Resources

Isabel Quintero: Author’s Website

Zeke Pena: Illustrator’s Website

CUNY-NYS Initiative on Emergent Bilinguals: Culturally Relevant Books and Resources

Latinxs in Kidlit

Language Arts: Language Learning and Linguistic Diversity

CLELE: Translanguaging and Picturebooks

“Funds of Knowledge for Teaching”

We Need Diverse Books

Tomas Rivera Book Award

The Pura Belpre Award


Ancona, G. (2013). It’s our Garden: From Seeds to Harvest in a School Garden. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.

Andrews, T. (2015). Trombone Shorty. Ill. by B. Collier. New York: Abrams Books.

Briggs Martin, J. & Lee, J.H. (2016). Chef Roy Choi and the street food remix. Ill. by Man One. Bellevue, WA:Readers to Eaters.

Camper, C. (2014). Lowriders in Space. Ill. by Raul the Third. New York: Chronicle Books.

Campoy, F.I. & Howell, T. (2016). Maybe something beautiful: How art transformed a neighborhood. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers.

Denos, J. (2017). Windows. Ill. by E.B. Goodale. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.

Elya S.M (2017). La princesa and the pea. Ill. by J. Martinez-Neal. New York: G.P. Putnams.

Engle, M. (2017). All the way to Havana. Ill. M. Curato. by New York: Godwin / Henry Holt.

Medina, J. (2016). Juana & Lucas. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.

Velasquez, E. (2011). Grandma’s gift. Walker Books/Bloomsbury.
Verde, S. (2018). Hey, wall: A story of art and community. Ill. by J. Parra. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Erika Thulin Dawes About Erika Thulin Dawes

Erika is a professor of language and literacy at Lesley University. A former classroom teacher, reading specialist, and literacy supervisor, she now teaches courses in children’s literature, early literacy, and literacy methods. Erika is the co-author of Learning to Write with Purpose, Teaching with Text Sets, and Teaching to Complexity.