María Isabel Salazar López is the new girl in school, and her teacher doesn’t call her by her real name. María Isabel learns to stand up for herself and show why her heritage is important to her.
Below are some reading passages that we have hand picked to supplement this book. Be sure to read the passage summaries and our suggestions for instructional use.
In Julia Alvarez's short story "Names/Nombres," the author explores the various names she has received over the years.
Read this essay after chapter 2, “Names and Surnames,” to have students discuss the relationship between names and identities. In this chapter, María Isabel’s new teacher decides she will call her “Mary” instead of her real name. Have students discuss how María Isabel feels at the end of the chapter. Then, have students discuss how Julia Alvarez reacts to the different pronunciations of her name in “Names/Nombres.” Have students compare María Isabel’s feelings about her name to Julia’s. Ask, “How are Julia’s feelings about her name in ‘Names/Nombres’ similar to and different from María Isabel’s feelings? What do these feelings reveal about Julia and María Isabel?” Students should draw on themes of identity, family, and cultural heritage.
In Shel Silverstein's poem "Underface," a speaker describes the face they show to the world and the one that hides underneath.
Read this poem after chapter 4, “Mary López,” to have students further reflect on the theme of identity. In this chapter, María Isabel feels embarrassed when she does not answer a question in class, but feels proud later when she helps prepare dinner for her family. Have students discuss María Isabel’s conflicting feelings at the end of the chapter. Then, have students discuss the theme of “Underface.” Have students consider the differences between who we are inside and the way others see us. Ask, “How does María Isabel feel when she is at home with her family and when she is at school? How are the speaker’s two faces in ‘Underface’ similar to María Isabel’s conflicting feelings about who she is at home and at school?” Students should provide specific examples that illustrate the conflict between inner and outer selves.
After discovering the importance of making books with female Muslim available in schools and libraries, two girls living in Michigan create a non-profit organization to pursue their mission.
Read this informational text after chapter 9, “My Greatest Wish,” to have students discuss why it is important for all students to know they belong in school. In this chapter, María Isabel writes an essay in which she describes the meaning behind her real name. Have students discuss why María Isabel decided to write about her name. Then, have students discuss why Mena and Zena give books with female Muslim main characters to schools around the country in “Girls of the Crescent: Meet the Two Teenagers Fighting for Better Representation in Books.” Have students discuss why it is important for all students to feel welcome and represented in school. Ask, “How are Mena and Zena’s reasons for sharing books with characters who look like them similar to María Isabel’s reasons why she is proud of her name?” Students should give specific evidence from both texts to support their thinking.
In "The Basket Weaver," a shy Chumash girl learns a new way to share.
Read this poem after finishing My Name is María Isabel to have students analyze the theme of being true to yourself. Have students discuss how María Isabel changed over the course of the novel. Then, have students discuss why Yo’ee made the special basket in “The Basket Weaver.” Have students compare María Isabel and Yo’ee. Ask, “How did María Isabel and Yo’ee realize that their differences make them special? How did they learn to be proud of who they are?” Students should describe how the characters learned to embrace their uniqueness and celebrate their heritage.