Armando and the Blue Tarp School

Armando y la escuela de lona azul

Fine, E.H., Josephson, J.P., & Sosa, H. (2007). Armando and the Blue Tarp School. New York: Lee & Low Books.


Armando And The Blue Tarp School by katie_wright

Book Information

Authors: Edith Hope Fine and Judith Pinkerton Josephson

Illustrator: Hernan Sosa

Genre: Juvenile Fiction


  • One person has the power to make a difference in the lives of others.
  • Overcoming obstacles
  • Dreams and Aspirations
  • Education
  • Paterson Prize for Books for Young People
  • Children's Books of the Year (Bank Street College, Children's Book Committee)
  • Skipping Stones Award (Skipping Stone Magazine)
  • Lasting Connections Title (Book links)
  • "Choices" (Cooperative Children's Book Center (CCBC)
  • Editor's Favorites (The Bloomsburg Review)
  • San Diego Book Awards (Picture book winner)
  • California Young Readers Medal Nominee (Picture book for older readers)

About the Authors and Illustrator

Illustration from the book

Hernan Sosa uses both watercolor and ink and captures a real life picture of the Tijuana slums community and living conditions. This picture beautifully portrays the everyday lives of Armando and his father as they go to collect trash to provide for their family.

Specific Criteria for Cultural Settings

*Setting should be representative of and consistent with historical or contemporary time, place, or situation of a particular culture.

*Contemporary Settings must align with current situations of a cultural group

The setting of the book takes place in the slums of Tijuana. Through the illustrations in the book we can see the poverty that is present and we see the situation that the culture is in (i.e. shacks as homes, not many items in the homes, etc). Many are making a living by gathering trash and their resources are very limited. In one illustration we can see that Armando's bed is simply some cinder blocks with a foam pad. Since this is based on a true story we can see that this is a current situation that is happening today in the Tijuana slum area. These people have very little and are simply trying to live day by day with what they can find.

Specific Criteria for Themes

*Themes should be consistent with the values, beliefs, customs, beliefs, traditions, and conflicts of the specific cultural group

*Social issues and conflicts related to cultural groups should be treated honestly, accurately, and openly

One theme of this book is the importance of education. We see in the book however the conflict that Armando's father has with his son going to school. He saw it more important that Armando work to provide for the family rather than get an education. In this particular culture, where they are getting by day-by-day, providing for the family is the most important to them. It was hard for them to see the value in education because they probably didn't have the opportunity to go to school themselves. However, it didn't seem like anyone had a problem with Senor David teaching the children, especially since it was free. He was providing a service to the community and wanted to show hope to the community in a way they hadn't experienced. This leads to another theme that one person can make a difference in the lives of others. After years of teaching in this community, the children of the Tijuana slums now have a hope for their future and can teach their families and friends of the value of education.

Specific Criteria for Diverse Language

*Language should reflect distinctive vocabulary, style, and patterns of speech of the cultural group

*Dialect should be natural and blend with plot and characterization while not being perceived as substandard language

The book uses both Spanish and English words. The Spanish words are specific to the Mexican culture. The use of the words muchacho and tremendo are Spanish words that are not commonly used in other Spanish speaking countries. I really like how there is also Spanish and English within the illustrations as the children are being taught. Many times a Spanish word is accompanied by the English word so that both languages are understood and vise-versa. I also like that Senor David knows the Spanish language so that he can relate and communicate well with the people of that culture. This book is also available in a Spanish version for those who are not English speakers.

Classroom Teaching Application

Lesson Plan Idea

Grade Level: 2nd grade

Standard: RL.2.3

-describe how characters in a story respond to major events and challenges

-analyze how and why individuals, events, and ideas develop and interact over the course of a text


After reading the book Armando and the Blue Tarp School the students will:

-identify the challenges the characters face throughout the book

-compare/contrast character challenges with their own lives


  • Students will identify the challenges people living in the slums face through reading the book. They will find challenges such as lack of education, no electricity, picking trash for a living, not owning a lot of things, etc.
  • As a class we will talk about privileges that we have and also challenges we have
  • Students will create a venn diagram. One circle will be labeled "Armando's life" and the other "My life". They will use words and pictures to find things that are similar, different, and the same between their live and Armando's.
  • Students will answer the question, "How would you feel if..." by doing a charades game. In partners students will receive a scenario from the teacher and must act it out for the class. The class will then reflect on how they would feel and discuss in groups.
  • Application: students will answer the question, "What can I do?" Together will will come up with ideas on how to help others and/or evaluate our own lives. Examples: be more thankful, take responsibility, send letters to others in need, give items we don't use to a charity or organization, etc. Also teacher at this point can talk about David Lynch and how he helped.
  • Finally, students will write about their experiences in their journals. They will answer how the story made them feel and how they would feel if they were Armando or someone living in his community.

A glance at the slum living conditions in Mexico today

Living in a Mexico City Garbage Dump - The Road to Juan's House - Mexican Poverty

Meet some children of the Tijuana Slums

Check out this website to get to know some of the kids who really live in the Tijuana slums. See how you can help!