Armando's family is pepenadores, trash pickers, living off things they can use, recycle, and sell from the city trash dump. Armando works with his father to help support the family, but he also finds things for himself--pencil stubs, a notebook, and an old paint set--with which to write and paint. One summer Senor David arrives and begins teaching school on a blue tarp spread on the ground. Armando's parents finally decide that learning may help him find different work when he grows up, so he begins attending the blue tarp school. The children learn to read and write in Spanish and English. They learn math. And they draw, much to Armando's delight. When a fire in the colonia burns down several homes, it is Armando's picture of the fiery night that helps bring outside support and money to construct a school building. The story is inspired by the work of David Lynch, a teacher from New York who first began working in a colonia in Mexico in the early 1980s.
Grades K-2. 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.