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Brightly’s Book Club for Kids: The First Rule of Punk

by Melissa Taylor

the first rule of punk
Illustrator credit: (c) 2017 by Kat Fajardo

We’re back with another installment of Brightly’s Book Club for Kids, where we provide you with engaging books and book-inspired activities young readers can enjoy together. Our latest pick, The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Pérez, is an appealing book about 12-year-old Malú — a half-Mexican, half-punk kid — for readers who love stories about growing up, cultural identity, and standing up for what you believe. When Malú and her new friends are denied entrance into the school’s talent show, they decide they’ll perform without permission in the school’s parking lot.

About the Book

Best For: Kids ages 8 to 12.

You’ll Like It If You Like: Diverse coming of age stories, a strong female protagonist, and social justice themes.

Major Themes: Family, divorce, moving, culture, identity, growing up, bullying, and social justice.

What It’s About: Malú, the daughter of divorced parents from two different cultures, is a relatable tween protagonist who struggles to understand her identity. She doesn’t want to be a SuperMexican like her mom; she prefers to be punk like her dad — a white, music-loving guy who lives above his record store. When her mom moves them to Chicago and away from her father, a popular girl at her new school taunts Malú for not being Latina enough, using the derogatory term “coconut.”

Fortunately, Malú befriends a group of nice kids. They start a punk band and audition for the school’s talent show, calling their band “The Co-Cos,” taken from the rude “coconut” label which they decide to embrace.

Unfortunately, the school denies the band entrance in the talent show. But with the encouragement of Joe’s coffee-shop-punk-Latina mom, they decide to have their own show in the parking lot: an AlternaFiesta.

Ultimately, Malú discovers that instead of following certain rules about who she needs to be and what she needs to look like, she can make her own rules. This leads to resolution of conflicts with her friends, her mom, and even herself.

Why We Picked It: We love sharing stories with diverse characters — in this case, a strong, bicultural girl of Mexican and punk heritage with divorced parents. In addition, we know that readers will resonate with Malú’s growing pains as she figures out who she is and who she wants to be.

The Book Club Meeting

Reading Tips
Readers who enjoy illustrations with their chapter books will love Malú’s zine pages that capture her thoughts and musings on life. We also suggest looking up the bands mentioned in the book while you’re reading!

Discussion Questions

1. Why does Malú call her mom a SuperMexican?
2. What does Selena mean when she calls Malú a coconut? And how does Malú turn it around to mean something else?
3. Are you bothered by the things people think or say about you? What’s an example that you’ve experienced?
4. Why didn’t the Co-Cos get into the talent show? Do you think the school acted fairly or unfairly, and why?
5. Why doesn’t Malú tell her mom about the band?
6. Malú relates her journey and her friends to the story of The Wizard of Oz. What character do you think you would be and why? After you answer, take this online quiz and see what it says.
7. AlternaFiesta plays in the parking lot. What did the band accomplish by doing this event? Did their actions change anything?
8. Music is vital to Malú’s self-expression and identity. Is musical influential for you? What bands or singers do you relate to the most?
9. How did Malú change from the beginning of the story to the end?
10. What is the first rule of punk?

Activities to Dive Deeper Into The First Rule of Punk

Cilantro Experiment
Did you know there’s a genetic factor that determines how your taste buds perceive cilantro? Some people love it, but others, like Malú, think it takes like soap. Do an experiment at home with cilantro foods. Do you like cilantro or hate it like Malú? Pick a cilantro recipe like homemade pico de gallo or cilantro rice and test for yourself.

Listen to Latin and Punk Music
Malú loves music. Listen to the music that influences her. Listen to each band for at least 1 minute and decide which are your favorites and which are your least favorites.

Start with Latin:
Lola Beltrán 
Cielito Lindo

Next, listen to Punk:
The Ramones
The Smiths

Finally, give Latin Punk a try:
Alice Bag
The Plugz
The Brat

El Día de los Muertos
Mrs. Hidalgo sets up an ofrenda altar for El Día de los Muertos to honor loved ones who have died. Read more about this tradition, then choose a related art activity to do with your book club group.

Make Your Own Zine
In the book, Malú explains, “Zines are self-published booklets, like homemade magazines, and they can be about anything…” and that they’re a “good way to write about what you’re thinking or feeling, kind of like a diary that you share with people. Mine are mostly about stuff I find interesting or want to know more about.” The book’s author, Celia C. Pérez, a Zine-making-expert, explains how to make your own Zines with these step-by-step directions.

Make Worry Dolls
Malú’s dad gives her worry dolls to put under her pillow so they take away her worries while she sleeps. Try this easy tutorial from Red Ted Art to make your own worry dolls.