Libros Latin@s: Hostage (The Change #2)


23899848By Eileen Fontenot

DESCRIPTION FROM GOODREADS: Welcome back to Las Anclas, a frontier town in the post-apocalyptic Wild West. In Las Anclas, the skull-faced sheriff possesses superhuman strength, the doctor can speed up time, and the squirrels can teleport sandwiches out of your hands.

In book one, Stranger, teenage prospector Ross Juarez stumbled into town half-dead, bringing with him a precious artifact, a power no one has ever had before, and a whole lot of trouble — including an invasion by Voske, the king of Gold Point. The town defeated Voske’s army, with the deciding blow struck by Ross, but at a great cost.

In Hostage, a team sent by King Voske captures Ross and takes him to Gold Point. There he meets Kerry, Voske’s teenage daughter, who has been trained to be as ruthless as her father. While his friends in Las Anclas desperately try to rescue him, Ross is forced to engage in a battle of wills with the king himself.

MY TWO CENTS: Even more gripping than the first of this series, Hostage takes us right back to the aftermath of Voske’s attack on our intrepid band of superhuman teens, which caused the death of a much-respected adult leader. We are introduced to a new player in this book, the daughter of Voske, the series’ main antagonist. The authors do a tremendous job of telling us about Kerry, who is smart, capable and raised to assess challengers and exploit their weaknesses.

Just as I began to dislike this new character, the authors begin chapters from her point of view. We see her life under her parents’ restrictive rule, and her love for her boyfriend, Santiago, softens her image. I came to root for Kerry, for her to find her own way in life and to make positive choices in her life, rather than negative ones. We also get to see how things are run in Gold Point, part of Voske’s kingdom. And it’s not pretty.

One of the main themes of this book was trust. Characters were thrust into various life-or-death situations, with only another to depend upon. And sometimes this other person wasn’t exactly the most trustworthy individual. Tracing the elaborate, yet tenuous, agreements made between unlikely partners became a bit of a challenge. I also liked the message that it’s OK to follow your own path, especially when you disagree with the way your family is behaving.

And because there are still several mysteries to be solved in the last couple of books, and a character I hope makes a big resurgence, I look forward to future volumes. The authors plan to release two more books in this series, and I can’t wait to see how these characters grow and change with each other. I read this on my Kindle, but Manija Brown says a paper copy of Hostage will be released in March, according to GoodReads.

RECOMMENDATIONS: As a young adult librarian, I would suggest this series to teens who love post-apocalyptic fantasy worlds who also want to see themselves reflected in the characters. The series is incredibly diverse; the main characters are all people of color and LGBT characters are also well represented. The authors are wonderful showing readers the depth of their familial connections through details dropped in throughout the action, which is plentiful.

For a book club pick, I would ask participants to discuss the role trust played in these characters’ choices. Teens could also talk about who they trust in their own lives and why. What would they share with their closest friends and family? What would make them lose trust in their loved ones?


Paraphrased From Goodreads: Rachel Manija Brown is the author of all sorts of stories in all sorts of genres. She has produced a memoir, All the Fishes Come Home to Roost: An American Misfit in India, and she has also written television, plays, video games, and a comic strip meant to be silk-screened on to a scarf. In her other identity, she is a trauma/PTSD therapist. She writes urban fantasy for adults under the name of Lia Silver.

From Sherwood Smith began her publishing career in 1986, writing mostly for young adults and children. Smith studied in Austria for a year, earning a master’s in history. She worked many jobs, from bartender to the film industry, then turned to teaching for twenty years, working with children from second grade to high school. To date she’s published over forty books, nominated for several awards, including the Nebula, the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award, and an Anne Lindbergh Honor Book.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT Hostage (The Change #2) visit your local public library, your local bookstore,, or

Eileenfontenot headshot Fontenot is a recent graduate of Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science in Boston. She works at a public library and is interested in community service and working toward social justice. A sci-fi/fantasy fan, Eileen was formerly a newspaper writer and editor.

Guest Post: A Sock Thief in the Making



By Ana Crespo

Sometimes I wonder what the reaction of my younger self would be if I could tell her that, at almost 40, I am investing in a career as a children’s book writer… in English.

“Awesome!” my enthusiastic five-year-old self would probably scream. Pequena1

“But you don’t speak English,” the realistic 10-year-old me would point out.

“Ha! You don’t even like to read,” the sarcastic teenager would mention. (It’s true. I didn’t. Learn about how I became a reader here.)

“You’re studying to be a journalist. Your job is to expose the facts and allow your readers to form their own opinions, not to create stories,” the determined 20-year-old me would explain.

Certainly, I never thought I would one day publish any book, let alone a children’s book, in English. Yet THE SOCK THIEF has been in the making since I was that enthusiastic five-year old in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It started when my father tucked me into bed each night and shared stories of his childhood.

PapaiAlthough my paternal grandmother came from a wealthy family, my grandfather didn’t, and their five kids lived a frugal life. This included not owning a soccer ball, a very expensive item in the 1960s, in Rio. My father and his older brother had to be creative. They would sneak into my grandmother’s bedroom, take a pair of women’s hose, stuff it with newspaper, and make a soccer ball.

Don’t ask me why, but that story stuck in the back of that enthusiastic five-year old’s mind and resurfaced in the wanna-be children’s writer I eventually became. I had wanted to write a story with a Brazilian character since I started writing for kids in 2012. During a local SCBWI conference, a speaker mentioned something that brought back the long-forgotten memory. It wasn’t a story yet, just a memory with potential.

Then, I remembered something else from long ago. One day, watching a famous Brazilian TV show called Fantástico, I learned about a kid who had to walk a huge number of miles to reach school every day. I was a middle-class kid, riding on a comfortable school bus over paved roads, completely sheltered. That different reality, unthinkable to me up until then, left a strong impression. Maybe it sat in the back of my mind, by my father’s childhood story. Together, they started to form a plot.

Although I felt there was still something missing in the plot, I wrote THE SOCK THIEF (or MONDAY IS SOCK DAY, its first title) and submitted it to two different agents. And received two rejections. It wasn’t until I found that missing something that the manuscript received some attention.

One of the things that surprised me when I first moved to the United States was the way animal sounds are represented in written English. While in English a dog says “woof, woof,” in Portuguese, it says “au, au, au.” I imagined the difference would be a surprise to others as well, and decided to add it to THE SOCK THIEF. In my opinion, it gave the story a unique flavor.

A year after the idea first sprouted, I met my future editor at the same local SCBWI conference. I had paid for a manuscript critique, which included a 10-minute, face-to-face, in-depth analysis of THE SOCK THIEF. My editor thought the story was interesting. However, it was only after she learned that making soccer balls out of socks was a real practice in Brazil that her interest really sparked.

After the conference came the cutting, and cutting, and cutting of words. In the original text, I carefully described the process of making a soccer ball out of newspaper-stuffed socks. It was a tedious and confusing text, better shown through illustrations. I fixed some weird sentences. I added an author’s note. And I submitted my revised manuscript.

I crossed my fingers, lit some candles, held on to my figa, and tied some Nosso Senhor do Bonfim bracelets around my wrists. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a little. The point is that, although I really wanted a positive response, I had received so many rejections in the past, for this and other manuscripts, that I wasn’t keeping my hopes up too much.

In fact, I had set up a mental deadline. If I didn’t receive a positive reaction to my work, I was going to give up. The submission process is very stressful and the fact that it usually comes with rejections doesn’t really help. I never expected that the positive reaction I was hoping for would come in the form of a publishing offer, but it did.

From that point on, everything was new and exciting–the illustrator choice (Nana Gonzalez’s grandpa used to make soccer balls out of socks in Argentina!), the first drafts, the adjustments to the text, the illustrations in color, the adjustments to the text, the front cover reveal, the adjustments to the text, the first book review (a bit nerve-wrecking!), the scheduling of school visits, the book promotion… And, during it all, I sold four more books to Albert Whitman & Company–even more excitement.

While this journey would be exhilarating no matter what, to me it’s particularly rewarding because writing in English doesn’t come easily. No matter how long I’ve lived in the US, or how many college degrees I hold, or how much work experience I have, sometimes, I still sound foreign. I’m not talking (or writing, I should say) about my accent. It’s the word choices, the sentence structure, the weird use of prepositions. I’ve been through many funny and embarrassing moments thanks to the complexity of the English language…but that’s a whole different story.



To celebrate the upcoming release of THE SOCK THIEF, we’re launching an amazing giveaway.  Sign up for a chance to win a copy of the book, plus a total of six copies to be donated to two elementary schools of your choice (three copies to each school). This giveaway was made possible thanks to a donation from Albert Whitman & Company.  To sign up for a chance to win and to check out the terms and conditions of the giveaway, visit the giveaway page on Ana Crespo’s website.


AnaCrespo_PURPLEAna Crespo is the author of THE SOCK THIEF (Albert Whitmam & Company, March 2015), JP AND THE GIANT OCTOPUS and JP AND THE POLKA-DOTTED ALIENS (Albert Whitman and Company, September 2015). Before investing in a career as a writer, Ana worked as an academic advisor and a translator. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and a Master of Education in Career and Technology Education. To find out more about Ana, visit her website. You may also find her tweeting away at Twitter , or sharing news on Facebook.





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Libros Latin@s: The Sofia Martinez series by Jacqueline Jules

By Ashley Hope Pérez

This review is based on an advance reader’s copy of My Family Adventure, which is a multi-story volume with “Picture Perfect,” “Abuela’s Birthday,” and “The Missing Mouse.” These texts are also sold as separate early chapter books.

PUBLISHER’S DESCRIPTION: Growing up in a big family, 7-year-old Sofia Martinez is used to fighting for attention. Her outgoing personality mixed with her confidence and fiery passion for everything she does gets her that attention — even if it’s sometimes mixed with trouble. Sofia is a little stubborn and a lot mischievous, so you can imagine the fun she creates in this early chapter book series. A few Spanish words and phrases are intermixed throughout the story, bringing the importance of Sofia’s culture to life. Discussion questions, writing prompts, and a glossary complete each book.

MY TWO CENTS: The Sofia Martinez series is a lovely addition to the world of early chapter books. All newly published in 2015, each of the books can stand alone, and they needn’t be read in any particular order. Lively main character Sofia keeps herself in the middle of the action in her loving, playful extended family, and her adventures are light and joyful with a touch of mischief. The charming illustrations by Kim Smith will bring giggles to young readers.


Suited well to the needs, interests, and sense of humor of early readers, the books will have broad appeal for the K-2 crowd. Although the prominence of pink in the book design may attract more girls and turn off some boys, my son enjoyed reading the stories. He especially like what he called Sofia’s “tricks.”

In “Picture Perfect,” Sofia decides to switch her school photo with one of her sister’s, and she’s disappointed when no one notices the swap. The same evening, a baby cousin gets tons of attention because of the enormous pink bow she’s wearing in her hair. When picture days rolls back around, Sofia is determined that this time she’ll stand out. Any guesses as to what Sofia borrows to put in her hair on picture day?SofiaM_bow

“Abuela’s Birthday” centers on Sofia’s (very messy) plan to make a piñata for her grandmother’s birthday. Once the mess is cleaned up, she persuades Tía Carmen for one more chance, and with the help of her cousins and siblings, Sofia makes a great piñata. Even the surprise inside of the piñata—playing cards instead of candy—shows Sofia’s creativity.

In “The Missing Mouse,” Sofia gets advice from Abuela and help from her cousin and sisters to recapture a runaway classroom pet without disturbing her mother while she gives a piano lesson. The solution involves a good deal of creativity and improvisation. A bucket, some blocks, peanut butter, and a few shrieks from her sisters are also involved.

Kim Smith’s illustrations bring the accessible language of the stories to life. Sofia is at the center of most of the drawings—and her freckles and expressive face had me enchanted from the start. But my favorite illustration of all might be this one from “Abuela’s Birthday”:

SofiaM_Please?It’d be hard to deny those four a chance to try again with the piñata endeavor.

The production of these books is especially thoughtful. The use of pink for words in Spanish produces an effect much like what Sofia achieves by wearing an enormous bow for her school picture. It marks Spanish as special–and very much part of Sofia’s world.


In general I’m not much of a fan of glossaries, but here, I think it works well as a support for teachers and students not familiar with the Spanish, and a glossary is definitely preferable to embedded translations.

When readers graduate from the world of Sofia Martinez, they can dip right into Jacqueline Jules’s Freddie Ramos/Zapato Power series for slightly more independent readers (grades 1-3).

TEACHING TIPS: The Sofia Martinez series is a great match for students in K-2 (possibly stretching upward a bit for students who have literacy skills in Spanish but are transitioning to reading in English). Think of readers who are beginning to read on their own and for whom the idea of a chapter book has appeal. The advance reader’s copy did not have the discussion questions or writing prompts mentioned in the publisher’s description, so I can’t comment on those.

Instead, I’d like to talk a bit about the linguistic opportunities offered by the series. The change in color for Spanish words inScreen Shot 2015-01-31 at 10.32.36 PMphrases in the Sofia Martinez books will help young bilingual readers recognize when they should apply what they know about Spanish decoding and pronunciation and when they should follow the norms of English. I can imagine this as a confidence builder for Spanish-speaking students learning English in bilingual, ESL, or English-only settings (“Look! You already know these words in Spanish!”). Teachers in English-only classrooms might consider making their Spanish-speaking students “experts” on the Spanish words and phrases when sharing the stories in small or large group. Non-Spanish speakers may take pride in knowing the “secret” words in the story and, with a little coaching, will be able to handle the small amount of Spanish even when reading aloud.

Teachers might pause students on pages where we see Sofia’s “I’m getting an idea” facial expression. What do they think will happen next? When she gets into a pickle, as in “Abuela’s Birthday” and “The Missing Mouse,” ask students to suggest, draw, or journal about the solutions they would try to solve the problem. In Spanish-English bilingual classrooms, students might also experiment with using Spanish their own stories. Using the color switch technique from Sofia Martinez can strengthen students’ sense of pride in their Spanish abilities while also signaling to monolingual guests or administrators that the movement between English and Spanish is intentional and linguistically appropriate. More importantly, this narrative tactic is culturally relevant to the young people sharing their stories.

Above all, have fun with Sofia!


Jacqueline Jules is the award-winning author of more than twenty children’s books, many of which were inspired by her work as a teacher and librarian. She is also an accomplished poet. When not reading, writing, or teaching, Jacqueline enjoys taking long walks, attending the theater, and spending time with her family. She lives in Northern Virginia.



Kim Smith has worked in magazines, advertising, animation, and children’s gaming. She studied illustration at the Alberta College of Art and Design and is the illustrator of several children’s books and the designer for the cover of the middle-grade novel How to Make a Million. She lives in Calgary, Alberta.

Guest Post: The Universality of Being an Outsider


by Jacqueline Jules


Jacqueline Jules’ family in 1956

In my small Virginia town, like many places in the 1960s south, the first question people asked upon meeting was “What church do you go to?”

As a child, I remember fielding that question from parents of new friends and hearing my mother answer it in grocery stores.

“We’re Jewish,” I would explain politely. “We go to a synagogue.”

The response was generally a startled one. People would stare like I was a new species at the zoo.

“Oh my! I don’t think I’ve ever met a Jewish person before!”

From there, I’d often have to answer a series of questions about my “Jewish Church.”

I had been taught from a young age that I represented my religion. If I was impolite, all Jews would be considered rude. I had to be on my best behavior at all times so that others would not have a reason to dislike Jewish people. On many occasions, I also had to explain why Jews didn’t believe in Jesus and why I wasn’t terrified of going to hell. And the questions were just as likely to come from adults as other children.

Growing up, Christmas and Easter were never seasons of joy for me. They were times when the questions intensified. Why didn’t I celebrate Christmas? Didn’t the Jews kill Jesus? I learned early on that the Christmas spirit did not extend to Jewish children.

To add to my stranger status, my parents were not Southern born. Mom was a Northerner from Rochester, New York. Dad was from Switzerland and spoke with a thick German accent. He came to the US after World War II and was not a citizen when I was born. His name was Otto. In small-town Southern culture, having foreign roots set my family apart even in our tiny Jewish community.

So feelings of being “different” are quite familiar to me. I know what it is like to be the child of an immigrant. To be embarrassed in public when people ask your father to repeat something three times because they can’t understand what he is saying. To hear a parent talk of a homeland missed deeply. To long for relatives abroad who were only a part of our lives through letters and very occasional visits. To feel alone, apart from others who are comfortable in their skin and their surroundings.

Years later, when I took a position as a librarian in an elementary school with a large immigrant population, I identified with my students immediately. I had watched my own father struggle with the English language, which he learned in adulthood, at age 32. To his credit, he became quite fluent, but he still made some mistakes with grammar and pronunciation. Misunderstandings occurred in family conversations when my father did not understand a nuance or a cultural reference. Or we didn’t understand the perspective he was coming from. He didn’t approve of everything American. I recall what fun he made of sliced white bread which he compared to eating a sponge, and how excited he was when we found bakeries that sold French bread. And I remember how much my father hated turkey. He thought it tasted dry and he insisted my mother serve lamb or duck on Thanksgiving. I also remember that he didn’t care for pumpkin pie. In his mind, pies should be filled with fruit, gooseberries in particular.

The first Thanksgiving I taught at Timber Lane Elementary, a Title I school in Fairfax County, Virginia, I noticed right away that my immigrant students were not interested in my Thanksgiving lessons. Up until then, my story times had been received warmly. Seeing that my English-language learners enjoyed repetitive songs and choruses, I had quickly adopted them into my curriculum. My students had enjoyed songs about animals, the seasons, the five senses, etc. Why did they hate my turkey songs?

DuckforTurkeyDaybyJJulesA student gently explained: “We don’t have that kind of Thanksgiving dinner in my house.” Suddenly, I stopped being a teacher and returned to my own childhood, where I had been informed that turkey and pumpkin pie were the correct meal choices. These memories led to my first book with Albert Whitman Publishers, Duck for Turkey Day, about young Tuyet, who is worried that her Vietnamese-American family is breaking the rules for Thanksgiving. While the emotions of this book belong to my own childhood, they were deeply shared by the kids I taught. Making my characters Vietnamese-American gave me the opportunity to show how much I identified with my students, along with the universality of the problem. It also made my story current. My experiences as a Jewish child of a German-Swiss in the 1960s south are historical now. While I have shared my Jewish heritage in many of my books, I don’t want everything I write to be limited to my own particular, and not necessarily, universal experiences. Growing up as an outsider myself has naturally made me empathetic to other minorities in America. And it has made me downright indignant that so few children’s books reflect the lives of children who are not white, Christian, and middle-class.

All too often, books with non-majority characters portray their lives as a situation requiring great explanation. As a young Jewish mother in the 1980s, I was annoyed that most Jewish holiday books described traditions in such detail, they read like nonfiction. Not every Christmas story describes the Nativity. Most Easter stories are about bunnies, not the Resurrection. Why can’t Jewish children have light-hearted picture books that celebrate the joy of their culture, too?

ZapatowithStickerAnd why can’t children of color have books, particularly easy readers, where they see themselves enjoying life? Why is minority status always the problem in a story rather than just one facet of a particular person’s existence? In my Zapato Power books, a chapter book series about a boy with super-powered purple sneakers, the main character, Freddie Ramos, is Latino. He lives an urban apartment life in a close-knit immigrant community, just like most of the students I taught. But that is not the plot of his stories. Freddie is mostly concerned with how he will solve mysteries and be a hero with his super speed. And in my new series, Sofia Martinez, my main character is a spirited Latina who wants more attention from her large, loving family. I taught many Sofias. Her family eats tamales at Christmas. She uses Spanish phrases in her conversations. And she deserves to learn to read with books that show her family life as fun and normal, not a particular ethnic challenge to be overcome.SofiaMartinezFamilyAdventure

Many authors say they write the books they would have liked to see as a child. I do that. But I also write stories I wish I had been able to give my students when I taught—books that show it is okay to be who you are.








Jacqueline Jules is the award-winning author of 30 books, including No English, Duck for Turkey Day, Zapato Power, Never Say a Mean Word Again, and the recently released Sofia Martinez series. After  many years as a librarian and teacher, she now works full-time as an author and poet at her home in Northern Virginia. Find her on Facebook and at her official author site.





A Frank Remembrance of My ALA Midwinter Experience

 By Sujei Lugo

SEPARATE IS NEVER EQUAL by Duncan Tonatiuh, Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor Book & Sibert Informational Honor Book

SEPARATE IS NEVER EQUAL by Duncan Tonatiuh, Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor Book & Sibert Informational Honor Book

Several days ago, I had the opportunity to attend the 2015 American Library Association (ALA) Midwinter Meeting & Exhibits Conference (#alamw15), held in Chicago. My main reasons for attending the conference were to meet with my dissertation committee, attend REFORMA (The National Association to Promote Library & Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish Speaking) meetings and discuss and collaborate with fellow Reformistas about ongoing projects and events. My presence in Chicago and #alamw15 also drove me to participate in and attend events and engage in conversations with fellow bloggers, librarians, educators, authors, publishers, and supporters of children’s and young-adult literature.

In this post I want to share with you about the sessions and events that I took part in and some reflections on my overall experience at the conference.

On Friday, January 30, 2015, the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), along with the Children’s Book Council (CBC) hosted Day of Diversity: Dialogue and Action in Children’s Literature and Library Programming. I was not able to attend because this was an invitation-only event, but I followed the conversation through tweets, then afterward in blog posts reflecting on that day. The purpose of the event was to “discuss strategies for ensuring that all children have access to diverse literature and library programming.” Although great remarks were given by the keynote speaker, former ALA and REFORMA president Dr. Camila Alire; Día founder, author, and storyteller Pat Mora; former ALA Offices for Literacy & Outreach Services Director Satia Orange; and Native authors and authors of color, the overall impression was that it felt like a Diversity 101 event. Based on social media commentaries and subsequent talks, the event lacked real discussions about systemic problems, White privilege and anti-racist approaches to children’s literature. These conversations are long overdue in children’s librarianship and the publishing industry, and it is a pity that events where these conversations should happen do not embrace that challenge. Great recaps and reflections were posted by Debbie Reese, Edith Campbell, Zetta Elliott, Sarah Park, Don Tate, Maya Christina Gonzalez and Jason Low.

The REFORMA meetings and events were a great experience to get to know fellow Latino/a and Chicano/a librarians, educators and authors, immerse myself in committee work and projects, and finally meet people whose work I have admired for years. These gatherings were among the most welcoming spaces I’ve attended in my professional career in the United States. They also are dealing with serious issues regarding not only Latino populations in the United States, but Latin American immigrants as well.

Maya Christina Gonzalez reading MY COLORS, MY WORLD/MIS COLORES, MI MUNDO during Noche de Cuentos

Maya Christina Gonzalez reading MY COLORS, MY WORLD/MIS COLORES, MI MUNDO during Noche de Cuentos

A great example of this is the Children in Crisis Project. With this project, REFORMA delivers blankets, books, and backpacks to children held in detention centers near the border. The children, many as young as two years old, are unaccompanied refugee minors crossing the border, mainly from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Their journey crossing the border, many to reunite with family in the U.S. and to escape state and local violence, must be seen as a humanitarian crisis, and care needs to be given to focus on the social, emotional, informational, and legal needs of these children. As the co-chair of REFORMA’s Children in Crisis Task Force, Oralia Garza de Cortés said, “this project is like an underground railroad of books to our most vulnerable children.” REFORMA is currently partnering with nonprofits to continue to enhance efforts to help and support our children. (Here is a link that informs about ways to help, collaborate with, and donate to the Children in Crisis Project.)

On Saturday night, REFORMA celebrated its traditional Noche de Cuentos, an evening filled with stories, people, and warmth. The night was enlivened by author, storyteller, and librarian Lucía González, and Latino children’s literature and literacy consultant Oralia Garza de Cortés. Both women have been great supporters of Latino children’s literature for decades and contributed immensely to diversity in children’s librarianship. Lucía is also the author of the bilingual picture book The Storyteller’s Candle, about the life and impact of Pura Belpré’s work in New York, its Puerto Rican community in 1920’s-30s, and bilingual children’s librarianship. Oralia is the co-founder of the Pura Belpré Award, named after the Puerto Rican author, folklorist, and first Latina librarian of the New York Public Library. In “Noche de Cuentos” they both showcased their talent for sincere and engrossing storytelling. It was proof of how important preserving and telling our stories are. “That’s how stories get around, you tell them,” said Lucía, after finishing the tale of Blanquita and Her Wild Ducks, giving us a powerful reminder of how the voices that are constantly silenced, marginalized, and misrepresented will always find ways to amplify and give strength to their communities through storytelling. This was affirmed many times during the night: Pat Mora read poems and brought us charm and joy, and Maya Christina González read her picture books and told us that “kids need to know we are part of nature, and we belong here.” More emphasis on the power of our stories came when Jasmin Cardenas, a local storyteller, told us that “if we tell stories, this would be a better place.” Claudia Guadalupe Martinez shared the importance of community building, as portrayed in her YA novel, Pig Park. With its focus on stories, people, marginalized voices, powerful voices, and community support for each other, Noche de Cuentos was a much-needed intergenerational event.

While #alamw15 focused more on meetings, the exhibit hall, and the Youth Media Awards, several additional sessions were offered. I attended the Ignite Session on Saturday and was looking forward to seeing the presentations of two fellow librarians, tweeps, and overall great supporters of diversity in children’s literature–Angie Manfredi and Edith Campbell. In her presentation, “20 Kids/Teens Titles to Diversify Your Collection Today,” Angie gave fast book talks about diverse children’s and young-adult books that librarians can add to their collection. From the Latino holiday picture book T’was Nochebuena to the middle grade all-black cast book The Zero Degree Zombie Zone, she gave her audience a glimpse of diverse titles that reflect an intersection of different identities and backgrounds. Her energy and enthusiasm encouraged people to not only state that “We Need Diverse Books,” but that we need to buy them and promote them in our libraries and bookstores. (You can see the slides to her presentation here.)

Slide of Edith Campbell's The Kids Are Not All White presentation

Slide of Edith Campbell’s The Kids Are Not All White presentation

The closing presentation of the Ignite Session was Edith’s “The Kids Are Not All White.” She started out by giving numbers and percentages demonstrating how children’s literature is not representative of our children’s population. She leaned toward a reflection and call to action to truly make efforts to be inclusive in our libraries. She challenged the view that diverse books are only for kids of color, and the status quo in books that shows us “who we were, but not who we can be.” Edith addressed language diversity, too, calling on us to include titles written in other languages in our collections, and titles that intersect income, gender, and race. She also emphasized the need to rethink views about self-publishing and technology, and how they are fertile spaces for those who are traditionally marginalized. Both presentations fit well within the different conversations about diversity and children’s literature that were happening at #alamw15. Because it was an Ignite session with a broad audience, they were “preaching” outside the usual crowd, to an audience that included academic and adult services librarians that may not have otherwise been aware of the attention being given to White privilege and diversity in publishing around the #kidlit world.

As we all know, the most talked about event of #alamw15 was the Youth Media Awards. This was my first time attending the awards, which I usually watch on my computer through a livestream. Early that morning, attendees, overwhelmingly White, started gathering and lining up to enter the room. Although I was, like them, excited to see who the winners and honorees of such a widely followed event in the world of U.S. children’s literature would be, I used the opportunity to engage in conversations, view people’s reactions, and note the racial/ethnic background of those deciding the award-worthy books of the year. As awards were presented to books by/about people of color and people with disabilities, the crowd kept clapping joyfully as a sign of approval that diverse titles were being recognized. (For a full list of winners visit: ALA Youth Media Award Winners and for a list of Latino/a authors and illustrators winners and honorees, here is our recap.)

As people were applauding and celebrating the diversity of winning titles, I was thinking how great it was to see those book covers on that big screen, and how those that had overlooked them during the year were now finally going to at least read about them and maybe even bring them to their libraries and classrooms. You see, the fact is that we’ve always been publishing great award-worthy titles, but they are continually neglected by the children’s literature world. While people were applauding, I was thinking about recent comments I’d heard that Brown Girl Dreaming shouldn’t win the Newbery, since she had already won the National Book Award. I wondered if similar things were said when a White author’s book had won the National Book Award. This, along with other observations and conversations, led me to question the celebratory spirit around me. Was the applause like that scene from The Boondocks’ “Garden Party” episode, where everything Huey says White people around him seem obligated to applaud and praise?

Silvia Cisneros, REFORMA president, presenting the Pura Belpré Award in English and Spanish

Silvia Cisneros, REFORMA president, presenting the Pura Belpré Award in English and Spanish

As I sat in the room, I heard some audience members complaining about the use of Spanish during the Pura Belpré Awards, an award that celebrates Latino children’s literature and is co-sponsored by REFORMA. As the morning unfolded, I watched the almost all-White committee members stand up, some wearing “Trust the Process” t-shirts. Toward the end of the awards, someone said that apparently there were finally good diverse titles this year, since they won awards. The implication was that the lack of award-winning diverse titles in years past was an indication that Latinos, Asians, Native, and Black people had never published GREAT books throughout those years.

When I finally exited the room, I approached Pat Mora (walking away by herself) to congratulate her for her work and her Mary Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Award. While talking to her, I was surprised and angry that no other person approached her to congratulate her. This woman has been an influential force in children’s literature, and she had just won an award recognizing her marvelous work. That work includes being the founder of Día, an official annual celebration that has been sponsored and championed by ALA. I realized that most people there had no idea who she was. The same people that were applauding inside the room as her picture was displayed on the big screen, as soon as her award was announced? The same people that sometimes state their “concern” of how we need to bring more authors, illustrators, and librarians of color to these events and into our field?

I introduced myself to her (in Spanish), and as we started talking, the first thing she said to me was: “Nada ha cambiado” (Nothing has changed). Words that stayed in my mind as I reflected upon my experience walking through the exhibit halls.

Nada ha cambiado.

The exhibit hall is a place where publishers, authors, and library businesses display new products, highlight new titles, and give away promotional materials and advanced reader’s copies (ARCs). The layout of the exhibit hall speaks volumes about the power centers: the amount of floor space that the big publishing houses occupy tells us how much of the exhibit floor they own. This is obvious. Fees paid for space in the exhibit hall in any convention generate revenue for the organization that sets up the event. Simply put, the big publishers with their marketing budgets, will obviously have a higher visibility than small publishers, but it still feels uncomfortable that smaller publishers are marginalized on the floor of an event organized by/for librarians that work in libraries that serve a diverse society. As I walked through the exhibit hall, my approach was to find Latino children’s and young-adult books and children’s books in Spanish. Among the sea of book covers with bears, puppies, and White girls at the Scholastic booth, I saw, in the far back, one of my most anticipated YA books of 2015, Shadowshaper, by Daniel José Older. I asked the publisher’s rep if she had a copy of it to give away. In the booth were stacks and stacks of other titles, prominently placed, evident that they were being heavily promoted by the publisher. As I strolled down those aisles I was surprised to see a large stack of ARCs of Pam Muñoz Ryan’s Echo. They were going fast as librarians took copies. Minutes later, I approached a big publisher’s representative and asked her what Latino children’s books they had. She replied that they only carry “good” books. The look on my face and the two Latino books I had in my hands, no doubt, pushed her to follow her response with: “You already have those. Those are the good ones.”

DRUM DREAM GIRL: HOW ONE GIRL'S COURAGE CHANGED MUSIC, written by Margarita Engle and illustrated by Rafael López

DRUM DREAM GIRL: HOW ONE GIRL’S COURAGE CHANGED MUSIC, written by Margarita Engle and illustrated by Rafael López

Despite that conversation (and it was only one of many), I can say that I found several Latino children’s books, but in a low percentage compared to books by White people, about White people, and bears. Was I able to find a couple of Latino/a books, because I was looking for them? Because I recognize and know the titles, covers, authors and illustrators? Could people who had no idea Latino/a writers and illustrators exist, see their books? Were they displayed in a way such that people who don’t know about them could see, browse, and then buy them?

Another thing that caught my attention was that indie presses that publish stories by Native authors and authors of color were not packed with people. At their book signings, there were no lines of people waiting to meet the authors. This called to mind René Saldaña’s post: Forgive Me My Bluntness: I’m a Writer of Color and I’m Right Here In Front of You: I’m the One Sitting Alone at the Table. I was honored to meet Erika T. Wurth, author of Crazy Horse’s Girlfriend (Debbie Reese’s review); Isabel Quintero, author of Gabi, a Girl in Pieces (our review by Sonia Alejandra Rodriguez); J.L. Powers, author of Colors of the Wind: The Story of Blind Artist and Champion Runner George Mendoza; and Lee Byrd, co-founder of Cinco Puntos Press.

Wurth, Quintero, Powers, and Byrd are among the many people with whom I had great conversations. I am among a growing number of people who support their work. In my many interactions and conversations, we laid out common ground and talked about how White privilege and institutionalized racism in children’s literature and publishing have always been a systemic issue. Privilege and power go across the publishing industry, book reviewing, librarianship, education, and media. We need more than diverse books. We need opportunities at places like library conferences to create awareness about privilege and power. In our work as bloggers, we must review and promote books by writers who are of marginalized populations. We must point to their accurate reflections of those populations. But we must also call out stereotypical and racist content in children’s books overall, and we must name White privilege when we see it. Yep, there’s a hell of a lot to do.

Pan Dulce: Lee Byrd from Cinco Puntos Press interviews Claudia Guadalupe Martinez (author of PIG PARK) and Pat Mora (author of CANTA, CHICO BRAVO, CANTA) talking about their books, growing up in El Paso, Texas. Full interview:

Pan Dulce: Lee Byrd from Cinco Puntos Press interviews Claudia Guadalupe Martinez (author of PIG PARK) and Pat Mora (author of CANTA, CHICO BRAVO, CANTA) talking about their books, growing up in El Paso, Texas.

Full interview: Pan Dulce #4


The upcoming major event for REFORMA and Latino children’s literature is the Pura Belpré Award 20th Anniversary Celebración that’s going to be held in Orlando, Florida at the 2016 ALA Annual Conference. I attended the Task Force meeting; there are great plans ahead to celebrate past award winners and honorees, and a wide selection of Latino children’s books as well. More information to come! Check out how you can help and support this gran celebración.

With Isabel Quintero, author of GABI, A GIRL IN PIECES, winner of the William C. Morris Award (Young Adult Debut Award)

With Isabel Quintero, author of GABI, A GIRL IN PIECES, winner of the William C. Morris Award (Young Adult Debut Award)

With Pat Mora. Such an honor to finally meet her.

With Pat Mora. Such an honor to finally meet her.



By Cindy L. Rodriguez

Reason Breaks Blended CollageToday is the official release day of When Reason Breaks, my debut young adult contemporary novel published by Bloomsbury! Yay! The novel is about two girls, both sophomores in high school, who struggle with depression in different ways. Here’s part of the official description:

A Goth girl with an attitude problem, Elizabeth Davis must learn to control her anger before it destroys her. Emily Delgado appears to be a smart, sweet girl, with a normal life, but as depression clutches at her, she struggles to feel normal. Both girls are in Ms. Diaz’s English class, where they connect to the words of Emily Dickinson. Both are hovering on the edge of an emotional precipice. One of them will attempt suicide. And with Dickinson’s poetry as their guide, both girls must conquer their personal demons to ever be happy.

To celebrate my journey, which started seven years ago, I’m sharing some pictures I took along the way.


IMG_3086This first picture represents the writing, revising, and editing phase done alone and then with critique partners. It took me three years to write the draft that I used to query agents. Yes, that’s a long time, but I was working a full-time job and a part-time job, while single-parenting. My writing place is on my bed, and without fail, my dogs–first Rusty (RIP) and now Ozzie–have kept me company. This has been very sweet, except for the times they pawed the keyboard. Notice the guilty look in his eyes.




IMG_1294I landed an agent, Laura Langlie, after a few months of querying. I revised based on her feedback, and then the manuscript went out on submission. It stayed out there for a long, long time. We received some valuable feedback after the first round, so I revised again and went back out on submission. Finding the right agent and editor is kind of like literary You might go on lots of dates that don’t work, but that’s okay, because the goal is finding the perfect person. So, it took a long time, but the book landed with the perfect person, Mary Kate Castellani at Bloomsbury. This is a picture of the manuscript next to my contract. Receiving the contract is one of those “oh-my-goodness-this-is-happening” moments. At this point, the deal had already been announced online, but seeing the contract in black-and-white makes it real.


IMG_4414AHHHHH! ARCs. This was a big moment. I didn’t taken any pictures during revising and copy editing. They wouldn’t have been pretty. But, please know that a lot goes on between the previous picture and this one (major understatement). After revisions, the manuscript went to copy edits. That day was significant because it meant drafting, for the most part, was over. Changes could still be made, but the story moved from creation into production. I received a blurb from the amazing Margarita Engle, and the cover was revealed. Soon after, these beauties arrived at my house. And AHHHHH! ARCs! Even though I had seen all the pieces–manuscript, blurb, cover art–it was different seeing it all put together in book form.



The ARCs went on tour to other authors debuting in 2015, friends, and family. I also gave a couple away on Goodreads. This was the copy that went to the first winner, Ali. I have signed thousands of things, but this was the first time I signed a copy of my novel. Around this time, the book was listed on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other places and became available for pre-order. Holy wow!

And people were actually reading the book, which, of course, was always the goal, but as ARCs went out and reviews popped up, I became aware that what had once belonged to me–what had only existed in my head and heart–was really out in the world. Here is photographic evidence of actual reading going on.



image_3Now that ARCs were out in the world, I considered ways to help market the novel. One thing I learned from other authors was that I had to do my part when it came to marketing. I didn’t go overboard with swag. I decided to create a book trailer and print book marks and postcards with a QR code linked to the book trailer.

The book trailer was a fun, family experience. My sister’s dining room table was the work station, with my image_2nephew–a high school freshman–doing all of the real tech work. He’s a genius with computers, so he handled putting it all together. The opening voice belongs is my niece, and I narrate the rest of it, although my voice was altered to be lower and much cooler, in my opinion. Bookmarks have been distributed to teachers, librarians, and bloggers. Postcards went to high schools, public libraries, and independent bookstores in Connecticut, in addition to some libraries and bookstores in other parts of the country. Writers always question “what works,” and I think the answer is different for each of us. Bookmarks worked for me because I’m a teacher and I have lots of teacher friends who asked for 50-100 at a time. I knew they’d get into the hands of teen readers. Also, I have received some positive feedback from the postcards. A few librarians emailed me saying they received the post card, viewed the trailer, and planned to order the book; some even invited me to participate in events. So, in my mind, these three things were worth it.


While the ARCs were “out there,” the manuscript continued to be worked on through copy editing and then first pass pages, which should be called the 100th pass pages because everyone involved had read the manuscript so many times. First pass pages are cool because the manuscript is typeset, rather than being on regular paper in the standard 12-point Times Roman. After the first pass pages were returned to the publisher, the next time I saw my novel, it was in……..






These came earlier than expected, so I was surprised when I found them on my doorstep. My daughter hugged me and said, “Wow, Mom, they’re beautiful. Congratulations.” I might have gotten a little teary eyed. That day, I donated a copy to my local library and then brought copies to my family. My mom cried when she saw it. My mom doesn’t cry easily. I might have gotten a little teary eyed then, too.

During this last month before publication, I’ve been excited and nervous and, most of all, grateful. Thank you to everyone who has been involved in this process. It takes a village to write and publish a book, and because of everyone who supported me along the way, I saw my novel on a shelf in Barnes & Noble for the first time this past weekend. Wow!

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Available at:

Indiebound Barnes & Noble | Amazon Powell’s Book Depository | Books-A-Million | Target

And please look for it at your local libraries.