Spotlight on Latinx Illustrators: Juliana Perdomo

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We are an affiliate with Indiebound and Bookshop. If If you make a purchase through these links, at no additional cost to you, we will earn a small commission.

By Cecilia Cackley

This is the ninth in a series of posts spotlighting Latinx illustrators of picture books. Some of these artists have been creating children’s books for many years, while others will have their first book out soon. They come from many different cultural backgrounds, but all are passionate about connecting with readers through art and story. Please look for their books at bookstores and libraries!

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Juliana Perdomo

Juliana Perdomo is a writer and illustrator. She was born in Bogotá, Colombia, surrounded by nature, bright colors, music, weird fruits, sunshine, animals, friends and a huge and loving family. She currently lives there with her wonderful son, Luca.

Having a background as a psychologist and art therapist, she discovered the positive effects that art and narrative had on the kids she worked with. She then found her passion in children’s literature, and being inspired by her culture, has been creating her own illustrations and stories ever since. Her work is very heartfelt and personal, folkish, a bit retro and joyful, with a Latin touch.

She has illustrated numerous books, including Somos lo que somos and Alcánzame una Pera for Penguin Random House Colombia, Rainbow Colours, What is Baby Going to Do? What is Mommy Going to Do? and What is Daddy Going to Do? for Quarto.

EL CUCUY IS SCARED TOO, written by Donna Barba Higuera, will publish with Abrams in 2021.

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Q: What or who inspired you to become an artist? 

A: I remember having a feeling when I was a little kid. I got it every time I was in my uncle Ismael’s art studio. The smell of the oil paints, the colorful splatters on the floor, the ceiling painted like a sky, the jungle of plants that intertwined with a thousand little quirky objects that made no sense. I felt a fire, a spark inside my chest. Something that told me I wanted to live like that, be like him.

I had the same warm feeling when I saw my grandma’s hands sewing, I sat next to her and explored the piled tin boxes full of buttons, and threads and shiny sequins. I wanted to use them all, somehow blend with them. It amazed me that everything Carmen Rosita (grandma) touched became beautiful.

Later on, I realized I could tune into that feeling when I looked through art and picture books, when I drew and colored my own scenes and characters, when I built little sculptures with wild berries, mud, and sticks in nature. 

Art made me a joyful kid, then saved me as a sad teenager, and finally gave me the chance to find peace and my path as I became a kid’s illustrator.

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Q: Tell us something about your favorite artistic medium–why you like it, when you first learned it, etc.


A: Right now I work mainly digitally. I use a tablet and a drawing pen. I like it because I can carry it anywhere, use as many textures, brushes and colors and make all the mistakes I want. 

I transitioned into digital art when I worked as a graphic designer some years ago, but from time to time I also give myself a day for playing with other art mediums. 

Crayons, pastels, watercolors, gouache, acrylics, they are all so much fun! 

It’s like a regression to my childhood when I use them. I also love that they open up a chance for me to connect with my 8-year-old son. We collaborate in improvised art projects that end up being precious conversations without words.

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Q: Please finish this sentence: “Picture books are important because…”

A: They provide a space where the reader can approach the world through visualization. 

This is especially important for kids. As they flip through the pages, the pictures and the sound of spoken words combined with written ones, allow a wholeness in the communication experience. 

Verbal and non verbal information is given at the same time as an emotional connection is created with the art, the contexts, characters, stories and even the person who reads the book.

Picture books are a wonderful tool for imagination, language development, thought patterns, identity exploration, personality, social and cultural behavior, empathy, among other important traits of humanity. 

This is why I feel there is a huge responsibility for all of us in the children’s literature industry, to create a spectrum of content, rich in diversity.

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cecilia-02-original

Cecilia Cackley is a Mexican-American playwright and puppeteer based in Washington, DC. A longtime bookseller, she is currently the Children’s/YA buyer and event coordinator for East City Bookshop on Capitol Hill. Find out more about her art at www.ceciliacackley.com or follow her on Twitter @citymousedc

Please Support Us Through Patreon!

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Since 2013, the Latinxs in Kid Lit site has been a trusted resource for educators, book buyers, and readers. Our contributors have written over 590 posts, which have included reviews, Q&As with authors and illustrators, cover reveals, guest posts by creators, and news about book deals. We have done all of this to highlight and celebrate the young adult, middle grade, picture books, and graphic novels by Latinx creators. And we have done all of this work for free.

Moving forward, we would like to pay our contributors for their efforts and add more writers. We ask our loyal followers to support us financially, for as little as $1 each month, so we can offer current and future contributors paid writing opportunities. We typically run 1 or 2 posts each week. Any additional money raised would be used to pay for website hosting. If we make more than we need to run the site, then we can also start to support the creative Latinx community in other ways.

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June Latinx Book Releases!

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We are an affiliate with Indiebound and Bookshop. If If you make a purchase through these links, at no additional cost to you, we will earn a small commission.

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In addition to listing 2021 titles by/for/about Latinx on our master list, we will remind readers of what’s releasing each month. CONGRATULATIONS to these Latinx creators. Let’s celebrate these June book babies! Please let us know in the comments if we are missing any.

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MILES MORALES: Shock Waves, an original Spider-Man graphic novel by Jason Reynolds, illustrated by Pablo Leon (Graphix, June 1, 2021). Middle Grade. Miles Morales is a normal kid who happens to juggle school at Brooklyn Visions Academy while swinging through the streets of Brooklyn as Spider-Man. After a disastrous earthquake strikes his mother’s birthplace of Puerto Rico, Miles springs into action to help set up a fundraiser for the devastated island. But when a new student’s father goes missing, Miles begins to make connections between the disappearance and a giant corporation sponsoring Miles’ fundraiser. Who is behind the disappearance, and how does that relate to Spider-Man?

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STROLLERCOASTER by Matt Ringler, art by Raúl the Third and Elaine Bay (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, June 1, 2021). Picture Book. Buckle up as a toddler’s tantrum is cleverly averted when a loving dad transforms an everyday neighborhood stroll into an extraordinary adventure, reminding us that all you need to chase away a bad mood is love and a little bit of imagination.

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PALETERO MAN by Lucky Diaz, illustrated by Micah Player (HarperCollins, June 1, 2021). Picture Book.

Ring! Ring! Ring! Can you hear his call? Paletas for one! Paletas for all!

What’s the best way to cool off on a hot summer day? Run quick and find Paletero José!

Follow along with our narrator as he passes through his busy neighborhood in search of the Paletero Man. But when he finally catches up with him, our narrator’s pockets are empty. Oh no! What happened to his dinero? It will take the help of the entire community to get the tasty treat now.

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SHE PERSISTED: Sonia Sotomayor by Meg Medina (Philomel Books, June 1, 2021). Chapter Book. Inspired by the #1 New York Times bestseller She Persisted by Chelsea Clinton and Alexandra Boiger comes a chapter book series about women who stood up, spoke up and rose up against the odds! Sonia Sotomayor is the first Latina Supreme Court Justice in the history of the United States, but her road there wasn’t easy. She overcame many challenges along the way, including a diagnosis of diabetes at age seven. But she didn’t let that stop her from achieving her dream and inspiring children all over the world to work hard and believe in themselves.

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SIMONE BREAKS ALL THE RULES by Debbie Rigaud (Scholastic Press, June 1, 2021). Young Adult.

Simone Thibodeaux is about to switch things up.

Check her life: It’s sealed in a boy-proof container. Her Haitian immigrant parents send Simone to an all-girls high school and enforce strict no-dating rules. As for prom? Simone is allowed to go on one condition: Her parents will select her date (a boy from a nice, Haitian immigrant family, obviously).

Simone is desperate to avoid the setup — especially since she has a serious crush on another boy. It’s time to take action. Simone and her fellow late-bloomer friends make a senior year bucket list of all the wild things they haven’t done yet. Like: going out dancing, skipping class (what), and oh yeah — deciding their own prom destinies.

But as the list takes on a life of its own, things get much messier than Simone expected. Can she figure out which rules are worth breaking and which might save her from heartbreak?

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THE COT IN THE LIVING ROOM by Hilda Eunice Burgos, illustrated by Gaby D’Alessandro (Kokila Books, June 1, 2021). Picture Book. Night after night, a young girl watches her mami set up a cot in the living room for guests in their Washington Heights apartment, like Raquel (who’s boring) and Edgardo (who gets crumbs everywhere). She resents that they get the entire living room with a view of the George Washington Bridge, while all she gets is a tiny bedroom with a view of her sister (who snores). Until one night when no one comes, and it’s finally her chance! But as it turns out, sleeping on the cot in the living room isn’t all she thought it would be.

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TWINS VS. TRIPLETS #1: Back-to-School Blitz by Jennifer Torres, illustrated by Vanessa Flores (HarperCollins, June 1, 2021). Chapter Book. David can’t wait to go back to school and get far away from his trickster neighbors. But he’s in for a surprise when a set of equally prank-loving triplets move onto his block—and into his class!

Now the twins and triplets are battling for control of the playground and David is stuck in the middle. Can he end the prank war before recess gets cancelled for the whole year?

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Areli Es Una Dreamer (Areli Is a Dreamer Spanish Edition): Una Historia Real por Areli Morales, Beneficiaria de DACA Cover

ARELI IS A DREAMER: A True Story by Areli Morales, a DACA Recipient (Random House Studio, June 8, 2021). Picture Book. When Areli was just a baby, her mama and papa moved from Mexico to New York with her brother, Alex, to make a better life for the family–and when she was in kindergarten, they sent for her, too.

Everything in New York was different. Gone were the Saturdays at Abuela’s house, filled with cousins and sunshine. Instead, things were busy and fast and noisy. Areli’s limited English came out wrong, and schoolmates accused her of being illegal. But time passed, and Areli slowly became a New Yorker–although not an American citizen. “I could do anything here,” Areli says one day to the city sky. “Someday, I will.”

This is a moving story–one that resonates with millions of immigrants who make up the fabric of our country–about one girl living in two worlds, a girl whose DACA application was eventually approved and who is now living her American dream.

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CURSE OF THE FORGOTTEN CITY by Alex Aster (Sourcebooks Young Readers, June 8, 2021). Middle Grade. Tor is adjusting to life with the power of the Night Witch, especially with his best friends Engle and Melda by his side. But when a mysterious girl washes ashore claiming a band of cursed pirates is on their way to Emblem Island, life changes fast.

The girl, Gemma, is from an underwater city that was destroyed by the terrible Calavera pirates and she warns Tor they are now on their way to his home.

The trio of friends must come up with a plan to stop the pirates from getting an ancient relic that would give them the ability to control the high seas, while also protecting all they love from the new danger.

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FIFTEEN HUNDRED MILES FROM THE SUN by Jonny Garza Villa (Skyscape, June 8, 2021). Young Adult. Julián Luna has a plan for his life: Graduate. Get into UCLA. And have the chance to move away from Corpus Christi, Texas, and the suffocating expectations of others that have forced Jules into an inauthentic life.

Then in one reckless moment, with one impulsive tweet, his plans for a low-key nine months are thrown–literally–out the closet. The downside: the whole world knows, and Jules has to prepare for rejection. The upside: Jules now has the opportunity to be his real self.

Then Mat, a cute, empathetic Twitter crush from Los Angeles, slides into Jules’s DMs. Jules can tell him anything. Mat makes the world seem conquerable. But when Jules’s fears about coming out come true, the person he needs most is fifteen hundred miles away. Jules has to face them alone.

Jules accidentally propelled himself into the life he’s always dreamed of. And now that he’s in control of it, what he does next is up to him.

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FIRE WITH FIRE by Destiny Soria (HMH Books for Young Readers, June 8, 2021). Young Adult. Dani and Eden Rivera were both born to kill dragons, but the sisters couldn’t be more different. For Dani, dragon slaying takes a back seat to normal high school life, while Eden prioritizes training above everything else. Yet they both agree on one thing: it’s kill or be killed where dragons are concerned.

Until Dani comes face-to-face with one and forges a rare and magical bond with him. As she gets to know Nox, she realizes that everything she thought she knew about dragons is wrong. With Dani lost to the dragons, Eden turns to mysterious and alluring sorcerers to help save her sister. Now on opposite sides of the conflict, each sister will do whatever it takes to save the other. But the two are playing with magic that is more dangerous than they know, and there is another, more powerful enemy waiting for them both in the shadows.

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MOTH & BUTTERFLY: TA-DA! by Dev Petty, illustrated by Ana Aranda (Nancy Paulsen Books, June 8, 2021). Picture Book. Two caterpillar friends love what they have in common–lots of legs and a talent for chewing leaves into funny shapes. And when it’s time to build cocoons, they hang theirs side by side. “Happy metamorphosis,” says an older, more knowledgeable butterfly. And it is a happy metamorphosis indeed–for when the two emerge from their cocoons, they can fly! But so much else has changed–as one is now a moth, who flies by night, and the other is a butterfly, who flies by day. How will things work now? Fortunately some things never change–like true friends figuring out a way to be together, and happily flying into the sunset and sunrise.

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RAT FAIR by Leah Rose Kesslerillustrated by Cleonique Hilsaca (Pow! Kids Books, June 15, 2021). Picture Book. When a group of industrious, fun-loving rats find letters fallen from an Art Fair sign, they put the sign back together—with one small adjustment—and get to work creating a spectacular RAT FAIR. Their fair is ruined when humans sweep away everything the rats have created. Undaunted, the rats switch  gears and start working on their very own Rat Art Fair. As they are wrapping up their first day of the Rat Art Fair, a human child who has been following their progress from the sidelines catches them red handed, and the rats must decide if they can trust the child.

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SMALL NAP, LITTLE DREAM by Talia Aikens-Nuñezillustrated by Natalia Colombo (Nancy Paulsen Books, June 15, 2021). Picture Book. Young children are busy all day long–running and climbing, looking and laughing–and in the middle of a full day of fun, there’s nothing like taking a break for a small nap. This is the time of day to have a little dream–sueñito–that gives the afternoon some added sweetness.

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THE MORE THE MERRIER by David Martin, illustrated by Raissa Figueroa (Candlewick, June 15, 2021). Picture Book. Some like to kick their feet and bend their knees to the music. Others prefer to slip and slide . . . or swoop down . . . or skip high and low! Bear, Moose, Snake, and other forest animals dance to their own groove in a rhythmic celebration of individuality.

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Zuri Ray Tries Ballet Cover

ZURI RAY TRIES BALLET by Tami Charles, illustrated by Sharon Sordo (Quill Tree Books, June 15, 2021). Picture Book. Meet Zuri Ray. She’s always willing to go the extra mile for family and friends and is up for any challenge. At least, that was before her best friend, Jessie, asked her to join a ballet camp.

Now Zuri isn’t sure if she’s up for everything. While Jessie can’t wait to chassé and plié while wearing tight hair buns and frilly tutus, that doesn’t sound like Zuri at all! But she can’t let her friend down. Maybe classical ballet just needs a new spin.

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CHUNKY written and illustrated by Yehudi Mercado (Katherine Tegen Books, June 22, 2021). Graphic Novel/Middle Grade. Hudi needs to lose weight, according to his doctors. Concerned about the serious medical issue Hudi had when he was younger, his parents push him to try out for sports. Hudi would rather do anything else, but then he meets Chunky, his imaginary friend and mascot. Together, they decide to give baseball a shot. 

As the only Mexican and Jewish kid in his neighborhood, Hudi has found the cheerleader he never had. Baseball doesn’t go well (unless getting hit by the ball counts), but the two friends have a great time drawing and making jokes. While Hudi’s parents keep trying to find the right sport for Hudi, Chunky encourages him to pursue his true love—comedy.

But when Hudi’s dad loses his job, it gets harder for Hudi to chart his own course, even with Chunky’s guidance. Can Chunky help Hudi stay true to himself or will this friendship strike out?

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Q&A with author Mariana Llanos About Run Little Chaski! / ¡Corre, Pequeño Chaski!

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We are an affiliate with Indiebound and Bookshop. If If you make a purchase through these links, at no additional cost to you, we will earn a small commission.

By Romy Natalia Goldberg

Set in ancient Peru, Run, Little Chaski!: An Inka Trail Adventure follows the ups and downs of Little Chaski’s first day as a royal messenger for the king of the Inkan empire. Authored by Mariana Llanos and illustrated by Mariana Ruiz Johnson, Run Little Chaski! will release with Barefoot Books on June 1, 2021. English and Spanish versions are available. We hope you enjoy this interview with the author on the process of creating this unique picture book.

Mariana, congratulations on your picture book Run Little Chaski!: An Inka Trail Adventure / ¡Corre, Pequeño Chaski!: Una aventura en el comino Inka. What was the inspiration for this book?

I was inspired by my peruanidad and my desire to represent the amazing pre-columbian culture of my country, Peru. I think this book is the result of many years admiring our legacy and wishing more people knew about it.

There is so much going on in this book, from the role chaskis (royal messengers) played in the Incan empire, to the artifacts used in both daily life, to the flora and fauna of the Andes. Although, as a Peruvian, you probably grew up with knowledge of these things, I’m sure this book took a lot of research. Can you tell us how you prepared to write this manuscript?

I wrote the first drafts using what I already knew about chaskis and the Inka empire. Research came later, once I had the story I wanted to tell. Actually, because I am Peruvian, the pressure to “get it right” felt very strong. I thought I knew a lot, but I doubted myself many times. I read books about the Tawantinsuyu, like History of the Tawantinsuyu by Maria Rotowroski, a renowned Peruvian author, and History of the Conquest of Peru by William Prescott, among others. I also visited many websites like the American Indian Museum- Smithsonian. I read many articles in Spanish and English with specifics about the Inka Trail and the role of chaskis. I watched documentaries on YouTube as well. I grew up knowing about this, but I needed to have a better historic understanding especially for writing the back matter.

Did you ever consider writing this as a non-fiction book, or was it always a fictional picture book?

No. It was always a universal theme. It was always about kindness with the rich backdrop of the Inka culture.

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Back matter for Run, Little Chaski!

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Are there details you would have liked to include but had to edit or remove to better suit the picture book format? How did you decide what belonged in the back matter (which is extensive and very informative) vs, in the story itself? 

The story is a universal story, only that it is set in a historic time period. So I always knew what belonged there, but I did want to offer additional information about the Inka empire. Originally, this info was contained in an Author’s Note, but my editor, Kate Depalma, wanted to break it into different topics. This writing process for the new back matter came after working on the story itself.

From the original story, we removed a part where I mentioned coca leaves as the content of his ch’uspa (bag). As you may know, coca leaves are sacred in the Andes and are used to give people energy, but it was decided that it might be a distracting issue for parents. But we did add this detail in the informational part of the book.

This is one of the first picture books published in the United States featuring a significant amount of Quechua. Do you speak Quechua? Can you talk about what went into ensuring the Quechua was accurate? 

I do not speak Quechua, although I’ve attempted to take classes. I know a few words and terms. Many Quechua words are integrated in Peruvian Spanish. But since I needed this to be very accurate, I enlisted the help of a person who is an expert in the Quechua language and Andean culture. He revised my manuscript and came back with some valuable suggestions. Our main concern was about the spelling of Quechua words (like Inca or Inka). For this book we went with the standardized spelling of the language to be respectful to Quechua speaking people.

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Image from inside Run, Little Chaski!

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Did you find it hard to sell this manuscript because of the setting or the language? 

You would’ve thought that a novel book like this would sell in a minute, but in fact, it was very hard to sell! Most editors didn’t have a vision for it. We were so lucky to find Barefoot Books who are willing to take on challenges and do their best to produce truly diverse books. Their commitment to diversity is admirable. At every level, I felt like they respected my work and the culture I represented, so I’m glad with the way things turned out. Still, I wonder what is it going to take for this industry to finally look at the rest of the world as part of this world? 

Can you talk a little about being considered an “own voices” author for this particular book? I imagine it is complex, given that being Peruvian is not the same as being Incan and even the Inca themselves were a civilization made up of several indigenous peoples.  

I’ve been asked several times if this is an “own voices” book. I have an issue with the label because, even though I am Peruvian, I did not live in the times of the Inka, so how could this be an own voices story? The Inka empire fell 500 years ago. It’s very hard for people from Latin America to fit the concept of this label. We’re made of so many cultures and races. And in this book specifically, you’re correct. The Inka weren’t one group of people; they were many pueblos, many cultures. And I believe this is where we can feel the lack of authentic and diverse Latinx representation at the publishing level. The only way I’d ever use an own voices label is if I write a book about my life. 

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Image of Mariana Llanos

About the author: Mariana Llanos is a Peruvian-born poet and author of children’s books. Her book Luca’s Bridge/El puente de Luca was a 2020 ALSC Notable Book and Campoy-Ada Award Honoree. Eunice and Kate (2020, Penny Candy Books) is a winner of the Paterson Prize Books for Young Readers. Run Little Chaski/Corre Pequeño Chaski is a JLG Gold Standard Selection. Mariana visits schools to encourage the love for writing and reading. She’s represented by Clelia Gore of Martin Literary.

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Image of Romy Natalia Goldberg

Romy Natalia Goldberg is a Paraguayan-American travel and kid lit author with a love for stories about culture and communication. Her guidebook to Paraguay, Other Places Travel Guide to Paraguay, was published in 2012 and 2017 and led to work with “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown,” and The Guardian. She is an active SCBWI member and co-runs Kidlit Latinx, a Facebook support group for Latinx children’s book authors and illustrators

Spotlight on Middle Grade Authors: Anika Fajardo

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We are an affiliate with Indiebound and Bookshop. If If you make a purchase through these links, at no additional cost to you, we will earn a small commission.

By Cindy L. Rodriguez

This is an occasional series about middle grade Latinx authors. We decided to shine a spotlight on middle grade writers and their novels because, often, they are “stuck in the middle”–sandwiched between and overlooked for picture books and young adult novels. The middle grades are a crucial time in child development socially, emotionally, and academically. The books that speak to these young readers tend to have lots of heart and great voices that capture all that is awkward and brilliant about that time.

Today, we highlight Anika Fajardo.

Anika Fajardo was born in Colombia and raised in Minnesota. She is the author of a book about that experience, Magical Realism for Non-Believers: A Memoir of Finding Family (University of Minnesota Press, 2019), which was awarded Best Book (Nonfiction) of 2020 from City Pages and was a finalist for the 2020 Minnesota Book Award. Her debut middle-grade novel What If a Fish (Simon & Schuster, 2020) was awarded the 2021 Minnesota Book Award. Her next book for young readers, Meet Me Halfway (Simon & Schuster) will be published in spring 2022.

Her writing for adults and children has appeared in numerous publications including Brief Encounters: A Collection of Contemporary Nonfiction (Norton), We Are Meant to Rise: Voices for Justice from Minneapolis to the World (U of Minnesota Press), and Sky Blue Waters: Great Stories for Young Readers (U of Minnesota Press). She has earned awards from the Minnesota State Arts Board, the Jerome Foundation, and the Loft Literary Center.

A writer, editor, and teacher, she lives with her family in the very literary city of Minneapolis. 

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Here is the publisher’s description for WHAT IF A FISH:

Cover of the novel What If a Fish by Anika Fajardo

A whimsical and unflinchingly honest generational story of family and identity where hats turn into leeches, ghosts blow kisses from lemon trees, and the things you find at the end of your fishing line might not be a fish at all.

Half-Colombian Eddie Aguado has never really felt Colombian. Especially after Papa died. And since Mama keeps her memories of Papa locked up where Eddie can’t get to them, he only has Papa’s third-place fishing tournament medal to remember him by. He’ll have to figure out how to be more Colombian on his own.

As if by magic, the perfect opportunity arises. Eddie—who’s never left Minnesota—is invited to spend the summer in Colombia with his older half-brother. But as his adventure unfolds, he feels more and more like a fish out of water.

Figuring out how to be a true colombiano might be more difficult than he thought.

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Anika Fajardo

Anika Fajardo

1. Who or what inspired you to become a writer?

My mom and my grandparents regularly read aloud to me when I was growing up, so books were always a big part of my life. In sixth grade I won a poetry contest after working with a guest poet in the schools. I got to read my poem on stage in front of an audience, and I decided I really wanted to be a writer. But it took me many careers (teacher, librarian, social media manager, web designer) before I actually let myself believe I could do it. 

2. Why do you choose to write middle grade novels?

I remember being that age fondly; I loved to read, write, play pretend, go on adventures. It’s such a great audience–they’re old enough to appreciate well-formed characters, intriguing plots, and sophisticated themes but without any of the sexy stuff of YA.

3. What are some of your favorite middle grade novels?

Of course, I love the middle-grade novels from Las Musas (THE OTHER HALF OF HAPPY, THE DREAM WEAVER, THE MUSE SQUAD). I’m from Minnesota, so my first picks are Minnesota authors like Kate DiCamillo (I adore RAYMIE NIGHTINGALE) and Pete Hautman (FLINKWATER FACTOR). I also love older books like MIXED-UP FILES OF MRS BASIL E FRANKWEILER and THE WESTING GAME.

4. If you could give your middle-grade self some advice, what would it be?

Keep dreaming and don’t let any grown-ups tell you what you can or cannot do with your one precious life.

5. Please finish this sentence: Middle grade novels are important because…

kids need something that’s just for them–not babyish and not too grown up–to which they can escape.

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photo of Cindy L. Rodriguez by Saryna A. Jones

Cindy L. Rodriguez is a former journalist turned teacher and children’s author. She is a middle school reading specialist in Connecticut, where she lives with her family. Cindy is a U.S.-born Latina of Puerto Rican and Brazilian descent. Her debut contemporary YA novel is When Reason Breaks (Bloomsbury 2015). She also has an essay in Life Inside My Mind (Simon Pulse 2018) and wrote the text for three Jake Maddox books: Volleyball Ace (2020), Drill Team Determination (2021), and Gymnastics Payback (2021). Her debut picture book will be published by Cardinal Rule Press in summer 2022. She can be found on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.

Latinx Book Deals: April 2021

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Compiled by Cecilia Cackley

This is a monthly series keeping track of the book deals announced by Latinx writers and illustrators. The purpose of this series is to celebrate book deals by authors and illustrators in our community and to advocate for more of them. If you are an agent and you have a Latinx client who just announced a deal, you can let me know on Twitter, @citymousedc. If you are a Latinx author or illustrator writing for children or young adults, and you just got a book deal, send me a message and we will celebrate with you! And if I left anyone out here, please let me know! Here’s to many more wonderful books in the years to come.

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April 1

Namrata Tripathi at Kokila has acquired, in a six-figure preempt, Golden State by William C. Morris Award-winning author Isabel Quintero (Gabi, a Girl in PiecesMy Papi Has a Motorcycle). The YA novel follows 18-year-old Maricela, who, after finding out her father has another family he’s been keeping secret from her, embarks on a road trip through California to meet her half-brother for the first time. Publication is scheduled for summer 2023. Author agent: Peter Steinberg, at Fletcher & Company.

Connie Hsu at Roaring Brook has bought Tomatoes in My Lunchbox, written by Costantia Manoli and illustrated by Magdalena Mora. This picture book features a girl who feels displaced in her new country when her teacher mispronounces her name, until she discovers that all it takes is one friend, one connection, to bring two worlds together. Publication is planned for spring/summer 2022. Illustrator agent: Steve Malk at Writers House.

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April 6

Mallory Kass at Scholastic has bought North American rights to Valentina Salazar Is Not a Monster Hunter by Zoraida Córdova, pitched as a genderbent Supernatural meets Unicorn Rescue Society. When a mythical egg surfaces on YouTube, the Salazar siblings steal the family van to race across the U.S. to save the egg before it hatches and goes viral—except their eldest sister and her dreaded monster hunters will stop at nothing to destroy the beast first. Publication is set for 2022. Author agents: Victoria Marini at Irene Goodman Literary, Suzie Townsend at New Leaf Literary & Media.

Erin Clarke at Knopf has acquired Sofía Acosta Makes a Scene by Emma Otheguy (Silver Meadows Summer) about a fifth-grade girl trying to figure out where she fits in her ballet-obsessed Cuban American family and her affluent suburban community. Publication is scheduled for spring 2022. Author agent:  Adriana Dominguez at Full Circle Literary.

Molly Yao Shen at Yeehoo Press has bought world rights to Who Is It, Whoodini? by Roman Yasiejko, illustrated by Gustavo Ramos. In this picture book, when a mysterious bird crashes in a tree, two owl sleuths fly off to gather the facts for the surprise reveal and rescue. Publication is scheduled for summer 2022 in the U.S. and mainland China. Illustrator agent: Mohamed Danawi at Illozoo Agency.

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April 8

Julia McCarthy at Atheneum has acquired world rights to I Want to Be a Vase, a picture book written by comedian, former SNL writer, and co-creator of Los Espookys Julio Torres, illustrated by 3D artist Julian Glander. This tale of a plunger who dreams of a more decorative life was inspired by Torres’s HBO comedy special My Favorite Shapes, which explores the interior dramas of everyday objects. Publication is set for summer 2022. Author agent: Richard Abate and Olivia Gerke at 3Arts.

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April 13

Andrea Welch at S&S/Beach Lane Books bought world rights to Just You and Me by Jennifer Ward and illustrated by Alexander Vidal, a picture book about unlikely pairs—like zebras and ostriches, hippos and egrets, and bees and flowers—that help each other survive in the wild. Publication is scheduled for fall 2021. Illustrator agent: Stefanie Sanchez Von Borstel.

Paula Wiseman at S&S/Wiseman has bought world rights to Beginning by Shelley Moore Thomas (From Tree to Sea), illustrated by Melissa Casatrillon. This picture book answers the question, “What does something become when it isn’t itself anymore?” and shows the wonder of what happens at the end of something that causes something else to begin. Publication is planned for spring 2022.

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April 15

Hannah Hill at Underlined has bought Bad at Love by Gabriela Martins (Like a Love Song). This YA romance follows Brazilian teen rocker Daniel, who has a bad boy reputation with the tabloids, and aspiring journalist Sasha, who’s determined to dig up dirt on Daniel—and finds herself falling for him along the way. But when she uncovers Daniel’s biggest secret, Sasha must decide if she’ll follow her heart or deliver the hottest story of the summer. Publication is set for summer 2022. Author agent: Chelsea Eberly at Greenhouse Literary.

Joanna Cárdenas at Kokila has bought world rights, at auction, in the two-book deal, to Angelica and La Guira by Angie Cruz (Dominicana), illustrated by Disney Television Animation story artist Luz Batista. The picture book debut follows a girl in Washington Heights who has been given a guira by her grandfather in the Dominican Republic and finds her musical voice—a power so strong that it brings her entire community together. Publication is scheduled for fall 2023. Author agent: Dara Hyde at Hill Nadell Literary.

Meredith Mundy at Abrams Appleseed has acquired world rights to Measuring a Year: A Rosh Hashanah Story by Linda Elovitz Marshall, illustrated by Zara González Hoang. Through verse, this tale encourages a child to thoughtfully look back over their past year. Publication is scheduled for fall 2022. Illustrator agent: Andrea Morrison at Writers House.

Amy Novesky at Cameron Kids has acquired world rights to two picture books written and illustrated by Mirelle Ortega. The first, Magic, is a story inspired by the author’s magical childhood growing up on a pineapple farm in Veracruz, Mexico. Publication is scheduled for fall 2022, and the second untitled book is scheduled for fall 2023. Author agent: James Burns at the Bright Agency.

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April 20

Rebecca Kuss at Inkyard has acquired, at auction, Salt and Sugar by Rebecca Carvalho. This telenovela-esque YA rom-com debut follows the grandchildren of two rival Brazilian bakeries who fall in love despite their families’ feud while working to win a contest that would save both of their bakeries from being driven out by a predatory supermarket chain. Claire Stetzer will edit. Publication is planned for fall 2022. Author agent:  Thao Le at Sandra Dijkstra Literary.

Maria Dismondy at Cardinal Rule Press has acquired world rights to Beto’s Super Cool Guayabera by YA author and a founder of Latinxs in Kid Lit Cindy L. Rodriguez, illustrated by Begoña Fernández Corbalan; Adam Blackman will edit. This picture book tells a story using a traditional Mexican shirt along with a creative boy trying to solve conflict in his family. Publication is planned for summer 2022. Illustrator agent: Erin Tisdel at Advocate Art.

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April 27

Sylvan Creekmore at Wednesday has bought, in a preempt, contemporary YA romance Ander and Santi Were Here by Jonny Garza Villa. Pitched as Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe meets The Sun Is Also a Star, a non-binary teen muralist falls for the newest waiter at their family’s taquería, sparking a romance made complicated when ICE shows up at the taquería and the love interest is a potential target. Publication is slated for spring 2023. Author agent: Claire Draper at the Bent Agency.

Marino at Delacorte has acquired, in a preempt, The Grimoire of Grave Fates, a multi-authored YA fantasy-mystery told in a series of interconnected, diverse POVs set in a world created by Hanna Alkaf (The Weight of The Sky) and Margaret Owen (The Merciful Crow), following the untimely murder of a professor at an esteemed wizarding school and the efforts of various students to track down his killer. Contributors will include Cam Montgomery, Darcie Little Badger, Hafsah Faizal, Jessica Lewis, Julian Winters, Karuna Riazi, Kat Cho, Kayla Whaley, Kwame Mbalia, L.L. McKinney, Marieke Nijkamp, Mason Deaver, Natasha Diaz, Preeti Chhibber, Randy Ribay, Tehlor Kay Mejia, Victoria Lee, and Yamile Saied Méndez. Pitched as a response to the exclusion of minority and LGBTQ+ groups from fantasy worlds, the creators will be partnering with We Need Diverse Books to establish initiatives for marginalized authors using their proceeds from the sale. Publication is set for fall 2022. Author agent: Victoria Marini at Irene Goodman Literary.

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April 29

Nick Thomas at Levine Querido has bought High Spirits by debut author Camille Gomera-Tavarez. The YA book interweaves stories exploring machismo, family, and identity in the Dominican diaspora. Publication is scheduled for spring 2022.

Kathleen Merz at Eerdmans has acquired I’ll Always Come Back to You by Charlotte Zolotow Award-winning author Carmen Tafolla, illustrated by Grace Zong, a picture book meant to make the many transitions of being away from parents less stressful and more fun. Publication is scheduled for spring 2022. Author agent: Stefanie Sanchez Von Borstel at Full Circle Literary.

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Cecilia Cackley is a Mexican-American playwright and puppeteer based in Washington, DC. A longtime bookseller, she is currently the Children’s/YA buyer and event coordinator for East City Bookshop on Capitol Hill. Find out more about her art at www.ceciliacackley.com or follow her on Twitter @citymousedc