Book Review: Stef Soto, Taco Queen by Jennifer Torres

 

Reviewed by Caissa Casarez

Stef Soto, Taco Queen CoverDESCRIPTION FROM THE BOOK’S BACK COVER: Estefania “Stef” Soto is itching to shake off the onion-and-cilantro embrace of Tia Perla, her family’s taco truck. She wants nothing more than for Papi to get a normal job and for Tia Perla to be a distant memory. Then maybe everyone at school will stop seeing her as the Taco Queen.

But when her family’s livelihood is threatened, and it looks like her wish will finally come true, Stef surprises everyone (including herself) by becoming the truck’s unlikely champion. In this fun and heartfelt novel, Stef will discover what matters most and ultimately embrace an identity that even includes old Tia Perla.

MY TWO CENTS: Jennifer Torres doesn’t waste any time introducing the readers to Stef and the people in her life, including Papi and her best friend Arthur in the first scene outside of their Catholic middle school. She notices Papi in his taco truck – known as Tia Perla for the rest of the book – and she gets angry because he had originally promised to let her meet him at a nearby gas station. This is the first of many conflicts Stef has with her parents about maturity at the seventh-grade level. The conflicts are about issues that come up in many houses of middle school students.

One of my favorite scenes of the book is in chapter 3, when Stef reminisces about the early stages of Tia Perla being in her family’s life. From what Torres describes as “kitchen-table whispers” about the kinds of beans and salsa it’ll feature (“nothing from a jar,” insists Mami) to learning the origin of the name (Stef’s pick), the entire scene was sweet and a key part of the story. The chapters in the entire book are short but detailed enough for readers of any age to get a glimpse into Stef’s life.

Despite the joy Tia Perla once brought to Stef, she feels anything but joy about the beloved truck as the book goes on. She tries to be nice to former-friend-turned-popular-girl Julia by offering her a ride home in Tia Perla, but Julia turns around and calls Stef the “Taco Queen” behind her back. This comes after Julia makes a scene before the start of their English class by announcing she has tickets to see local pop sensation Viviana Vega in concert. Torres then takes the readers into more of Stef’s life at Saint Scholastica School – trying to fit in and leave Tia Perla in the dust. Stef’s favorite day of the week is Tuesday, which she realizes is not common, because it’s when she has her art class. “And in art class,” Torres writes, “I never hear Mami’s voice telling me I’m too young, or Papi’s nagging me to be careful. I am in charge of the blank piece of paper in front of me, and I can turn it into something as vivid and adventurous or as quiet and calm as I want.” This part of the story stuck out to me because of the way Torres compares making art with wanting independence.

Stef spends every Saturday helping her Papi and Tia Perla during their busiest day of the week. They travel to farmers markets, parks, and other outdoor common areas in their city to feed the crowds with the scrumptious food they’re known for. Even though Papi seems grateful every time Stef helps him out, she still wants nothing to do with Tia Perla, especially when it gets in the way of her independent life she’s trying to create.

During a stop on one of Tia Perla’s routine Saturdays, Stef visits her other best friend, Amanda, after her soccer game. While the two are cooling off with the help of strawberry soda, they listen to the radio and eventually win concert tickets to see Viviana Vega. Stef is cautiously optimistic about her parents letting the two attend the concert alone – until they say no, despite her papi giving her a cell phone she thinks is to check in with them at the concert.

The book then turns its focus to two more complex and meaningful issues previously introduced before Stef’s blowup with her papi. Stef and her classmates decide to work together in a unique way to get more art supplies (hint: a school-wide event is included). And, in a move that impacts Stef more than she realizes, Papi’s business (and Tia Perla) is threatened by new proposed city rules that would impact all food trucks in the area, specifically the taco trucks. Stef seems more mature than others her age when she mentions translating important notes for her papi and others from English into Spanish.

The book ends with a couple of different twists that I didn’t see coming, but I believe both twists worked really well to help bring the story to a close. Stef learns to love all of the parts that make up her identity – even Tia Perla.

Torres does a wonderful job describing the characters and each place they’re in throughout the book. I felt like I was following Stef and her family and friends through their adventures. The book addresses many important topics that may be tough for some kids and families to discuss, but I believe the issues were written in a way that kids can understand. I felt for Stef during some of the scenes with her parents.

There are some basic Spanish words and sentences in the book, most of which are italicized except for one – Orale! That word appears several times in the book with several different meanings, which I loved. It helped set the tone for each of the different chapters, especially when Stef described each way it was written for each scene.

Overall, Stef Soto, Taco Queen is a wonderful read. It’s recommended for kids in grades 4-7 (ages 9-12), but I would suggest it to anyone looking for a story about a girl trying to find herself in this crazy world.

TEACHING TIPS: This book could be used to discuss the idea of working together to help solve problems, especially in the face of adversity. Stef’s art teacher, Mr. Salazar, helped his class raise money to bring in more art supplies, even though he was skeptical about their idea at first. The book could also be used in a way to discuss local politics for students. Not many middle-school students get involved with politics in such a way that Stef did, but I believe the book would be a good way to teach students how to make a difference in their community.

jtorresABOUT THE AUTHOR (from the book’s back cover): Jennifer Torres was 17-years-old–a senior at Alverno High School in Sierra Madre, California—when the first time a story of hers was published in a newspaper. The story was about making tamales with her family, but it was also about love and tradition and growing up. She went on to study journalism at Northwestern University and the University of Westminster. Today, she works as a freelance journalist and is the author Finding the Music, a picture book from Lee & Low. Jennifer lives with her husband and two little girls in central California. Stef Soto, Taco Queen is her debut novel.

BOOK LINKS: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, GoodReads

 

assertABOUT THE REVIEWER: Caissa Casarez is a proud multiracial Latina and a self-proclaimed nerd. When she’s not working for public television, Caissa loves reading, tweeting, and drinking cold brew. She especially loves books and other stories by fellow marginalized voices. She wants to help reach out to kids once in her shoes through the love of books to let them know they’re not alone. Caissa lives in St. Paul, MN, with her partner and their rambunctious cat. Follow her on Twitter & Instagram at @cmcasarez.

American Stories of Opportunity, Hope, and Ambition: A Guest Post by Author Jennifer Torres

 

By Jennifer Torres

Melissa, an 8th grader who plans to go to MIT and be a college math professor.

Melissa, an 8th grader who plans to go to MIT and become a college math professor.

Escalon is a Spanish word that means “step” or “stepping stone.” It is also a small town in the heart of California’s agricultural Central Valley, surrounded by dairies and almond orchards. Just off Main Street there, across from American Legion Post 263, is the library where Melissa, an eighth grader, volunteers to read to younger children, sometimes in English and sometimes in Spanish.

“I think it’s important to read to kids because they get to know new things when they read a book,” she told me. Melissa’s own favorite books, she said, are mystery and fantasy novels. “It’s like a whole new world.”

Just like Melissa, many of the children who visit the Escalon Library are the sons and daughters of Mexican immigrants, families who saw, in the United States, a step toward opportunity and who courageously took it.

Stef Soto, Taco Queen CoverThose stories are American stories, and I hope that readers will recognize them in Stef Soto, Taco Queen.

The fictional Stef Soto, like millions of very real children in the United States who have immigrant parents, is a first-generation American.

Just like Melissa, Stef sometimes translates for her mom and dad.

Just like Stef, Melissa has parents whose hearts thunder with hope and ambition for their daughter.

“I want her to remember where she comes from, but her future is here,” Melissa’s mom, Adriana, told me in Spanish as she helped her daughter lead an arts-and-crafts project at the library. (She credits the San Joaquin County Office of Education’s Migrant Education department for encouraging her to become an advocate for Melissa’s learning). “I want her to graduate, to go to college, to have a better quality of life.”

She and her husband have encouraged Melissa to begin investigating colleges, to think about what she wants to study, who she wants to be.

“I’ve decided I want to go to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology,” Melissa said, braces glinting. “I think that’s a good one for what I want to do.”

What she wants to do is teach math. When I asked her what grade, she hesitated, sheepish about correcting me.

Finally, she shook her head. “No, I want to be a math professor. Like at a university.”

Just like I did—in a family that includes first-, second-, third- and fourth-generation Americans, as well as some who still live in Mexico—Stef is growing up speaking and listening to a vibrant mix of English and Spanish. We both find comfort in friends and family and warm tortillas, smeared with butter.

And just like all of us, I think, she is trying hard to figure out exactly where she belongs. Too often, for too many, it can feel like a here or there question.

But as I have learned, as students like Melissa remind us, and as characters like Stef discover, our stories are so much richer than that.

“I get to have both cultures,” Melissa said. “And I want people to know that immigrants are people—smart people—who want a better future, and so they came to this country. I think it’s really brave of them.”

jtorresFrom the author’s website: Hi there. I’m Jennifer. I live with my family in California’s Central Valley, and I write stories. I used to work as a newspaper reporter, writing stories about real people, whose lives told us something about our world and maybe about ourselves. Now, I write books for young readers—books with make-believe characters whose stories, I hope, are just as full of life and truth as the real ones.

Check out my picture book, Finding the Music, published by Lee & Low Books, and look out for my debut middle-grade novel, Stef Soto, Taco Queen, coming January 2017 from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Book Review: When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

 

28220826Reviewed by Elena Foulis

DESCRIPTION OF THE BOOK: To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrist, and rumors say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints and hangs in the trees, and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town. But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel’s skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they’re willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up.

MY TWO CENTS: When the Moon Was Ours, captures a beautiful love story full of colors, scents, musical prose, and magical realism. Miel and Samir are peculiar children; Miel grows roses from her wrists and Sam paints moons and hangs them in trees around town. Anna-Marie McLemore’s rich narrative walks us through the lives of Miel and Sam, two teenagers with complicated histories. Miel’s fear of water, ghosts, pumpkins, and tormented memories of her mother, are intensified when the town’s rusted water tower falls and water rushes out over the fields and her. It is at this moment that she appears in the town, at the age of five, alone, in a thin nightgown, and bathed in rusted water.  No one knows her or approaches her, except for Moon (Sam), who talks to her and covers her with his jacket. Miel goes home with Sam, but Aracely, the town’s curandera, offers to bring her home and look after her.

This town, like the novel, is full of mystery. There are four beautiful sisters, known as the Bonner sisters, who are thought to be witches. They usually get people to do what they want, and get boys to fall in love with them. They seemingly accept and care for Miel, but are manipulative and cruel to her when they think her flowers can help them get their powers back. The Bonner sisters are not free from gossip, envy, unexpected pregnancies, and secret sexual desires. The readers slowly begin to discover that what makes everyone mysterious—aside  from the growing roses from Miel’s skin—is the world of secrets, half-truths, and distorted memories that each character holds. Hanging throughout the novel is the theme of gender fluidity. The story follows the blooming romance between Miel and Sam, who seem to tend to each other’s pains, desires, and bodily discoveries of unexpected peculiarities. Both Miel and Sam are foreign to the town, but it is Sam who is sometimes the target of discrimination because of the color of his skin and feminine features. Sam tells Miel the story his mother told him about bacha posh, a cultural practice in which families with no sons, dress a daughter as a son, and as an adult, the daughter returns to live as woman. Eventually, we discover how this tradition has impacted Sam’s life. Similarly, we learn about the connection between Sam’s life and Aracely, the town’s healer.

It is clear that the Bonner sisters are white, Miel is Latina, and Sam is Italian-Pakistani, and, although minimal, we can see how they experience life in this town. Las gringas bonitas, as Miel refers to them, are privileged and powerful, while Sam works the Bonner family’s fields. The theme of racial experiences or discrimination is not central to the novel, but it does point us to different lived experiences.

In the end, the novel is about acceptance and love. It is also about the complexity and danger of strict gender roles, and the freedom to live outside of that. For Sam, his assigned name and gender at birth did not match who he had become. The man he had become is the man who Miel loved. It is important to note the author’s personal story at the end of the book. Although she tells us at the beginning that this is a work of fiction, in the end, she explains her personal connection to Miel and Sam’s story. The author grew up listening to La Llorona stories, the weeping woman who, the legend tells, tried to drown her children by the river, and later learned about the story of the bacha posh, a cultural practice in Afghanistan and Pakistan. She also tells us about her marriage to a transgender male.

TEACHING TIPS: Teaching this novel opens up the opportunity to research different legends, traditions, and cultural practices in relation to gender plurality and sexuality. For example, recent stories from India and Mexico about cultures that have embraced a third gender have come to light.  The author’s page offers several links on interviews, music, and essays written about transgender awareness. As a pre-reading activity, teachers can also hold discussions about legends like La Llorona, children’s folk ghost stories, and the differences and similarities between curanderos/healers and witches. Further research into McLemore’s use of colors, scents, and other sensory descriptions can open up discussions about culture, mood, place, and magical realism.

Anna-Marie McLemoreABOUT THE AUTHOR: Anna-Marie McLemore was born in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, raised in the same town as the world’s largest wisteria vine, and taught by her family to hear la llorona in the Santa Ana winds. She is a Lambda Literary Fellow, and her work has been featured by The Portland Review, Camara Oscura, and the Huntington—USC Institute on California and the West. Her debut novel The Weight of Feathers was a Junior Library Guild Selection, a YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults book, and a William C. Morris YA Debut Award Finalist. When the Moon Was Ours is her second novel. 

 

 

 

headshot2016ABOUT THE REVIEWER: Elena Foulis has a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies from the University of Arkansas. Her research and teaching interests include U.S. Latina/o literature, and Digital Oral History. She is currently working on a digital oral history collection about Latin@s in Ohio, which has been published as an eBook titled, Latin@ Stories Across Ohio. She currently lives in Cleveland, Ohio.

¡Felicidades! to the 2017 ALA Youth Media Award Winners and Honor Books

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Congratulations to the authors and illustrators who were honored at the American Library Association’s Midwinter conference! The Caldecott Medal and Coretta Scott King (Illustrator) Award went to Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, written and illustrated by Javaka Steptoe. It’s a heartfelt and vibrant picture book biography about the childhood and life of Puerto Rican-Haitian American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat.

The newest Pura Belpré Awards went to Juana Medina for her book Juana and Lucas and Raúl the Third for his illustrations in Lowriders: to the Center of the Earth.

Click here for an inside look at Juana Medina’s studio.

And click here for more information about Juana, the author-illustrator.

But, wait…there’s more….

Click here for a review of the first Lowriders book.

And click here for a super-cool audio interview of Raúl by author-illustrator Robert Trujillo.

Here are the winners and honor books by/for/about Latinxs. Click on the covers for more information:

The Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children and the Coretta Scott King (Illustrator) Book Award went to:

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Pura Belpré Award (Author) honoring Latino authors whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience:

Winner:

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Honor book:

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Pura Belpré Award (Illustrator) honoring a Latino writer and illustrator whose children’s books best portray, affirm, and celebrate the Latino cultural experience.

Winner:

Image result for lowriders to the center of the earth

Honor Books:

28818354  28186139

Andrew Carnegie Medal for excellence in children’s video

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Stonewall Award Honor Books included:

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Alex Awards for the 10 best adult books that appeal to teen audiences. The list included:

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Del inglés al español: entrevista con Teresa Mlawer

 

Readers, this is a first for us–a complete article in Spanish! We are delighted to present this guest post, an interview with the translator Teresa Mlawer, originally published on the blog Lapl en español, a service of the Los Angeles Public Library. We are reprinting it with their permission. 

blog-post-cover-teresa-mlawerby Patricia Tarango, Multilingual Collections Librarian, Los Angeles Public Library

Introduction: A recipient of the nation’s highest honor for library service—the National Medal from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the Los Angeles Public Library serves the largest and most diverse urban population of any library in the nation. Its Central Library, 72 branch libraries, collection of more than 6 million books, state-of-the-art technology accessible at www.lapl.org, and more than 18,000 public programs a year provide everyone with free and easy access to information and the opportunity for lifelong learning. Lapl en español is the Spanish language blog written by library staff.

Del inglés al español: entrevista con Teresa Mlawer

Desde que tradujo Silvestre y la piedrecita mágica en 1980, Teresa Mlawer ha completado más de 500 traducciones de libros del inglés al español. Muchos de los libros que ha traducido son considerados clásicos universales de la literatura infantil y juvenil. Teresa fue pionera en este campo, y hoy continúa haciendo posible que niños tengan acceso a maravillosas historias en su idioma, el español. Tuvimos la dicha y el honor de conversar con Teresa y de preguntarle sobre su experiencia como traductora, editora y experta en libros infantiles.

1 – ¿Qué tan importante ha sido para usted traducir al español libros clásicos como Silvestre y la piedrecita mágicaBuenas noches luna y Donde viven los monstruos?

En 1975 comencé a distribuir libros en español. En aquel entonces, la mayoría de los libros infantiles venían de España, y unos pocos de México y Argentina. Muchos eran libros de autores de esos países o traducciones de otros idiomas, pero no necesariamente de libros publicados en Estados Unidos. Como vendíamos principalmente los libros infantiles a las escuelas, los maestros empezaron a pedir traducciones de libros en inglés como Silvestre y la piedrecita mágicaDonde viven los monstruos y Buenas noches luna. Entonces empezamos a publicar algunos libros bajo el sello de Lectorum y a recomendarles a las editoriales americanas que publicaran ediciones en español de sus clásicos. Fue así como muchas editoriales americanas me contrataron para que yo hiciera estas traducciones.

Por ejemplo, traducciones como Buenas noches lunaHarold y el lápiz color morado y Donde viven los monstruos, las hice para HarperCollins. Cuando no lograba que las editoriales de Estados Unidos publicaran ediciones en español de sus libros, le recomendaba los libros a las editoriales españolas con miras a vender en este mercado y muchas empezaron a aceptar mis sugerencias, ya que era importante que los niños hispanohablantes pudieran leer traducciones al español de algunos de estos magníficos libros que sus compañeros de clase podían leer y disfrutar de su lectura en inglés. Esto tuvo una gran aceptación en los años 80 cuando la educación bilingüe tuvo un gran auge, especialmente en California.

De hecho, casi todos los libros en español que yo le recomendé a HarperCollins siguen en prensa después de más de 25 años. Son clásicos que nunca mueren.

2 – ¿Cuál es su proceso para traducir un libro en español? ¿Cómo decide cuál es el vocabulario indicado?

Cuando yo traduzco para editoriales norteamericanas o para una editorial mexicana, uso un vocabulario neutral, del español de Latinoamérica. Un vocabulario neutral que lo entienda todo el mundo. Sin embargo, si traduzco una historia que tiene lugar, por ejemplo, en la República Dominicana o que tiene lugar en Puerto Rico, y hay alguna palabra que es indígena de ese país, la utilizo porque considero que es importante respetar la voz del autor y el vocablo de ese país.

teresa-mlawer-y-meg-medina-reforma

3 – Yo leí uno de los blogs de Meg Medina y ella dijo como le gustó que usted fuera la traductora de su libro Mango, abuela y yo, porque usted le puso el sabor indicado al dialecto de Cuba.

Exactamente. A eso es lo que me refería anteriormente. Lo mismo sucedió cuando hice la traducción de Yaqui Delgado quiere darte una paliza porque en esta historia hay varias voces. Voces cubanas, puertorriqueñas, voces dominicanas. A Meg Medina le gustó mucho, por ejemplo, que en el libro de Mango, abuela y yo en lugar de usar la palabra cajones (común en México), elegí la palabra gavetas (común en Cuba) para traducir la palabra “drawers”. La voz de Meg, aunque universal es cubana, y especialmente en esta historia. Por encima de todo, yo siempre respecto la voz del autor/autora en mis traducciones.

Acabo de traducir el libro que ganó el premio Newbery este año, Última parada de la calle Market (Last Stop on Market Street), publicado por Corimbo, en España. Soy muy cuidadosa y tuve un par de dudas al traducir unas partes del libro. Como conozco a Matt de la Peña le escribí y le pregunté: Matt, tengo un problema. No estoy segura si interpreto bien lo que tú tratas de decir. ¿Me puedes ayudar? Era una cosa muy sencilla y todavía me pregunto ¿cómo pude haber sido tan tonta? En una de las páginas, el niño se sube al autobús con la abuela. Entonces, la abuela le dice al niño: “Boy, what do we need a car for? We got a bus that breathes fire”. Y yo me preguntaba ¿cómo yo voy a traducir eso? ¿Cómo que el autobús echa fuego?

last-stop-on-market-street-interior2Llamé a Matt y él me dijo: “abre el libro y mira las ilustraciones con cuidado”. Abro el libro y miro el dibujo de la página y no veo que el autobús eche fuego. Entonces le dije: Lo siento Matt, pero no veo nada y Matt me contestó: “Teresa, mira al dragón que echa fuego”. Caigo en cuenta y le pregunto: Matt ¿crees que debo especificar que el autobús tiene un dragón pintado en un costado? Pero él me dijo: “No, no Teresa, los niños ven las cosas que no vemos los adultos y se darán cuenta de que se refiere al dibujo del dragón, y verán el fuego que sale de su boca.”

Para mí fue un libro muy especial de traducir porque es muy sencillo pero muy poético. Con pocas palabras Matt descubre todo un mundo en este libro.

Una traducción que me dio mucho trabajo fue la de Yaqui Delgado quiere darte una paliza porque Meg Medina tiene el don de la palabra y expresar sus palabras en otro idioma y a la vez mantener la fuerza que encierran sus palabras fue definitivamente un reto para mí. Meg me envió una carta que una profesora de una universidad que enseña un curso de traducción le escribió. En la carta, la profesora decía que había encontrado la traducción tan buena que la iba a usar en clase para que sus estudiantes examinaran este trabajo de traducción a fondo. Eso fue muy halagador.

Otra traducción que nos dio bastante trabajo fue la traducción de El Gato ensombrerado (The Cat in the Hat) de Dr. Seuss, que hice en colaboración con Georgina Lázaro. En este libro mantuvimos no solo la rima sino la métrica que es muy importante especialmente en las obras de Dr. Seuss. Traducir los libros con rima no es nada fácil. Hay quien traduce los libros con rima y no le presta atención a la métrica, o sea, el número de sílabas de cada estrofa, lo cual es muy importante en la rima. Esto es algo que aprendí de mi buena amiga y colega Georgina Lázaro. Ambas estamos muy orgullosas del resultado de nuestra colaboración.

Debo hacer hincapié que toda persona que escribe o traduce necesita la ayuda de un buen editor y corrector de pruebas. Yo personalmente nunca he publicado un libro o una traducción que no haya sido revisada antes. En España tengo una editora que tiene un gran dominio de la gramática, y ella revisa todas mis traducciones.

 4 – ¿Qué tan importante es la diversidad cultural en los libros para niños?

Esa respuesta la conoces tú mejor que nadie. Yo creo que es muy importante que los niños se vean reflejados en los libros. Todavía queda mucho camino por recorrer, pero creo que hemos avanzado un poco y que honestamente las editoriales norteamericanas están poniendo de su parte para que haya más diversidad en los libros que publican. Pero también tenemos que pensar, que con tantos millones de hispanos en este país, es un número reducido de escritores que escriben literatura infantil y juvenil. Necesitamos que más autores latinos escriban para niños.

5 – En su opinión ¿qué importancia tienen los libros bilingües en Estados Unidos y especialmente en una ciudad como Los Ángeles?

Existen muchas opiniones al respecto, pero yo te voy a dar mi opinión personal, basada en lo que yo he podido observar en el mercado durante todos estos años. Hay mucho interés por parte de los editores, de los bibliotecarios y de las librerías porque se publiquen más libros bilingües. Ahora, cuando yo hago una traducción de un libro que es bilingüe, de alguna forma, al tratar de seguir el texto lo más fielmente posible, uno de los dos idiomas no fluye natural. Por eso yo personalmente prefiero dos ediciones separadas: una en inglés y otra en español. Aunque no dejo de ver las ventajas de algunos libros, como poco texto, en ambos idiomas.

Es importante que cualquier libro bilingüe sea escrito por un autor que domine ambos idiomas. Si esto no es posible, se debe contratar a un traductor para el español o el inglés cuya lengua materna sea a la que va a traducir. Hay que respetar ambos idiomas: el inglés y el español y que ambos sean totalmente correctos y que fluyan bien.

6 – ¿Está trabajando en algunas traducciones ahora?

Traduje hace poco la historia Esperando (Waiting) de Kevin Henkes. También acabo de terminar la traducción al español de Ladder to the Moon (Escalera a la Luna) que escribió hace ya algún tiempo la hermana de Barack Obama y que fue ilustrado por la increíble ilustradora Yuyi Morales.

También recientemente traduje un libro que me encantó. Un libro que tiene rima, métrica y un mensaje muy especial, El pez pucheros (The Pout-Pout Fish). Traducir este ingenioso libro, lograr la rima, la métrica y el mensaje de la autora, me tomó mucho tiempo, pero quedé muy complacida con el resultado final.

7 – ¿Hay algún libro (o libros) que le recuerde su infancia o que a usted le haya impactado?

Un libro que me impactó mucho y que traduje hace 25 años fue Los cien vestidos (The Hundred Dresses). Cada vez que pienso en la historia o la leo, me entran ganas de llorar. Otro libro que también me impacto mucho fue Sadako y las mil grullas de papel (Sadako and The Thousand Paper Cranes).

8- ¿Qué le diría usted a los padres, maestros y tutores para motivarlos a inculcar en los niños el amor por la lectura y la importancia de que mantengan el idioma suyo o de sus padres mediante la lectura de buenos libros en español?

Yo creo que los maestros y los bibliotecarios son los mejores promotores de la literatura infantil y de que los niños lean. Sé que es importante que los niños aprendan inglés y que lean en inglés, pero también es importante que no pierdan su idioma, o el de sus padres o abuelos. Es importante que los niños se sientan orgullosos de sus raíces. Yo llevo 56 años en Estados Unidos y aprendí inglés, pero cada vez mi español es mejor porque hago uso del español constantemente.

Yo creo que el trabajo comienza desde el hogar. Cuando yo era pequeña, mis padres siempre el Día de Reyes me dejaban juguetes, pero también me dejaban libros, dejando bien claro la importancia que para ellos tenían los libros en casa. Mi madre trabajó en una librería antes de casarse y el amor por los libros y la lectura nos lo inculcó desde pequeñas a mi hermana y a mí. Los padres son los primeros maestros de sus hijos y de ellos los niños aprenden con el ejemplo. Hay que darle a los libros y a la lectura la importancia que merecen en el hogar.

Lista de librosDel inglés al español: libros traducidos por Teresa Mlawer

Book Review: The Smoking Mirror by David Bowles

Reviewed by Cris Rhodes

the-smoking-mirror DESCRIPTION FROM THE BOOK JACKET: Carol and Johnny Garza are 12-year-old twins whose lives in a small Texas town are forever changed by their mother’s unexplained disappearance. Shipped off to relatives in Mexico by their grieving father, the twins learn that their mother is a nagual, a shapeshifter, and that they have inherited her powers. In order to rescue her, they will have to descend into the Aztec underworld and face the dangers that await them.

MY TWO CENTS: David Bowles’s Pura Belpré honor book, The Smoking Mirror, is a fast-paced, masterful journey through Aztec mythology and pre-Columbian Mexican history. Bowles, who was inspired to create a fantasy novel in the tradition of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson that featured a Latinx protagonist, weaves a captivating story of epic proportions, all framed by familial love. (For more from Bowles, see his guest post.) Moreover, though this is a diverse book with two Latinx protagonists, their Mexican heritage is important insofar as it provides the ethos for the setting of the text, but this is not a story about race or ethnicity and it is all the better for that. Bowles instead focuses on the supernatural elements of his source material and the hero journeys of his twin protagonists. The book is a quick read, full of page-turning action, which will intrigue even the most reluctant reader. Additionally, because it has both a male and female protagonist in twins Johnny and Carol, it should appeal to boys and girls. The Smoking Mirror, like many middle-grade books, has shorter chapters that maintain the pace of the narrative and keep readers constantly engaged without seeming overwhelming.

While Johnny and Carol’s journey through Mictlan is riveting, I was most captivated by Bowles’s exploration of their relationship, particularly of their twin connection. As a twin myself, I am always uncertain if an author will be able to capture the unique bond we feel, and Bowles does so in spades. This is not the tired good-twin/bad-twin nonsense that pervades literature and media. Bowles is sure to individualize both Johnny and Carol, and they are depicted as complex characters with strengths and flaws that set them apart from each other; in fact, their differences improve their relationship as the text unfolds. Johnny and Carol begin the story having grown apart following their mother’s mysterious disappearance. But when their father sends them to stay with their family in Monterrey, México, they must rely on each other in a new environment. When they both discover that they are naguales, or shapeshifters with special magic, their bond is cemented and they begin their journey to Mictlan to rescue their mother from Texcatlipoca, the god of destruction. Likewise, as naguales, Johnny and Carol share an intimate psychic connection, which they use to communicate telepathically. Their internal connection comes in handy as they journey through Mictlan, where they must constantly save each other. In these moments, they realize that their differences do not separate them, rather that they are complementary, and by the end of the text, Johnny even tells Carol, “‘you are my balance’” (198).

The backdrop for Johnny and Carol’s quest to save their mother is a richly populated mythological world full of terrifying creatures and powerful deities. By his own admission, Bowles mixes Aztec and Mayan mythologies to create his Mictlan. The result is an expansive, multilayered underworld that rivals Dante’s Inferno. Bowles, a scholar and professor at the University of Texas – Rio Grande Valley, has also done translation work from multiple languages, including Nahuatl, the language spoken by many Mesoamerican indigenous peoples. It is obvious, then, that Bowles knows his source material. However, my only complaint with this text is the difficulty involved in keeping track of all of the Aztec- and Mayan-inspired beings that Johnny and Carol encounter, due to the similarity and/or complexity of their names. Because I’ve studied pre-Columbian, Central American literature (though certainly not as extensively as Bowles), I consider myself to be familiar with Aztec mythology/history; yet, I was confused in multiple places throughout the text. Bowles does include a thorough glossary and pronunciation guide, which I frequently needed to consult, but for a book that is so fast-paced, this disrupted the reading process. For the uninitiated reader, this could be a barrier to feeling fully immersed in the text.

Ultimately, I was riveted by Johnny and Carol’s impassioned search for their mother. Even when I was confused by the terminology, this book continued to be un-put-down-able. Bowles makes his characters feel real, and I became deeply invested in their story. From the snappy dialogue, infused with Spanish words and phrases, to the intricate world-building, Bowles keeps his reader’s attention from beginning to end. Now I’m itching to get my hands on A Kingdom Beneath the Waves, which was published in 2016, as well as the other three books in the series, forthcoming in 2017, 2019, and 2021.

TEACHING TIPS: Bowles’s website  has a fairly extensive teaching guide for The Smoking Mirror, including information on his Aztec and Mayan source material. This information would be particularly relevant to a social studies or literature unit on mythology, as it broadens the scope of ancient mythologies beyond Greco-Roman perspectives. This book would also suit language arts lessons that explore the hero’s journey or other themes and images in canonical texts like The Odyssey. Students could compare the trajectory of the journey in both texts or examine the character types—hero, mentor, guardian, etc. This question becomes further complicated by Bowles’s twin protagonists: could both Johnny and Carol be the “hero” of the text? Why or why not? Or, for a more creative lesson, students familiar with mythology might be encouraged to create their own mythological world, drawing on preexisting myths and legends, just as Bowles does. Regardless, The Smoking Mirror is a valuable addition to any classroom or school library.

David BowlesABOUT THE AUTHOR: A product of an ethnically diverse family with Latino roots, David Bowles has lived most of his life in the Río Grande Valley of south Texas. A recipient of awards from the American Library Association, the Texas Institute of Letters, and the Texas Associated Press, he has written several books, most notably the Pura Belpré Honoree The Smoking Mirror. His work has also been published in venues such as BorderSenses, Strange Horizons, Apex Magazine, Stupefying Stories, Asymptote, Translation Review, Huizache, Metamorphoses and Rattle.

 

CrisRhodesABOUT THE REVIEWER: Cris Rhodes is a doctoral student at Texas A&M University – Commerce. She received a M.A. in English with an emphasis in borderlands literature and culture from Texas A&M – Corpus Christi, and a B.A. in English with a minor in children’s literature from Longwood University in her home state of Virginia. Cris recently completed a Master’s thesis project on the construction of identity in Chicana young adult literature.