Review: The Sarai Books by Sarai Gonzalez and Monica Brown, illus. by Christine Almeda

 

Review by Emily R. Aguiló-Pérez

In the past year I have been immersed in numerous early readers and transitional chapter books as part of a research project that examines representations of Latinx characters in these kinds of texts. The Sarai book series has been one of my favorites to read!

While the short format of early readers and chapter books can sometimes limit how much character development and details authors can offer, the Sarai books don’t fall short on these aspects. Sarai is free spirited, caring, creative, confident, and as a reader I got to know her personality (and her sisters’ personalities as well) through her interactions with others and her many ventures.

The following are reviews for books 2, 3, and 4 of the series. Read our review of Sarai and the Meaning of Awesome (Sarai Book #1). All books in the series are now available in Spanish as Saraí #1: Saraí y el Significado de lo Genial, Saraí #2: Saraí en Primer Plano, Saraí #3: Saraí Salva la música, and Saraí #4: Saraí y la Feria Alrededor del Mundo.

 

Sarai in the Spotlight (Sarai Book #2)

DESCRIPTION OF THE BOOK: When Sarai’s best friend suddenly moves away, Sarai has to navigate school – and the unfriendly girls in the cafeteria – all by herself. Then, new girl Christina moves to town and the teacher volunteers Sarai to show her around. But Sarai thinks Christina is not at all like her–she never wants to play at recess, she’s always got her head in a notebook, and she’s so shy! But when Christina writes Sarai a spoken-word poem for her to recite at the class talent show, Sarai learns that sometimes winning teams are made from unlikely pairs!

MY TWO CENTS: Sarai’s awesomeness continues in this second installment of the series. Her affirmation of being awesome continues in this book, especially when she shares with her family that some of the girls in her class bother her during recess (38). This demonstration of confidence continues when she stands up for herself during an incident with the same group of girls, doing so without putting anyone down. And that is the beauty of Sarai’s proclamations of confidence: they highlight how awesome she is and feels without making anyone else feel bad about themselves. Further, she also shows a little bit of self-doubt, which is to be expected of a child growing up. She is finding herself and becoming her own person.

This book focuses on how Sarai deals with her best friend moving away and then how she slowly befriends the new girl, Christina. They don’t have many things in common yet, which makes Sarai miss her friend Isa. However, Sarai is respectful about their differences and open to learning more about her new friend. As a result, they collaborate for the school’s talent show, creating together a wonderful performance.

Sarai’s blossoming friendship with Christina is as delightful to witness as her relationship with her sisters, Josie and Lucía. As she explains, they might sometimes fight and disagree, but they all stick up for each other. Each sister has a distinct personality, and we learn little bits about them throughout the story. For example, we learn that Lucía has a little bit of a temper, (11), and is also very empathetic: “Lucía used to have her own cafeteria card, but she kept buying food for everyone who she thought didn’t have enough money to eat…” (16). We also continue to learn about Josie, who attends a different school from her sisters, wears cochlear implants, and communicates through a combination of signs and words. The sisters — along with their cousins Juju, Javier, and Jade — are part of the Super Awesome Sister-Cousin Fun Club, where they come up with awesome ideas.

With so many fun activities happening in Sarai in the Spotlight (like the kids’ game of Rainbow Art Paint Tag) and all the relatable experiences Sarai goes through, readers will definitely enjoy this second book in the series.

TEACHING TIPS: Because this book introduces a new character, there is a good use of descriptions that help readers get to know her. In addition, readers learn more about Sarai, her sister, and her friend Isa. Teachers, then, can use the book to teach about character development through descriptions. Students can create profiles for the different characters in the book and then they could create and develop their own characters.

 

Sarai Saves the Music (Sarai Book #3)

DESCRIPTION OF THE BOOK: They’re cutting funding at Sarai’s school and her band program is the first to go. That is totally not okay with Sarai. She decides to organize a benefit concert to raise money! When she and her bandmates promote the concert on their video channel, it catches the attention of Sarai’s favorite singer, Sparkles Sanchez! Can Sarai save the music?

MY TWO CENTS: I have to admit that, while I enjoyed all four books in the Sarai series,  this one is my absolute favorite! In the third installment of the series, we witness how Sarai and Christina’s friendship continues to grow, as they support and empower one another. When some of the girls at school keep teasing Sarai, Christina suggests that they are jealous because Sarai is “so smart, and because you’re you!” (11).  Equally helpful are Sarai’s neighbors and family, who continue to support the kids’ many ventures. This is particularly evident when everyone bands together to help Sarai help save her school’s music program.

It is this aspect that makes this book especially poignant. For one, it depicts the precarious state of the U.S. education system, where programs are being cut and teachers are losing their jobs. When Ms. Cruz — Sarai’s music teacher– shares the news with the class that the school district is cutting the funds for elementary music programs, students are understandably upset. More so, they are worried about what this means for their teacher. When Sarai asks Ms. Cruz if she will lose her job, the teacher can’t help but cry. This takes Sarai and the students aback, as they have “never seen a teacher cry before” and they “feel worried” (36). I truly appreciate the honesty from both Ms. Cruz and the students that is depicted here. Often, teachers are not encouraged to show vulnerability, even when their livelihood might be in danger, so Ms. Cruz’s moment of honesty with her students allows them to understand her situation better– and in turn, readers can better understand the realities many of their own schools and their own educators might be facing.

“Isn’t there anything we can do? Fundraise? Protest? Sign petitions?” Sarai asks, as the students try to figure out what they can do to save the music program and Ms. Cruz’s job (36). Sarai, always having something up her sleeve, mobilizes her classmates, her family, and her community to effect some change. Through her new venture, Sarai’s Garage Chat, a TV show she records with her sisters and cousins from their own garage, Sarai and her classmates are able to spread the word about the benefit concert they are organizing. It is important to note that Sarai takes action and mobilizes, but she creates a community and involves them. It is not a solo project. Everything is motivated and planned by the kids, and the adults are there to support them. One of the most moving moments in this book takes place when students are recording their plea to the community to attend their benefit and donate to the music program: each child made an argument about why music programs are so crucial.

In addition to its depiction of activism and empathy, this book continues showing readers all the awesome personalities in Sarai’s group of friends and family. There is something with which readers can connect– whether it is the games and fun ideas Sarai and her family come up with or her obsession with Stephanie Sparkles Sanchez (who gave me major Selena Quintanilla vibes and I loved it!). Through her contagious upbeat personality, Sarai is following her musical idol’s advice to “Spread the Sparkle!”

TEACHING TIPS: Teachers can use this early chapter book to discuss how the students in Sarai’s school worked together to try to solve a problem and could ask students to identify an issue in their school or community they would like to address. They could propose ideas and consider what steps they would need to take toward making improvements. Teachers can also use this book to focus on argument writing; as each student in Sarai’s class makes an argument for saving the music program, they put into practice appeals to logic and emotion.

 

Sarai and the Around the World Fair (Sarai Book #4)

DESCRIPTION OF THE BOOK: When Sarai outgrows her bike, she worries she’ll never get to travel anywhere. But when Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary hosts their first Around the World Fair, Sarai learns that with a little imagination you can go anywhere you want!

MY TWO CENTS: In this fourth installment there is no “big problem” that Sarai needs to or wants to solve. Rather, we continue to see her character development, getting to know her and her family. Mainly, Sarai’s empathy and understanding of her family’s needs come through again. This time, she has been eyeing a bicycle, yet Sarai understands her parents’ financial struggles and doesn’t ask for expensive things, including the new bike she really wants. Her inventive and resourceful Tata — her grandfather — however, decides to fix an old bike for Sarai. And though she is reluctant at first, not sure what the end product would be, Sarai ultimately enjoys helping her Tata fix the old bike and appreciates how great it turns out to be.

I found her reluctance to be relatable and so important to include. She is such a positive and upbeat character, and a wonderful role model for children, but I also appreciated that we get to see Sarai upset. Seeing a range of emotions (like frustrations and being upset) can be helpful for young readers, and it is especially important to show them that it is okay to feel upset and then demonstrate how they can deal with their different emotions. After Sarai has some time to work through her frustrations with Tata and the old bike he is trying to fix, she apologizes to him, and Tata apologizes to her as well.  This exchange not only shows that she is human– experiencing and expressing a range of emotions– but it also shows that adults need to understand what children are experiencing and show them they matter.

At school, Sarai must decide what country to research and present at the Around the World Fair. Embracing her parents’ two countries — Peru and Costa Rica — she would love to feature both. She decides to do some “research to make an informed decision” (42). Funny as she is, Sarai, after doing some research, tells her friend Christina that one day, when they are “really old, like twenty” they could travel to Ireland, Peru, and Costa Rica, where their families are from. In the end, Sarai is able to present on her chosen country (I won’t tell you which one). At the end of the book, readers will find a recipe and a step-by-step guide for making empanadas, like the ones she shares at the fair.

This fourth, and hopefully not the last, book in the series is truly delightful!

 

Sarai GonzalezABOUT THE AUTHORS: Sarai Gonzalez became an overnight sensation after appearing in Bomba Estero’s, “Soy Yo,” a music video about embracing yourself and loving your flaws. The video garnered over 75million views and The New York Times called Sarai a Latina icon. Sarai and the Meaning of Awesome is the first book in her new chapter book series inspired by her life. Sarai is now 13 years old and lives in New Jersey with her family.

 

monica6Monica Brown is the award-winning author of super awesome books for children, including the Lola Levine chapter book series, Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match/no combina, Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos, and Waiting for the Biblioburro. She is a professor of English at Northern Arizona University, specializing in Latinx and African American Literature. She lives in Flagstaff, Arizona, with her husband and her dogs, Lola and Finn. Visit her at www.monicabrown.net.

 

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ABOUT THE ILLUSTRATOR: Christine Almeda is a Filipino-American freelance illustrator from NJ / NYC. She graduated from Montclair State University, earning a BFA and an Award for Excellence in Animation & Illustration, focusing on children’s media. She believes in the power of storytelling and that art has the ability to make life a little more beautiful. You can learn more about her work at https://www.christinealmeda.com/about.

 

 

 

headshotABOUT THE REVIEWER: Emily R. Aguiló-Pérez is an Assistant Professor of English (Children’s Literature) at West Chester University of Pennsylvania.  Her teaching and research are in the areas of children’s literature (particularly Latinx literature), girlhood studies, and children’s cultures. Her published work has focused on girlhood as represented in literature and Puerto Rican girls’ identity formation with Barbie dolls. She has presented research on Latinx children’s books at various conferences and has served on children’s book award committees such as the 2017 Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award and the 2018 Pura Belpré Award. Currently, she is part of the Pennsylvania Center for the Book’s “A Baker’s Dozen” committee.

 

 

Book Review: My Shoes and I: Crossing Three Borders by René Colato Laínez, illus by Fabricio Vanden Broeck

 

Review by Sanjuana Rodriguez

DESCRIPTION OF THE BOOK: Young René’s mother has sent him a new pair of shoes from the United States. He loves his new shoes. “They walk everywhere I walk. They jump every time I jump. They run as fast as me. We always cross the finish line at the same time.”

René—with his new shoes—and his father set off on the long journey to meet his mother in the United States. He says goodbye to his friends in El Salvador, and “Uno, dos, tres, my shoes and I are ready to go.” The trip is difficult. They take buses and walk across El Salvador, into Guatemala and then into Mexico. His brand-new shoes lose their shine, turning dirty and gray. They become elephants, pushing against the wind; race cars, fleeing hungry dogs; swim shoes, escaping floods; and submarines, navigating through sticky mud. When holes appear on the soles of his shoes, his father won’t let him give up. “René, my strong boy, we want to be with Mamá.”

Sharing his own experiences, René Colato Laínez’s moving bilingual picture book brings to life the experiences of many young children who make the arduous journey from Central America to the United States in search of a better life.

MY TWO CENTS: This picture book was inspired by the author’s own journey as a child. This book is very similar to his book My Shoes and I (2010), but different in that it is a bilingual book and is the author’s journey as he crossed borders as a child. The English text in this book has been modified, and the Spanish version has been added. The text is simpler and intended for young readers. The book begins when, for Christmas, René receives a pair of shoes from his mother, who lives in the U.S. The book details the journey that René and his father take by focusing on what the shoes go through in traveling across three countries.

The book does not overtly describe the dangers in crossing borders, but there are some instances where hardships are described. One example of this is when René describes having to live in a dark trailer because his father loses his wallet in Mexico City. Another example is when they are crossing the Mexico/U.S. border and René states that the water comes up to this stomach and then to his shoulders. René and his father travel through El Salvador, Mexico, and finally cross the border into the U.S. where his mother is waiting.

The focus on the shoes throughout the book allows the author to tell about the journey, but not go into the arduous, dangerous details. The resiliency of the young boy is shown throughout the book as he continues his journey to be with his mother. In one case, Papá encourages him, “René, my strong boy, we want to be with Mamá. We won’t give up” (n.p.).

This book would be a great addition to a classroom unit about immigration. It specifically focuses on the border crossings and the long journey that families embark on to search for a new life. The book also addresses the desire that families have to be together and the dangers that families endure in search of a better life. The reprint of this book is timely as immigration, border crossings, and the journeys that children embark on continue to be scarce in children’s literature.

The author’s note at the end of the book tells the reader that this story is actually based on his life. René Colato Laínez shares some of the details that inspired him to write the book, such as the fact that this mother sent him a pair of shoes for his journey. The author also shares that, along with his father, they had to leave El Salvador due to the civil war in that country. At the end, René shares that he wrote this book to “tell readers about the hard journey that immigrant children and families face. They are escaping from violence and crime. Their journey is not a choice but a necessity to look for a better place, where they can accomplish their dreams”

INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR: I reached out to the author via social media to see if he would answer some questions about the book. Here are René’s responses to my questions:

This book is very similar to your wonderful book My Shoes and I. How is this one different?

René: My Shoes and I: Crossing Three Borders/ Mis zapatos y yo: Cruzando tres fronteras is a new edition of My Shoes and I. For this edition, the English text has been modified to have a bilingual version. The original text was longer, and, in order to have the English and the Spanish text on the same page, I did some edits. In My Shoes and I, the name of the boy is Mario. In this bilingual edition, I could use my name. The name of the protagonist is René.

Why is it important for you to tell your story?

René: Many children cross borders around the world everyday. They are escaping war, crime, or violence. It is hard to leave a country and your loved ones. As an author who had to cross borders, I want to give voice to the voiceless. I also want to tell readers that their journey is not a choice, but a necessity.

Many teachers shy away from having discussions focused on what are perceived as “difficult” topics. Why is it important for teachers to discuss issues such as immigration in the classroom?

René: In the news, children watch about numbers and politics, but they also need to know about real experiences. I think that children’s books are great for children to see what is beyond their windows and horizons. By telling children about immigration and other hard topics, we can build empathy in our children.

Please share anything else that you would like others to know about your new book?

René: I am so happy that this book is back in print and now it is bilingual. I hope that this book can touch the hearts of many readers.

RESOURCES: 

Teachers can visit the website below for information about the book

https://myshoesandi.weebly.com

PictureABOUT THE AUTHOR (from his website): I am René Colato Laínez, the Salvadoran award winning author of many bilingual/ multicultural children’s books. I have  a master’s degree from  Vermont College of Fine Arts in Writing for  Children & Young  Adults.

My goal as a writer is to produce good multicultural children’s literature; stories where minority children are portrayed in a positive way, where they can see themselves as heroes, and where they can dream and have hopes for the future. I want to write authentic stories of Latin American children living in the United States. Do you want to know more about me? Please read my long biography.

 

 

ABOUT THE REVIEWER: Sanjuana C. Rodriguez is an Assistant Professor of Literacy and Reading Education in the Elementary and Early Childhood Department at Kennesaw State University. Her research interests include the early literacy development of culturally and linguistically diverse students, early writing development, literacy development of students who are emergent bilinguals, and Latinx children’s literature. She has published in journals such as Journal of Language and Literacy Education, Language Arts, and Language Arts Journal of Michigan.

Book Review: My Papi Has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero, illus by Zeke Peña

 

Review by Emily R. Aguiló-Pérez

DESCRIPTION OF THE BOOK: When Daisy Ramona zooms around her neighborhood with Papi on his motorcycle, she sees the people and places she’s always known: the tortillería!, Abuelita’s church!, Franky, the barking Labradoodle! She also sees a community that is changing around her. But as Daisy and her papi reach the homestretch, the purple, blue, and gold sky glowing behind them, she knows that some things, like the love from her papi and family, will never change. With vivid illustrations and text bursting with heart, My Papi Has a Motorcycle is a young girl’s love letter to her hardworking dad and to the feeling of home we always carry with us.

The book is also available in Spanish as Mi papi tiene una moto.

MY TWO CENTS: Through this book, Quintero writes a love letter to her father “who showed [her] different ways of experiencing home” and a love letter to Corona, California, “a city that will always be a part of [her]” (Author’s note). The book begins with Daisy reading a book as she waits for her father to come home and take her on a ride around the city on his motorcycle. A wonderful feast to the eyes on this first page is the intertextuality that illustrator Zeke Peña provides: the book Daisy is reading is Lowriders to the Center of the Earth (written by Cathy Camper and illustrated by Raul the Third). It is a small, yet delightful, nod for readers who are familiar with the book series.

As the duo sets off on their journey, they pass many sights that are staples of Daisy’s city. There’s her Abuela’s church, Joy’s Market – where Mami buys Daisy’s gummy bears –, Rocket Repair, and Don Rudy’s Raspados – Daisy’s favorite place for shaved ice, which seems to have closed down. This is a point of concern for Daisy, who notices how disappointed her father is and affirms that she will not be the only one who misses the place. It comes as a happy surprise for her, then, when at the end of her journey that evening Don Rudy comes by with shaved ice, now in a small and portable cart.

Not only does the reader go on a tour of these places that Daisy enjoys, but we also get a glimpse into her life, her family’s life, her neighborhood, and some of the important history about the city. Passing by the murals painted around, Daisy explains their importance: “We roar past murals that tell our history – of citrus groves and immigrants who worked them, and of the famous road race that took place on Grand Boulevard a hundred years ago.”

As they race their way through Grand Boulevard, Daisy imagines being part of the races, the crowd cheering her on. The way Quintero weaves some of the history with Daisy’s daily life and imagination is brilliant, as readers are able to see the city through her eyes – lovingly and full of admiration – and at the same time they learn some of its history, as Daisy learns it, too.

In her author’s note, Quintero explains how the story was inspired by her own childhood in Corona, California. Through her words and Peña’s illustrations, she wanted to honor the immigrant workers, like her grandfather, who did the majority of the hard labor that helped establish the city, and a lot of the U.S. She explains that while the murals [Zeke Peña] created were imagined, the history they depicted was real.” These details, such as the city holding the road race on what is now known as Grand Boulevard, or the fact that Corona was known as the “Lemon Capital of the World” because of all the citrus that was cultivated there, were all present in the journey Daisy takes the reader.

There is so much heart in this book! It is clear how much Daisy loves and admires her papi, whose voice – she says – touches everything, even when everything around them is noisy. It doesn’t matter what else is going on, her father is central in her life. She admires his work as a carpenter, a job that he has had since he first arrived to the country, showing the reader not only his hard work, but how much she appreciates him for spending this sacred time with her even when he comes home really tired.

The language is very literary and the descriptions are vivid. One of my favorite combinations of vivid descriptions in the text and detailed imagery in the illustrations comes from a spread where Daisy describes how she and her dad take off on the motorcycle. She says the shiny blue metal up the motorcycle glows in the sun, making the sky blue and purple and gold. This rich imagery is further enhanced by Peña’s mix of colors and his placement of the duo at the center of a pool of gold, as if they were riding right into the sun. Peña’s use of comics elements like speech bubbles or onomatopoeic graphics like “VROOOOOOOM” when the motorcycle is revving up are a perfect fit for Quintero’s words.

Daisy and her papi’s motorcycle ride around the city is more than just a ride; it is really her life. And no matter how far she goes from the city or how many changes it undergoes, it will always be a part of her. This really shows how important this place is for her and how much of her identity is tied to it. Quintero closes the narrative with Daisy enjoying her shaved ice, sitting with her papi. Lovingly, Daisy thinks about her town and “all the changes it’s been through,” and finds comfort in knowing that in her little house with her family “there are things that will always stay the same.” “Mañana we fly again,” her dad assures her.

TEACHING TIPS: This book makes for a wonderful read aloud for all ages. It would be a strong mentor text for writing, and teachers could focus on:

  • The use of vivid descriptions
  • The importance of setting(s) in a story
  • Characterization

In addition, the book’s detailed illustrations can be great for teaching or developing visual literacy, asking students to explore how the illustrations support the text.

For older readers, the questions Quintero poses in her author’s note can be used for teaching this book. Who are the people who build our cities and form our communities? Who are the people who get streets named after them, and who are the people who lay the asphalt? These could become the basis of individual or collective research projects for students to learn more about their communities.

IsabelQABOUT THE AUTHOR: (from the dust jacket) Isabel Quintero is the daughter of Mexican immigrants. She lives and writes in the Inland Empire of Southern California. Isabel is the author of Gabi, A Girl in Pieces, which received the Morris Award, the Ugly Cat & Pablo chapter book series, and was commissioned to write Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide, which was awarded the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award. One of her favorite memories is riding on the back of her papi’s motorcycle as a little girl.

 

Zeke PenaABOUT THE ILLUSTRATOR: (from the dust jacket) Zeke Peña is a cartoonist and illustrator working on the United States/Mexico frontera in El Paso, Texas. He makes comics to remix history and reclaim stories using satire and humor; resistencia one cartoon at a time. Zeke studied Art History at the University of Texas Austin and is self-taught in digital illustration. The graphic biography he illustrated titled Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide received the 2018 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award.

 

 

 

headshotABOUT THE REVIEWER: Emily R. Aguiló-Pérez is an Assistant Professor of English (Children’s Literature) at West Chester University of Pennsylvania. Her teaching and research are in the areas of children’s literature (particularly Latinx literature), girlhood studies, and children’s cultures. Her published work has focused on girlhood as represented in literature and Puerto Rican girls’ identity formation with Barbie dolls. She has presented research on Latinx children’s books at various conferences and has served on children’s book award committees such as the 2017 Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award and the 2018 Pura Belpré Award. Currently, she is part of the Pennsylvania Center for the Book’s “A Baker’s Dozen” committee.

 

 

May and June 2019 Latinx Book Deals

 

Compiled by Cecilia Cackley

This is a bi-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.

May 2

None.

May 7

Alyson Heller at Aladdin has bought world rights, in a preempt, to Definitely Dominguita: The Knight of the Cape by Terry Catasús Jennings, first in a chapter book series featuring Dominguita Melendez and her adventures inspired by classic stories, starting with Don Quijote. Publication is planned for spring 2021. Author agent: Natalie Lakosil at Bradford Literary Agency.

 

Joan Powers at Candlewick has bought the picture books Lupe Lopez: Rock Star Rules and a sequel, co-written by Pat Zietlow Miller and e.E. Charlton-Trujillo, illustrated by Joe Cepeda. Lupe Lopez is a sunglasses-wearing, drumstick (pencil)-wielding kindergartner whose personal rules differ from school rules—but who finds her way (and her fellow rock stars) with some hard work and creativity. Publication is slated for fall 2021. Author agent: Ammi-Joan Paquette and Erin Murphy at Erin Murphy Literary Agency. Illustrator agent:  Jennifer Rofé at Andrea Brown Literary Agency.

 

Julia Sooy at Henry Holt/Godwin has bought, in a preempt, world rights to Earth! My First 4.54 Billion Years author Stacy McAnulty‘s Brains! Not Just a Zombie Snack, illustrated by Matthew Rivera. The nonfiction picture book is an introduction to the human brain, as told by a (mostly reformed) brain-eating zombie. Publication is planned for spring 2020. Illustrator agent: Andrea Cascardi at Transatlantic Agency.

May 9

Katie Cunningham at Candlewick has bought world rights to David Martin‘s The More the Merrier, with Raissa Figueroa illustrating. The book follows the animals of the forest as they shimmy and shake, dancing their way through the woods as others join in the fun. Publication is scheduled for spring 2021. Illustrator agent: Natascha Morris at BookEnds Literary.

May 14

Stacey Barney at Putnam has acquired Olivia Abtahi‘s YA novel Perfectly Parvin, pitched as an Iranian-American Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging. When Parvin Mohammadi sets out to get Matty Fumero—the cutest boy at school—to ask her to homecoming, she creates a foolproof plan to win him over: 1) Don’t talk so much; 2) Act like the heroines in her favorite rom-coms; 3) Basically be everything she’s not. But a different boy from Farsi class may derail her plans by liking her just as she is. Publication is set for spring 2021. Author agent: Jim McCarthy at Dystel, Goderich & Bourret.

 

Christianne Jones at Capstone has acquired world English rights to Pacho Nacho, a picture book by Silvia López, illustrated by Pablo Pino. Mamá and Papá could not agree on a name for their first baby, so they name him Pacho-Nacho-Nico-Tico-Melo-Felo-Kiko-Rico. But when Pacho finds himself in trouble, his younger brother, Juan, must quickly find help, which isn’t easy when you have to keep saying Pacho-Nacho-Nico-Tico-Melo-Felo-Kiko-Rico. Publication is set for spring 2020. Author agent: Karen Grencik at Red Fox Literary. Illustrator agent: Samantha Groff at Advocate Art.

 

Rebecca Glaser at Amicus Ink has acquired world rights to A Little Round Panda on the Big Blue Earth, written by Tory Christie and illustrated by Luciana Navarro Powell, their second collaboration. The book features ever-widening views that take the reader from close to far away. Publication is scheduled for fall 2020. Illustrator agent:Deborah Warren at East West Literary Agency.

May 16

Lee Wade at Random House/Schwartz & Wade has acquired world rights to The Creature of Habit by YA novelist Jennifer E. Smith, illustrated by Leo Espinosa, a picture book about a lovable creature on the Island of Habit whose daily routine is disrupted when a new creature shows up and turns everything upside down. Publication is slated for fall 2021.

May 21

Susan Rich at Little, Brown has acquired world rights to a debut picture book by Matt Ringler illustrated by Raúl the Third. Strollercoaster! celebrates a temper tantrum ingeniously averted when a father transforms an everyday walk outside into a joyous strollercoaster ride through the neighborhood. Publication is scheduled for spring 2021. Illustrator agent: Jennifer Laughran at Andrea Brown Literary Agency.

May 23

None.

May 28

Bria Ragin at HarperCollins has bought, in a two-book deal, Tami Charles‘s Zuri Ray Tries Ballet, the first in a picture book series about courage, kindness, and being true to yourself. The books star a biracial girl with a big personality and lots of heart. Sharon Sordo will illustrate; publication is slated for summer 2021. Author agent:  Lara Perkins at Andrea Brown Literary Agency.

June 4

None.

June 6

Natashya Wilson at Inkyard has acquired an as-yet untitled YA novel by sisters Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite, in which a teen girl decides to honor the memory of her sister who died in police custody by taking a road trip inspired by her history buff sister’s heirloom copy of the Green Book, the civil rights-era guide to safe traveling for African-Americans. Publication is tentatively set for fall 2020. Author agent: JL Stermer at New Leaf Literary & Media.

June 11

None.

June 13

Carolina Ortiz at HarperCollins has bought world rights to Eisner-nominated author and illustrator Amparo Ortiz and Ronnie Garcia‘s Saving Chupie, a middle grade graphic novel adventure about Violeta Rubio and her friends’ mission to protect their local Chupacabra, set in a recovering town in Puerto Rico. Publication is planned for winter 2022. Author agent: Linda Camacho at Gallt & Zacker Literary Agency. Illustrator agent: Peter Ryan at Stimola Literary Studio.

 

Mabel Hsu at HarperCollins/Tegen has acquired, in a preempt, C.G. Esperanza‘s Boogie Boogie, Y’all. When two kids stop to admire the vibrant graffiti tucked into every corner of their city, the art begins to leap off the wall to boogie with them, in this celebratory ode to graffiti and the Bronx community. Publication is planned for winter 2021. Author agent: Marietta B. Zacker at Gallt & Zacker Literary Agency.

June 18

Alexis Orgera and Chad Reynolds at Penny Candy have acquired world rights to Eunice and Kate by Mariana Llanos. The picture book tells the story of two best friends who learn the value of respecting each other’s dreams. Italian illustrator Elena Napoli will illustrate. The book will be published in spring 2020.

June 20

Brett Duquette at Little Bee has bought world rights to Janet Lawler‘s Kindergarten Hat, illustrated by Geraldine Rodríguez, a picture book in which shy Carlos Abredo is nervous to start his first day of kindergarten until a special teacher brightens his day. Publication is scheduled for summer 2020. Illustrator agent: James Burns at the Bright Agency.

June 25

Eliza Swift at Sourcebooks Jabberwocky has acquired world rights to Shelly Vaughan James’s debut picture book, Fussy Flamingo, illustrated by Matthew Rivera. The comedic tale of a picky eater follows a young flamingo who refuses to eat the shrimp that will make her feathers pink, and instead sneaks away for unauthorized snacks that turn her increasingly ridiculous colors. Publication is set for spring 2020. Illustrator agent: Andrea Cascardi at Transatlantic Agency.

 

 

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

March and April 2019 Latinx Book Deals

 

Compiled by Cecila Cackley

This is a bi-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.

 

March 5

Laura Schreiber at Disney-Hyperion has bought, in a two-book preempt, Daniel Aleman‘s debut YA novel Indivisible. The novel follows a Mexican-American teenage boy whose life is thrown into chaos after his parents, undocumented immigrants, are detained by ICE, leaving him to care for his young sister and fight for his family’s future. The book will publish in fall 2020. Author agent: Pete Knapp at Park & Fine Literary.

March 7

Nick Thomas, when at Scholastic/Levine, bought debut author Donna Barba Higuera‘s middle grade novel Lupe Wong Won’t Dance. When square dancing threatens 12-year-old baseball phenom Lupe’s guaranteed A in PE, she goes to extreme lengths to prevent the American tradition from taking place at her school, all while navigating the complexities of middle school friendships, gender biases, and her own bi-cultural identity. Publication is slated for 2020. Author agent: Allison Remcheck at Stimola Literary Studio.

 

Liza Baker at Scholastic has acquired, in a six-house auction, author Tami Charles‘s You Matter, a picture book celebrating children of color everywhere, and an affirmation of their worth and importance. You Matter will be illustrated by Bryan Collier (Martin’s Big Words); publication is scheduled for fall 2020. A second picture book, Aretha’s Voice, a biography of singer and civil rights activist Aretha Franklin, will follow. Author agent: Lara Perkins at Andrea Brown Literary Agency.

March 12

None.

March 14

Trisha de Guzman at FSG has acquired world rights to Adrianna Cuevas‘s debut middle grade novel, Nestor’s Guide to Unpacking, about a Cuban-American boy named Nestor with a secret ability to speak to animals. Nestor and his mother move to New Haven, Tex., while his father is deployed in Afghanistan, where he must use his ability when the town is threatened by a tule vieja, a witch that transforms into animals. Publication is set for spring 2020. Author agent: Stefanie Sanchez Von Borstel at Full Circle Literary.

 

Emily Feinberg at Roaring Brook has bought world rights to Jackie Azua Kramer‘s (The Green Umbrella) picture book, I Wish You Knew, about empathy in a diverse classroom of young students. Magdalena Mora will illustrate. Publication is planned for winter 2021. Illustrator agent: Steven Malk at Writers House.

March 19

Emily Feinberg at Roaring Brook has acquired world rights to Bye Land, Bye Sea, a bilingual picture book co-authored by Rodolfo Montalvo and René Spencer and illustrated by Montalvo, which tells the story of two children who meet on a deserted island and shows that friendship has no language barriers. The book is slated for winter 2021. Author agent: Joanna Volpe at New Leaf Literary & Media.

 

Louise May at Lee & Low has bought world rights to Monica Brown‘s Digging Up the Past: Peruvian Archaeologist Julio C. Tello, a bilingual picture book biography about the indigenous archaeologist considered the “father” of Peruvian archaeology. Peruvian-American illustrator Elisa Chavarri will provide the artwork. Publication is scheduled in 2020. Author agent: Stefanie Sanchez Von Borstel at Full Circle Literary. Illustrator agent: Claire Easton at Painted Words.

March 21

Kristin Rens at HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray has acquired at auction Chantel Acevedo‘s middle grade debut, Muse Squad: The Cassandra Curse. The first book in a series, the story is centered on Callie Martinez, an 11-year old Cuban-American girl, who discovers she’s one of the nine muses of classical history when she accidentally turns her best friend into a pop star. A Latino International Book Award winner and finalist of the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction, Acevedo is published on the adult side by Europa Editions. Publication is planned for summer 2020. Author agent: Stéphanie Abou at Massie McQuilkin Literary Agents.

March 26

Alyssa Mito Pusey at Charlesbridge has bought world rights to Lia & Luís: More? Mais!, a picture book about siblings Lia and Luís, who love Brazilian snacks but argue over who has more, by Ana Crespo, illustrated by Giovana Medeiros. Publication is scheduled for fall 2020. Author agent: Deborah Warren at East/West Literary Agency. Illustrator agent: Amanda Hendon at Advocate Art.

March 28

None.

April 3

Holly West at Swoon Reads has bought Aiden Thomas‘s YA novel Cemetery Boys, pitched as The Outsiders meets The Road to El Dorado and Coco. A Latinx trans teen boy, hoping to release his cousin’s spirit and prove himself as a brujo, accidentally summons the wrong ghost and ends up falling in love with him. Publication is set for spring 2020. Author agent: Jennifer March Soloway at Andrea Brown Literary Agency.

April 9

Catherine Laudone at Simon & Schuster has acquired The Dream Weaver, an #OwnVoices Latinx middle grade debut by Reina Luz Alegre. In this coming-of-age story, 12-year-old Zoey navigates the tricky waters of friendship and family while searching for a way to save her grandfather’s bowling alley from closing. Publication is scheduled for summer 2020. Author agent: Rebecca Podos at Rees Literary Agency.

 

Nancy Inteli at HarperCollins has bought Planting Stories author Anika Aldamuy Denise‘s tentatively titled Rosita Rising, a biography of EGOT winner Rita Moreno. The book will be illustrated by Pura Belpré Honor-winning artist Leo Espinosa. Publication is set for summer 2021. Author agent: Emily van Beek at Folio Jr./Folio Literary Management.

April 11

Claire Stetzer at Bloomsbury has acquired, at auction, Lilliam Rivera‘s Pheus & Eury, a YA retelling of Orpheus and Eurydice set in the Bronx. Pheus is a bachata-singing dreamer who falls in love with Eury, a girl who lost everything in Hurricane Maria and is haunted by the trauma—and by an evil spirit. Publication is scheduled for fall 2020. Author illustrator: Eddie Schneider at JABberwocky Literary Agency.

April 16

None.

April 18

Nancy Mercado at Dial has acquired author-illustrator Nomar Perez‘s debut picture book, Coqui in the City. In the semi-autobiographical story, a boy and his mother emigrate from Puerto Rico to the U.S. mainland, and discover the importance of welcoming new experiences, while still holding onto their memories and the culture from home. Publication is set for spring 2021. Author agent: Lori Nowicki at Painted Words.

 

Anne Hoppe at Clarion has bought world rights to the picture book Princess, Inc. by Jacob Sager Weinstein, illustrated by Raissa Figueroa. When the king and queen are too busy with frills and sparkles to save the kingdom from a dragon, it’s up to the practical princess to roll up her sleeves and get the job done. Publication is set for fall 2020. Illustrator agent: Natascha Morris at BookEnds Literary Agency.

April 23

Kelsy Thompson at Flux has acquired Maria Ingrande Mora‘s debut LGBTQ+ YA fantasy novel, Fragile Remedy, pitched as The Walled City meets Never Let Me Go. A teen raised as donor tissue for the wealthy and now in hiding finds himself forced to choose between joining a nefarious organization with the means to prolong his life, or staying—and dying—with the boy he loves. Publication is planned for summer 2020. Author agent: Erica Bauman at Aevitas Creative Management.

April 25

Krestyna Lypen at Algonquin Young Readers has bought NBA longlisted author Samantha Mabry‘s new YA novel, Tigers, Not Daughters, loosely inspired by the story of King Lear and his daughters. Set in San Antonio, Tex., the novel follows the three Torres sisters, who are struggling to escape their tyrannical father’s claustrophobic world while dealing with the loss of their eldest sister; her troubling death continues to haunt—perhaps even literally—the loved ones left behind. Publication is scheduled for spring 2020. Author agent: Claire Anderson-Wheeler at Regal Hoffmann and Associates.

April 30

None.

 

cecilia-02-originalCecilia 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

Book Review: Five Midnights by Ann Dávila Cardinal

 

Review by Mimi Rankin

DESCRIPTION OF THE BOOK: Five friends cursed. Five deadly fates. Five nights of retribución.

If Lupe Dávila and Javier Utierre can survive each other’s company, together they can solve a series of grisly murders sweeping though Puerto Rico. But the clues lead them out of the real world and into the realm of myths and legends. And if they want to catch the killer, they’ll have to step into the shadows to see what’s lurking there—murderer, or monster?

MY TWO CENTS: As soon as I read about Five Midnights by Ann Dávila Cardinal (Tor Teen), I was determined to get my hands on a copy. YA horror-crime set in Puerto Rico? Everything about this called my name.

Lupe Dávila is a “Gringa Rican” spending her summer in Puerto Rico, leaving her alcoholic dad in Vermont to explore his homeland on her own for the first time. The niece of the police chief, Lupe finds herself attempting to solve a mysterious murder case when it seems like her missing cousin, Izzy, might be the next victim. One of Izzy’s oldest friends, Javier, is trying to make peace with himself and his sobriety, but when his old pals, Los Congregitos, keep being murdered in gruesome and inexpiable ways, all on their 18th birthdays, he fears as his own draws near. Can Javier and Lupe track down a vicious murderer before it’s too late?

First things first: I could not put this book down. I seriously considered taking a personal day from work to finish it (I tweeted this and both Cardinal and Tor Teen told me I was allowed to). The book combines mythology, crime, and a stark look at addiction, all set in the greater San Juan, Puerto Rico area. Each page sparked a new question in the best way possible. Is El Cuco real? What’s the deal with the ominous abuelita? I was pulled into the stories and backgrounds of the various characters and could not inhale the book quickly enough. The last few chapters felt slightly rushed, but there is so much action and detail packed into the climax, the racing could have just been from my own heartbeat.

One of Cardinal’s greatest strengths came through her characters. In particular, Marisol was one of the most fascinating and complex characters I’ve encountered in YA literature. She is bold and electric and passionate about her country and community. There is a sincere depth to her, and I would love nothing more than to see her succeed. Another character who I truly felt like I was getting to know as a human being was Javier. His struggle and battle with his addiction, his relationship with Padre Sebastian, and even his relationship with his family, all felt whole. The text even went as far to explain the socioeconomic misunderstanding of addiction; a favorite line is “My dad is a g—d—n lawyer.”

The world that Cardinal has created in San Juan was so tangible, painting both the stunning aspects of the city like the Spanish blue bricks of Old San Juan and the harsh realities of an island struggling to come back from a devastating hurricane and a corrupt government. Five Midnights invites readers to the captivating supernatural realm of an island just as mystifying with the resilience and heart of its people. I fully plan to champion Tor Teen to pick up a sequel—there is more havoc for El Cuco to cause and more stories to be told from Puerto Rico.

Photo by Carlos Cardinal - 2018ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ann Dávila Cardinal is a novelist and Director of Recruitment for Vermont College of Fine Arts (VCFA). She has a B.A. in Latino Studies from Norwich University, an M.A. in sociology from UI&U and an MFA in Writing from VCFA. She also helped create VCFA’s winter Writing residency in Puerto Rico.

Ann’s first novel, Sister Chicas was released from New American Library in 2006. Her next novel, a horror YA work titled Five Midnights, was released by Tor Teen on June 4, 2019.

Her stories have appeared in several anthologies, including A Cup of Comfort for Mothers and Sons (2005) and Women Writing the Weird (2012) and she contributed to the Encyclopedia Latina: History, Culture, And Society in the United States edited by Ilan Stavans. Her essays have appeared in American ScholarVermont WomanAARP, and Latina Magazines. Ann lives in Vermont, needle-felts tiny reading creatures, and cycles four seasons a year.

 

 

 

file-2ABOUT THE REVIEWER: Mimi Rankin received her Master’s Degree with distinction in Children’s Literature from the University of Reading. Her thesis, on which she received a rating of First, centered around claims to cultural authenticity and representation in Hispanic Children’s Literature. She currently works in the publishing industry as a marketing manager. Her reviews do not reflect the opinions of her employer.