September 2017 Latinx Book Deals

 

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! Here’s to many more wonderful books in the years to come.

September 28

Christina Pulles at Sterling has bought world rights to American Gothic and Esquivel! author Susan Wood‘s Holy Squawkamole! Little Red Hen Makes Guacamole, a little red hen story. Laura Gonzalez is set to illustrate; publication is expected in October 2018. Illustrator agent: Lisa Musing at Advocate Art.

September 26

Amy Fitzgerald at Lerner/Carolrhoda Lab has acquired The Book of Love, a standalone novel by NoNieqa Ramos. Overachiever Verdad is struggling to process her best friend’s death while meeting her mother’s high expectations. When she falls for a classmate—who happens to be trans—their romance forces her to confront her demons and figure out who she really is. Publication is planned for fall 2019. Author agent: Emily Keyes at Fuse Literary.

September 21

None.

September 19

Tamar Brazis at Abrams Books for Young Readers has acquired world rights to Chicago author Suzanne Slade‘s (l.) Exquisite, a picture book biography about Gwendolyn Brooks, the influential poet and the first African-American to win a Pulitzer Prize. Cozbi A. Cabrera will illustrate; publication is scheduled for spring 2019.

September 14

None

September 12

Filip Sablik at BOOM! Box has acquired world rights to fantasy author C.S. Pacat‘s (l.) five-issue YA comic series, Fence; Dafna Pleban and Shannon Watters will edit. Illustrated by Johanna the Mad, the series follows the rise of 16-year-old outsider Nicholas Cox in the world of competitive fencing as he joins the team at an elite boys’ school. Publication begins in November 2017.

Fiona Simpson at Simon & Schuster has acquired world rights, in a preempt, in a two-book deal, to Ryan Calejo‘s The Morphling. The middle grade novel follows a boy who tries to solve the mystery of his parents’ disappearance with the help of his lifelong crush, while strange things keep happening to his body—things that resemble the Central and South American myths and legends that his abuela raised him on. The first book is set for fall 2018; Rena Rossner at the Deborah Harris Agency negotiated the deal.

September 7

None

 

 

Cecilia Cackley is a performing artist and children’s bookseller based in Washington, DC, where she creates puppet theater for adults and teaches playwriting and creative drama to children. Her bilingual children’s plays have been produced by GALA Hispanic Theatre and her interests in bilingual education, literacy, and immigrant advocacy all tend to find their way into her theatrical work. You can find more of her work at www.witsendpuppets.com.

We’re Back and Starting with Book Deals!

 

Compiled by Cecilia Cackley

This is a 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! Here’s to many more wonderful books in the years to come. This post will include deals from both July and August, when the blog was on summer vacation. After that are my observations about the deals since I’ve started compiling them in January.

August 31

Sara Sargent at HarperCollins has bought world rights to How to Deal: Tarot for Everyday Life by Sami Main, a how-to guide to tarot readings for beginners. Marisa de la Peña will illustrate; publication is scheduled for summer 2018. Agent: Allison Hunter at Janklow & Nesbit.

August 24

Taylor Norman at Chronicle has bought Elise Primavera’s new picture book, I’m a Baked Potato!, about a dog with a bit of an identity crisis. 2017 Pura Belpré Award winner and Juana and Lucas series creator Juana Medina will illustrate; publication is scheduled for spring 2019. Illustrator agent: Gillian MacKenzie at the Gillian MacKenzie Agency.

August 17

Nikki Garcia at Little, Brown has bought world rights to Someone Like Me: How One Undocumented Girl Fought for Her American Dream, an adaptation of the 2016 adult memoir My (Underground) American Dream by immigration rights activist Julissa Arce. This YA adaptation chronicles Arce’s childhood in Mexico separated from her parents and her struggle to belong in America while growing up as an undocumented student in Texas. Publication is planned for fall 2018. Author Agent:  Lisa Leshne at the Leshne Agency.

Yolanda Scott at Charlesbridge has acquired world rights to Not a Bean, the debut picture book by Claudia Guadalupe Martinez, illustrated by Caldecott Medalist David Diaz. The nonfiction picture book integrates English, Spanish, and a counting concept as it looks at the life cycle of the Mexican jumping bean—which is not a bean at all. Publication is scheduled for fall 2018. Author Agent: Adriana Dominguez at Full Circle Literary.

August 10

None.

August 3

None.

August 1

None.

July 27

Cassandra Pelham at Graphix and Scholastic Press has acquired world rights to two debut graphic novels, both winners of the Get Published by Graphix contest. The first, Manu, is a middle-grade graphic novel by author-illustrator Kelly Fernandez. The story follows Manu and her best friend Josefina, who live in a magical school for girls. Publication is scheduled for fall 2020.

July 25

Kendra Levin and Leila Sales at Viking have acquired, in a two-book deal, Josh Funk’s picture book, How to Code a Sandcastle, as part of Penguin’s partnership with Girls Who Code. The book stars a girl and her trusty robot who use fundamental coding concepts to construct the perfect beach day. Sara Palacios will illustrate; publication is set for summer 2018. Illustrator agent: Kendra Marcus at BookStop Literary Agency

Carter Hasegawa at Candlewick has acquired world rights to Freedom Soup author Tami Charles’s picture book, A Day with the Panye, about a girl carrying the panye to market for the first time in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in a story of family legacy, cultural roots, and hope. Sara Palacios will illustrate; publication is set for spring 2020. Illustrator agent: Kendra Marcus and Minju Chang at BookStop Literary Agency.

Callie Metler-Smith at Clear Fork has bought a debut picture book from author Amber Hendricks and illustrator Raissa Figueroa, titled Sophie and Little Star. When Little Star falls from the heavens, she meets human Sophie, and together they work to get Little Star back home. Publication is planned for winter 2018. Illustrator agent: Natascha Morris at BookEnds Literary.

July 20

None.

July 18

Marissa Grossman at Razorbill has bought Not Now, Not Ever author Lily Anderson’s Undead Girl Gang. Pitched as Veronica Mars meets The Craft, the novel follows teenager Mila Flores as she investigates the suspicious deaths of three classmates and accidentally brings the girls back to life, forming an unlikely vigilante girl gang. Publication is scheduled for summer 2018. Author agent: Laura Zats at Red Sofa Literary.

July 13

None.

July 6

Sonali Fry at Sizzle Press has acquired YouTube star Karina Garcia’s untitled DIY tutorial; Rebecca Webster will edit. The book provides step-by-step instructions for 15 of Garcia’s favorite projects, including homemade fidget spinners. Garcia will also reveal the ways she keeps her creative and positive outlook through behind-the-scenes peeks and personal stories. Publication is planned for fall 2017. Author agent: United Talent Agency and Adam Krasner at Fullscreen.

Alexis Orgera and Chad Reynolds at Penny Candy have bought world rights to Mariana Llanos’s Luca’s Bridge/El Puente de Luca, to be illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera. The bilingual picture book stars a boy struggling to come to terms with his family’s deportation from America to Mexico. Publication is planned for May 2018.

 

I’ve been keeping track of kid lit book deals for Latinx authors since January, so I feel it’s time to write down a few observations.

First, a caveat: I am writing the rights posts using Publisher’s Weekly as my guide. I go through the articles and the rights report listed in the “Children’s Bookshelf” email that comes out once or twice a week. The numbers aren’t always consistent (most weeks have around 12 deals listed, but sometimes as many as 16 or as few as 9) and of course there may be deals that don’t ever get listed. From there, I try to determine who identifies as Latinx, looking at last names, author websites and any interviews or clues on social media. As a result, there may be people I have inadvertently left out, or else counted by accident.

With that out of the way, here are a few points I have noticed, now that we are more than half way through the year.

  1. We started the year with the lowest number of Latinx book deals (5 total in January) and since then have stayed steady at 6 or 7 each month. That’s less than ten percent of the total children’s book deals announced so far this year—a disappointing number, considering that Latinx children make up more than a quarter of the some 50 million children enrolled in public schools, according to the National Center of Education Statistics.
  2. The fewest book deals went to middle grade novels, which is disappointing because it’s a segment of publishing that is growing fast, especially graphic novels. There was a single middle grade graphic novel bought, by Kelly Hernandez as part of a contest held by the Graphix imprint of Scholastic.
  3. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the book deals for picture books were fairly evenly split between books that were both written and illustrated by Latinx creators and those that have a Latinx illustrator and a white writer. That said, it would be nice to have more picture books by new authors starring Latinx characters, history, and culture. It’s not that we don’t love Duncan Tonatiuh, Monica Brown, and Yuyi Morales, but more is always better, especially from Central American creators.

If you are following book deals and book trends, did you notice anything else so far this year? Let us know in the comments!

 

Cecilia Cackley is a performing artist and children’s bookseller based in Washington, DC, where she creates puppet theater for adults and teaches playwriting and creative drama to children. Her bilingual children’s plays have been produced by GALA Hispanic Theatre and her interests in bilingual education, literacy, and immigrant advocacy all tend to find their way into her theatrical work. You can find more of her work at www.witsendpuppets.com.

Under the Sky and Over the Sea: A Cuban-American’s Reflections on Childhood Reading

By Emma Otheguy

Every Thursday afternoon the summer I was fourteen, I volunteered at story hour. The public library had a small lawn where they would set up a chair, and us teenagers would read while the younger kids sat in the grass around us. I always came straight from dance class, and I remember so clearly how the world looked from my big reading chair: my flip-flops and convertible tights, the lawn grass and its summer scent, the kids looking up at me as I looked down at them. I discovered Maurice Sendak’s Outside Over There and marveled at how it could be so mysterious and yet so familiar: a goblin’s kingdom, and a protective older sister.

That summer was the first time I was aware of not being a child myself, realizing that I had changed and that my perspective in the big chair was different from that of the little faces sitting in the grass. I was finding for the first time that I could no longer go waltzing in the front door of children’s worlds, that to access the viewpoint of these kids I would have to be like Ida in Outside Over There, who reaches the goblin realm by going backwards out the window. Ida’s story reminded me of Rubén Darío’s Margarita, sailing under the sky and over the sea to reach a kingdom where stars grow like flowers. I knew by fourteen that you could not go knocking at the door to other galaxies, that they could only be reached by an angled approach, and magic.

I knew all about finding my way to outside over there, because it was an exact reflection of my experience as a child of immigrants: translating one culture for the other, figuring out if backwards out the window or sideways through the rain was the right way to help my parents understand the latest American trend. It’s what adults do when they read picture books to children, and it’s what children do when they hold two cultures within themselves. I didn’t visit Cuba until I was a teenager, and so my parents’ homes, their memories and our family and friends in Cuba, were known to me only through this act of translation. Each summer we visited our family in Puerto Rico, my parents’ attempt to sail through the sky and pluck the stars, to show us the world we couldn’t know. We walked along El Pasaje de la princesa in San Juan, and they told us about el malecón in La Habana. In Luquillo there were memories of Varadero, and in all that sun and green and salty air we tried to find Cuba, tried to reach the world we couldn’t access in the normal way, the world we could only know backwards out the window and through the rain.

I read the Narnia books, and Julie Edwards’ Mandy and Anna Elizabeth Bennett’s The Little Witch with different eyes than the other kids in my school, with a fierce identification, because I knew all about worlds tucked away in cedar for safekeeping, about gardens under lock and key, about children and parents who could visit only in magic mirrors. Cuba was all of these things to me, and in children’s books I saw the willing together of separate worlds that I associated with the gap between my parents and me, and my role in explaining the United States to them.

But for all I learned from Ida and Margarita, I couldn’t in those days close the divide between the books I read in school and those I read at home. They might as well have existed in their own separate realms, so completely inaccessible were they to one another. At home, we read poetry and picture books that my parents picked up on their travels, or that we got as gifts from family in Puerto Rico and Mexico. We read what my parents remembered of their own childhoods, like Darío’s Margarita and Martí’s Los zapaticos de rosa. Those stories were dear, and magical, and wholly confined to my life at home.

Today, Latinx children’s authors have finally brought the books of home and the books of the school and library closer together. There are too many to name in one blog post, so I will only say that it has been a tremendous privilege to read and share the titles that have been featured on this site. These books mean that children today don’t have to experience the world as divided and distant, they mean that home and town can be closer together. They mean that it’s safe to love both Sendak and Darío.

My debut picture book, Martí’s Song for Freedom, is a biography of Cuban poet and national hero José Martí, but it is more importantly the story of the connections he made between Latin America and the United States, of how he loved Cuba while living in New York. This book honors Martí’s activism and his fight for justice, and it also tells the story of how Martí learned to go outside-over-there: how he found in the sighing pine trees the sound of the Cuban palmas reales he missed so much, how he lessened the distance between Cuba and New York. He came from everywhere and was on the road to every place, he knew how to dip under the sky and over the sea, how to close the gaps between divided worlds. He used poetry and passion to accomplish it. He too, would know about picture books, and his story is for every child who learns to share and hold our diverse cultures together.

MARTÍ’S SONG FOR FREEDOM / MARTÍ Y SUS VERSOS POR LA LIBERTAD hits shelves July 17th, 2017. To learn more about the inspiration for this book, read Emma’s earlier blog post at Anansesem. MARTÍ is now available for pre-order from any retailer, and Emma is sending signed bookplates and stickers to all pre-orders. Fill out this form to get yours!

Emma Otheguy is a children’s book author and a historian of Spain and colonial Latin America. She is a member of the Bank Street Writers Lab, and her short story “Fairies in Town” was awarded a Magazine Merit Honor by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). Otheguy lives with her husband in New York City. Martí’s Song for Freedom/Martí y sus versos por la libertad is her picture book debut. You can find her online at http://www.emmaotheguy.com.

 

 

Book Review: Freddie Ramos Rules New York by Jacqueline Jules

Once again, Jacqueline Jules has created a memorable, culturally relevant chapter book adventure with adorable illustrations by Miguel Benítez. Freddie Ramos Rules New York is the sixth book in the charming Zapato Power series, and this time around I read the book alongside my (then) six-year-old son, Liam Miguel. Before I tell you what he had to say, here’s how the publisher describes Freddie Ramos Rules New York:

Freddie and his mom are visiting Uncle Jorge in New York City! Just before they leave, Mr. Vaslov gives Freddie a new pair of zapatos to replace the ones that were getting too small. But Freddie worries if his new zapatos will work as well as his old ones. Will Freddie be able to save the day when Uncle Jorge misplaces an engagement ring in the middle of a New York City traffic jam?

My two cents: I’ve reviewed Jacqueline Jules’s work before for Latinxs in Kid Lit (check out my posts on Freddie Ramos Stomps the Snow and her Sofia Martinez series), and Freddie Ramos Rules New York possesses the same strengths, central among which is a gentle corrective to the tendency to focus on middle-class families in chapter books. In Freddie Ramos Rules New York, we get glimpse of what it means to stay with family when there isn’t much extra money to spare; Freddie sleeps in a sleeping bag on the floor, and meals are at home, not out in restaurants. Yet the loving support of family is a central theme of the books.

IMG_5631-1

Liam Miguel hanging out with his little brother, Ethan Andrés.

Liam Miguel’s take: Liam Miguel was six when we read this book together. The level was just right for him to read on his own, but he let me join him since we wanted to do this review. He gobbled the book in about three nights. Here is a quick summary of what Liam Miguel said he liked about it:

  1. Zapato powers! Who wouldn’t want a pair of special shoes that would let you bounce higher than buildings, run so fast you’re just a blur, and hear conversations that would be well out of typical earshot?
  2. Freddie uses his special tools and skills to help others. Liam Miguel noticed that Freddie never uses his powers just to get what he wants; he is always looking to assist people in need, whether it’s his uncle who has lost a wedding ring or a stranger on the street.
  3. “Traveling” with Freddie. Sure, a trip to NYC isn’t as exotic as some of the destinations in the Magic TreeHouse series, but Liam Miguel loved glimpsing New York through the story, from the giant Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center to the massive displays of televisions in an electronics shop window. Now he wants to know when WE get to visit the city!
  4. Spanish words. Liam Miguel isn’t a balanced bilingual, but he loved being able to recognize and pronounce the occasional Spanish words and Latinx cultural reference points incorporated in the story.

Teaching Recommendations: Like the other books in the Zapato Power series, this book would make an excellent choice for classroom read-alouds with pauses to talk about situations, make predictions, evaluate characters’ decisions, and/or connect events in the story to students’ own lives. The series is also perfect for independent reading groups in the 1st-3rd grade range. Additional Zapato Power activities are available on Jacqueline Jules’s website here.

Bottom Line: This is a must-have addition to classroom and library shelves. In fact, I was thrilled to see a whole stack of Freddie Ramos Rules New York on my most recent visit to our neighborhood library. IMG_5600

The Zapato Power Series Author and Illustrator:

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

Illustrator Miguel Benitez likes to describe himself as a “part-time daydreamer and a full-time doodler.” He lives with his wife and two cats in England.

Book Review: Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe

Reviewed by Sujei Lugo and Lila Quintero Weaver

DESCRIPTION FROM THE BOOK JACKET: Jean-Michel Basquiat and his unique, collage-style paintings rocketed to fame in the 1980s as a cultural phenomenon unlike anything the art world had ever seen. But before that, he was a little boy who saw art everywhere: in poetry books and museums, in games and in the words that we speak, and in the pulsing energy of New York City. Award-winning illustrator Javaka Steptoe’s vivid text and bold artwork that echoes Basquiat’s own introduce young readers to the powerful message that art doesn’t always have to be neat or clean—and definitely not inside the lines—to be beautiful.

OUR TWO CENTS:

Radiant Child is a heartfelt and vibrant picture book about the childhood and life of Puerto Rican-Haitian American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. Written for young children, it celebrates Basquiat’s art and traces the early steps of his artistic formation, as he makes his way toward the pinnacle of fame. From boyhood, he begins developing his own “messy” style of art-making, one that evokes powerful personal emotions, while addressing the sound and fury of social and cultural politics. Javaka Steptoe received the 2017 Caldecott Medal for his work as the book’s illustrator, a fitting recognition of the dynamic and engaging art seen in these pages.

The story in Radiant Child shifts through various New York City settings, including interiors of the Basquiat family home in Brooklyn, the exhibit spaces of an art museum, the streets of Manhattan’s Lower East Side, and the artist’s studio. As a boy, Basquiat sees art everywhere he looks, not just in the museums he visits with his mother or in the poetry books she reads to him, but also in everyday objects that he encounters around the city. Early on, while other children in the neighborhood skip rope, young Basquiat “dreams of being a famous ARTIST.” You can tell how seriously he has devoted himself to this dream by the pencils, papers, and drawings scattered all over his bedroom.

Throughout childhood, the primary influencer on Basquiat’s art is his mother, Matilde, a Puerto Rican woman who “designs and sews,” and sometimes even joins her child in the act of drawing. Her artistic influence on him is not always intentional. After a car accident leaves Jean-Michel injured, Malide introduces him to Gray’s Anatomy. Her hope is to teach the young boy how the human body is knit together. Little does she anticipate that the diagrams from this book will seep into his catalog of artistic imagery and emerge as motifs in his mature work. In addition to taking Jean-Michel to museums, Matilde also conveys the message that art can be found in ordinary things, including the “messy patchwork of the city.” This sets up an interesting parallel, in which Basquiat, an Afro-Latino child of humble beginnings with no formal education in the arts, is shaped by the traditional, elitist, and largely white institutions of the New York art world, yet simultaneously absorbs the powerful visual elements inherent in his own cultural milieu. In the book’s museum scene, it is fascinating to note that his favorite work of art is Picasso’s “Guernica,” an immense painting that depicts the horrors of the Nazi bombing of the Basque people during the Spanish Civil War. Perhaps it is before this very painting that the boy begins to develop ideas about artistic self-expression as a major force in the world.

Tragically, when Basquiat’s mother suffers debilitating mental illness and is hospitalized, this shatters the circle of love that fed the young boy’s artistic growth. He continues living with his father, Gerard, but “things are not the same,” and as a teenager, Jean-Michel runs off to live on his own in the “concrete jungle where only the tough survive.” There, he begins his career as a graffiti artist. Signing his work with SAMO©, Basquiat creates street art that captivates the city and propels him from the streets to the galleries. Fame follows, just as the young boy dreamed, and this is where the story portion of Radiant Child ends. The book’s back matter, however, includes a substantial section that acknowledges Basquiat’s drug addiction and untimely death at 27.

How does a children’s illustrator depict the life and oeuvre of such a celebrated artist? As explained in an author’s note, Javaka Steptoe answers this challenge not by reproducing, but by reinterpreting Basquiat’s work. The result is original and memorable, yet strongly evocative of Basquiat’s signature style. Steptoe achieves this by employing the graffiti and collage methods that his subject used, in combination with traditional painting techniques, and by incorporating symbols and motifs associated with Basquiat, such as stylized human skulls and femurs.

Each page spread in Radiant Child is a small construction consisting of a scene painted over a textured background. For his background materials, Steptoe relies heavily on found objects, primarily throwaways. Due to their worn condition, these objects call to mind the crumbling cityscape of 1980s Lower East Side—one of Basquiat’s stomping grounds. The repurposed materials include wooden slats salvaged from dumpsters, and Steptoe glorifies the raw condition of these slats by assembling them into rough jigsaw-puzzle surfaces, in which each nail hole and splintered edge contributes to the painted illustration’s lively texture. Steptoe enhances the textured effect by collaging photographs over select areas, presenting pockets of visual intrigue for readers to explore.

Although this is a picture book, the rich inspiration it offers should not be denied to older kids. Native children and children of color stand to benefit the most from such exposure. In witnessing Basquiat’s artistic journey, we also arrive at a greater appreciation of the soothing power of art. We see that artistic creativity can act as a therapeutic exercise in the face of pain, fear, separation, and insecurity. Radiant Child also delivers the unmistakable and essential message that messiness and art-making go hand in hand, and that although the results may be “sloppy, ugly, and sometimes weird, [it’s] somehow still beautiful.” Indeed, this message is joyously inscribed on every page, in every scribble, and through every splintered and splattered collage.

THE AUTHOR-ILLUSTRATOR

As the son of award-winning illustrator John Steptoe, Javaka Steptoe grew up surrounded by art and children’s books, and went on to earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts from The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. In his own career, the younger Steptoe has captured many honors, including the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award, as well as recognition from the NAACP Image Awards, and the 2017 Caldecott Medal. Read more about him at his official website.

 

FURTHER READING AND VIEWING

In its final pages, Radiant Child appends information on portions of Basquiat’s life not covered in the story, including a section detailing motifs and symbols that appear in his work.

The publisher Little Brown provides an informative page on Radiant Child. There, you can view a book chat with Javaka Steptoe and watch an embedded video of a live art demo he shared on New York Times’s Facebook page.

Here is an additional interview with Steptoe, conducted by Travis Jonker, of School Library Journal, for the series “The Yarn,” which looks closely at how kids’ books are made.

For anyone interested in further exploration of Basquiats’s world, abundant online and print resources exist, although they are primarily aimed at adult readers. Here is a sampling.

Basquiat’s friend and one-time roommate Alexis Adler talks on video about photos she took of him. See it here.

Read an illuminating conversation with Basquiat, published in Interview Magazine in 1983.

The estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat maintains a website devoted to his life and work. Visit it here.