Book Review: Barely Missing Everything by Matt Mendez


Review by Katrina Ortega

DESCRIPTION OF THE BOOK (from Simon & Schuster): Juan has plans. He’s going to get out of El Paso, Texas, on a basketball scholarship and make something of himself—or at least find something better than his mom Fabi’s cruddy apartment, her string of loser boyfriends, and a dead dad. Basketball is going to be his ticket out, his ticket up. He just needs to make it happen.

His best friend JD has plans, too. He’s going to be a filmmaker one day, like Quinten Tarantino or Guillermo del Toro (NOT Steven Spielberg). He’s got a camera and he’s got passion—what else could he need?

Fabi doesn’t have a plan anymore. When you get pregnant at sixteen and have been stuck bartending to make ends meet for the past seventeen years, you realize plans don’t always pan out, and that there some things you just can’t plan for…

Like Juan’s run-in with the police, like a sprained ankle, and a tanking math grade that will likely ruin his chance at a scholarship. Like JD causing the implosion of his family. Like letters from a man named Mando on death row. Like finding out this man could be the father your mother said was dead.

Soon Juan and JD are embarking on a Thelma and Louise­–like road trip to visit Mando. Juan will finally meet his dad, JD has a perfect subject for his documentary, and Fabi is desperate to stop them. But, as we already know, there are some things you just can’t plan for…

MY TWO CENTS: This book felt so real to me for a number of different reasons. First, as a native El Pasoan, it’s hard to not immediately feel pulled to any novel which takes place there. Though likely not recognizable by the average reader, Mendez does an incredible job of capturing the city’s personality, and displays the city’s many characteristics through descriptions of the neighborhoods and characters.

I appreciated that Mendez wrote with such authenticity. He explains that the experiences in the book are similar to those that he went through as a youth in El Paso, which makes the authenticity reasonable, but it’s more than that. Mendez writes Juan’s and JD’s characters in an incredibly life-like manner. They have genuine teen personas and voices. They make realistic teen decisions: they’re emotional, impulsive, and reactionary, but the reader can also see the calculated thought processes that happen in their heads. The characters develop in nuanced and genuine ways, becoming deeper, more advanced versions of themselves as the plot advances and they confront new situations.

Like many youth who grow up in the city, Juan wants to leave as soon as possible to achieve lofty goals elsewhere; whether his goals are in any way realistic or attainable is a conversation that adults often have with teens (again, authenticity!). JD is coming from a household in the midst of tumult, and, as expected, his easygoing persona is his crutch. He tries to be the best person that he can be, even in the midst of cynicism and negativity from his family. But even though both JD and Juan struggle to keep their heads straight while their family lives become chaotic and challenging, their ability to pursue their dreams despite the chaos is so genuine and, to me, exemplifies exactly what teens everywhere struggle to do every day.

The icing on the cake of this book was Fabi’s character. It was so refreshing for a YA novel to portray an adult who was trying as best they could to help their family succeed, but who was very much struggling in the process. Fabi’s character was, to me, very unlikable initially. I assumed she was going to be the sort of parent who had checked out of their teenage child’s life and never looked back. As the book continues, though, the reader can see her hidden depths, much in the same way that we see Juan’s and JD’s multiple layers shine through as we get to know them. Mendez does a phenomenal job of creating characters that are complex, intricate, and very well-developed.

The plot of this book, particularly the ending, is a fast-paced, interesting, and very realistic portrayal of the lives and experiences of a couple of families living in an area of the country that is currently a political, social, and humanitarian hotbed.

TEACHING TIPS: The point of view: Mendez’s use of three narrators makes the storyline feel varied and interesting throughout the book. This novel offers a great opportunity to speak about how using these varied points of view make the story feel fuller and more complete, as well as helping to give further perspective about the characters themselves.

Representation: The book also offers an opportunity to speak on a number of issues involving representation. First, these characters come from low socioeconomic communities, and their experiences are contrasted a number of times with those of people in higher socioeconomic groups. Readers can see how belonging to the group that Juan, JD, and Fabi do often have to navigate around the world, how their class can affect the decisions that they make, and how they interact with people in other classes.

image20ABOUT THE AUTHOR (From Simon & Schuster): Like his characters, Matt Mendez grew up in central El Paso, Texas. He received an MFA from the University of Arizona and is the author of the short story collection Twitching Heart. He lives with his wife and two daughters in Tucson, Arizona. Barely Missing Everything is his debut young adult novel. You can visit him at





FullSizeRenderABOUT THE REVIEWER: Katrina Ortega (M.L.I.S.) is the manager of the New York Public Library’s College and Career Pathways program. Originally from El Paso, Texas, she has lived in New York City for six years. She is a strong advocate of continuing education (in all of its forms) and is very interested in learning new ways that public libraries can provide higher education to all. She is also very interested in working with non-traditional communities in the library, particularly incarcerated and homeless populations. While pursuing her own higher education, she received two Bachelors of Arts degrees (in English and in History), a Masters of Arts in English, and a Masters of Library and Information Sciences. Katrina loves reading most anything, but particularly loves literary fiction, YA novels, and any type of graphic novel or comic. In her free time, if she’s not reading, Katrina loves to walk around New York, looking for good places to eat.

Review: Color Me In by Natasha Díaz


Review by Maria Ramos-Chertok

DESCRIPTION OF THE BOOK: Growing up in an affluent suburb of New York City, sixteen-year-old Nevaeh Levitz never thought much about her biracial roots. When her Black mom and Jewish dad split up, she relocates to her mom’s family home in Harlem and is forced to confront her identity for the first time.

Nevaeh wants to get to know her extended family, but because she inadvertently passes as white, her cousin thinks she’s too privileged, pampered, and selfish to relate to the injustices African Americans face on a daily basis. In the meantime, Nevaeh’s dad decides that she should have a belated bat mitzvah instead of a sweet sixteen, which guarantees social humiliation at her posh private school. But rather than take a stand, Nevaeh does what she’s always done when life gets complicated: she stays silent.

Only when Nevaeh stumbles upon a secret from her mom’s past, finds herself falling in love, and sees firsthand the prejudice her family faces that she begins to realize she has her own voice. And choices. Will she continue to let circumstances dictate her path? Or will she decide once for all who and where she is meant to be?

MY TWO CENTS: In Color Me In, Nevaeh Levitz shares her adolescent journey as a bi-racial girl trying to find herself in the races and cultures that make up her ancestry.  Daughter of a Jewish father and a Black mother, Nevaeh is caught between two worlds when her parents get divorced. I was very excited to read this book because I identified with many of the themes:  parents getting divorced, Jewish heritage, multicultural family, and trying to find myself in the two distinct cultures that make up my background. What I was reminded by reading this book is that despite the many levels on which I could relate to the themes, every journey is unique. This is particularly the case when dealing with the reality of what it means to have black skin in a country founded on racism and white supremacy.

The book exposes how skin color plays out not only in Nevaeh’s family, but when she’s out in her community trying to live life. It also exposes the implications of how the class divide operates to create different realities in education and access to material goods.

The book does a wonderful job of grappling with the challenges and gifts of a dual identity (and in some instances dueling identities). Nevaeh is looking to find herself in places that don’t have a blueprint for her existence. I wish this book had been available for me forty years ago.

One of my favorite parts of the book was the letter from the author at the end where she talks about what this book means to her and why she wrote it. That is where the entire book came together for me at a deeper level.

TEACHING TIPS: While the primary audience for this book is adolescents, I think anyone of any age with a bi-racial identity could relate to the themes.

Nevaeh’s grandmother is portrayed as overbearing, controlling, and unloving, so if this is a class’s first introduction or discussion of Jewish people, it might leave a negative impression, especially given that the Jewish father is a philanderer and not a very sympathetic character either. Nevaeh is able to find a foothold in Judaism despite them, but not because of their full support or acceptance. I’d encourage teachers to provide a larger context for understanding Jewish people.

The theme of bullying and racist language used against Nevaeh by her classmate and former friend Ally allows for an opportunity to discuss how words hurt and can be used as weapons. This could lead to an interesting discussion about hate speech, how the Supreme Court defines and classifies hate speech, and how the legal standard doesn’t necessarily help someone being bullied at school. Identifying strategies to respond to bullies and bystander intervention role plays could be fruitful.

There is an opportunity to discuss the role of ritual in developing and maintaining cultural identity. Students could be asked to examine the rituals in their life and how they offer (or don’t offer) them a way to deepen their understanding of who they are.

Given Nevaeh’s friendship with Stevie, I could imagine a meaningful discussion about what it means to be a good friend, how friendship makes a difference in one’s life, and what Nevaeh learned about friendship over the course of the story.

The topic of police brutality and misuse of power also stands out in two scenes where racial profiling occurs. Both of these situations help open Nevaeh’s eyes to the reality of racism and could lead to a discussion of how folks walk in the world with or without white skin privilege.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Natasha Díaz is a born and raised New Yorker, currently residing in Brooklyn, NY with her tall husband. She spends most of her days writing with no pants on and alternating between E.R. and Grey’s Anatomy binges. Natasha is both an author and screenwriter. Her scripts have placed as a quarterfinalist in the Austin Film Festival and a finalist for both the NALIP Diverse Women in Media Fellowship and the Sundance Episodic Story Lab. Her essays can be found in The Establishment and Huffington Post. Her first novel, Color Me In, was published by Delacorte Press/Random House August, 20 2019.




ABOUT THE REVIEWER: Maria Ramos-Chertok is a writer, workshop leader and coach who facilitates The Butterfly Series, a writing and creative arts workshop for women who want to explore what’s next in their life journey.  In December 2016, she won 1st place in the 2016 Intergenerational Story Contest for her piece, Family Recipes Should Never be Lost.  Her work has appeared in the Apogee Journal, Entropy Magazine, and A Quiet Courage.   Her piece Meet me by the River will be published in Deborah Santana’s forthcoming anthology All the Women in my Family Sing (Jan 2018) She is a trainer with Rockwood Leadership Institute www.rockwoodleadership.organd a member of the Bay Area chapter of Write on Mamas. For more information, visit her website at


Finding a Home in Stories: A Guest Post by Middle-Grade Author Adrianna Cuevas

By Adrianna Cuevas

In my debut middle grade novel, The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez (Publication date: 5/12/20, FSG/Macmillan), military kid Nestor Lopez moves houses so much, he loses his sense of place. He finds a home trading books with his deployed dad, father and son writing notes and questions in the page margins while artistic Nestor adds illustrations. Stories connect him to his dad stationed thousands of miles away.

When Nestor reads a book with his father, he’s able to explore his dad’s military experiences in a new way and the book enables conversations service members are often reluctant to engage in. As Nestor explains:

“I flip through the pages of this book, Sunrise Over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers, and stop the first time I see Dad’s handwriting. I press my fingers over his words, closing my eyes and imagining him sitting in his rack, reading. I flip through each page, looking for his handwriting, scanning for evidence of the life he lives when he’s away from us.”

Stories connect Nestor to those around him and deepen his relationships—particularly important for a boy who feels that home is something impermanent and unreliable.

Not all young readers will relate to Nestor’s constant moves. Not all will connect with the concept of a parent who is far away. But regardless of their current situation, readers can see books as a home. A place to retreat. A place to feel seen and accepted.

Growing up, that’s what books were to me.

My teenage social life summed up in one photo

As a child, I devoured any story I could get my hands on. With parents and a sister who were all avid readers, trips to the library to fill up bags of books and evenings spent browsing bookstore shelves were as expected as pastelitos for Nochebuena and Celia Cruz on the radio. I knew the bookstore and library at the University of Miami, where my dad was a professor, as well as my own house.

The books of my childhood transported me to places I’d never been. As a Florida girl, I was obsessed with the snowy wilderness in Jack London short stories. A solitary introvert, I marveled at the friendships in the Babysitters Club series. My early thirst for the gruesome and grim was satisfied by an illustrated edition of Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories and poems. I didn’t think I needed books with Cuban-American main characters because my culture was all around me in Miami—in the food, the language, the music.

It wasn’t until I moved to the Midwest for college that I realized what a haven books can be for readers. I’d never lived anywhere so homogenous, both culturally and ideologically. In Miami, I was allowed to be a book-obsessed hockey fan who was bad at sports and loved to travel. In my new surroundings, I was Latina, nothing more and always less. I was complimented on my mastery of the English language, even though I didn’t speak Spanish fluently until I was in my twenties. Despite receiving an academic college scholarship, I was required to attend seminars about how not to get pregnant and drop out, the expectation for minority students. I was met with confused stares when I confessed that I didn’t like spicy foods because don’t all Mexicans like that? No longer able to see my culture or myself in my environment, I turned once again to my reliable home—books.

I shielded myself from ignorance and microaggressions I had never before experienced by diving into books by Sandra Cisneros, Julia Alvarez, Margarita Engle, and Isabel Allende. Their words were familiar, a hand on my shoulder telling me I wasn’t alone. In their stories, I saw loud, boisterous families that mirrored my own. I read mouthwatering descriptions of the food I missed, whose ingredients weren’t even available to me anymore. My language was presented as something beautiful and poetic, not something to be overcome and unlearned. I had never understood the importance of seeing yourself represented in stories until I wasn’t represented in the society around me.

In Total Eclipse, Nestor moves from a place where he is seen and accepted to a place where he is misunderstood and othered. For the first time in his life, he lives off-post and experiences what it’s like to live away from a military base.

“Fort Hood had a Whataburger, a video arcade, and a comic book shop… Most kids at school had parents in the military, so everyone understood if you didn’t want to talk in the middle of science because your dad had flown across an ocean the night before. Now Mom’s moved me to a town where I’m a circus freak. An alien from a distant planet. My only comfort is knowing I might not be here long.”

Unfortunately, Nestor doesn’t have the option like I did to dive into stories and see himself in books, as military family representation, especially Latinx families, is incredibly small in children’s literature. How much would it have meant to him to have books like Pablo Cartaya’s Each Tiny Spark to help him while his father is deployed?

Similarly, my choices when I moved to the Midwest were limited and it was difficult to find books that reflected my Cuban-American experience. Twenty years ago, the catalog of stories featuring characters like me was microscopic. How much more at home would I have felt with Nina Moreno’s Don’t Date Rosa Santos or Laura Taylor Namey’s The Library of Lost Things at my disposal when I was an awkward freshman? I would have taken Celia Perez’s The First Rule of Punk and Strange Birds, as well as Carlos Hernandez’s Sal and Gabi Break the Universe to college with me, turning to them when I felt othered and isolated.

Children deserve to see themselves in stories, not just as caricatures of their culture, but as representatives of the diversity that exists within a culture and as humans with all their quirks and flaws. Nestor Lopez isn’t just a Cuban-American kid who scarfs down his abuela’s croquetas de jamón and plays dominos with his abuelo. He loves dart gun battles, Pokémon cards, and random animal trivia. He’s quick with a snarky remark and his fingers are constantly smudged with pencil lead from sketching. It is my hope that in Nestor, young readers will find a friend they can relate to who shares their eccentricities and hopes.

In a world increasingly antagonistic toward Latinx people, our words as authors have the opportunity to whisper to children, “You are not alone.” Our books can serve as a blanket that warms them when they’re surrounded by the coldness of indifference and ignorance. Our characters can show them they can be heroes.

Our stories can welcome them home.



Adrianna Cuevas is a first-generation Cuban-American originally from Miami, Florida. After teaching Spanish and ESOL for sixteen years, she decided to pursue her passion for storytelling. Adriana currently resides outside of Austin, Texas, with her husband and son, where they enjoy hiking, traveling, and cooking lots of Cuban food. Learn more about Adrianna on her website. And be sure to follow her on Twitter!


July and August 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.

July 2

Hannah VanVels at HarperCollins/Blink has bought CNN special projects producer Mayra Cuevas‘s debut #OwnVoices YA novel, Salty, Bitter, Sweet. The book is about a 17-year-old Latina Chicagoan whose family life has fallen apart after the death of her Abuela Lala and the divorce of her parents, and who turns to a kitchen apprenticeship in France as the only means to bring order back into her life. Publication is planned for spring 2020. Author agent: Saritza Hernandez at the Corvisiero Literary Agency.

July 9

Amy Fitzgerald at Lerner/Carolrhoda has bought Marcia Argueta Mickelson‘s YA novel Where I Belong. Guatemalan-American high school senior Milagros “Millie” Vargas struggles to balance her family’s needs with her own ambitions for her future, especially after her mother’s employer announces his run for Senate and tries to use Millie as a poster child for “deserving” immigrants. Publication is slated for fall 2020 or spring 2021. Author agent: Kathy Green at Kathryn Green Literary Agency.

July 11

Alex Borbolla at Atheneum has acquired Cuban-American author-illustrator Alexis Castellanos‘s debut, Isla to Island, a wordless middle grade graphic novel following Marisol, a girl growing up in 1960s Cuba. When her parents begin to fear for their daughter’s safety under Castro’s regime, Marisol is sent from her beloved island to a new home in New York City. Publication is slated for spring 2022. Author agent: Marietta Zacker at Gallt & Zacker.

July 18

Hannah Allaman at Disney-Hyperion has acquired Don’t Date Rosa Santos author Nina Moreno‘s new novel, Our Way Back to Always. Pitched as When Harry Met Sally by way of Sarah Dessen, the contemporary YA romance follows two next-door neighbors and ex-best friends—gamer, fanfic-writer Luisa and drummer, golden boy Sam—whose paths collide during senior year of high school when they rediscover their childhood bucket list and set out to complete it before graduation. Publication is planned for spring 2021. Author agent: Laura Crockett.


Chris Hernandez, while at HarperCollins, acquired at auction author-illustrator Gonzalo Alvarez‘s debut, The Legend of Polloman, with Andrew Arnold at HarperAlley taking over as editor. The middle-grade graphic novel follows the journey of a timid boy named Emmanuel who stumbles into a war-torn Aztec underworld where dangerous Legends come to life. There, he must discover the meaning of sacrifice to undertake a mystic quest as the Sun Warrior, and bring peace to the living and the dead. Publication for book one is set for fall 2021, with book two following in fall 2022. Author agent: Marietta Zacker at Gallt & Zacker


Nick Thomas at Levine Querido has acquired The Sea-Ringed World: Sacred Stories of the Americas, written by María García Esperón (l.) and illustrated by Amanda Mijangos, translated by Pura Belpré Honor-winning author David Bowles. Originally published in Spanish in Mexico by Ediciones El Naranjo, this illustrated collection for young middle grade readers gathers together stories from cultures across the Americas, from the tip of Argentina to Alaska. The book will publish in fall 2020. Author agent: Paulina Delgado at Ediciones El Naranjo.

July 23

Neal Porter at Holiday House has acquired world rights to Una Casita, a picture book by Terry Catasús Jennings about a little house that serves as a sanctuary for immigrant families over the years, illustrated by Raúl Colon. Publication is set for spring 2022. Author agent: Natalie Lakosil at Bradford Literary Agency. Illustrator agent: Gail Gaynin at Morgan Gaynin.


Janine O’Malley at Farrar, Straus and Giroux has acquired world rights to I’ll Hold Your Hand by Maggie Rudd, illustrated by Elisa Chavarri. The reassuring theme of this picture book is that an adult will support a child through dangers, joys, and hurdles. Publication is planned for fall 2021. Illustrator agent: Claire Easton at Painted Words.


Ariel Richardson at Chronicle has acquired debut author-illustrator and former wildlife education specialist Alexander Vidal‘s Wilds of America, an illustrated nonfiction guide to the wildlife of the United States, showing how animals use their unique tools and adaptations to survive in the many different environments of a country that stretches from the Arctic to the tropics. Publication is planned for spring 2022. Author agent: Stefanie Sanchez Von Borstel at Full Circle Literary.

July 25

Joanna McInerney, when at Flying Eye Books, acquired world rights to musician, poet, activist, and educator Amyra León‘s  Freedom, We Sing, a picture book that shows children they are free to dream and be confident, no matter their background or circumstance. Ayoola Solarin will edit. Molly Mendoza is set to illustrate; publication is slated for winter 2020. Illustrator agent: Hannah Mann at Writers House.

July 30

Alex Borbolla at Atheneum has acquired, at auction, A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Sweaters and Stars and a second book by Laura Taylor Namey, author of The Library of Lost Things. After her post-graduation plans fall apart, Lila Flores is sent away to spend the summer with family friends in England. But what Lila expects to be a summer devoid of proper Cuban food and sun turns into one of unexpected love when she falls for teashop clerk Orion Maxwell and, most surprising, England itself. Publication is set for fall 2020. Author agent: Natascha Morris at Bookends.

August 1


August 6

Meghan Maria McCullough and Arthur Levine at Levine Querido have bought two YA novels by debut author André-Naquian Wheeler. Set in the near future, Second Coming follows Ebb, a teen with a traumatic romantic past; that is, until he meets Manny, an immigrant from Nicaragua who loves him openly—and might also be the son of God. The second book, Like and Subscribe, is a contemporary novel about Hunter, a queer black boy struggling to manage his anxiety, fame, and love life in the face of viral stardom. Publication will begin in 2021.

August 8

Kelsey Murphy at Philomel has bought, at auction, Love Sugar Magic author Anna Meriano‘s YA debut Brooms Up. The novel follows an introverted teen girl who joins a Quidditch team to spend time with her best friend before they both leave for college, but family tensions, changing friendships, and an unexpected romance threaten to turn her last summer at home into a disastrous one. Publication is slated for fall 2020. Author agent: Patricia Nelson at Marsal Lyon Literary Agency.

August 15

Carolina Ortiz at HarperCollins has acquired The Quiet You Carry author Nikki Barthelmess‘s Everything Within and in Between, an #OwnVoices contemporary YA novel about the convergence of family, identity, and assimilation. In the novel, Ri Fernandez, a biracial Mexican-American teenager, fights to reclaim her Latinx heritage and her connection with her absent mother from her strict immigrant grandmother, who has kept her from both. Publication is set for fall 2021. Author agent: Sarah Gerton at Curtis Brown.

August 22

Kiara Valdez at First Second has bought world rights to Rizos, a middle-grade graphic novel by Claribel Ortega and Rose Bousamra about a Latina girl who stops straightening her hair and embraces her natural curls. Publication is slated for 2022. Author agent: Suzie Townsend at New Leaf Literary.


Naomi Krueger at Beaming Books has bought Charles Ghigna and Matt Forrest Essenwine‘s picture book Once Upon Another Time, a tale contrasting the past with the present and showing children ways they can explore the magic and wonder of the natural world today. Andrés F. Landázabal will illustrate; the book is slated to publish in fall 2020. Illustrator agent: Lucie Luddington at the Bright Agency represented the illustrator in the deal for world rights.


Cheryl Klein at Lee & Low has bought the picture book Fresh Juice by Robert Liu-Trujillo. When Art’s father awakens with a sore throat, Art knows exactly what he needs: Sick-Fighting Juice, loaded with ginger. But finding some ginger will take them downtown, to the farmer’s market, to the food co-op, to the West African grocery, and to an unexpected encounter that brings the whole community together. Publication is set for spring 2021. Author agent: Marietta Zacker at Gallt & Zacker.

August 29

Julie Matysik at Running Press Kids has bought world rights to Katherine Locke‘s Bedtime for Superheroes, a picture book about how even superheroes must wind down, eat a good dinner, take a bath, and read a book before turning out the light. Rayanne Vieira will illustrate; publication is slated for November 2020. Illustrator agent: James Burns at the Bright Agency.


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 or follow her on Twitter @citymousedc

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


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


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


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


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 or follow her on Twitter @citymousedc