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.

 

.

.

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.

 

 

2020 Titles By/For/About Latinx!!

HERE IT IS! The 2020 list of books releasing by/for/about Latinxs. Here are the 100+ titles we know about that are releasing this year. We’re sure more will be more added, so please check the site often or follow the blog for updates.  The coming year brings new books from so many of our favorite creators along with exciting debuts. The books are listed by the publishing date. Please let us know in the comments if we are missing any!

SHADOWSHAPER LEGACY: Shadowshaper Cypher Book #3 by Daniel José Older (Arthur A. Levine Books, January 7, 2020). Young Adult. A house divided: Sierra and the shadowshapers have been split apart. Juan, Anthony, and Izzy are in jail, anxiously waiting to find out what will become of them. Back in Brooklyn, the other shadowshapers have been getting threatening messages from whisper wraiths, catching strangely shaped figures stalking them, and fending off random spirits. A war is brewing among the houses, and the very magic of the shadowshapers is at stake.

The fate of the worlds: Sierra is determined to protect her own in the coming conflict, even if that means keeping secrets from them. But a deal with Death by one of Sierra’s ancestors has far-reaching consequences in the battles of the present, and as old fates tangle with new powers, Sierra will have to harness the Deck of Worlds and confront her family’s past if she has any hope of saving the future and everyone she loves. Only doing so will mean following the magic to places the shadowshapers have never gone before and may never return from. The conclusion to the evocative and captivating Shadowshaper Cypher series.

.

WOVEN IN MOONLIGHT by Isabel Ibañez (Page Street Kids, January 7, 2020). Young Adult. Ximena is the decoy Condesa, a stand-in for the last remaining Illustrian royal. Her people lost everything when the usurper, Atoc, used an ancient relic to summon ghosts and drive the Illustrians from La Ciudad. Now Ximena’s motivated by her insatiable thirst for revenge, and her rare ability to spin thread from moonlight.

When Atoc demands the real Condesa’s hand in marriage, it’s Ximena’s duty to go in her stead. She relishes the chance, as Illustrian spies have reported that Atoc’s no longer carrying his deadly relic. If Ximena can find it, she can return the true aristócrata to their rightful place.

She hunts for the relic, using her weaving ability to hide messages in tapestries for the resistance. But when a masked vigilante, a warm-hearted princesa, and a thoughtful healer challenge Ximena, her mission becomes more complicated. There could be a way to overthrow the usurper without starting another war, but only if Ximena turns her back on revenge—and her Condesa.

.

DARK AND DEEPEST RED by Anna-Marie McLemore (Feiwel & Friends, January 14, 2020). Young Adult. Summer, 1518. A strange sickness sweeps through Strasbourg: women dance in the streets, some until they fall down dead. As rumors of witchcraft spread, suspicion turns toward Lavinia and her family, and Lavinia may have to do the unimaginable to save herself and everyone she loves.

Five centuries later, a pair of red shoes seal to Rosella Oliva’s feet, making her dance uncontrollably. They draw her toward a boy who knows the dancing fever’s history better than anyone: Emil, whose family was blamed for the fever five hundred years ago. But there’s more to what happened in 1518 than even Emil knows, and discovering the truth may decide whether Rosella survives the red shoes.

OUR REVIEW: https://latinosinkidlit.com/2020/01/30/book-review-dark-and-deepest-red-by-anna-marie-mclemore/

.

STELLA DIAZ NEVER GIVES UP by Angela Dominguez (Roaring Brook Press, January 14, 2020). Middle Grade. Stella gets a big surprise when her mom plans a trip to visit their family in Mexico! Stella loves marine animals, and she can’t wait to see the ocean for the first time, until she arrives and learns that the sea and its life forms are in danger due to pollution.

Stella wants to save the ocean, but she knows she can’t do it alone. It’s going to take a lot of work and help from old and new friends to make a difference, but Stella Díaz never gives up!

.

.

INFINITY SON by Adam Silvera (HarperTeen, January 14, 2020). Young Adult. Growing up in New York, brothers Emil and Brighton always idolized the Spell Walkers—a vigilante group sworn to rid the world of specters. While the Spell Walkers and other celestials are born with powers, specters take them, violently stealing the essence of endangered magical creatures.

Brighton wishes he had a power so he could join the fray. Emil just wants the fighting to stop. The cycle of violence has taken a toll, making it harder for anyone with a power to live peacefully and openly. In this climate of fear, a gang of specters has been growing bolder by the day.

Then, in a brawl after a protest, Emil manifests a power of his own—one that puts him right at the heart of the conflict and sets him up to be the heroic Spell Walker Brighton always wanted to be.

Brotherhood, love, and loyalty will be put to the test, and no one will escape the fight unscathed.

.

MAXIMILIAN: The Curse of the Fallen Angel by Xavier Garza (Cinco Puntos Press, January 17, 2020). Middle Grade. Maximilian’s been nuts about lucha libre his whole life. But he’s not just a nerdy middle schooler―three years ago, he discovered that he’s part of lucha libre royalty. His uncle is the most famous luchador, the Guardian Angel. But now, the masked hero is facing a wild new wrestler who might just topple him from his lucha libre throne. The Fallen Angel may be the most reckless and arrogant wrestler the Guardian Angel has ever had to face, and he’s no longer in his prime. Age affects everyone, even the man behind the celebrated mask. Max, being next in the royal line of luchadores, thinks he might have to take over as the Guardian Angel sooner than he’d ever dreamed.

.

DIAMOND CITY by Francesca Flores (Wednesday Books, January 28, 2020). Young Adult. Good things don’t happen to girls who come from nothing, unless they risk everything. Fierce and ambitious, Aina Solís as sharp as her blade and as mysterious as the blood magic she protects. After the murder of her parents, Aina takes a job as an assassin to survive and finds a new family in those like her: the unwanted and forgotten.

Her boss is brutal and cold, with a questionable sense of morality, but he provides a place for people with nowhere else to go. And makes sure they stay there.

DIAMOND CITY: built by magic, ruled by tyrants, and in desperate need of saving. It is a world full of dark forces and hidden agendas, old rivalries and lethal new enemies.

To claim a future for herself in a world that doesn’t want her to survive, Aina will have to win a game of murder and conspiracy—and risk losing everything.

.

HOW TO BUILD A HEART by Maria Padian (Algonquin Young Readers, January 28, 2020). Young Adult. All sixteen-year-old Izzy Crawford wants is to feel like she really belongs somewhere. Her father, a marine, died in Iraq six years ago, and Izzy’s moved to a new town nearly every year since, far from the help of her extended family in North Carolina and Puerto Rico. When Izzy’s hardworking mom moves their small family to Virginia, all her dreams start clicking into place. She likes her new school—even if Izzy is careful to keep her scholarship-student status hidden from her well-to-do classmates and her new athletic and popular boyfriend. And best of all: Izzy’s family has been selected by Habitat for Humanity to build and move into a brand-new house. Izzy is this close to the community and permanence she’s been searching for, until all the secret pieces of her life begin to collide.

.

SEVEN DEADLY SHADOWS by Courtney Alameda and Valynne E. Maetani (HarperTeen, January 28, 2020). Young Adult. Seventeen-year-old Kira Fujikawa has never had it easy. She’s bullied by the popular girls in school. Her parents ignore her. And she’s also plagued with a secret: She can see yokai, the ghosts and demons that haunt the streets of Kyoto.

But things accelerate from bad to worse when she learns that Shuten-doji, the demon king, will rise at the next blood moon to hunt down an ancient relic and bring the world to a catastrophic end.

Not exactly skilled at fighting anything, much less the dead, Kira enlists the aid of seven powerful death gods to help her slay Shuten-doji. They include Shiro, a kitsune with boy-band looks who is more flirtatious than helpful, and O-bei, a regal demon courtier with reasons of her own for getting involved.

As the confrontation with Shuten-doji draws nearer, the fate of Japan hangs in the balance. Can Kira save humankind? Or will the demon king succeed in bringing eternal darkness upon the world?

.

PACHO NACHO by Silvia López, illustrated by Pablo Pino (Capstone, February 1, 2020). Picture Book. Mam and Pap could not agree on a name for their first baby, and everyone in the family had an opinion. That’s how the name Pacho-Nacho-Nico-Tico-Melo-Felo-Kiko-Rico came to be, and Pacho’s parents insisted that everyone use his full name. 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. Pacho Nacho is based on an old Japanese folktale and includes Spanish words and phrases and multicultural settings.

.

.

LOVE, SUGAR, MAGIC: A Mixture of Mischief by Anna Meriano, illustrated by Mirelle Ortega (Walden Pond Press, February 4, 2020). Middle Grade. It’s spring break in Rose Hill, Texas, but Leo Logroño has a lot of work to do if she’s going to become a full-fledged bruja like the rest of her family.

She still hasn’t discovered the true nature of her magical abilities, and that isn’t the only bit of trouble in her life: Her family’s baking heirlooms have begun to go missing, and a new bakery called Honeybees has opened across town, threatening to run Amor y Azúcar right out of business.

What’s more, everyone around her seems to have secrets, and none of them want to tell Leo what’s going on.

But the biggest secret of all comes when Leo is paid a very surprising visit—by her long-lost Abuelo Logroño. Abuelo promises answers to her most pressing questions and tells Leo he can teach her about her power, about what it takes to survive in a world where threats lurk in the shadows. But can she trust him?

OUR POST: https://latinosinkidlit.com/2020/02/04/celebrating-the-release-of-the-final-book-in-the-love-sugar-magic-series-by-anna-meriano-a-giveaway/

.

NO MORE NAPS!: A Story for When You’re Wide-Awake and Definitely NOT Tired by Chris Grabenstein, illustrated by Leo Espinosa (Random House, February 4, 2020). Picture Book. It’s time for a nap but, just like stubborn toddlers everywhere, Annalise Devin McFleece won’t have anything to do with bedtime. Dad tries to encourage sleepiness by pushing her around the park in her stroller. Along the way, they pass a man sitting on a bench, dog walkers walking dogs, a boy on a skateboard, kids playing ball, a girl practicing her juggling, and others. Each of them thinks that taking a nap is a great idea and if Annalise Devin McFleece doesn’t want hers, they’ll happily take it. And one by one, everyone falls asleep, except Annalise Devin McFleece. But when she’s finally ready for her nap, all the naps are taken! Is there anyone who has an extra nap to spare?

With every turn of the page, the busy city scene becomes more and more quiet, except for Annalise Devin McFleece.

.

EUNICE AND KATE by Mariana Llanos, illustrated by Elena Napoli (Penny Candy Books, February 11, 2020). Picture Book. The girls live with their moms next door to each other in the heart of the city and have a lot in common–even though they have different dreams for the future: Kate wants to be an astronaut and Eunice wants to be a ballet dancer. But when they draw portraits of each other in art class, things get mixed up. Eunice draws Kate as a ballet dancer and Kate draws Eunice as an astronaut, and they both get more than a little annoyed. Can their friendship survive? With a little help from their moms, the girls come to learn the value of respecting each other’s different dreams.

.

RUTH OBJECTS: The Life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by Eric Velasquez (Disney-Hyperion, February 11, 2020). Picture Book. When Ruth was a young girl, her mother encouraged her to read, be independent, and stand up for what she thought was right. Ruth graduated first in her class at Cornell University and tied for top of her graduating class at Columbia Law School. But she faced prejudice as both a woman and a Jew, making it difficult to get a job. Ruth eventually found work as a law clerk, and her determination, diligence, and skill led to a distinguished career as a lawyer. In 1993, she became the second woman ever appointed to the United States Supreme Court. As a Supreme Court justice, Ruth has inspired fierce admiration and faced fervent opposition for her judgments in high-profile cases, many of which have involved discrimination. She has been lauded for her sharp wit and boldness, even when her opinions differ from that of the majority.

As a student, teacher, lawyer, and judge, Ruth often experienced unfair treatment. But she persisted, becoming a cultural icon, championing equality in pay and opportunity. Her brilliant mind, compelling arguments, and staunch commitment to truth and justice have convinced many to stand with her, and her fight continues to this day.

.

STRONG VOICES: Fifteen American Speeches Worth Knowing by Tonya Bolden, illustrated by Eric Velasquez (HarperCollins, February 11, 2020. A collection of significant speeches, made both by those who held the reins of power and those who didn’t, at significant times in American history. Read the original words—sometimes abridged and sometimes in their entirety—that have shaped our cultural fabric.

.

.

.

THE NEW DAVID ESPINOZA by Fred Aceves (HarperTeen, February 11, 2020). Young Adult. David Espinoza is tired of being messed with. When a video of him getting knocked down by a bully’s slap goes viral at the end of junior year, David vows to use the summer to bulk up— do what it takes to become a man—and wow everyone when school starts again in the fall.

Soon David is spending all his time and money at Iron Life, a nearby gym that’s full of bodybuilders. Frustrated with his slow progress, his life eventually becomes all about his muscle gains. As it says on the Iron Life wall, What does not kill me makes me stronger.

As David falls into the dark side of the bodybuilding world, pursuing his ideal body at all costs, he’ll have to grapple with the fact that it could actually cost him everything.

.

THIS TRAIN IS BEING HELD by Ismée Williams (Amulet Books, February 11, 2020). Young Adult. Alex is a baseball player. A great one. His papi is pushing him to go pro, but Alex maybe wants to be a poet. Not that Papi would understand or allow that.

Isa is a dancer. She’d love to go pro, if only her Havana-born mom weren’t dead set against it, just like she’s dead set against her daughter falling for a Latino. And Isa’s privileged private-school life—with her dad losing his job and her older brother struggling with mental illness—is falling apart. Not that she’d ever tell that to Alex.

Fate—and the New York City subway—bring Alex and Isa together. Is it enough to keep them together when they need each other most?

.

WITH A STAR IN MY HAND: Rubén Darío, Poetry Hero by Margarita Engle (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, February 18, 2020). Middle Grade. As a little boy, Rubén Darío loved to listen to his great uncle, a man who told tall tales in a booming, larger-than-life voice. Rubén quickly learned the magic of storytelling and discovered the rapture and beauty of verse.

A restless and romantic soul, Rubén traveled across Central and South America seeking adventure and connection. As he discovered new places and new loves, he wrote poems to express his wild storm of feelings. But the traditional forms felt too restrictive. He began to improvise his own poetic forms so he could capture the entire world in his words. At the age of twenty-one, he published his first book Azul, which heralded a vibrant new literary movement called Modernismo that blended poetry and prose into something magical.

.

EXTRAORDINARY ORDINARY ELLA by Amber Hendricks, illustrated by Luciana Navarro Powell (Amicus Ink, February 25, 2020). Picture Book. Ella is extraordinary. Extraordinarily ordinary, that is. Not graceful like Carmen or musical like Kenji, Ella is determined to prove herself at the school talent show. But when every attempt to find a talent falls flat and her own ordinary acts of kindness steal the show, Ella discovers just how extraordinary ordinary can be!

.

.

THE EVERYTHING I HAVE LOST by Sylvia Zéleny (Cinco Puntos Press, February 25, 2020). Middle Grade. 12-year-old Julia keeps a diary about her life growing up in Juarez, Mexico. Life in Juarez is strange. People say its the murder capital of the world. Dad’s gone a lot. They can’t play outside because it isn’t safe. Drug cartels rule the streets. Cars and people disappear, leaving behind pet cats. Then Dad disappears and Julia and her brother go live with her aunt in El Paso. What’s happened to her Dad? Julia wonders. Is he going to disappear forever? A coming-of-age story set in today’s Juarez.

.

.

WE UNLEASH THE MERCILESS STORM by Tehlor Kay Mejia (Katherine Tegen Books, February 25, 2020). Young Adult. Being a part of the resistance group La Voz is an act of devotion and desperation. On the other side of Medio’s border wall, the oppressed class fights for freedom and liberty, sacrificing what little they have to become defenders of the cause.

Carmen Santos is one of La Voz’s best soldiers. She spent years undercover, but now, with her identity exposed and the island on the brink of a civil war, Carmen returns to the only real home she’s ever known: La Voz’s headquarters.

There she must reckon with her beloved leader, who is under the influence of an aggressive new recruit, and with the devastating news that her true love might be the target of an assassination plot. Will Carmen break with her community and save the girl who stole her heart—or fully embrace the ruthless rebel she was always meant to be?

OUR REVIEW: https://latinosinkidlit.com/2020/03/26/book-review-we-unleash-the-merciless-storm-by-tehlor-kay-mejia/

.

A WAY WITH WILD THINGS by Larissa Theule, illustrated by Sara Palacios (Bloomsbury Children’s Books, March 3, 2020). Picture Book. Meet Poppy–if you can spot her among the wildflowers! Poppy loves nature, and can be found carrying on conversations with ladybugs or singing with cicadas, but good luck spotting her indoors and around people! She’s a master of camouflage, always finding a way to blend into her surroundings. Some might call her a wallflower.

At a party, Poppy stays out of sight. But when a very special bug lands on the cake, Poppy can’t resist popping out to see it. Soon, the rest of the guests notice the beautiful dragonfly, and Poppy, too. Maybe she’s not a wallflower after all, but a wildflower.

.

LET’S DANCE by Valerie Bolling, illustrated by Maine Diaz (Boyds Mill Press, March 3, 2020). Picture Book. Tap, twirl, twist, spin! With musical, rhyming text, author Valerie Bolling shines a spotlight on dances from across the globe, while energetic art from Maine Diaz shows off all the moves and the diverse people who do them. From the cha cha of Cuba to the stepping of Ireland, kids will want to leap, dip, and zip along with the dances on the page!

.

.

MAÑANALAND by Pam Muñoz Ryan (Scholastic Press, March 3, 2020). Middle Grade. Maximiliano Córdoba loves stories, especially the legend Buelo tells him about a mythical gatekeeper who can guide brave travelers on a journey into tomorrow.

If Max could see tomorrow, he would know if he’d make Santa Maria’s celebrated fútbol team and whether he’d ever meet his mother, who disappeared when he was a baby. He longs to know more about her, but Papá won’t talk. So when Max uncovers a buried family secret–involving an underground network of guardians who lead people fleeing a neighboring country to safety–he decides to seek answers on his own.

With a treasured compass, a mysterious stone rubbing, and Buelo’s legend as his only guides, he sets out on a perilous quest to discover if he is true of heart and what the future holds.

OUR REVIEW: https://latinosinkidlit.com/2020/02/20/book-review-mananaland-by-pam-munoz-ryan/

.

PictureSALTY, BITTER, SWEET by Mayra Cuevas (Blink, March 3, 2020). Young Adult. Aspiring chef Isa’s family life has fallen apart after the death of her Cuban abuela and the divorce of her parents. She moves in with her dad and her new stepmom, Margo, in Lyon, France, where Isa feels like an outsider in her father’s new life. Isa balances her time between avoiding the awkward, “why-did-you-cheat-on-Mom” conversation with figuring out how a perpetually single woman can at least be a perpetually single chef.

The upside of Isa’s world being turned upside-down?

Her father’s house is located only 30 minutes away from the restaurant of world-famous Chef Pascal Grattard, who runs a prestigiously competitive international kitchen apprenticeship. The prize job at Chef Grattard’s renowned restaurant also represents a transformative opportunity for Isa who is desperate to get her life back in order–and desperate to prove she has what it takes to work in an haute kitchen. But Isa’s stress and repressed grief begin to unravel when the attractive, enigmatic Diego shows up unannounced with his albino dog.

How can Isa expect to hold it together when she’s at the bottom of her class at the apprenticeship, her new stepmom is pregnant, she misses her abuela dearly, and things with the mysterious Diego reach a boiling point?

.

THE FIRST SEVEN by Laura Pohl (Sourcebooks Fire, March 3, 2020). Young Adult. Clover Martinez and The Last Teenagers on Earth are busy exploring the galaxy after leaving earth behind, even if they can’t help but be a little homesick.

So when their ship receives a distress signal from their former planet, they hope against hope that it means other survivors. But as soon as they arrive, they realize something’s deeply wrong: strange crystal formations have popped up everywhere and there’s some sort of barrier keeping them from leaving.

Seeking the origin of the formations and the reason for the barrier, the group discovers a colony of survivors hidden in the mountains. But the survivors aren’t who they seem.

.

KAIA AND THE BEES by Maribeth Boelts, illustrated by Angela Dominguez (Candlewick, March 10, 2020). Picture Book. Kaia is the brave type. Like hottest-hot-pepper brave. But there is one thing that scares her: BEES! And right now, thousands of bees live on her roof because Kaia’s dad is a beekeeper. Her dad says that the world needs bees and that’s why they are beekeepers. But only he goes on the roof, not Kaia — unless she can find a way to be the brave girl she always says she is.

.

.

GOLDIE VANCE: THE HOTEL WHODUNIT by Lilliam Rivera, illustrated by Elle Power (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, March 17, 2020). Middle Grade. Marigold “Goldie” Vance lives and works at the Crossed Palms Resort Hotel in Florida with a whole slew of characters: her dad, Art, the manager of the joint; Cheryl Lebeaux, the concierge and Goldie’s best friend; and Walter Tooey, the hired hotel detective. Her mom, Sylvia, works nearby at the Mermaid Club.

While life at the Crossed Palms is always busy, the resort is currently overrun with Hollywood-types filming the hottest new creature feature, and tensions are at an all-time high. Even Goldie’s mom is in on the movie act, doing what she does best: playing a mermaid. Just when Goldie thinks the movie biz couldn’t get any more exciting, a diamond-encrusted swimming cap goes missing, and all fingers point to Goldie’s mom as the culprit. Can Goldie uncover the true thief before it’s too late? Based on Hope Larson and Brittney Williams’s critically acclaimed Goldie Vance comic.

.

TIGERS, NOT DAUGHTERS by Samantha Mabry (Algonquin Young Readers, March 24, 2020). Young Adult. The Torres sisters dream of escape. Escape from their needy and despotic widowed father, and from their San Antonio neighborhood, full of old San Antonio families and all the traditions and expectations that go along with them. In the summer after her senior year of high school, Ana, the oldest sister, falls to her death from her bedroom window. A year later, her three younger sisters, Jessica, Iridian, and Rosa, are still consumed by grief and haunted by their sister’s memory. Their dream of leaving Southtown now seems out of reach. But then strange things start happening around the house: mysterious laughter, mysterious shadows, mysterious writing on the walls. The sisters begin to wonder if Ana really is haunting them, trying to send them a message—and what exactly she’s trying to say.

.

¡VAMOS! LET’S GO EAT by Raúl the Third (Versify, March 24, 2020). Picture Book. In this new Vamos! title, Let’s Go Eat, Little Lobo is excited to take in a show with wrestling star El Toro in his bustling border town. After getting lunch orders from The Bull and his friends to help prepare for the event, Little Lobo takes readers on a tour of food trucks that sell his favorite foods, like quesadillas with red peppers and Mexican-Korean tacos. Peppered with easy-to-remember Latin-American Spanish vocabulary, this glorious celebration of food is sure to leave every reader hungry for lunch!

.

.

EFRÉN DIVIDED by Ernesto Cisneros (HarperCollins, March 31, 2020). Middle Grade. Efrén Nava’s Amá is his Superwoman—or Soperwoman, named after the delicious Mexican sopes his mother often prepares. Both Amá and Apá work hard all day to provide for the family, making sure Efrén and his younger siblings Max and Mía feel safe and loved.

But Efrén worries about his parents; although he’s American-born, his parents are undocumented. His worst nightmare comes true one day when Amá doesn’t return from work and is deported across the border to Tijuana, México.

Now more than ever, Efrén must channel his inner Soperboy to help take care of and try to reunite his family.

AUTHOR Q&A: https://latinosinkidlit.com/2020/03/30/spotlight-on-middle-grade-authors-part-14-ernesto-cisneros/

.

GHOST SQUAD by Claribel Ortega (Scholastic Press, April 7, 2020). Middle Grade. Shortly before Halloween, Lucely and her best friend, Syd, cast a spell that accidentally awakens malicious spirits, wreaking havoc throughout St. Augustine. Together, they must join forces with Syd’s witch grandmother, Babette, and her tubby tabby, Chunk, to fight the haunting head-on and reverse the curse to save the town and Lucely’s firefly spirits before it’s too late.

.

.

.

INTO THE TALL, TALL GRASS by Loriel Ryon (Margaret K. McElderry Books,  April 7, 2020). Middle Grade. Yolanda Rodríguez-O’Connell has a secret. All the members of her family have a magical gift—all, that is, except for Yolanda. Still, it’s something she can never talk about, or the townsfolk will call her family brujas—witches. When her grandmother, Wela, falls into an unexplained sleep, Yolanda is scared. Her father is off fighting in a faraway war, her mother died long ago, and Yolanda has isolated herself from her best friend and twin sister. If she loses her grandmother, who will she have left?

When a strange grass emerges in the desert behind their house, Wela miraculously wakes, begging Yolanda to take her to the lone pecan tree left on their land. Determined not to lose her, Yolanda sets out on this journey with her sister, her ex-best friend, and a boy who has a crush on her. But what is the mysterious box that her grandmother needs to find? And how will going to the pecan tree make everything all right? Along the way, Yolanda discovers long-buried secrets that have made their family gift a family curse. But she also finds the healing power of the magic all around her, which just might promise a new beginning.

AUTHOR Q&A: https://latinosinkidlit.com/2020/03/12/spotlight-on-middle-grade-authors-part-13-loriel-ryon/

.

WE DIDN’T ASK FOR THIS by Adi Alsaid (Inkyard Press, April 7, 2020). Young Adult. Central International School’s annual lock-in is legendary. Bonds are made. Contests are fought. Stories are forged that will be passed down from student to student for years to come. This year’s lock-in begins normally enough. Then a group of students led by Marisa Cuevas stage an ecoprotest and chain themselves to the doors, vowing to keep everyone trapped inside until their list of demands is met. Some students rally to their cause, but others are aggrieved to watch their own plans fall apart. Amira has trained all year to compete in the school decathlon on her own terms. Peejay intended to honor his brother by throwing the greatest party CIS has ever seen. Kenji was looking forward to making a splash at his improv showcase. Omar wanted to spend a little time with the boy he’s been crushing on. Celeste, adrift in a new country, was hoping to connect with someone–anyone. And Marisa, once so certain of her goals, must now decide how far she’ll go to attain them. Every year, lock-in night changes lives. This year, it might just change the world.

.

THE MAGICAL YET by Angela DiTerlizzi, illustrated by Lorena Alvarez (Disney-Hyperion, April 14, 2020). Picture Book. Each of us, from the day we’re born, is accompanied by a special companion–the Yet. Can’t tie your shoes? Yet! Can’t ride a bike? Yet! Can’t play the bassoon? Don’t worry, Yet is there to help you out.

.

.

.

.

WHAT LANE? by Torrey Maldonado (Nancy Paulsen Books, April 14, 2020). Middle Grade. Anything his friends can do, Stephen should be able to do too, right? So when they dare each other to sneak into an abandoned building, he doesn’t think it’s his lane, but he goes. Here’s the thing, though: Can he do everything his friends can? Lately, he’s not so sure. As a mixed kid, he feels like he’s living in two worlds with different rules–and he’s been noticing that strangers treat him differently than his white friends.

So what’ll he do? Hold on tight as Stephen swerves in and out of lanes to find out which are his–and who should be with him.

.

.

A NEW KIND OF WILD by Zara Gonzalez Hoang (Dial Books, April 21, 2020). Picture Book. For Ren, home is his grandmother’s little house and the lush forest that surrounds it. Home is a place of magic and wonder, filled with all the fantastical friends that Ren dreams up. Home is where his imagination can run wild.

For Ava, home is a brick and cement city, where there’s always something to do or see or hear. Home is a place bursting with life, where people bustle in and out like a big parade. Home is where Ava is never lonely because there’s always someone to share in her adventures.

When Ren moves to Ava’s city, he feels lost without his wild. How will he ever feel at home in a place with no green and no magic, where everything is exactly what it seems? Of course, not everything in the city is what meets the eye, and as Ren discovers, nothing makes you feel at home quite like a friend.

OUR REVIEW: https://latinosinkidlit.com/2020/04/02/book-review-a-new-kind-of-wild-by-zara-gonzalez-hoang/

.

ON THESE MAGIC SHORES by Yamile Saied Mendez (Tu Books, April 21, 2020). Middle Grade. Twelve-year-old Minerva Soledad Miranda is determined to reach her goals, despite shouldering more responsibility than the other kids at school–like caring for her two sisters while her mom works two jobs. But one night, Minerva’s mom doesn’t come home, and Minerva has to figure out what to do. Was Mam snapped up by ICE? Will the girls be sent to foster homes or holding centers for migrant kids? Minerva and her sisters can’t let anyone know Mam has disappeared. They’ll just pretend everything is normal until she comes back.

Minerva’s plan falls apart the first afternoon, when her baby sister throws a tantrum during Minerva’s audition for Peter Pan. But as the days pass and Minerva grows ever more worried about her mother, something magical seems to be watching out for them: leaving them cupcakes, helping her find money, even steering them to friends and distant family who can help. Eventually, Minerva must make the hardest choice of her life. And when she does, she’ll be prepared to face life’s challenges–with friendship, hope, and a little bit of fairy magic.

.

THE WATER BEARS by Kim Baker (Wendy Lamb Books, April 21, 2020). Middle Grade. Newt Gomez has a thing with bears. Last year he survived a bear attack. And this year, he finds an unusual bear statue that just might grant wishes. Newt’s best friend, Ethan, notices a wishbone on the statue and decides to make a wish. When it comes true, Newt thinks it’s a coincidence. Even as more people wish on the bear and their wishes come true, Newt is not convinced.

But Newt has a wish too: while he loves his home on eccentric Murphy Island, he wants to go to middle school on the mainland, where his warm extended family lives. There, he’s not the only Latinx kid, he won’t have to drive the former taco truck–a gift from his parents–and he won’t have to perform in the talent show. Most importantly, on the mainland, he never has bad dreams about the attack. Newt is almost ready to make a secret wish when everything changes.

AUTHOR Q&A: https://latinosinkidlit.com/2020/04/20/spotlight-on-middle-grade-authors-kim-baker/

.

A BREATH TOO LATE by Rocky Callen (Henry Holt and Co. BYR, April 28, 2020). Young Adult. Seventeen-year-old Ellie had no hope left. Yet the day after she dies by suicide, she finds herself in the midst of an out-of-body experience. She is a spectator, swaying between past and present, retracing the events that unfolded prior to her death.

But there are gaps in her memory, fractured pieces Ellie is desperate to reassemble. There’s her mother, a songbird who wanted to break free from her oppressive cage. The boy made of brushstrokes and goofy smiles who brought color into a gray world. Her brooding father, with his sad puppy eyes and clenched fists.

Told in epistolary-like style, A Breath Too Late sensitively examines the beautiful and terrible moments that make up a life and the possibilities that live in even the darkest of places.

.

INCENDIARY by Zoraida Córdova (Disney-Hyperion, April 28, 2020). Young Adult. Renata was only a child when she was kidnapped by the King’s Justice and brought to the luxurious palace of Andalucia. As a memory thief, the rarest and most feared of the magical Moria, Renata was used by the crown to carry out the King’s Wrath, a siege that resulted in the deaths of thousands of her own people.

Now Renata is one of the Whispers, rebel spies working against the crown. The Whispers may have rescued Renata years ago, but she cannot escape their mistrust and hatred, or the overpowering memories of the hundreds of souls she drained during her time in the palace.

When Dez, the commander of her unit–and the boy she’s grown to love–is taken captive by the notorious Principe Dorado, Renata must return to Andalucia and complete Dez’s top secret mission herself. Can she keep her cover, even as she burns for vengeance against the brutal, enigmatic prince? Her life and the fate of the Moria depend on it.

But returning to the palace stirs childhood memories long locked away. As Renata grows more deeply embedded in the politics of the royal court, she uncovers a secret in her past that could change the fate of the entire kingdom-and end the war that has cost her everything.

.

CLAP WHEN YOU LAND by Elizabeth Acevedo (Harper Teen, May 5, 2020). Young Adult. Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But this time, on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people.

In New York City, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal’s office, where her mother is waiting to tell her that her father, her hero, has died in a plane crash.

Separated by distance—and Papi’s secrets—the two girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered.

And then, when it seems like they’ve lost everything of their father, they learn of each other.

.

SANTIAGO’S ROAD HOME by Alexandra Diaz (Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, May 5, 2020). Middle Grade. The coins in Santiago’s hand are meant for the bus fare back to his abusive abuela’s house. Except he refuses to return; he won’t be missed. His future is uncertain until he meets the kind, maternal María Dolores and her young daughter, Alegría, who help Santiago decide what comes next: He will accompany them to el otro lado, the United States of America. They embark with little, just backpacks with water and a bit of food. To travel together will require trust from all parties, and Santiago is used to going it alone. None of the three travelers realizes that the journey through Mexico to the border is just the beginning of their story.

.

.

SAL AND GABI FIX THE UNIVERSE by Carlos Hernandez (Rick Riordan Presents, May 5, 2020). Middle Grade. The sequel to the critically acclaimed Sal and Gabi Break the Universe, a brilliant sci-fi romp with Cuban influence. Among many other challenges, Sal and Gabi have to try to make everything right with our world when there is a rogue Gabi from another universe running loose.

Sal Vidon doesn’t want to live a Mami-free life. Pulling different versions of his mother from other universes is how he copes with missing his own, who died years ago. But Sal’s father, a calamity physicist, is trying to shut down all the wormholes Sal creates, because Papi thinks they are eroding the very fabric of our world. All of Papi’s efforts are in vain, however, because a Gabi from another universe has gone rogue and is popping up all over the place, seeking revenge for the fact that her world has been destroyed. While Sal and Gabi work together to keep both Papi and Rogue Gabi under control, they also have to solve the mystery of Yasmany, who has gone missing from school. Could it have something to do with the wormhole in the back of his locker?

.

SWASHBY AND THE SEA by Beth Ferry, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal (HMH Books for Young Readers, May 5, 2020). Picture Book. Captain Swashby loves the sea, his oldest friend. And he loves his life by the sea just as it is: salty and sandy and serene. One day, much to Swashby’s chagrin, a young girl and her granny commandeer the empty house next door. All Swashby wants is for his new neighbors to GO AWAY and take their ruckus with them.

When Swashby begins to leave notes in the sand for his noisy neighbors, however, the beach interferes with the messages that are getting across. Could it be that the captain’s oldest friend, the sea, knows what Swashby needs even better than he knows himself?

.

THE MADRE DE AGUAS OF CUBA: The Unicorn Rescue Society #5 by Adam Godwitz and Emma Otheguy, illus by Hatem Aly (Dutton Books for Young Readers, May 12, 2020). Middle Grade. In Cuba, it is believed that a mysterious water serpent–the Madre de aguas–is responsible for providing and protecting the fresh water of the island. But the serpent is missing, and a drought has gripped the island. Uchenna, Elliot, and Professor Fauna fly to Cuba and endeavor to rescue the Madre de aguas. Unfortunately, it tries to kill them. Meanwhile, the Schmoke Brothers’ goons are driving around Havana, dumping pink sludge into the sewers. What is going on? Can Elliot and Uchenna end the drought? Stop the Schmokes? Or will the creature they are trying to save just eat them instead?

.

WE ARE NOT FROM HERE by Jenny Torres Sanchez (Philomel Books, May 19, 2020). Young Adult. Pulga has his dreams. Chico has his grief. Pequeña has her pride. And these three teens have one another. But none of them have illusions about the town they’ve grown up in and the dangers that surround them. Even with the love of family, threats lurk around every corner. And when those threats become all too real, the trio knows they have no choice but to run: from their country, from their families, from their beloved home.

Crossing from Guatemala through Mexico, they follow the route of La Bestia, the perilous train system that might deliver them to a better life–if they are lucky enough to survive the journey. With nothing but the bags on their backs and desperation drumming through their hearts, Pulga, Chico, and Pequeña know there is no turning back, despite the unknown that awaits them. And the darkness that seems to follow wherever they go.

.

FEDERICO AND THE WOLF by Rebecca J. Gomez, illustrated by Elisa Chavarri (Clarion Books, May 19, 2020). Picture Book. With his red hoodie on and his bicycle basket full of food, Federico is ready to visit Abuelo. But on the way, he meets a hungry wolf. And now his grandfather bears a striking resemblance to el lobo. Fortunately, Federico is quick and clever—and just happens to be carrying a spicy surprise! Federico drives the wolf away, and he and Abuelo celebrate with a special salsa. Recipe included.

.

.

.

HERE COMES OCEAN by Meg Fleming, illustrated by Paola Zakimi (Beach Lane Books, May 19, 2020). Picture Book. Grab a big bucket, your best pup pal, and a whole lot of imagination, and get ready for a day at the beach! There’s endless fun to be had chasing the waves and countless treasures waiting to be discovered—first a sand dollar, then a sandpiper feather, even a sneaky little crab. What surprises will the ocean reveal next?

.

.

.

HOME HOME by Lisa Allen-Agostini (Delacorte Press, May 26, 2020). Moving from Trinidad to Canada wasn’t her idea. But after being hospitalized for depression, her mother sees it as the only option. Now, living with an estranged aunt she barely remembers and dealing with her “troubles” in a foreign country, she feels more lost than ever.

Everything in Canada is cold and confusing. No one says hello, no one walks anywhere, and bus trips are never-ending and loud. She just wants to be home home, in Trinidad, where her only friend is going to school and Sunday church service like she used to do.

But this new home also brings unexpected surprises: the chance at a family that loves unconditionally, the possibility of new friends, and the promise of a hopeful future. Though she doesn’t see it yet, Canada is a place where she can feel at home–if she can only find the courage to be honest with herself.

.

.

NACHO’S NACHOS: The Story Behind the World’s Favorite Snack by Sandra Nickel, illustrated by Oliver Dominguez (Lee & Low, May 26, 2020). Picture Book. Ignacio Anaya was born in Mexico in 1895, and like a lot of Ignacios, he was nicknamed Nacho. Young Nacho loved to eat and cook, and when he grew up, he found a job in a restaurant. Eventually he became head waiter at the Victory Club, a popular restaurant in Piedras Negras, Mexico, right across the Rio Grande river from Eagle Pass, Texas.

One afternoon in 1940, during the Victory Club’s quiet hours between lunch and dinner, Mamie Finan, a regular customer from the US, walked in with three friends. They wanted a snack–something new, something different. Nacho rushed to the kitchen and improvised with what was on hand: corn tortillas, cheddar cheese, and jalapeño peppers. In that moment, Nacho’s Special, the dish that later became known simply as nachos, was born.

Word of this delicious new snack spread quickly. Soon restaurants all over Mexico, the United States, and later the world, were serving nachos. Little did Nacho know that his name would one day be a household word around the globe.

.

.

CATEGORY FIVE by Ann Dávila Cardinal (Tor Teen, June 2, 2020). Young Adult. After the hurricane, some see destruction and some smell blood. The tiny island of Vieques, located just off the northeastern coast of the main island of Puerto Rico, is trying to recover after hurricane Maria, but the already battered island is now half empty. To make matters worse, as on the main island, developers have come in to buy up the land at a fraction of its worth, taking advantage of the island when it is down.

Lupe, Javier, and Marisol are back to investigate a series of murders that follow in the wake of a hurricane and in the shadow of a new supernatural threat.

.

.

THE WAY TO RIO LUNA by Zoraida Córdova (Scholastic, June 2, 2020). Middle Grade. Eleven-year-old Danny Monteverde believes in magic. He knows that pixie dust is real, that wardrobes act as portals, and that rabbit holes lead to Wonderland. Most of all, he believes that his older sister, Pili, is waiting for him somewhere in Rio Luna, the enchanted land in their favorite book of fairy tales.

Danny doesn’t care what the adults say. He knows that Pili isn’t another teen runaway. When the siblings were placed in separate foster homes, she promised that she’d come back for him, and they’d build a new life together in Rio Luna.

Yet as the years pass, Danny’s faith begins to dim. But just when he thinks it might be time to put foolish fairy tales behind him, he finds a mysterious book in the library. It’s a collection of stories that contain hints about how to reach another world. A map to Rio Luna and to Pili.

As his adventure takes him from New York to Ecuador to Brazil, Danny learns that meeting your favorite characters isn’t always a dream come true. But nothing will stop him from finding his sister, even if it means standing up to the greatest threat the magical realm has ever known.

.

CEMETERY BOYS by Aiden Thomas (Swoon Reads, June 9, 2020). Young Adult. Yadriel has summoned a ghost, and now he can’t get rid of him. When his traditional Latinx family has problems accepting his true gender, Yadriel becomes determined to prove himself a real brujo. With the help of his cousin and best friend Maritza, he performs the ritual himself, and then sets out to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free.

However, the ghost he summons is actually Julian Diaz, the school’s resident bad boy, and Julian is not about to go quietly into death. He’s determined to find out what happened and tie off some loose ends before he leaves. Left with no choice, Yadriel agrees to help Julian, so that they can both get what they want. But the longer Yadriel spends with Julian, the less he wants to let him leave.

.

KINDERGARTEN HAT by Janet Lawler, illustrated by Geraldine Rodríguez (little bee books, June 9, 2020). Picture Book. Carlos Abredo loves building forts, playing soccer, vrooming cars, and gardening. But after moving to a new town, he’s nervous to start his first day of kindergarten. What if the bus gets lost? What if he can’t make friends? What if he can’t find his teacher?! Starting school can be intimidating for anyone, but when you’re also the new kid, it can be downright scary.

When Carlos gets a letter from his new teacher, he starts to feel a little better. He picks out a gift for her, and after a much-needed hug from Mom, he sets off for his first day. But when his present is accidentally ruined, will Carlos be able to salvage his first day of school?

.

SHE WAS THE FIRST! The Trailblazing Life of Shirley Chisholm by Katheryn Russell-Brown, illustrated by Eric Velasquez (Lee & Low, June 9, 2020). Picture Book. Even as a young child growing up in the 1920s, Shirley Chisholm was a leader. At the age of three, older children were already following her lead in their Brooklyn neighborhood.

As a student at Brooklyn College, Shirley could outtalk anyone who opposed her on the debate team. After graduating, she used her voice and leadership to fight for educational change. In community groups, she stood up for the rights of women and minorities. Her small stature and fiery determination often took people by surprise. But they listened.

In 1964, Shirley took her voice and leadership to politics, becoming the first Black woman elected to the New York State Assembly, and in 1968, the first Black woman elected to Congress. Then in 1972, she became the first Black woman to seek the presidency of the United States. She pushed for laws that helped women, children, students, poor people, farm workers, Native people, and others who were often ignored. She fought for healthcare. She spoke up for military veterans. She spoke out against war.

Shirley Chisholm, a woman of many firsts, was an unforgettable political trailblazer, a candidate of the people and catalyst of change who opened the door for women in the political arena and for the first Black president of the United States.

.

THE DREAM WEAVER by Reina Luz Alegre (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, June 23, 2020). Middle Grade. Zoey comes from a family of dreamers. From start-up companies to selling motorcycles, her dad is constantly chasing jobs that never seem to work out. As for Zoey, she’s willing to go along with whatever grand plans her dad dreams up—even if it means never staying in one place long enough to make real friends. Her family being together is all that matters to her.

So Zoey’s world is turned upside down when Dad announces that he’s heading to a new job in New York City without her. Instead, Zoey and her older brother, José, will stay with their Poppy at the Jersey Shore. At first, Zoey feels as lost and alone as she did after her mami died. But soon she’s distracted by an even bigger problem: the bowling alley that Poppy has owned for decades is in danger of closing!

After befriending a group of kids practicing for a summer bowling tournament, Zoey hatches a grand plan of her own to save the bowling alley. It seems like she’s found the perfect way to weave everyone’s dreams together…until unexpected events turn Zoey’s plan into one giant nightmare. Now, with her new friends counting on her and her family’s happiness hanging in the balance, Zoey will have to decide what her dream is—and how hard she’s willing to fight for it.

.

13th STREET #1: BATTLE OF THE BAD-BREATH BATS by David Bowles, illustrated by Shane Clester (HarperCollins, July 7, 2020). Chapter Book. Cousins Malia, Ivan, and Dante are visiting their aunt Lucy for the summer. But on their way to Gulf City’s water park, they get lost on 13th Street. Only it’s not a street at all. It’s a strange world filled with dangerous beasts! Will the cousins find their way back to Aunt Lucy’s?

.

.

.

13th STREET #2: THE FIRE-BREATHING FERRET FIASCO by David Bowles, illustrated by Shane Clester (HarperCollins, July 7, 2020). Chapter Book. Cousins Dante, Malia, and Ivan are happy to be back in their home town. But then their school bus takes a wrong turn and they end up on 13th Street! There are new monsters to fight, but at least they have their friend Susana and their bus driver to help them. Will the gang ever make it to their first day of class?

.

.

.

13th STREET #3: CLASH OF THE CACKLING COUGARS by David Bowles, illustrated by Shane Clester (HarperCollins, July 7, 2020). Chapter Book. Ivan, Malia, and Dante are excited about their ski trip. There’s no chance they’ll stumble onto 13th Street in the mountains, right? WRONG! After being sucked through a portal, the cousins come face-to-face with joke-telling cougars that are more dangerous than they seem. How will the kids get out of trouble this time?

.

.

.

PictureMUSE SQUAD: THE CASSANDRA CURSE by Chantel Acevedo (Balzer + Bray, July 7, 2020). Middle Grade. When a young Cuban American girl discovers that she’s one of the nine muses of Greek mythology, she must use her newfound powers to help a brilliant classmate who is destined to save humanity.

.

.

.

.

ALL THESE MONSTERS by Amy Tintera (HMH Books for Young Readers, July 7, 2020). Young Adult. Seventeen-year-old Clara is ready to fight back. Fight back against her abusive father, fight back against the only life she’s ever known, and most of all, fight back against scrabs, the earth-dwelling monsters that are currently ravaging the world. So when an opportunity arises for Clara to join an international monster-fighting squad, she jumps at the chance.

When Clara starts training with her teammates, however, she realizes what fighting monsters really means: sore muscles, exhaustion, and worst of all, death. Scrabs are unpredictable, violent, and terrifying. But as Clara gains confidence in her battle skills, she starts to realize scrabs might not be the biggest evil. The true monsters are the ones you least expect.

.

RUNNING by Natalia Sylvester (Clarion Books, July 14, 2020). Young Adult. Senator Anthony Ruiz is running for president. Throughout his successful political career, he has always had his daughter’s vote, but a presidential campaign brings a whole new level of scrutiny to sheltered fifteen-year-old Mariana and the rest of her Cuban American family, from a 60 Minutes–style tour of their house to tabloids doctoring photos and inventing scandals. As tensions rise within the Ruiz family, Mari begins to learn about the details of her father’s political positions, and she realizes that her father is not the man she thought he was.

But how do you find your voice when everyone’s watching? When it means disagreeing with your father—publicly? What do you do when your dad stops being your hero? Will Mari get a chance to confront her father? If she does, will she have the courage to seize it?

OUR REVIEW: https://latinosinkidlit.com/2020/05/14/review-running-by-natalia-sylvester/

.

THE TOTAL ECLIPSE OF NESTOR LOPEZ by Adrianna Cuevas (Farrar, Straus and Giroux BYR, July 21, 2020). Middle Grade. All Nestor Lopez wants is to live in one place for more than a few months and have dinner with his dad.

When he and his mother move to a new town to live with his grandmother after his dad’s latest deployment, Nestor plans to lay low. He definitely doesn’t want anyone to find out his deepest secret: that he can talk to animals.

But when the animals in his new town start disappearing, Nestor’s grandmother becomes the prime suspect after she is spotted in the woods where they were last seen. As Nestor investigates the source of the disappearances, he learns that they are being seized by a tule vieja—a witch who can absorb an animal’s powers by biting it during a solar eclipse. And the next eclipse is just around the corner.

Now it’s up to Nestor’s extraordinary ability and his new friends to catch the tule vieja—and save a place he might just call home.

AUTHOR GUEST POST: https://latinosinkidlit.com/2019/10/24/guest-post-by-middle-grade-author-adrianna-cuevas/

.

WAYWARD WITCH: BROOKLYN BRUJAS #3 by Zoraida Córdova (Sourcebooks Fire, August 1, 2020). Young Adult. Rose Mortiz has always been a fixer, but lately she’s been feeling lost. She has brand new powers that she doesn’t understand, and her family is still trying to figure out how to function in the wake of her amnesiac father’s return home. Then, on the night of her Death Day party, Rose discovers her father’s memory loss has been a lie.

As she rushes to his side, the two are ambushed and pulled through a portal to the land of Adas, the fairy realm. There, Rose is forced to work with a group of other powerful teens to save Adas. Soon, she begins to discover the scope of her powers, the troubling truth about her father’s past, and the sacrifices he made to save her sisters. But if Rose wants to return home so that she can repair her broken family, she must figure out how to heal Adas first.

MARIBEL VERSUS THE VOLCANO: A Mount St. Helen’s Survival Story by Sarah Hannah Gomez, illus. by Jane Pica (Stone Arch Books, August 1, 2020). Middle Grade. In 1980s Washington state, Mt. St. Helens is rumbling. Twelve-year-old Maribel isn’t concerned at first, despite officials evacuating her neighborhood. Her family is convinced it’s just a precaution, even as the mountain continues to rumble. Maribel decides to disobey orders and return home for items she and her sister left behind – just as the volcano finally erupts. As ash rains down, Maribel realizes she must learn to focus if she’s going to survive.

.

.

VOLLEYBALL ACE: A Jake Maddox JV Girls Story text by Cindy L. Rodriguez (Stone Arch Books, August 1, 2020). Middle Grade. Until now, Layla has balanced her school work and volleyball easily enough. In eighth grade, though, academic expectations are tougher. Student-athletes need at least a C average in all classes to play sports. When Layla’s dedication to volleyball puts her algebra grade at risk, her chances of making the high school freshman team next year are on the line. Can she find a way to ace her classes like she does on the court?

.

.

G.O.A.T–SERENA WILLIAMS by Tami Charles (Sterling Children’s Books, August 4, 2020). G.O.A.T. is an acronym that stands for Greatest Of All Time–and it takes lifelong dedication, nonstop hard work, and undeniable, unbelievable talent even to be considered for that honor. Serena Williams is the most decorated female tennis player of all time. She’s been ranked #1 by the Women’s Tennis Association countless times since 2002, and no one holds more Grand Slam titles–not just as a single’s player, but also, with her sister Venus, in women’s doubles. Find out all about this powerhouse player and her dozens of amazing victories in this entertaining book that’s packed with stats, sidebars, and details about the athlete’s journey.

.

LOBIZONA: Wolves of No World #1 by Romina Garber (Wednesday Books, August 4, 2020). Young Adult. Manuela Azul has been crammed into an existence that feels too small for her. As an undocumented immigrant who’s on the run from her father’s Argentine crime-family, Manu is confined to a small apartment and a small life in Miami, Florida.

Until Manu’s protective bubble is shattered.

Her surrogate grandmother is attacked, lifelong lies are exposed, and her mother is arrested by ICE. Without a home, without answers, and finally without shackles, Manu investigates the only clue she has about her past—a mysterious “Z” emblem—which leads her to a secret world buried within our own. A world connected to her dead father and his criminal past. A world straight out of Argentine folklore, where the seventh consecutive daughter is born a bruja and the seventh consecutive son is a lobizón, a werewolf. A world where her unusual eyes allow her to belong.

As Manu uncovers her own story and traces her real heritage all the way back to a cursed city in Argentina, she learns it’s not just her U.S. residency that’s illegal, it’s her entire existence.

.

ILLEGAL: A Disappeared Novel by Francisco X. Stork (Scholastic Press, August 4, 2020). Young Adult. Life in Mexico is a death sentence for Emiliano and his sister Sara. To escape the violent cartel that is after them, they flee across the border, seeking a better life in the United States and hoping that they can find a way to bring their pursuers to justice.

Sara turns herself over to the authorities to apply for asylum. Emiliano enters the country illegally, planning to live with their father.

But now Sara is being held indefinitely in a detention facility, awaiting an asylum hearing that may never come, finding it harder every day to hold on to her faith and hope. Life for Emiliano is not easy either. Everywhere he goes, it’s clear that he doesn’t belong. And all the while, the cartel is closing in on them.

Emiliano sets off on a tense and dangerous race to find justice, but can he expose the web of crimes from his place in the shadows?

.

LUCI SOARS by Lulu Delacre (Philomel Books, August 4, 2020). Picture Book. Luci was born without a shadow. Mama says no one notices. But Luci does. And sometimes others do too. Sometimes they stare, sometimes they tease Luci, and sometimes they make her cry. But when Luci learns to look at what makes her different as a strength, she realizes she has more power than she ever thought. And that her differences can even be a superpower.

.

.

.

PAOLA SANTIAGO AND THE RIVER OF TEARS by Tehlor Kay Mejia (Rick Riordan Presents, August 4, 2020). Middle Grade. Space-obsessed 12-year-old Paola Santiago and her two best friends, Emma and Dante, know the rule: Stay away from the river. It’s all they’ve heard since a schoolmate of theirs drowned a year ago. Pao is embarrassed to admit that she has been told to stay away for even longer than that, because her mother is constantly warning her about La Llorona, the wailing ghost woman who wanders the banks of the Gila at night, looking for young people to drag into its murky depths.

Hating her mother’s humiliating superstitions and knowing that she and her friends would never venture into the water, Pao organizes a meet-up to test out her new telescope near the Gila, since it’s the best stargazing spot. But when Emma never arrives and Pao sees a shadowy figure in the reeds, it seems like maybe her mom was right.

Pao has always relied on hard science to make sense of the world, but to find her friend she will have to enter the world of her nightmares, which includes unnatural mist, mind-bending monsters, and relentless spirits controlled by a terrifying force that defies both logic and legend.

.

SIA MARTINEZ AND THE MOONLIT BEGINNING OF EVERYTHING by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland (Simon Pulse, August 4, 2020). Young Adult. It’s been three years since ICE raids and phone calls from Mexico and an ill-fated walk across the Sonoran. Three years since Sia Martinez’s mom disappeared. Sia wants to move on, but it’s hard in her tiny Arizona town where people refer to her mom’s deportation as “an unfortunate incident.”

Sia knows that her mom must be dead, but every new moon Sia drives into the desert and lights San Anthony and la Guadalupe candles to guide her mom home.

Then one night, under a million stars, Sia’s life and the world as we know it cracks wide open. Because a blue-lit spacecraft crashes in front of Sia’s car, and it’s carrying her mom, who’s very much alive.

As Sia races to save her mom from armed-quite-possibly-alien soldiers, she uncovers secrets as profound as they are dangerous in this stunning and inventive exploration of first love, family, immigration, and our vast, limitless universe.

.

WHAT IF A FISH by Anika Fajardo (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, August 4, 2020). Middle Grade. Half-Colombian Eddie Aguado has never really felt Colombian. Especially after Papa died. And since Mama keeps her memories of Papa locked up where Eddie can’t get to them, he only has Papa’s third-place fishing tournament medal to remember him by. He’ll have to figure out how to be more Colombian on his own.

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

FUSSY FLAMINGO by Shelly Vaughan James, illustrated by Matthew Rivera (Sourcebooks, August 7, 2020). Picture Book. Meet Lola, the “no, no” flamingo. Lola will NOT eat shrimp, thank you very much. She does NOT care that it will turn her feathers pink. It is just plain yucky. But when Lola sneaks other snacks, she discovers that you really are what you eat. This very silly story will delight even the pickiest of young readers and resonate with parents eager to see just one bite. Don’t miss the fun flamingo facts in the back!

.

.

SHARUKO: Peruvian Archaeologist Julio C. Tello by Monica Brown, illustrated by Elisa Chavarri (Lee & Low, August 18, 2020). Picture Book. Growing up in the late 1800s, Julio Tello, an Indigenous boy, spent time exploring the caves and burial grounds in the foothills of the Peruvian Andes. Nothing scared Julio, not even the ancient human skulls he found. His bravery earned him the boyhood nickname Sharuko, which means brave in Quechua, the language of the Native people of Peru.

At the age of twelve, Julio moved to Lima to continue his education. While in medical school, he discovered an article about the skulls he had found. The skulls had long ago been sent to Lima to be studied by scientists. The article renewed Julio’s interest in his ancestry, and he decided to devote his medical skills to the study of Peru’s Indigenous history.

Over his lifetime, Julio Tello made many revolutionary discoveries at archaeological sites around Peru, and he worked to preserve the historical treasures he excavated. He showed that Peru’s Indigenous cultures had been established thousands of years ago, disproving the popular belief that Peruvian culture had been introduced more recently from other countries. He fostered pride in his country’s Indigenous ancestry, making him a hero to all Peruvians. Because of the brave man once known as Sharuko, people around the world today know of Peru’s long history and its living cultural legacy.

.

QUEEN OF TEJANO MUSIC: SELENA by Silvia López, illustrated by Paola Escobar (little bee books, August 25, 2020). Picture Book. Selena Quintanilla’s music career began at the age of nine when she started singing in her family’s band. She went from using a hairbrush as a microphone to traveling from town to town to play gigs. But Selena faced a challenge: People said that she would never make it in Tejano music, which was dominated by male performers. Selena was determined to prove them wrong.

Born and raised in Texas, Selena didn’t know how to speak Spanish, but with the help of her dad, she learned to sing it. With songs written and composed by her older brother and the fun dance steps Selena created, her band, Selena Y Los Dinos, rose to stardom! A true trailblazer, her success in Tejano music and her crossover into mainstream American music opened the door for other Latinx entertainers, and she became an inspiration for Latina girls everywhere.

OUR REVIEW: https://latinosinkidlit.com/2020/04/16/book-review-queen-of-tejano-music-selena-by-silvia-lopez-illus-by-paola-escobar/

.

LETTERS FROM CUBA by Ruth Behar (Nancy Paulsen Books, August 25, 2020). Middle Grade. The situation is getting dire for Jews in Poland on the eve of World War II. Esther’s father has fled to Cuba, and she is the first one to join him. It’s heartbreaking to be separated from her beloved sister, so Esther promises to write down everything that happens until they’re reunited. And she does, recording both the good–the kindness of the Cuban people and her discovery of a valuable hidden talent–and the bad: the fact that Nazism has found a foothold even in Cuba. Esther’s evocative letters are full of her appreciation for life and reveal a resourceful, determined girl with a rare ability to bring people together, all the while striving to get the rest of their family out of Poland before it’s too late.

Based on Ruth Behar’s family history, this compelling story celebrates the resilience of the human spirit in the most challenging times.

.

NEVER LOOK BACK  by Lilliam Rivera (Bloomsbury, September 1, 2020). Young Adult. Eury comes to the Bronx as a girl haunted. Haunted by losing everything in Hurricane Maria–and by an evil spirit, Ato. She fully expects the tragedy that befell her and her family in Puerto Rico to catch up with her in New York. Yet, for a time, she can almost set this fear aside, because there’s this boy . . .

Pheus is a golden-voiced, bachata-singing charmer, ready to spend the summer on the beach with his friends, serenading his on-again, off-again flame. That changes when he meets Eury. All he wants is to put a smile on her face and fight off her demons. But some dangers are too powerful for even the strongest love, and as the world threatens to tear them apart, Eury and Pheus must fight for each other and their lives.

Image result for SHADOW CROSSER BOOK COVERTHE SHADOW CROSSER (Book 3 of the Storm Runner series) by J.C. Cervantes (Rick Riordan Presents, September 1, 2020). Zane Obispo has been looking forward to his training at the Shaman Institute for Higher Order Magic, and not only because it means he’ll be reunited with his best friend, Brooks. Anything would be better than how he has spent the last three months: searching for the remaining godborns with a nasty demon who can sniff them out (literally). But when Zane tracks down the last kid on his list, he’s in for a surprise: the “one” is actually a pair of twins, and they’re trying to prevent a mysterious object from falling into the wrong hands.

After a shocking betrayal, Zane finds himself at SHIHOM sooner than expected. Even more shocking is the news that the Maya gods have gone missing. The bat god, Camazotz, and Ixkik’ (aka Blood Moon) have taken them out of commission . . . and the godborns are their next target. The only thing the villains need now? The object that the twins possess.

Zane knows the godborns aren’t strong enough yet to stand up to Zotz, Ixkik’, and their army. There might be a way to save the gods, but it involves locating a magical calendar that can see across time and space . . . not to mention traveling more than thirty years into the past.

In The Shadow Crosser, Zane and his friends embark on their most treacherous mission yet–a mission that, with one blunder, could change history as we know it, and worse, destroy the universe.

.

SECRETS OF THE SILVER LION: CARMEN SANDIEGO by Emma Otheguy (HMH Books for Young Readers, September 8, 2020). For centuries, the magnificent Throne of Felipe has stood with two empty spaces beside its famous silver arrow—spaces where the silver castle and lion should have been. And now, with the recent discovery of the silver castle within a secret vault in Seville, Spain, the hunt is on for the third silver icon. With all three pieces in the place, the throne will be enormously valuable—making it a hot item on VILE’s radar. Now it’s up to Carmen and crew to find the silver lion before VILE does, and protect the throne from winding up in the wrong hands.

.

.

DIGGING FOR WORDS: José Alberto Gutiérrez and the Library He Built by Angela Burke Kunkel, illustrated by Paola Escobar (Random House/Schwartz & Wade, September 8, 2020). Picture Book. The book tells the story of a garbage collector in Bogotá, known as the “Lord of the Books,” whose library project began with a single discarded book found on his garbage route, and has expanded to provide reading material to more than 200 schools, organizations, and libraries across Colombia.

.

.

.

Image result for LUPE WONG WON'T DANCE BOOK COVERLUPE WONG WON’T DANCE by Donna Barba Higuera (Levine Querido, September 8, 2020). Middle Grade. Lupe Wong is going to be the first female pitcher in the Major Leagues.

She’s also championed causes her whole young life. Some worthy…like expanding the options for race on school tests beyond just a few bubbles. And some not so much…like complaining to the BBC about the length between Doctor Who seasons.

Lupe needs an A in all her classes in order to meet her favorite pitcher, Fu Li Hernandez, who’s Chinacan/Mexinese just like her. So when the horror that is square dancing rears its head in gym? Obviously she’s not gonna let that slide.

Image result for evelyn delray is moving awayEVELYN DELREY IS MOVING AWAY by Meg Medina, illustrated by Sonia Sánchez (Candlewick, September 8, 2020). Picture Book. Two best friends must say goodbye to each other when one of them moves away.

.

.

.

.

A THOUSAND WHITE BUTTERFLIES by Jessica Betancourt-Perez and Karen Lynn Williams, illustrated by Gina Maldonado (Charlesbridge, September 15, 2020). Picture Book. As if being new to the United States wasn’t hard enough, Isabella’s first day of school is canceled due to snow! Isabella has recently arrived from Colombia with her mother and abuela. She misses Papa, who is still in South America. It’s her first day of school, her make-new-friends day, but when classes are canceled because of too much snow, Isabella misses warm, green, Colombia more than ever. Then Isabella meets Katie and finds out that making friends in the cold is easier than she thought!

.

LAND OF THE CRANES by Aida Salazar (Scholastic, September 15, 2020). Middle Grade. Nine-year-old Betita knows she is a crane. Papi has told her the story, even before her family fled to Los Angeles to seek refuge from cartel wars in Mexico. The Aztecs came from a place called Aztlan, what is now the Southwest US, called the land of the cranes. They left Aztlan to establish their great city in the center of the universe-Tenochtitlan, modern-day Mexico City. It was prophesized that their people would one day return to live among the cranes in their promised land. Papi tells Betita that they are cranes that have come home.

Then one day, Betita’s beloved father is arrested by Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) and deported to Mexico. Betita and her pregnant mother are left behind on their own, but soon they too are detained and must learn to survive in a family detention camp outside of Los Angeles. Even in cruel and inhumane conditions, Betita finds heart in her own poetry and in the community she and her mother find in the camp. The voices of her fellow asylum seekers fly above the hatred keeping them caged, but each day threatens to tear them down lower than they ever thought they could be. Will Betita and her family ever be whole again?

.

OUR SUBWAY BABY by Peter Mercurio, illustrated by Leo Espinosa (Dial Books, September 15, 2020). Picture Book. “Some babies are born into their families. Some are adopted. This is the story of how one baby found his family in the New York City subway.”

So begins the true story of Kevin and how he found his Daddy Danny and Papa Pete. Written in a direct address to his son, Pete’s moving and emotional text tells how his partner, Danny, found a baby tucked away in the corner of a subway station on his way home from work one day. Pete and Danny ended up adopting the baby together. Although neither of them had prepared for the prospect of parenthood, they are reminded, “Where there is love, anything is possible.”

.

Image result for EACH OF US A DESERT MARK OSHIRO BOOK COVEREACH OF US A DESERT by Mark Oshiro (Tor Teen, September 15, 2020). Young Adult. Xochital is destined to wander the desert alone, speaking her troubled village’s stories into its arid winds. Her only companions are the blessed stars above and enimagic lines of poetry magically strewn across dusty dunes.

Her one desire: to share her heart with a kindred spirit.

One night, Xo’s wish is granted—in the form of Emilia, the cold and beautiful daughter of the town’s murderous mayor. But when the two set out on a magical journey across the desert, they find their hearts could be a match… if only they can survive the nightmare-like terrors that arise when the sun goes down.

.

Image result for MISS METEOR BOOK COVERMISS METEOR by Tehlor Kay Mejia and Anna-Marie McLemore (HarperCollins, September 22, 2020). Young Adult. Two friends, one made of stardust and one fighting to save her family’s diner, take on their small town’s 50th annual pageant and talent competition in the hopes that they can change their town’s destiny, and their own.

.

.

.

.

.

Vampires Never Get Old: Tales with Fresh Bite CoverVAMPIRES NEVER GET OLD: Ten Tales with Fresh Bite edited by Zoraida Córdova and Natalie C. Parker (Imprint, September 22, 2020). Eleven fresh vampire stories from young adult fiction’s leading voices! In this delicious new collection, you’ll find stories about lurking vampires of social media, rebellious vampires hungry for more than just blood, eager vampires coming out—and going out for their first kill—and other bold, breathtaking, dangerous, dreamy, eerie, iconic, powerful creatures of the night. Welcome to the evolution of the vampire—and a revolution on the page.

Vampires Never Get Old includes stories by authors both bestselling and acclaimed, including Samira Ahmed, Dhonielle Clayton, Zoraida Córdova and Natalie C. Parker, Tessa Gratton, Heidi Heilig, Julie Murphy, Mark Oshiro, Rebecca Roanhorse, Laura Ruby, Victoria “V. E.” Schwab, and Kayla Whaley.

.

.

FURIA by Yamile Saied Méndez (Algonquin Young Readers, September 29, 2020). In Rosario, Argentina, Camila Hassan lives a double life. At home, she is a careful daughter, living within her mother’s narrow expectations, in her rising-soccer-star brother’s shadow, and under the abusive rule of her short-tempered father.

On the field, she is La Furia, a powerhouse of skill and talent. When her team qualifies for the South American tournament, Camila gets the chance to see just how far those talents can take her. In her wildest dreams, she’d get an athletic scholarship to a North American university.

But the path ahead isn’t easy. Her parents don’t know about her passion. They wouldn’t allow a girl to play fútbol–and she needs their permission to go any farther. And the boy she once loved is back in town. Since he left, Diego has become an international star, playing in Italy for the renowned team Juventus. Camila doesn’t have time to be distracted by her feelings for him. Things aren’t the same as when he left: she has her own passions and ambitions now, and La Furia cannot be denied. As her life becomes more complicated, Camila is forced to face her secrets and make her way in a world with no place for the dreams and ambition of a girl like her.

Filled with authentic details and the textures of day-to-day life in Argentina, heart-soaring romance, and breathless action on the pitch, Furia is the story of a girl’s journey to make her life her own.

FELIZ NEW YEAR, AVA GABRIELA by Alexandra Alessandri, illus. by Addy Rivera Sonda (Albert Whitman, October 1, 2020). Picture Book. Ava Gabriela is visiting her extended family in Colombia for the holidays. She’s excited to take part in family traditions such as making bunuelos, but being around all her loud relatives in an unfamiliar place makes Ava shy and quiet. How will Ava find her voice before she misses out on all the New Year’s fun?

.

.

.

A SLED FOR GABO/UN TRINEO PARA GABO by Emma Otheguy, illustrated by Ana Ramírez González (Atheneum, October 1, 2020). Picture Book. About a boy and his family’s adjustment to snowy weather and their creative solutions for enjoying a wintry day.

.

.

ALL BECAUSE YOU MATTER by Tami Charles, illustrated by Bryan Collier (Orchard Books, October 6, 2020). Picture Book. This powerful, rhythmic lullaby reassures readers that their matter and their worth is never diminished, no matter the circumstance: through the joy and wonder of their first steps and first laughter, through the hardship of adolescent struggles and the pain and heartbreak of current events, they always have, and always will, matter.

.

.

A CUBAN GIRL’S GUIDE TO TEA AND TOMORROW by Laura Taylor Namey (Atheneum, October 6, 2020). Young Adult. For Lila Reyes, a summer in England was never part of the plan. The plan was 1) take over her abuela’s role as head baker at their panadería, 2) move in with her best friend after graduation, and 3) live happily ever after with her boyfriend. But then the Trifecta happened, and everything—including Lila herself—fell apart.

Worried about Lila’s mental health, her parents make a new plan for her: Spend three months with family friends in Winchester, England, to relax and reset. But with the lack of sun, a grumpy inn cook, and a small town lacking Miami flavor (both in food and otherwise), what would be a dream trip for some feels more like a nightmare to Lila…until she meets Orion Maxwell.

A teashop clerk with troubles of his own, Orion is determined to help Lila out of her funk, and appoints himself as her personal tour guide. From Winchester’s drama-filled music scene to the sweeping English countryside, it isn’t long before Lila is not only charmed by Orion, but England itself. Soon a new future is beginning to form in Lila’s mind—one that would mean leaving everything she ever planned behind.

.

Are You Ready to Soar? Revealing Blazewrath Games by Amparo Ortiz ...BLAZEWRATH GAMES by Amparo Ortiz (Page Street, October 6, 2020). Young Adult. A contemporary fantasy about 17-year-old Lana Torres, who after rescuing a prized dragon from an attacker is awarded a spot on her native Puerto Rico’s Blazewrath World Cup team. But the return of the Sire, an ancient dragon who’s cursed to remain in human form, threatens to compromise this year’s tournament.

.

.

.

.

COME ON IN edited by Adi Alsaid (Inkyard Press, October 13, 2020). a YA anthology covering the experience of immigration, curated and edited by Adi Alsaid. The book features short stories by YA authors who are either immigrants or the children of immigrants, including Samira Ahmed, Zoraida Córdova, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Maurene Goo, Justine Larbalestier, Sona Charaipotra, and many others.

.

.

.

.

BEDTIME FOR SUPERHEROES by Katherine Locke, illustrated by Rayanne Vieira (Running Press Kids, November 3, 2020). Picture Book. Being a superhero is hard work! Fighting evil, catching bad guys, saving the day, and it’s messy too! After a long day of being a superhero, even the best superhero has to take a bath, wash their superhero clothes, and rest up for another day of saving the world. With punchy words, bouncing lines, and a whole lot of respect for the hard work superheroes do, this is a great bedtime read for all kinds of superhero kids.

.

.

BLACKWATER by Jeannette Arroyo, Ren Graham (Henry Holt, 2020). YA Graphic Novel. When Tony, a restless star athlete, and Eli, a quiet outsider, form an unlikely friendship in their small Maine town, they find themselves tracking down the source of a werewolf curse and heeding the warnings of ghosts, all while exploring their budding feelings for each other and dealing with typical high school drama.

.

.

DOODLES FROM THE BOOGIE DOWN by Stephanie Rodriguez (Kokila, Spring 2020). A middle grade graphic novel by debut author-illustrator Stephanie Rodriguez. The book, which is autobiographically inspired, follows a young Latina in the Bronx, who navigates friendships and a strict mother as she carves out a place for herself in the world as a budding artist.

.

.

LILLYBELLE, A DAMSEL NOT IN DISTRESS by Joana Pastro (Kane Press, 2020). Picture Book. At the School for Damsels, LillyBelle enjoys many damsel-in-training classes, like cake baking and vocal training, but the rule that a damsel must be in distress . . . not so much. When she’s captured by one villain after another, LillyBelle will need to use her charm and her wit to save herself and prove once and for all that damsels don’t have to be in distress–all in time for tea!

.

.

Image result for hilda eunice burgosMIOSOTIS FLORES NEVER FORGETS by Hilda Eunice Burgos (Lee & Low, 2020). Middle Grade. Miosotis struggles with her growing distance from her college-aged sister, until her work with an abandoned dog at a local animal rescue leads her to realize her sister may be experiencing similar abuse.

.

.

.

PictureMISS QUINCES by Kat Fajardo (Scholastic/Graphix, 2020). Miss Quinces features Sue, a Honduran-American girl who, instead of going to sleepaway camp with her friends, gets stuck visiting family in Honduras and having a surprise quinceañera, which is the last thing Sue wants—until she grows to appreciate both her family and their traditions. Simultaneous publication in both English and Spanish.

.

QUIET NO MORE by Nikki Barthelmess (Flux, October 13, 2020). Young Adult. After surviving sexual assault by her father and six months in foster care, college freshman Victoria Parker is trying to move on with her life. She’s focusing on the positives–attending college, living on her own, repairing old relationships and making new ones, and getting involved with an abuse survivors activist group on campus. But everything’s thrown into disarray when a strange woman shows up, claiming to be Victoria’s aunt and asking Victoria to lie about what happened to her. With her father’s sentencing in a few months, Victoria’s nervous about having to share the truth of what happened with a judge. She’s not even sure if she has the strength to go through with it. But when her fellow club members begin pressuring her to speak out, Victoria has to decide how to share her story while remaining true to herself.

.

.

Stacks Image 58PictureXO, EXOPLANET by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Jorge Lacera (Disney-Hyperion, 2020). Picture Book. XO, EXOPLANET is about the planets of our solar system spotting another planet outside the system—an exoplanet—and reaching out to it, via letter, to express their happiness that it is in the galaxy. But feelings get stepped on as the correspondence continues. Who is really the exoplanet here?

Book Review: Sarai and the Meaning of Awesome by Sarai Gonzalez & Monica Brown, illus. by Christine Almeda

 

Review by Cris Rhodes

DESCRIPTION OF THE BOOK: Fourth grader Sarai Gonzalez can do anything. She can bake, dance, and run her own cupcake business. But when Sarai’s grandparents are forced to move, even Sarai’s not sure what to do. So she hatches a super awesome plan with her younger sisters and cousin to buy back the house. But houses are more expensive than she ever thought, her sisters won’t listen, and she’s running out of time. Will Sarai find a way to save the day?

Inspired by the life of viral video sensation and social activist Sarai Gonzalez with the help of award-winning children’s book author Monica Brown.

MY TWO CENTS: Like many, I was enchanted by the star of Bomba Estéreo’s 2013 viral hit “Soy Yo.” Sarai Gonzalez, with her glasses, funky hair, and can-do attitude was instantly memorable for her message of self-acceptance. Gonzalez’s quirky persona resonated, in part, because she represents a Latinidad not often proliferated in contemporary media. Sarai’s unique brand of relentless optimism, captured so artfully in the “Soy Yo” music video, is magnified in the early reader Sarai and the Meaning of Awesome, written by Gonzalez and award-winning author Monica Brown, illustrated by Christine Almeda. Sarai and the Meaning of Awesome is lovely in a multitude of ways. From Gonzalez and Brown’s conversational and jovial tone to Almeda’s illustrations (both in the margins and via two-page spreads throughout the text). And, albeit brief, this book is captivating.

 

 

For a young readership, Sarai’s opening affirmation “YOU ARE AWESOME” is as much a declaration for Sarai as it is for the readers she invites along with her as she embarks on an entrepreneurial mission to save her grandparents’ house (2). Bolstered by her endless supply of creative problem-solving, Sarai recruits her sisters to help make cupcakes and sell lemonade (limonada) and “delicious purple-corn-ade” (chica morada) to raise money when her grandparents’ rental home goes up for sale (78). Young readers will be captivated by Sarai’s agency and her ability to think quickly and take charge. Even so, her contributions to her family are fully within her capabilities as a ten-year-old and, as such, are completely believable. The ultimate result of her efforts is equally realistic and conveys to young readers that even in failure, success and growth can be found.

Gonzalez and Brown ultimately weave a tale that shares its abundance of hope with a readership who needs it. In a time when Latinx children are victimized by current political ideologies, seeing Sarai take charge and resist provides a necessary counterstory. What’s more, Sarai’s story of perseverance and hope is universal. In many places throughout this book, being Latinx is incidental to the plot. It’s a great joy to read a book like this. So often, being Latinx (though Sarai is careful to explain her family history, her mother is Peruvian and father is Costa Rican, while she and her sisters are from the U.S.—meaning that she and her family “are really, truly Americans—North, South and Central!” [7]), is the catalyst for problems. But Sarai’s grandparents’ ethnic and cultural identities are unrelated to their rental house being sold. As such, this text doesn’t paint one’s Latinidad as something to overcome, but rather something to be embraced, as Sarai uses her bilingualism to sell her baked goods and other treats to a wider customer base.

For young readers who need an extra boost of confidence, Sarai and the Meaning of Awesome delivers. Mingled with Almeda’s illustrations, which add just the right amount of pizzazz to an already bright narrative, Gonzalez and Brown’s prose is engaging while also being accessible to young readers just beginning to look for chaptered books. Sarai’s story will captivate readers, just as Sarai’s dance moves and bespectacled gaze did in “Soy Yo.”

 

ABOUT THE AUTHORS: Sarai GonzalezThirteen-year-old, Sarai Gonzalez became an overnight sensation after appearing in Bomba Estereo’s “Soy Yo,” a music video about embracing yourself and loving your flaws. The video has garnered over 50 million views and the New York Times called Sarai a Latina icon. Sarai and the Meaning of Awesome is the first book in the new chapter book series inspired by her life. Sarai lives in New Jersey with her family.

 

monica6

Monica Brown, Ph.D., is the award-winning author of Waiting for the Biblioburro/Esperando al BiblioburroMarisol McDonald Doesn’t Match/no combina, and the Lola Levine chapter book series, including Lola Levine is Not MeanLola Levine, Drama Queen, and Lola Levine and the Ballet Scheme. Her books have garnered starred reviews, the Americas Award, two Pura Belpré Author Honors, and the prestigious Rockefeller Fellowship on Chicano Cultural Literacy. She lives in Arizona with her family and teaches at Northern Arizona University. Find out more at www.monicabrown.net.

 

 

ABOUT THE ILLUSTRATORChristine 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.

Click here for an introduction to illustrator Christine Almeda, which includes a look inside Sarai and the Meaning of Awesome.

 

 

ABOUT THE REVIEWER: Cris Rhodes is a lecturer in the English department at Sam Houston State University. She recently completed a Ph.D. in English with an emphasis on Latinx children’s literature. Her research explores the intersections between childhood activism and Latinx identities.

Book Review: Ugly Cat and Pablo by Isabel Quintero

 

Review by Cecilia Cackley

DESCRIPTION OF THE BOOK: Ugly Cat is dying for a paleta, or ice pop, and his friend Pablo is determined to help him get one by scaring a little girl who is enjoying a coconut paleta in the park. Things go horribly wrong when, instead of being scared, the little girl picks Pablo up and declares that he would make a great snack for her pet snake. Oh and there’s also the small problem that Ugly Cat may have inadvertently swallowed Pablo in all of the commotion!

Ugly Cat and his impeccably dressed mouse friend, Pablo, are an unlikely and dynamic duo who will win young readers over with their ridiculously silly antics and their search for tasty treats.

MY TWO CENTS:  As Pablo likes to say “Oh my galleta!” What a charming, silly, delightful book! I was captivated by Ugly Cat and Pablo from the very first page. They are a fantastic odd couple, one pre-occupied with food and the other with adventure. Quintero’s dialogue is snappy and if some of the vocabulary is a little above the average elementary reader, it makes it a great read-aloud and vehicle for introducing new words in both English and Spanish. I appreciate that the Spanish isn’t italicized and all the characters go back and forth between both languages, so no one is singled out as the ‘Other’.

Quintero slips in some good lessons about being kind to friends, listening, and using your words when there’s a misunderstanding. This book falls squarely in the genre of buddy animal comedy, with tons of kid appeal. The setting of an urban park is well chosen and readers will be almost as hungry as Ugly Cat by the time they finish reading the descriptions of all the great street food. Best of all, this is a series, so students who fall in love with Ugly Cat and Pablo will soon have more adventures to giggle over.

Extra points to Scholastic for great book design and back matter! Ugly Cat and Pablo each have their own font for their dialogue, giving a comic book sensibility to the pages that don’t have any word bubbles as part of the illustrations. There are pictures on almost every page to lend support to visual learners, a glossary at the back that translates the Spanish, and even a recipe for Ugly Cat’s favorite treat, paletas.

TEACHING TIPS: The strong characters and specific setting make this a great choice for elementary school book groups. Students can discuss the motivations each character, their misunderstandings and predictions for what will happen at all the cliff-hanger chapter endings. Students could also write their own endings for some of the book’s incidents and make different choices for the characters.

Another great project would be to compare the friends in this book to other animal books with friends, such as classics Frog and Toad or George and Martha, or more contemporary stories such as The Story of Diva and Flea by Mo Willems. Students could also compare the parks and streets of Paris in Diva and Flea to the parks and streets in Ugly Cat and Pablo.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Isabel Quintero is a writer and the daughter of Mexican immigrants. She was born, raised, and resides in the Inland Empire of Southern California. She earned her BA in English and her MA in English Composition at California State University, San Bernardino. Gabi, A Girl in Pieces from Cinco Puntos Press, her first novel, is the recipient of several awards including the 2015 William C. Morris Award for Debut YA Novel and the California Book Award Gold Medal for Young Adult. In addition, the book was included on School Library Journal’s Best Books of 2014, and one of Kirkus’ Best Teen Books of 2014, among other lists. The first in her series of chapter books for Scholastic, Inc. Ugly Cat and Pablo, was released in Spring 2017. Her first graphic novel, a biography about photographer Graciela Iturbide, released by Getty Publications in March 2018. In addition to writing fiction, she also writes poetry and her work can be found in The Great American Literary Magazine, Huizache, As/Us Journal, The Acentos Review, The Pacific Review, and others. You can follow her on Twitter @isabelinpieces or visit her website laisabelquintero.com.

 

 

ABOUT THE REVIEWER: 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.

Book Review: Max Loves Muñecas! by Zetta Elliott

Reviewed by Ashley Hope Pérez MaxLovesMunecasCOVER

PUBLISHER’S DESCRIPTION: Max wants to visit a beautiful boutique that sells handmade dolls, but he worries that other children will tease him. When he finally finds the courage to enter the store, Max meets Señor Pepe who has been making dolls since he was a boy in Honduras. Señor Pepe shares his story with Max and reminds him that, “There is no shame in making something beautiful with your hands. Sewing is a skill—just like hitting a baseball or fixing a car.” 

MY TWO CENTS: Max Loves Muñecas interweaves a number of topics: resisting the constraints of traditional gender roles, child homelessness, resourcefulness and resilience, and the value of cooperation and generosity. In the hands of a lesser writer, these many focal points might overpower a slim chapter book of 72 pages, but Zetta Elliott creates a richly textured narrative world and situations that give readers opportunities to pause, consider their own lives, and reflect on the power of individual choices.

The first and last chapters of the book focus on Max, a young American boy intrigued by the intricacy and beauty of the dolls in a neighborhood shop run by Señor Pepe. Despite his interest, Max fears teasing by his classmates; in fact, the book’s title comes from the teasing he endures. By the end of this book, however, Zetta Elliott turns “Max loves muñecas!” from a taunt into an affirmation as Señor Pepe invites Max to work as his apprentice. Although “Max loves muñecas!” powerfully captures a key shift in the book, it is somewhat misleading as a title because Max’s story serves primarily as a frame for Señor Pepe’s telling of his own experiences as a young boy in Honduras, which are the focus of the eight central chapters of the book.

MaxLovesMunecasImage1We first learn of Pepe’s life as a poor but happy boy living with a loving grandmother who earns money by cleaning a wealthy family’s home and selling rag dolls to tourists. When Pepe’s grandmother passes away, neighbors make arrangements and send a telegram, but no one comes to get him. After three days, the landlord sends him away. With nothing but a blanket, his grandmother’s sewing basket, and a handful of coins, Pepe strikes out on his own.

He briefly joins a band of street boys living under an overpass where each has a special skill he contributes to the group, but he remembers his grandmother’s admonitions: “You are not a street boy. You do not drift from place to place like a weed in the sea” (15). After a night on the streets, Pepe stops to help an elderly woman struggling to open the shutters to her doll shop. So begins his relationship with Señora Beatriz, who cautiously invites him into her shop, intrigued by his delight at the beauty of her dolls and impressed with his good manners and facility with simple sewing tasks. Pepe finds a place in her heart—and her home—and continues to develop his love for making beautiful things.

But of course there are bumps along the way, a number of which center on the difficulty of balaMaxLovesMunecasImage2ncing good intentions and generosity to others with responsibility and a concern for appearances. When Señora Beatriz sends Pepe out for lunch on their first day together, Melky, one of the street boys, recognizes him and runs over to join him. Pepe becomes preoccupied with Melky’s disheveled appearance, worrying that the señora might think he is a street boy, too, if she sees him with Melky. Pepe understands the boy’s hungry glances at the lunch bag, but his fear over damaging his opportunity with Señora Beatriz is what drives him to share his food: “If I give you some of my lunch, you have to promise to go away. You can’t let the señora see you—ever!” (33).

Later, when the señora goes out of town for the night, Pepe’s desire to surprise her leads him to attempt to finish a wedding dress using her cantankerous sewing machine. When it jams, his efforts to fix it result in a broken piece. Fearing a return to the streets if the señora discovers his disobedience and damage of the machine, he searches out Primo, the leader of the street boys, who is also an expert tinkerer. Primo can’t repair the broken piece without seeing the whole machine, and a new round of dilemmas opens up for Pepe as Melky and Primo follow him back to the señora’s house. He knows the señora would not want strangers in her house and worries that the street boys might get up to mischief, but he can’t see any way out of his problem without help. Far from wanting to steal from the señora, Primo and Melky fall in lMaxLovesMunecasImage3ove with the beautiful fabrics and deck themselves out in tiaras and veils. Primo succeeds at fixing the sewing machine, but the boys are so tired from their efforts they fall asleep at the kitchen table.

Once Señora Beatriz’s initial displeasure wears off, she is impressed by Primo’s technical abilities, charmed by young Melky, and pleased with the initiative and cooperation of all three boys. Ultimately, although only little Melky goes to school, all three boys gain the chance for a better life through their work for Señora Beatriz.

TEACHING TIPS: Max Loves Muñecas! is a good choice for upper elementary readers to explore on their own, and it would make an excellent read-aloud text (one chapter per session) for students across the elementary grades. The story highlights the boys’ spontaneous interest in dolls and fine fabrics, and it shows how following one’s passions can open doors. Max Loves Muñecas! also creates openings for students to discuss differences regarding schooling and child poverty in different communities and at different times. Finally, the book offers a number of scenarios where the “right” choice is relatively ambiguous, and these scenarios are ripe for exploration in conversation, journaling, drawing, or reenactment.

Although the handful of simple illustrations scattered through the book help provide a visual reference point for Pepe and Max’s adventures, there is still plenty of room for imagining and recreating scenes from the story. Students may especially benefit from guided exercises to help them imagine perspectives and experiences different from their own. Start with questions like, “What do you think Melky feels when Pepe makes him promise to never come to the señora’s shop?” or “Why is the señora disappointed when she first returns from her trip?” but take time exploring the other perspectives involved in a given moment in the narrative. When supported, even young children can stretch their capacity for empathy and perspective-taking beyond identifying with the protagonist.

MaxLovesMunecas_Zetta Zetta Elliott is the award-winning author of stories for children, YA novels, and poetry, plays, and essays for adults. Born and raised in Canada, she has lived in the US for 20 years and earned a PhD in American Studies from NYU in 2003. Her picture book, Bird, won the Honor Award in Lee & Low Books’ New Voices Contest and the Paterson Prize for Books for Young Readers. Her latest YA novel, The Deep, was published in November 2013. She is an advocate for greater diversity and equity in publishing, and to this end she has published several illustrated books for younger readers—including Max Loves Muñecas—under her own imprint, Rosetta Press. She currently lives in Brooklyn. Visit her online at www.zettaelliott.com

MaxLovesMunecas_MauricioPhotoMauricio J. Flores was born in 1988 in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, where he currently resides. Trained as an architect, he has worked extensively as a freelance illustrator and web designer. When he’s not drawing, he enjoys listening to a vast spectrum of music genres, studying languages, and reading epic fantasy novels and comics. Visit him at http://mjflores.visioncomicshn.com/.

%d bloggers like this: