Christina Diaz Gonzalez’s MOVING TARGET Stars a Latina Action-Adventure Heroine

The final Hunger Games movie, Mockingjay Part 2, raked in $75.8 million over the holiday weekend, landing in the number one spot for the second weekend. One article reported the action adventure has made $440.7 million worldwide so far and is inching closer to $3 billion total for the series. Yet, few novels depict Latin@ main characters in action adventures. We’ll pause here to highlight a few, which would make great holiday gifts for your action-loving young reader:

23202520  The Culling (The Torch Keeper, #1)  Sanctum (Guards of the Shadowlands, #1)  17571252

And, this summer, one more title was added to the list: Moving Target, a middle grade featuring a young Latina caught in a Divinci-Code-like European adventure. On Thursday, we will post a review of the novel by Christina Diaz Gonzalez, who is also giving away a signed copy of the novel and a poster. See the link at the end of this post to enter. First, though, read what Christina had to say about her inspiration for Moving Target.

Christina Diaz Gonzalez: While growing up, I loved action/adventure stories where the hero went on a quest or a mission and often had to fight villains in order to fulfill their destiny. Whether these stories were in books, TV, or movies there was one thing that was always true… none of the heroes ever looked or sounded quite like me. Years passed (many, many years) and today there are still very few heroes that reflect the diversity of today’s readers.

23734473So, when I came up with the idea of writing my own action/adventure novel (that has been described as  “Percy Jackson meets Da Vinci Code with a dash of Indiana Jones”) it only seemed natural that the main character would be someone my ten year-old self would have loved to see as the heroine. That was when the character of Cassie Arroyo first popped into my head. She’s an American girl with a Hispanic background (like me) who discovers that she is part of an ancient bloodline that is connected to the legendary Spear of Destiny (this part is definitely not like me). In the story, there are riddles to decipher, mysteries to solve, and assassins to evade… all the things that I loved to read about when I was kid. (Okay, who am I kidding? I STILL love to read about all that stuff!) And one of the best parts about writing this story (which is part of a series) is that it’s another small step forward in the general realization that heroes come in all shades and ethnicities.

So buckle up and enjoy a thrilling ride with a brand new heroine… the smart, courageous, and Latina, Cassie Arroyo.


Christina GonzalezChristina Diaz Gonzalez is the award-winning author of The Red UmbrellaA Thunderous Whisper, and Moving Target. Her books have received numerous honors and recognitions including the American Library Association’s Best Fiction for Young Adults, the Florida Book Award, the Nebraska Book Award, a Notable Social Studies Book and the International Literacy Association’s Teacher’s Choice Award.  She speaks to students across the country about writing, the importance of telling their stories and the value of recognizing that there is a hero in each one of us. Visit her website at for further information.

Check out Christina’s recent guest post for this blog’s Cuban series here.

Book Review: Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras by Duncan Tonatiuh

Reviewed by Cecilia Cackley

DESCRIPTION OF THE BOOK (from Goodreads): Funny Bones tells the story of how the amusing calaveras—skeletons performing various everyday or festive activities—came to be. They are the creation of Mexican artist José Guadalupe (Lupe) Posada (1852–1913). In a country that was not known for freedom of speech, he first drew political cartoons, much to the amusement of the local population but not the politicians. He continued to draw cartoons throughout much of his life, but he is best known today for his calavera drawings. They have become synonymous with Mexico’s Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) festival. Juxtaposing his own art with that of Lupe’s, author Duncan Tonatiuh brings to light the remarkable life and work of a man whose art is beloved by many but whose name has remained in obscurity.

MY TWO CENTS: I can’t say enough good things about this book! Tonatiuh tells Posada’s life story simply, while still giving background information on events such as the Mexican Revolution for context. The pages showing a breakdown of the three distinct artistic processes that Posada used (lithography, engraving and etching) are especially helpful in visualizing exactly how he created his drawings. Tonatiuh’s signature profile figures, inspired by Mixtec codex imagery, fit nicely alongside Posada’s black and white skeletons. The full page reproductions of famous skeleton art alongside a question about what message Posada was communicating with his art push readers to consider the goals of the artist. A detailed author’s note, glossary, and bibliography are essential for those looking for further information. This is a great read aloud for younger kids that still has enough detail and big ideas for older readers.

TEACHING TIPS: This is going to be a marvelous read aloud for both art teachers and classroom teachers. While many people will likely choose to highlight it during National Hispanic Heritage Month or around Dia de Muertos, it should also be a good fit for classes studying political cartoons or art history. Tonatiuh’s fantastic spread at the end of the book showing skeletons doing present day activities is a wonderful prompt for students to create their own calaveras artwork. As our world becomes more global and art and culture make their way across borders, this book provides an opportunity to discuss the importance of crediting artists and researching the history of particular art and cultural traditions.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Duncan was born in Mexico City and grew up in San Miguel de Allende. He graduated from Parsons The New School for Design and from Eugene Lang College in New York City in 2008. His work is inspired by Ancient Mexican art, particularly that of the Mixtec codex. His aim is to create images that honor the past, but that address contemporary issues that affect people of Mexican origin on both sides of the border. His book Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale is the winner of the 2014 Tomás Rivera Mexican American children’s book award. It is also the first book to receive two honorable mentions, one for the illustrations and one for the text, from the Pura Belpré Award for a work that best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in children’s books. The book was featured in USA Today, The Chicago Sun, The Houston Chronicle among other major publications because it deals with the controversial topic of immigration. His book Diego Rivera: His World and Ours won the 2012 Pura Belpré illustration award. It also won the 2012 Tomás Rivera. His first book Dear Primo: A Letter to My Cousin received an honorable mention from the Pura Belpré Award in 2011. It was named an Americas Award Commended Title and a Notable Book for a Global Society list.


SLJ Review

Kirkus Review

Publishers Weekly Review

Kirkus Prize Finalist Announcement

Google Hangout Video


Cackley_headshotCecilia 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

Book Review: Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music by Margarita Engle

By Sujei Lugo

drum dream girl coverDESCRIPTION FROM THE BOOK JACKET: Girls cannot be drummers. Long ago on an island filled with music and rhythm, no one questioned that rule — until the drum dream girl. She longed to play tall congas and small bongós and silvery, moon-bright timbales. She had to practice in secret. But when at last her music was heard, everyone sang and danced and decided that boys and girls should be free to drum and dream.

Inspired by a Chinese-African-Cuban girl who broke Cuba’s traditional taboo against female drummers, Drum Dream Girl tells an inspiring true story for dreamers everywhere.

MY TWO CENTS: Inspired by the childhood of Chinese Afro Cuban drummer Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, Margarita Engle and Rafael López enchantingly encapsulate through poetic text and dreamy illustrations a girl’s dreams and her desires to play music. By focusing on our girl’s “dreaming” period and the stage when she finally achieves her dream as a child, the author and illustrator furnish a landscape where children should be free to dream, and one they can relate to and which allows them to see themselves as dreamers.

Through the first line of Engle’s poem, “On an island of music, in a city of drumbeats, the drum dream girl dreamed,” we meet our Caribbean dream girl, who dreams about congas, bongós, and moon-bright timbales on a island where everyone believes only boys should play drums. This excluding notion and the exposure to such blatant sexism at such a young age do not prevent our girl from dreaming. She plays her own imaginary music, walks around tapping her feet and plays contagious drum rhythms on tables and chairs. When her big sisters invite her to join their new all-girl dance band, the drum dream girl is excited, but her father reminds her that “only boys should play drums.” She keeps drumming and dreaming, until her father realizes that her talent deserves to be heard. With a compelling illustration of her father “pulling” her drumming and dreaming daughter from the sky to the ground, she perseveres and lands back on her island of music, making her dream a reality.

The text is really descriptive, filled with poetic repetition and acknowledgements of the natural landscape of the island. Rafael López’s trademark of colorful and vibrant illustrations enhances the musical and dreamy experience of our character, providing images where you feel you are listening to the music and the beats. Through two-page layout canvases rich with smiling moons, suns, and birds, huge instruments, and our drum dream girl with closed eyes, he captures the spirit, the breeze, and the rhythm of our little drummer. López also successfully portrays the essence of Cuban city life and its racial and ethnic demographics.


Drum Dream Girl is the story of Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, a mixed race Cuban girl, who defied gender roles in the 1930’s music scene. The girl and her story show the importance of family, teacher, and music-education support to expose and develop our children’s musical talents. The all-girl dance band she joined was Anacaona, an orchestra founded by Cuchito Castro and her sisters. This forgotten and overshadowed group challenged the male-dominated Cuban music scene and an environment where women were seen as incapable of playing music. For more information about this group, look for the book Anacaona: The Amazing Adventures of Cuba’s First All-Girl Dance Band, written by Alicia Castro, Ingrid Kummels and Manfred Schäfer, or watch this preview of the documentary Anacaona: The Amazing Story of Cuba’s Forgotten Girl Band.

TEACHING TIPS: The picture book will work great as a read-aloud and a rich addition to music-themed library programs, where children could also make their own drums. With older children, teachers can incorporate poetry writing, drawing, and visualizing music as poetry. The text, illustrations, and content make this book perfect to be adapted as a musical play.

Other classroom activities can include historical exploration of Millo Castro Zaldarriaga’s life, Cuban music, and other female musicians. Margarita Engle includes a publisher’s discussion guide on her website.


Margarita Engle is a Cuban-American author, botanist, and professor who enjoys collaborating with her husband in volunteer work for wilderness search and rescue dog training programs. Engle is the winner of numerous awards for her children’s and young adult books, including the Newbery Honor for The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom (2008), becoming the first Latina to win that children’s literature award. In addition to her work as a writer, she also contributes to various periodicals such as Atlanta Review, Bilingual Review, California Quarterly, Caribbean Writer, Hawai’i Pacific Review, and Nimrod. Margarita Engle is a member of PEN USA West, Amnesty International, Freedom House of Human Rights and Freedom to Write Committee.

Some of her titles are: The Poet Slave of Cuba: A Biography of Juan Francisco Manzano (2006), Tropical Secrets: Holocaust Refugees in Cuba (2009), The Firefly Letters: A Suffragette’s Journey to Cuba (2010), Hurricane Dancers: The First Caribbean Pirate Shipwreck (2011), The Wild Book (2012), The Lightning Dreamer: Cuba’s Greatest Abolitionist (2013), Mountain Dog (2013), Silver People: Voices From the Panama Canal (2014), Orangutanka: A Story in Poems (2015), The Sky Painter: Louis Fuertes, Bird Artist (2015), and Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings (2015).

Rafael López is a Mexican award-winning illustrator and artist, whose work is influenced by his cultural heritage, colors of Mexican street life, and Mexican surrealism. In addition to children’s books, López has illustrated posters, United States Postal Service stamps such as the Latin Music Legends series, and he has launched street art projects to revitalize urban neighborhoods, such as the Urban Art Trail Project.

He is the recipient of various Pura Belpré Honor for Illustration awards for books such as: My Name is Celia: The Life of Celia Cruz/Me Llamo Celia: La Vida de Celia Cruz (2006), Book Fiesta!: Celebrate Children’s Day/Book Day/ Celebremos El Día de los Niños/El Día de Los Libros (2010), The Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred (2012) and Tito Puente: Mambo King/Rey del Mambo. He also received two Américas Awards for Children’s and Young Adult Literature for My Name is Celia (2006) and ¡Yum! ¡Mmmm! ¡Qué Rico! Americas’ Sproutings (2007).

DDG Pages 32-33 Final-revised-small

For more information about Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music (2015), visit your local library or bookstore. Also check out,,, and You can also watch the book trailer below.

Book Review: Talking with Mother Earth / Hablando con Madre Tierra by Jorge Argueta

By Marianne Snow

349744DESCRIPTION OF THE BOOK (from Goodreads): Tetl’s skin is brown, his eyes are black, and his hair is long. He’s different from the other children, whose taunts wound him deeply, leaving him confused and afraid. But Tetl’s grandmother knows the ancient teachings of their Aztec ancestors, and how they viewed the earth as alive with sacred meaning. With her help, he learns to listen to the mountains, wind, corn, and stones. Tetl’s journey from self-doubt to proud acceptance of his Nahuatl heritage is told in a series of powerful poems, beautifully expressed in both English and Spanish. Vivid illustrations celebrate nature’s redemptive powers, offering a perfect complement to the poignant story.

MY TWO CENTS: History books and other nonfiction texts often speak of the Americas’ original inhabitants in the past tense, as if they completely disappeared after Europeans swept across the land. For example, I remember learning that the Spanish defeated and killed (or married) all indigenous people when they invaded Mexico and Central America in the sixteenth century. Wrong. Despite facing frequent marginalization and discrimination by “mainstream” society, Nahua people, the diverse descendants of the Aztecs, still live in El Salvador, Mexico, and the United States today.

Talking with Mother Earth / Hablando con Madre Tierra – a stunning bilingual collection of autobiographical poems and winner of the illustrious International Latino and Américas Book Awards for outstanding works of Latin@ children’s literature – affirms and celebrates the complexity of a contemporary Nahua individual. In these simple yet profound poems, Jorge Tetl Argueta, who identifies as Pipil Nahua, provides us with a window into his childhood and sensitively explores issues of cultural identity from several different angles, including his spiritual beliefs, his connection to Mother Earth, ethnic pride, racial bullying, and history of the Nahua people. As they read his beautiful words, children with Nahua heritage might see reflections of themselves, while readers from other backgrounds can learn about cultural practices and perspectives that are different from their own.

Mirroring Argueta’s poems are Lucía Angela Pérez’s vibrant pastel drawings, simultaneously striking and soft, bold and soothing as they permeate each page. Prepare to be swallowed up in color as soon as you open the cover! Also, the illustrations sustain the theme of links between the present and past as they portray young Tetl standing side by side with his grandmother, his ancestors, and Aztec gods.

Another enticing feature of this book is its relatively unusual dual language format. Although we’re seeing more and more English-Spanish dual language books on the market these days, most of these books place the English text first on the page, above or before the Spanish text. While this positioning might not seem like a big deal, it can send a message to readers that English should be the first language in their lives – that it’s better than Spanish. Books that place Spanish first do pop up every once in awhile, however, and Talking with Mother Earth / Hablando con Madre Tierra is one of them, emphasizing to Spanish-speaking readers the importance of their linguistic skills.

So if you’re searching for a book that promotes empathy, beauty, linguistic diversity, cultural awareness, and positive self-image, look no further! If you enjoy it, be sure to check out Jorge Argueta’s other works for children – they’ll leave you smiling (and probably a little bit hungry).

TEACHING TIPS: Due to multifaceted subject matter in Talking with Mother Earth / Hablando con Madre Tierra, educators can choose to use the entire text or individual poems to start fruitful, critical discussions and lessons with their students. For example, teachers might draw upon “Indio” / “Indian” – an examination of racial bullying – when facilitating analyses of racism and discrimination in schools. Additionally, they might focus on Argueta’s poems on nature and Nahua spirituality to help students understand the diversity of religious beliefs and ethnicities in contemporary Latin America. Or they might highlight this book as a mentor text when encouraging students to write their own nature poetry.

The dual language format of Talking with Mother Earth / Hablando con Madre Tierra also makes it a valuable resource for Spanish and English learners – the abundance of words related to nature can help readers describe the earth bilingually. An added bonus is the inclusion of several Nahuatl words and phrases that illustrate Latin@ / Latin American linguistic diversity even further.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR (from his website): Jorge Tetl Argueta is a celebrated Salvadoran poet and writer whose bilingual children’s books have received numerous awards. His poetry has appeared in anthologies and textbooks. He won the Américas Book Award, among other awards, for his first collection of poems for children, A Movie in my Pillow. He was the Gold Medal Award winner in the 2005 National Parenting Publications Awards (NAPPA) for Moony Luna / Luna, Lunita, Lunera. His other works for children include Xochitl and the Flowers (2003 Américas Award Commended Title), Trees are Hanging from the Sky, Talking with Mother Earth, The Little Hen in the City, and The Fiesta of the Tortillas.



MarianneMarianne Snow is a doctoral student at the University of Georgia, where she researches Latin@ picture books, representations of Latin@ people in nonfiction children’s texts, and library services for Spanish-speaking children and families. Before moving to Georgia, she taught Pre-K and Kindergarten in her home state of Texas and got her master’s degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) at Texas A&M University. In her spare time, she enjoys obnoxiously pining for Texas, exploring Georgia, re-learning Spanish, and blogging at Critical Children’s Lit.

SLJ’s Shelley Diaz Predicts the 2015 Pura Belpré Medal Contenders

By Shelley M. Diaz

As we approach the Youth Media Awards announcements on February 2—deemed by many as the “Oscars of the Kid Lit World”—Mock Newbery, Caldecott, Printz, and even Geisel lists abound. A longtime tradition, the creation of these compilations of possible contenders are often debated in libraries and schools and among children’s literature fans.

But what about the Pura Belpré Medal? I haven’t seen any mention of possible winners for the award that honors children’s books written/illustrated by Latino(a)s that celebrate the Latino cultural experience. In a year that brought the need for diverse titles to the forefront of the publishing world, this conversation has been sorely absent.

Established in 1996, the award has been presented annually since 2008 by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), and REFORMA, the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-Speaking, an ALA affiliate. It is named after Pura Belpré, the first Latina librarian at the New York Public Library.

So with less than one month to go until the shiny medals are placed on stellar books for kids and teens, I’d love to open up that conversation now.

First, here’s a short overview of the criteria that librarians on the committee (members of REFORMA and ALSC) will consider when naming the recipients of the 2015 awards (found in the Pura Belpré Award Manual).

  1. Two medals shall be awarded annually at the Annual Conference of the American Library Association, one to a Latino author of an outstanding children’s book and one to a Latino illustrator for creating an outstanding children’s picture book. Each of these must be an original work that portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience.
  2. The award-winning books must be published in the United States or Puerto Rico during the preceding year.
  3. Recipients of the Pura Belpré medal must be residents or citizens of the United States or Puerto Rico.
  4. Fiction and nonfiction books for children published in Spanish, English, or bilingual formats are eligible.

More specifics:

  1. A “children’s book” shall be a book for which children are a potential audience. The book must display respect for children’s understandings, abilities, and appreciations. Children are defined as persons of ages up to and including fourteen, and books for this entire age range are to be considered.
  2. Particular attention will be paid to cultural authenticity.
  3. “Resident” specifies that author has established and maintained residence in the United States, or Puerto Rico, as distinct from being a casual or occasional visitor.

After perusing the Latinas 4 Latino Lit blog’s selections of Best Latino Children’s books and taking part in School Library Journal’s Top Latino Books of 2014 curation, here are some of the titles I think have huge Pura Belpré potential this year. Please feel free to disagree with me and add some of your own possible contenders.

Award for Narrative:

20702546Winner: Gabi: A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero; published by Cinco Puntos Press.

Reasons why I think it will win: Never mind the starred reviews in SLJ, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and VOYA. Or the fact that it’s an SLJ and Kirkus Best Book of 2014. It’s also an SLJ Top Latino Book of 2014. And it has garnered the honor of being a finalist for the YALSA Morris Award, an award that recognizes outstanding debut YA novels.

Quintero’s book celebrates the multidimensionality of being a Latina. Never quite fitting in the mold of “American” or “Latina,” Gabi speaks to the generation of young women who have grown up speaking Spanglish, mostly poor, and inhabiting the in-between spaces of two cultures. The writing is stellar, honest, and lyrical.

It’s certainly at the brink of the age limit (14), but I’m hoping that the committee continues the trend of recognizing contemporary titles, such as Meg Medina’s Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass. This work has obviously struck a chord with librarians, and I think all readers carry a piece of Gabi with them.  (I am unapologetically gushing.)

SLJ Interview with Isabel Quintero
My SLJ review of Gabi.
TLT Toolbox review of Gabi.


18405521Separate Is Never Equal by Duncan Tonatiuh; published by Abrams.

Reasons why I think it will be honored: Tonatiuh is a past honoree for his Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale, and his work continues to bring light to important issues in Latino culture in a kid-friendly, accessible way.  It’s an SLJ and Kirkus Best Book of 2014, an SLJ Top Latino Book of the year, and a JLG selection. Plus, Sylvia Mendez’s fight against desegregation is just as relevant to the current social justice issues occurring in our country as it was 50 years ago.

Fuse 8 Blog review of Separate Is Never Equal.

18667844Portraits of Hispanic American Heroes by Juan Felipe Herrera; published by Dial.

Reasons why I think it will be honored: It’s on the SLJ Top Latino of 2014 list and received an SLJ star. This collection of essays by the California Poet Laureate is lyrical, revelatory, and truly underrated. While it hasn’t garnered that much attention from the other trade journals, I do believe that these vignettes wonderfully shed light on many Hispanic historical figures that are not often celebrated. He’s also received an Honor in the past (for Laughing out Loud, I Fly in 2000), so he’s definitely not a stranger to the Pura Belpré.

Los Angeles Review of Books: Daniel Olivas interviews Juan Felipe Herrera
My review for SLJ

22107707Water Rolls, Water Rises: El agua rueda, el agua sube by Pat Mora; Children’s Book Press.

Reasons Why I think it might be honored: Mora isn’t a stranger to the Pura Belpré either. An influential Mexican American author, she’s also the founder of Día de los Niños, Día de los libros. She’s been honored in the past (for Doña Flor, in 2006), and I think she’s due for another this year. Her Water Rolls, Water Rises is a poetry text that truly rises to the top with its structure, message, and imagery-filled narrative. It’s a Kirkus Best Book and a 2014 Cybils Finalist. The work also received positive reviews in SLJ and PW.

Other Possible Contenders: These two books have flown a bit under the radar, but they both tell often overlooked sides of the immigration narrative. Who knows? Perhaps these underdogs might run off with a shiny sticker come Midwinter?

I Lived on Butterfly Hill by Marjorie Agosín; published by S. & S./Atheneum.
Booklist star; positive reviews in SLJ, PW, Kirkus.

The Secret Side of Empty by Maria E. Andreu; published by Running Press.
JLG selection, SLJ Top Latino of 2014; positive reviews from SLJ, Kirkus, VOYA, Booklist, BCCB, PW.

Award for Illustration:

20759593Winner: Draw! By Raúl Colón; published by S. & S/Paula Wiseman Bks.

Reasons why I think it will win: Probably one of the most celebrated—but equally underrated—titles of the year. How is it that not enough people are talking about this book? It’s my belief that Colón should win every year (or at least that he and Yuyi Morales should take turns).

The practically wordless picture book follows a boy who escapes the confines of his room (where he’s been resting because of a sickness) through the power of his imagination and a sketchbook. This beautifully illustrated autobiographical artist’s journey celebrates fancy and adventure, and Colón’s choice of two palettes to depict the before and after is ingenious.

New York Times Best Illustrated Book of 2014
SLJ Best Book
SLJ Top Latino
Starred review from Booklist, SLJ, PW, Kirkus, Horn Book
SLJ Interview with Raul Colón


18405521Separate Is Never Equal by Duncan Tonatiuh

Reasons Why I think it might be honored: Tonatiuh has won a Pura Belpré recognition multiple times, in the narrative and illustration categories, and even both at once (just last year, actually). His unique art draws inspiration from the pre-Columbian codices, giving his work added significance to Latino culture. While questions of his eligibility have often been raised, he is a resident of Mexico AND the United States, so his books fair game. Especially relevant in Separate Is Never Equal, is his depiction of different “colored” Mexican American characters. Though Sylvia Mendez and her cousins were part of the same family, her lighter-skinned cousins were able to “pass” as white. This nuanced portrayal of history shines in Tonatiuh’s groundbreaking work. Robin Smith has an interesting discussion on his art on the Horn Book website that is worth reading.

20518948Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales, photos by Tim O’Meara; published by Roaring Brook Press/Neal Porter Bks.

Reasons why I think it might be honored: Stunning. Gorgeous. Ingenious. I’m marveled at how Morales’s work continues to grow and evolve. Last year’s Pura Belpré Medalist, her Niño Wrestles the World, was a winning, kid-friendly romp through Mexican American culture. Viva Frida is more contemplative and evocative, but no less charming and illuminating. The writing is spare in English and Spanish, and gives an almost dreamlike quality to this exploration of the iconic artist. There are countless works on Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, but this title introduces not only the artist, but her work and joie de vivre. The detailed puppets and backdrops created by Morales showcase her overwhelming talent.  And if you’re not wowed yet, check out this video of the illustrator’s art process. Fascinating!

One quibble, though: Would O’Meara be considered a co-illustrator of this work? Would that then make it ineligible because he isn’t Latino?

“Illustrator may include co-illustrators. In the case where the co-illustrator is not of Latino heritage, the book is ineligible for consideration.”

That’s for the Committee to ultimately decide.

SLJ Best Book; SLJ Top Latino
Starred in SLJ, PW, Horn Book
Lolly Robinson points out what makes this title a Caldecott Contender

18654384Dalia’s Wondrous Hair/El cabello maravilloso de Dalia by Laura Lacámara; published by Arte Publico/Piñata Bks.

Reasons why I think it might be honored: This bilingual picture book might be a dark horse, but it has received several recognitions (SLJ Top Latino of 2014, starred Kirkus, positive review in PW) and boasts an all-female cast that is refreshing and culturally relevant. Hair plays a big role in Latino society and race issues, and it’s celebrated in this family-centered, whimsical tale. Lacámara’s illustrations take a life of their own and wondrously depict Cuban island life with authenticity and effervescence.

Possible Contender:

20980944Lowriders in Space illustrated by Raúl the Third, written by Cathy Camper; published by Chronicle.

Reasons why I think it might be honored: This fun, graphic novel pushes the boundaries of what is considered a “picture book,” but the Committee might be feeling adventurous.

“A ‘children’s picture book,’ as distinguished from other books with illustrations, is one that essentially provides the child with a visual experience. A picture book has a collective unity of story line, theme, or concept, developed through the series of pictures of which the book is comprised.”

A few have noted some irregularity in the text and the Spanish translation, but since the honor is for a book’s art, I’ll focus on Raúl Gonzalez’s comic book-style street art-type illustrations.  Gonzalez used black, blue, and red BIC pens to create the images, and he’s captured a facet of Latino life that is not often showcased in children’s books. His innovative take on visual storytelling is brave, honest, and much-needed.

Interview with Raúl the Third on “Good Comics 4 Kids”
New York Times review
Starred in Kirkus, PW

If only it were eligible:

18405509Migrant Illustrated by Javier Martínez Pedro, written by José Manuel Mateo; published by Abrams.
Kirkus-Best Picture Book that Celebrates Diversity
Starred review in PW, Kirkus

This breathtaking work about a Mexican boy’s journey to the United States with his family is complemented by one long, black-and-white illustration reminiscent of pre-Columbian codices, packaged as an accordion-style foldout frieze. The timely tale was originally published in Mexico, and so isn’t eligible for the Pura Belpré. If only!

“Children’s books ‘published in the United States or Puerto Rico,’ means that books originally published in other countries are not eligible.

The “Seven Impossible Things” blog has a peek at the full image, so please feel free to lament along with me.

So what do you think? Am I on target? Were there any of your favorites I missed?


Latin@s in Kid Lit at the Library: Interview with Patricia Toney

By Sujei Lugo

Long overdue is the need of a myriad of children’s books that embody the diversity of our communities and society. Children and adults of all backgrounds should have the opportunity to be exposed to historically untold and misrepresented stories in children’s literature. For years, educators, authors, librarians, illustrators, scholars, parents, and other community members have challenged and critiqued the gaps and invisibility of diverse populations, as well as stereotypes and inaccuracies present in children’s books. Although there have been several efforts to expand the availability of diverse children’s literature (The We Need Diverse Books campaign comes to mind as a recent example), the percentage of diverse titles still doesn’t reflect the world around us in terms of numbers and cultural experiences. But despite these problems, flourishing from this serious gap (and misrepresentation) inside the children’s literature world, we have encountered great titles that portray the Latino experience and Latinos/as in the United States.

Organizations like REFORMA (The National Association to Promote Library & Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish Speaking) and initiatives like Día de los Niños/Día de los Libros and the National Latino Children’s Literature Conference are constantly advocating and promoting the incorporation of Latino children’s literature in library collections and programming. Several awards such as the Pura Belpré Award, Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award, International Latino Book Awards, and Américas Awards, also play a role in acknowledging Latino children’s literature. All these initiatives help in raising a much-needed awareness of the existence of Latino children’s books, but, in addition to celebrating and promoting them, an urgent need exists to incorporate and use  these books in our classrooms and libraries.

We need to keep in mind that two pivotal places where children constantly interact with books and stories are schools and libraries. How are librarians bringing Latino children’s books to children? How are they incorporating them into their collections, school curriculum, and programming? In a bid to try to answer these questions I decided to develop a series of interviews with children’s librarians, youth services librarians, and school librarians, where they can  share their experiences, knowledge, and challenges dealing with Latino children’s literature. Although there are great resources and literature that can serve as guides to Latino children’s librarianship (Celebrating cuentos: promoting Latino children’s literature and literacy in classrooms and libraries, 25 Latino craft projects, Programming with Latino children’s materials: a how-to-do-it manual for librarians, and Serving Latino communities: a how-to-do-it manual for librarians), the communities that libraries serve are different and constantly evolving. Librarians are met with the ongoing challenge to stay up-to-date and relevant to their needs.

In this first post of our Latin@s in Kid Lit at the Library series, I’m honored to interview Patricia Toney, a fellow librarian and REFORMA member and great advocate of diversity in children’s librarianship.

Pat Toney Librarian

Patricia Toney, Bilingual Children’s Services Librarian
San Francisco Public Library

Tell us a little bit about yourself, your identity, and your library.
As the offspring of parents who immigrated from Guyana and Costa Rica, I identify as Afribbean. I’m a native of Southern California who grew up in a working class Spanish speaking community, and who later moved to the San Francisco Bay Area to attend University of California, Berkeley. I have a master’s in Counseling Psychology and a second master’s in Library Science. I started my professional career in International Student Services, then I worked in Student Counseling, and now I’m in my third career as a librarian.

I’ve been working at San Francisco Public Library (SFPL) for three years; moving up from temporary, to part-time, and finally, to full-time a year ago. SFPL serves a linguistically diverse community. I work at the Main Library and I’m in charge of providing Spanish language children’s services to families in Tenderloin, San Francisco, an economically challenged and densely populated part of the city.

What process does your library take to select and acquire Latino children’s books for the collection? Do you have any input in this process?
We have a dedicated Spanish language collection development committee and individual selectors for specific genres. My position as a Bilingual Children’s Services Librarian holds a provisional seat on the Spanish language selection committee, so my input on children’s material selection is welcomed.  Committee members regularly attend book fairs such as FIL (Guadalajara International Book Fair) and I annually attend the Bibliotecas Para La Gente Book Fair.

What type of children and youth programming does your library offer using Latino children’s literature?
I conduct a weekly bilingual family storytime and system wide we host five Spanish and Bilingual (English-Spanish) storytimes a week. We also have a ¡Viva! Latino Heritage Month Celebration, which includes music, dance, crafts, food, and films. This year, I hosted a Zumba program at my location and a Día de los Muertos altar. Also, at the end of our summer reading program, I hosted an afternoon of Lotería.

In terms of promoting events and community outreach, what does your library do?
In addition to word of mouth, social media, and printed announcements, we have four bookmobiles which traverse the city. The library recently took part in Sunday Streets-San Francisco (open street event), the Friday Night Market and Litquake (San Francisco Literary Festival). The San Francisco Public Library, Mission Branch (located in a historically Spanish speaking neighborhood) hosted a memorial reading in honor of Gabriel García Márquez during Litquake.

What is the reaction of kids, teens and families regarding Latino children’s books and programming? And the reaction of the library staff?
Children spark up when they hear or see something that is familiar to them. Parents appreciate the opportunity to share their home language with others in the community.  Colleagues and library staff are generally supportive of diversity in action. One of the library’s strategic priorities is to have “collections, services and programs that reflect diversity and inclusion.

What would you like to do in terms of programming that you haven’t been able to?
I would ideally like to hold monthly evening programs for Spanish speaking families. Tenderloin, San Francisco is a socially-oriented rich community, so there’s a lot of competition for evening programming. So not a lot of families come to the San Francisco urban civic center area for evening programs.

Do you address issues of prejudice and oppression in your library through and in Latino children’s books?
As a member of the Association of Children’s Librarians of Northern California, these issues are always addressed. SFPL has a commitment to diversity and the book selection committee takes racism and oppression into consideration before buying a book. With the population I serve, I tend to address sexism and ableism more than racism. I am always open to discussing these issues when children ask and point out opposing viewpoints and when I hear biased language. I like to give patrons the option to think for themselves.

Any advice for other librarians who would like to use and incorporate Latino children’s literature into their programming?
Latino children’s literature isn’t just for Latinos. One can incorporate Latino children’s books into book displays, class visits, and recommended reading lists.

Which are the most popular Latino children’s books at your library?
I have to say that most of our popular titles are the Spanish language translations.

And finally, which Latino children’s books do you recommend?
Anything written by Monica Brown, Yuyi Morales, or Gary Soto; Anything illustrated by Rafael López or Jose Ramírez; Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan; The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano by Sonia Manzano and I’m currently reading Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz.