July Latinx Book Releases!

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In addition to listing 2021 titles by/for/about Latinx on our master list, we will remind readers of what’s releasing each month. CONGRATULATIONS to these Latinx creators. Let’s celebrate these July book babies! Please let us know in the comments if we are missing any.

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MUSE SQUAD: THE MYSTERY OF THE TENTH by Chantel Acevedo (Balzer + Bray, July 6, 2021). Middle Grade.

Callie Martinez-Silva is finally getting the hang of this whole goddess within thing. Six months after learning she was one of the nine muses of ancient myth, she and the other junior muses are ready for new adventures. Except first Callie has to go to New York City for the summer to visit her dad, stepmom, and new baby brother.

Then the muses get startling news: an unprecedented tenth muse has been awakened somewhere in Queens, putting Callie in the perfect position to help find her. And she’ll have help—thanks to a runaway mold problem in London, Muse Headquarters is moving to the New York Hall of Science.

But balancing missions and family-mandated arts camp proves difficult for Callie, especially once mysterious messages from spiders (yikes!) begin to weave a tale of ancient injustice involving Callie’s campmate Ari.

Now Callie and her friends have to make a choice: follow orders and find the tenth muse or trust that sometimes fate has other plans.

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SING WITH ME: THE STORY OF SELENA QUINTANILLA by Diana Lópezillustrated by Teresa Martinez (Dial Books, July 6, 2021). Picture Book. From a very early age, young Selena knew how to connect with people and bring them together with music. Sing with Me follows Selena’s rise to stardom, from front-lining her family’s band at rodeos and quinceañeras to performing in front of tens of thousands at the Houston Astrodome. Young readers will be empowered by Selena’s dedication–learning Spanish as a teenager, designing her own clothes, and traveling around the country with her family–sharing her pride in her Mexican-American roots and her love of music and fashion with the world. This book is being released simultaneously in Spanish.

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SUMMER IN THE CITY OF ROSES by Michelle Ruiz Keil (Soho Teen, July 6, 2021). Young Adult. All her life, seventeen-year-old Iph has protected her sensitive younger brother, Orr. But this summer, with their mother gone at an artist residency, their father decides it’s time for fifteen-year-old Orr to toughen up at a wilderness boot camp. When he brings Iph to a work gala in downtown Portland and breaks the news, Orr has already been sent away. Furious at his betrayal, Iph storms off and gets lost in the maze of Old Town. Enter George, a queer Robin Hood who swoops in on a bicycle, bow and arrow at the ready, offering Iph a place to hide out while she figures out how to track down Orr.

Orr, in the meantime, has escaped the camp and fallen in with The Furies, an all-girl punk band, and moves into the coat closet of their ramshackle pink house. In their first summer apart, Iph and Orr must learn to navigate their respective new spaces of music, romance, and sex work activism—and find each other to try to stop a transformation that could fracture their family forever.

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SWIMMING WITH SHARKS: Wild Rescue #2 by Melissa Cristina Márquez (Scholastic, July 6, 2021). Middle Grade. Twelve-year-old Adrianna Villalobos and her older brother Feye travel the globe with their parents, the hosts of a suspenseful nature show called “Wild Survival!” The show features daring animal rescues and the work the family does at their animal sanctuary.

Their latest adventure takes them to the coast of Sri Lanka. There they must rescue an injured tiger shark– before it’s too late!

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TIME VILLAINS by Victor Piñeiro (Sourcebooks Young Readers, July 6, 2021). Middle Grade. Javi Santiago is trying his best not to fail sixth grade. So, when the annual “invite any three people to dinner” homework assignment rolls around, Javi enlists his best friend, Wiki, and his sister, Brady, to help him knock it out of the park.

But the dinner party is a lot more than they bargained for. The family’s mysterious antique table actually brings the historical guests to the meal…and Blackbeard the Pirate is turning out to be the worst guest of all time.

Before they can say “avast, ye maties,” Blackbeard escapes, determined to summon his bloodthirsty pirate crew. And as Javi, Wiki, and Brady try to figure out how to get Blackbeard back into his own time, they might have to invite some even zanier figures to set things right again.

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ALL THESE WARRIORS by Amy Tintera (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, July 13, 2021). Young Adult. When the world was crumbling, seventeen-year-old Clara fought back. She escaped her abusive home and joined Team Seven, a monster fighting squad of runaways and misfits formed to combat the scrabs terrorizing the planet. And after nearly dying in Paris, Clara and Team Seven discovered the sinister truth behind the scrab invasion. Scrabs aren’t just mindless monsters set on destruction. They’re being trained and weaponized by MDG, a private security firm hired by the government. 

Now Clara and the rest of Team Seven have made it their mission to expose MDG. But no one said fighting for the truth would be easy. And as Clara and Team Seven find themselves at the center of a global conspiracy, they must face their biggest threat yet: their own demons.

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BELLA’S RECIPE FOR SUCCESS by Ana Siqueira, illustrated by Geraldine Rodriguez (Beaming Books, July 13, 2021). Picture Book. Bella wants to find out what she’s good at. But she quits everything she (barely) tries because she’s a desastre. Her somersaults are like jirafas rolling downhill, her piano playing like elephant feet. When she decides to learn how to bake with her abuela, her first attempt at dulce de leche frosting looks like cocodrilo skin. She must learn it’s okay to try again or she won’t be good at anything.

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EL CUCUY IS SCARED, TOO! by Donna Barba Higueraillustrated by Juliana Perdomo (Abrams Books for Young Readers, July 13, 2021). Picture Book. Ramón is a little boy who can’t sleep. He is nervous for his first day at a new school. And El Cucuy is the monster who lives in Ramón’s cactus pot. He can’t sleep, either. It turns out that El Cucuy is scared, too!

This story explores the worries that can accompany moving to a new place and beginning a new journey—and reveals how comfort, bravery, and strength can be found through even the most unexpected of friendships.

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THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS illustrated by Jeannette Arroyo (Disney Classic & Little Golden Books, July 13, 2021). Picture Book. Tim Burton’s classic film The Nightmare Before Christmas-retold for the first time as a Little Golden Book. Jack Skellington is the King of Halloween Town… but after so many years of the same spooky thing, he’s become bored of scaring. When Jack accidentally discovers Christmas Town, he hatches a crazy scheme to take over a new holiday for the year. But can the master of monstrous scares spread Christmas cheer like jolly old Saint Nick? And what will Halloween Town’s power-hungry Oogie Boogie do when he discovers Jack’s plan?

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PARANORTHERN: And the Chaos Bunny A-hop-calypse by Stephanie Cookeillustrated by Mari Costa (Etch/HMH Books for Young Readers, July 13, 2021). Graphic Novel/Middle Grade. It’s fall break in the supernatural town of North Haven, and young witch Abby’s plans include pitching in at her mom’s magical coffee shop, practicing her potion making, and playing board games with her best friends—a pumpkinhead, a wolf-girl, and a ghost. But when Abby finds her younger sister being picked on by some speed demons, she lets out a burst of magic so strong, it opens a portal to a realm of chaos bunnies. And while these bunnies may look cute, they’re about to bring the a-hop-ocalypse  (and get Abby in a cauldronful of trouble) unless she figures out a way to reverse the powerful magic she unwittingly released. What’s a witch to do?

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ISABEL AND HER COLORES GO TO SCHOOL by Alexandra Alessandri, illustrated by Courtney Dawson (Sleeping Bear Press, July 15, 2021). Picture Book. Isabel doesn’t speak much English, preferring the colors and comfort of Spanish, yet she still finds creative ways to communicate when words won’t work.

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Cover reveal for Sing With Me: The Story of Selena Quintanilla/Canta conmigo: La historia de Selena Quintanilla by Diana López, illus by Teresa Martinez

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We are delighted to host the cover reveal for Diana López’s picture book Sing With Me: The Story of Selena Quintanilla, which will be published simultaneously in Spanish: Canta conmigo: La historia de Selena Quintanilla. The Spanish version was translated by Carmen Tafolla. Both are illustrated by Teresa Martinez and will be published by Dial Books on April 6, 2021!

From a very early age, young Selena knew how to connect with people and bring them together with music. Sing with Me follows Selena’s rise to stardom, from front-lining her family’s band at rodeos and quinceañeras to performing in front of tens of thousands at the Houston Astrodome. Young readers will be empowered by Selena’s dedication–learning Spanish as a teenager, designing her own clothes, and traveling around the country with her family–sharing her pride in her Mexican-American roots and her love of music and fashion with the world.

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First, here is some information about the creators:

About the author: Diana López is the author of several middle grade novels including CONFETTI GIRL, ASK MY MOOD RING HOW I FEEL, and LUCKY LUNA. She was born and raised in Corpus Christi, Texas, Selena’s hometown. SING WITH ME, THE STORY OF SELENA QUINTANILLA is her debut picture book.

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About the illustrator: Teresa Martínez is the illustrator of numerous books for children, including The Halloween Tree and It’s Not a Bed, It’s a Time Machine. She lives in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, but was born and raised in Monterrey, where Selena frequently visited, becoming part of its culture and its heart. Martínez remains a huge fan of Selena’s music.

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Now, some insight about the book from the creators:

From the author, Diana López: I’m so excited to share the cover of my upcoming picture book biography, SING WITH ME, THE STORY OF SELENA QUINTANILLA. I live in Corpus Christi, Selena’s hometown, so I often see illustrations or photographs of her at restaurants or on T-shirts. There’s a Selena mural in her old neighborhood and a memorial, the Mirador de la Flor, which features a statue of Selena gazing at the sea. It also has a giant, white rose, Selena’s favorite flower. I love that illustrator, Teresa Martínez, chose Selena’s most famous concert for the cover of our picture book, but a special treat are the roses lovingly tossed to Selena in gratitude for her music.

Here’s what Teresa Martínez said when asked about her inspiration for the cover: “When I think about Selena, I go back immediately to my Quinceañera party and see my friends singing out loud on the mic Selena’s songs. That passion and energy in her songs. Without a doubt, I had a lot of inspiration with her music, wardrobe, and the feeling of happiness that youth brings. For her book, I opted for a vibrant color palette that was so in use those days, and of course, I couldn’t leave behind the purple color associated with the fantastic outfit Selena wore at the Astrodome, so purple takes an important part in the cover. For this project overall, I wanted the reader to feel involved in her presence through the colors and little details throughout the book.”

As someone who primarily writes middle grade novels, I’m used to “painting” people and places with words. That’s why early drafts of this picture book were a bit wordy. I had to keep reminding myself that a picture book is a collaboration between a writer and an illustrator, and I couldn’t have asked for a better co-creator. When Nancy Mercado, our editor at Dial Books for Young Readers, first shared Teresa Martínez’s portfolio, I could not stop smiling. Her art has color, movement, and whimsy, and I’m so pleased to see these traits on every page in our book, but most especially on the cover, which does a wonderful job of capturing Selena’s beautiful spirit. I can’t wait to share SING WITH ME, THE STORY OF SELENA QUINTANILLA—its art, its story, its joy.

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Finally, here is the cover of Sing with Me: The Story of Selena Quintanilla/ Canta conmigo: La historia de Selena Quintanilla:

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Ta-da!

Sing with Me: The Story of Selena Quintanilla is available now for pre-order!

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Q&A with Author Diana López about NOTHING UP MY SLEEVE

 

By Marianne Snow Campbell

Today we’re very pleased to host a dialogue with Diana López in honor of her newest middle grades novel, Nothing Up My Sleeve, which released on April 19.  This book follows three friends – Dominic, Loop, and Z – as they discover the exciting world of stage magic one summer. It’s equal parts humor, character study, and magic lessons – a fun and fascinating read. After finishing Nothing Up My Sleeve (click here for our book review), I was definitely curious about Diana’s creative process, so I’m very grateful that she was able to answer these questions for me. Enjoy!

I love the backdrop of stage magic in Nothing Up My Sleeve.  What inspired you to explore this topic?

My husband, Gene, inspired me. I wouldn’t know the first thing about magic if it weren’t for him. He’s an aficionado with a great collection of magic books, props, and videos. Over the years, I’ve been a tagalong at magic lectures and conventions, including the TAOM convention that I write about. Magicians are so creative, and if you think about a magic performance, you’ll realize that it’s just another form of storytelling. How could I resist? I had to write this book! And I had so much fun finding magic tricks that resonated with the characters’ personal lives. This is what stories do—give us tools for coping and for celebrating life.

Another important source of inspiration comes from my nephews who turn absolutely everything into a competition. Think about it. Competitions are wonderful for writers because they have a built-in sense of conflict—you’re “fighting” against others but you’re also fighting against yourself as you work to problem-solve or overcome insecurities. In a sense, a competition is a form of story, too.

Also, could you describe your process in creating this book?

I carry a little notebook around and jot down bits of dialogue or names of interesting things. I sometimes take pictures, too. Anything that feels like a good detail for a story. The magic shop, Conjuring Cats, is completely inspired by JCR Magic in San Antonio, for example.

Eventually, I realized that I wanted to write about three boys at a magic competition. But who were they? What kind of magic did they do? What else were they dealing with? To find out, I had to do a lot of exploratory writing, stuff that never gets into the final novel. It’s my way of searching for voices. And with three boys, I needed three voices that were distinct.

Once I had the voice and general sense of where the book was going, I started drafting. I’m not an outliner. I prefer to write, rewrite, rewrite, and rewrite. Stuff gets moved around, deleted, added, and the story eventually works itself out. I know it’s not the most efficient way to write, but for me, it’s the most enjoyable.

What made you decide to use three narratives? How did you go about developing Dominic, Loop and Z?

My previous books follow one character, so using three narratives was a new experience for me. From the beginning, however, it felt like the best approach for this novel. I love competitions—sports, board games, reality shows like Survivor or Amazing Race. It’s fun to root for someone, but often, I find myself rooting for more than one person. Something similar happened when writing this book. I found myself rooting for all three boys, so I wanted to give each of them time on the stage.

Using three perspectives also gave me a chance to explore how different people learn a new skill and perform in front of audiences. I love the unique set of abilities and insecurities that accompany each character. One of my favorite experiences with this book was taking a classic sleight, like the French drop, and seeing how the boys used their personalities to create different versions of this one move.

As for developing the characters, Dominic, Loop, and Z are very loosely based on three of my nephews. I love to eavesdrop on their conversations, and I’ve had plenty of chances to witness how they fight and how they show affection. Writers harvest ideas and voices from their environment, and that’s exactly what I did. I even called my nephews when I was looking for creative insults like “Fungus Foot, Toilet Clogger, Slobber Boy, and Stink Bomb.” Yup, they get total credit for that.

What do you want readers to carry away from Nothing Up My Sleeve and your other middle-grades books, Confetti Girl, Ask My Mood Ring How I Feel, and Choke?

I want them to enjoy the books. Just have fun. It breaks my heart to hear young people (or anyone) complain that books are boring. If I can make people laugh or nod because they recognize a bit of themselves in the story, then I have done my job.

For readers who like to dig a little deeper, I’ve posted some discussion guides on my website. You can find them on the “classroom” page http://www.dianalopezbooks.com/classroom.php . Find a friend and have a book chat. Published books don’t belong to the authors anymore. They belong to the readers.

    

As an author and creative writing professor, you clearly know a thing or two about writing. What kind of advice would you like to give to aspiring young writers out there – especially writers who want to publish books that celebrate diverse experiences and perspectives?

Aspiring writers are probably tired of hearing this, but it bears repeating because it’s so true. The best way to improve your writing is to read, read, read. And if you’re interested in celebrating diverse perspectives, then buy those titles. Do a little research to discover writers from your community, and then support them. We need to let publishers know that there’s a real interest in these books.

The second bit of advice is to pay attention to the world around you. Just read the signs, watch the people at parks or malls, browse the aisles at grocery stores. Examine familiar places as if seeing them for the first time. The diversity is built-in, and these are the details you want to capture in your books.

Since you published your first book, have you seen a change in the quality/quantity of diverse books published?

Yes, there’s an enthusiastic call for diverse books right now. I’m thinking of the We Need Diverse Books Campaign, and I’m seeing more diversity in our award-winners. This makes me very happy.

But, we still have a long way to go. I grew up in a working class, Mexican American family, a group that is still underrepresented. Here is a population statistic from “A Demographic Portrait of Mexican-Origin Hispanics in the United States” by Ana Gonzalez-Barrera and Mark Hugo Lopez: “Mexicans are by far the largest Hispanic-origin population in the U.S., accounting for nearly two-thirds (64%) of the U.S. Hispanic population in 2012.” Two-thirds of the Hispanic population in this country! I haven’t done the research, but I’m curious. If you took all the books published by Latinos in this country, what percentage will be by Mexican Americans?

So, moving in the right direction? Yes. But are we there yet? No. That’s why it’s an exciting time to be a writer and an advocate for diverse books.

Do you have any new book projects in the works?  Can you share anything about these projects?

Right now, I’m working hard to spread the news about NOTHING UP MY SLEEVE. I like to write short stories, too, so I’m using the time between book projects to finish and polish some shorter pieces I’ve been working on.

I was so excited to find out about CentroVictoria!  Tell us about your work there.

Photo credit: Todd Yates

Photo credit: Todd Yates

CentroVictoria is supported by the University of Houston-Victoria, where I work. Its founding director is Dagoberto Gilb, author of BEFORE THE END, AFTER THE BEGINNING. Our goal is to promote Mexican American literature and art. Right now, we’re doing this in two ways. One is the publication of an annual magazine called HUIZACHE. It’s a beautiful magazine, and I highly recommend it for people interested in Latino literature. Please visit our website http://huizachemag.org/ to learn more. The second way we promote the literature is to help educators. Dagoberto and his son, Ricardo Gilb, edited a textbook that was just released by Bedford St. Martin’s. It’s called MEXICAN AMERICAN LITERATURE: A PORTABLE ANTHOLOGY, a great resource for those who want a taste of important works and a sense of how the literature has changed. Dagoberto and Ricardo did a phenomenal job. For my part, I wrote an instructor’s manual full of discussion questions. It’s available as a downloadable pdf file.

To learn more about me, my books, and my work with CentroVictoria, please visit my website at www.dianalopezbooks.com

 

 

MarianneMarianne Snow Campbell is a doctoral student at The University of Georgia, where she researches nonfiction children’s books about Latin@ and Latin American topics and teaches an undergraduate course on children’s literature. Before graduate school, she taught pre-K and Kindergarten in Texas, her home state. She misses teaching, loves critters, and can also be found on Twitter and Facebook.

Book Review: Nothing Up My Sleeve by Diana López

 

Reviewed by Marianne Snow Campbell

DESCRIPTION FROM THE PUBLISHER: Sixth graders Dominic, Loop, and Z stumble upon a new magic shop in town and can’t wait to spend their summer mastering cool tricks to gain access to the Vault, a key holders-only back room bound to hold all kinds of secrets. And once they get in, they set their sights even higher: a huge competition at the end of the summer. They work on their card tricks, sleights, and vanishing acts, trying to come up with the most awesome routines possible….Problem is, the trip is expensive, and it’s money that each guy’s family just doesn’t have.

To make things worse, the shop-owners’ daughter, Ariel (who just so happens to be last year’s competition winner), will do anything to make sure the boys don’t come out on top. Even pit them against one another. Will they make it to the competition? And if so, at what cost?

Diana López, author of Confetti Girl and Ask My Mood Ring How I Feel, offers a story that’s just the right mix of heart, high jinks, and a bit of magic.

MY TWO CENTS: There’s a reason that magic trick kits sell so well at toy stores. Lots of kids love the thrill of stage magic – practicing illusions until they’re just right, creating mystery with visual puzzles, and tricking others with sleights of hand. Performing magic can help build kids’ confidence and give them a sense of agency when they might otherwise feel powerless. That’s certainly the case for Dominic, Loop, and Z, three friends who venture into the world of illusion at Conjuring Cats, the new magic store in Victoria, Texas. Each of the boys is facing a quandary that makes him feel powerless. Dominic’s parents are divorced and refuse to speak to each other, which frustrates him to no end. Meanwhile, Loop just found out that his father is actually his stepfather, and Z, the youngest child in a large family, always feels invisible. Their new magical hobby, however, leads to a summer of discovery that none of the friends expect.

One of the most valuable lessons I took away from Nothing Up My Sleeve is that hobbies are important. Once Dominic, Loop, and Z get involved in magic, they blossom. Sure, they encounter struggles along the way – jealousy, in-fighting, money troubles, family drama – but these difficulties only cause the boys to grow cognitively, socially, and emotionally. The teacher in me loves how practicing magic stimulates their critical thinking skills as they write patter (“what a magician says while performing a trick,” p. 134) for their routines and synthesize new tricks by putting their own personal spins on classic illusions. Really smart stuff! As the friends puzzle through magic, you can see how clever each boy is in his own way. This is the beauty of hobbies – kids expressing their intelligence and creativity through fun, personally meaningful activities.

OK, enough with the nerdy teacher musings. Another quality that I love about Diana López’s books is their attention to character development, and Nothing Up My Sleeve doesn’t disappoint. With magic as the backdrop, she conjures three well-rounded, realistic characters who face struggles and earn triumphs just like any real kid might. López creates a strong balance between the boys’ magical endeavors and their personal and home lives that gives this book the perfect blend of excitement and real world relevance.

Furthermore, I have to stress how much it means to me that López sets this book (and her other books) in South Texas. Catching references to places I know – Victoria, Refugio, Corpus Christi, and Houston – made me smile. Like me, a lot of young readers appreciate it when stories are set near their homes. A familiar setting can create a comfortable feeling, which, in turn, can make a book even more personally meaningful and engaging. With so many books, movies, and TV shows set in well known locales like New York and Los Angeles, it’s refreshing to find home in the pages of a book. Thank you, Ms. López for an enjoyable, relatable read!

TEACHING TIPS: As I read through Nothing Up My Sleeve, I couldn’t help thinking what a wonderful summer reading book it would be. Dominic, Loop, and Z’s adventures take place during the summer, and I can easily imagine kids soaking up this book on languid afternoons in June, July, and August. If you teach upper elementary or middle grades, consider putting it on your summer reading list.

Nothing Up My Sleeve is also an excellent book for classroom use. López fills her writing with various literary elements, which makes the book a solid model for student writing. Two particular elements that she focuses on in this book are metaphor – drawing comparisons between magic tricks and problems the boys face – and alternate perspectives. Each chapter assumes a different point, making the story richer and more complex. Unpacking these literary devices with students and encouraging them to incorporate the devices into their own pieces can really help them hone their creative writing skills.

Photo credit: Todd Yates

Photo credit: Todd Yates

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A former middle school teacher, Diana López has written several books for children, young adults, and adults, including Confetti Girl, Ask My Mood Ring How I Feel, Choke, and Sofia’s Saints. Her writing has also been featured in the anthologies Hecho en Tejas and You Don’t Have a Clue: Latino Mystery Stories for Teens. In 2004, she received a writing fellowship from the Texas Commission for the Arts and the Alfredo Cisneros del Moral Foundation, and Emporia State University honored Confetti Girl with the William Allen White Award in 2012. She teaches literature and creative writing at the University of Houston—Victoria and serves as managing director for Centro Victoria, an organization that celebrates Mexican-American literature and culture. To learn more about her work, you can visit her website or check out her Twitter.

 

 

MarianneMarianne Snow Campbell is a doctoral student at The University of Georgia, where she researches nonfiction children’s books about Latin@ and Latin American topics and teaches an undergraduate course on children’s literature. Before graduate school, she taught pre-K and Kindergarten in Texas, her home state. She misses teaching, loves critters, and can also be found on Twitter and Facebook.

Book Review: Ask My Mood Ring How I Feel by Diana López

16131067By Kimberly Mach

DESCRIPTION FROM THE BOOK JACKET: The only thing I knew for sure was that I had issues. Lots of issues. No wonder my mood ring kept changing! It went from black for tense to pink for uncertain to white for frustrated. I kept waiting to see blue, the color for calmness and peace, but no such luck. With all the craziness in my life, I couldn’t see blue if I looked at the sky.

MY TWO CENTSAsk My Mood Ring How I Feel, by Diana Lopez, is an excellent middle grade novel for a teen book group or for an individual read.

Author Diana Lopez remembers what it’s like to be a middle school girl. Rarely have I read a book that made me feel so connected to my eighth grade self. The excitement, the fear, the boys, the uncertainty of everyone’s confidence, the loyalty of friends, the changing body, Lopez gets it all. On top of that, she shows us that kids deal with real problems, too. Our kids face real problems, like having a parent with cancer.

The book opens with Erica’s (Chia’s) mom buying bathing suits before their summer vacation. Mom shows Erica and her younger sister, Carmen, nine new bikinis. Then she throws the bottoms away. Soon the girls learn their mother has breast cancer and is due to have a mastectomy. Summer vacation plans have changed.

Before the surgery, the family makes a pilgrimage to La Virgen de San Juan del Valle. Each member of the family leaves a special object as an offering, prays for God and La Virgen to help mom, and then makes a promesa.  The promesa is a thank-you promise to God and La Virgen in acknowledgment of their help and healing.

This is where I fell in love with Erica’s character. Erica takes her time deciding what her promesa, or promise, will be. While at the shrine she discovers el cuarto de Milagros, or the miracle room, “where people share stories and make offerings.” It is here where Erica sees a newspaper article and a picture of the Race for the Cure. Erica’s promesa is to walk the 5k and raise money for breast cancer research.

Erica returns to school in the fall to face many challenges in her eighth grade year. Throughout them her mood ring changes color. Erica relies on the ring to tell her what she is feeling instead of listening to her heart. Her friends, the Robins, remain a constant support throughout the story. Erica deals with boys and homework, then goes home and deals with her mother’s illness, all while trying to work on her promesa. Erica takes on the role of an adult covering most of the house chores and taking care of her younger brother as her mother recovers from surgery and then faces radiation treatment. Very quickly Erica starts missing assignments and her grades, especially in math, plummet.  When a counselor calls a meeting with the family at school, Erica finally shares what she has been struggling with. When at last her teachers and her parents are on the same page, Erica gets the help she needs.

The book concludes with Erica and many of her friends completing her promesa. She trusts herself to know and understand her own feelings. She does not rely on her mood ring anymore to tell her how she feels.

TEACHING TIPS: The two most beneficial ways this book could be used are through book talks and book clubs. If a teacher or librarian book talks this book, students will gravitate toward it. Most of the readers will be girls, but I think that’s what it’s designed to do. Even as an adult reading it, I felt the same kinship and recognition I had felt when I read Are You There God? It’s me, Margaret when I was eleven years old. It’s about a girl growing and changing and dealing with the trials of middle school. The only difference is that students will also recognize the struggle of a family dealing with cancer, and we get characters from diverse backgrounds, which all our children need.

The second way I see this book being effective is for a teen girl book club. Again, the driving force for me was the honesty with which Erica (Chia) looked at her friends, her family, and her challenges with school. All girls will recognize this. They will see themselves and their friends in this book.

In a Social Studies and Language Arts classes, teachers can use the book as a launching point for their own students’ service projects as well as a geographic study of San Antonio. You may visit the church of La Virgen de San Juan del Valle on line at http://www.olsjbasilica.org/  There are links to the history of the church, as well as information on pilgrimages and pictures of the basilica – including the mural that Erica describes seeing.

Teachers may even create math problems from the book. How much money did Erica raise? How much do local teams in Race for the Cure raise? Was Erica’s achievement similar to this or greater?

An awareness of breast cancer and the organizations that raise money for research may also be used in an extension of science curriculum.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: You may visit the author website for Diana Lopez at http://www.dianalopezbooks.com/Home_Page.html She does have teacher resource links for her middle grade novel Confetti Girl and her young adult novel Choke. (None were listed for Ask My Mood Ring How I Feel at the time of this writing.) A talented writer living in Texas, Lopez has two writing awards under her belt. She spent time teaching at the middle school level and currently teaches at the university level. She continues to find stories in the pages of life and we look forward to reading more!

FOR MORE INFORMATION about Ask My Mood Ring How I Feel, visit your local library or bookstore. Also check out IndieBound.orgWorldCat.orgGoodreadsAmazon, and Barnes & Noble.

 

Kimberly Mach (2)Kimberly Mach has been teaching for sixteen years and holds two teaching certificates in elementary and secondary education. Her teaching experience ranges from grades five to twelve, but she currently teaches Language Arts to middle school students. It is a job she loves. The opportunity to share good books with students is one that every teacher should have. She feels privileged to be able to share them on a daily basis.

Book Review: Confetti Girl by Diana López

By Cindy L. Rodriguez

Confetti GirlDESCRIPTION FROM THE BOOK JACKET: Apolonia “Lina” Flores is a sock enthusiast, a volleyball player, a science lover, and a girl who is looking for answers. Even though her house is crammed full of her dad’s books, she’s having trouble figuring out some big questions, like why her father keeps retreating into his reading, why her best friend is changing their old rules, and, most of all, why her mother had to die last year. Like colors in cascarones, Lina’s life is a rainbow of people, interests, and unexpected changes.

MY TWO CENTS: In Confetti Girl, López masterfully blends serious middle school issues, like friendships and first kisses, with the even more serious issues middle schoolers face, such as the death of one parent and the paralyzing grief of the other. Apolonia “Lina” Flores is an easily lovable character with her crazy socks and desire to do well on the volleyball court and in the classroom. But everything starts to unravel as Lina’s dad gets lost in books and her best friend, Vanessa, gets lost in Carlos’s dreamy eyes. With her relationships already strained, Lina’s situation gets worse when she’s benched for failing grades.

What makes Confetti Girl not only an awesome middle grade read but also a great novel about Latin@s is how López seamlessly weaves in cultural details. She talks about how she decided to include certain details here. By using such things as cascarones and dichos throughout the novel, López introduces cultural specifics to readers without being preachy or teacher-like. In other words, I could see young readers responding with, “Cool, let’s make those,” or “Yup, my mom says things like that all the time,” instead of “Oh, that’s a Latin thing” (closes book). The Kirkus review of this novel put it this way: “An appealing coming-of-age novel set in a traditional Mexican-American town, in which Hispanic teachers, students and parents celebrate traditional American holidays such as Thanksgiving alongside such traditional Mexican observances as el Día de los Muertos and a Quinceañera.” Click here for the full review.

Confetti Girl, López’s first middle grade novel, was a winner of the William Allen White Award and named to New York Library’s “100 Titles for Reading and Sharing.” It was a commended title for the 2010 Américas Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature, and Latinidad’s “Top Latino Book of the Year” for Middle Grade Category. It was also a Scholastic Book Club and Book Fair Selection.

TEACHING TIPS: Lots of great teaching tips, including discussion questions and activities, can be found on the author’s website. Click here for her “Teacher Resource” page and here for a PDF of a Teacher’s Guide for Confetti Girl.

Also, to align with the Common Core State Standards, teachers could easily mix this fictional novel with nonfiction articles that range from cascarones to the grieving process. Teachers could also bring in Watership Down by Richard Adams since it plays a significant role in Confetti Girl. Students could read Watership Down first and then read Confetti Girl to truly understand how the classic novel helps Lina to make sense of her own life.

LEXILE: 660

AUTHORDiana López is the author of the adult novella, Sofia’s Saints and the middle grade novels, Confetti Girl, Choke, and the recently released Ask My Mood Ring How I Feel. She is also featured in the anthologies Hecho en Tejas and You Don’t Have a Clue. She has been a guest on NPR’s Latino USA and is the winner of the 2004 Alfredo Cisneros del Moral Award. Diana teaches English and works with the organization, CentroVictoria, at the University of Houston Victoria.

For more information about Confetti Girl visit your local library or bookstore. Also check out GoodreadsIndieBound.orgWorldCat.orgLittle Brown Books for Young ReadersScholasticAmazon, and Barnes and Noble.

You can also click here for a book trailer of Confetti Girl featuring the author!

Diana can also be found on the site Read to Write Stories, where she blogs about how to create conflict with subtext.