Book Review: Alma and How She Got Her Name/ Alma y come obtuvo su nombre, by Juana Martinez Neal

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coming to a shelf near you on April 10, 2018!

Reviewed by Dora Guzman

PUBLISHER’S DESCRIPTION: If you ask her, Alma Sofia Esperanza José Pura Candela has way too many names: six! How did such a small person wind up with such a large name? Alma turns to Daddy for an answer and learns of Sofia, the grandmother who loved books and flowers; Esperanza, the great-grandmother who longed to travel; José, the grandfather who was an artist; and other namesakes, too. As she hears the story of her name, Alma starts to think it might be a perfect fit after all — and realizes that she will one day have her own story to tell. In her author-illustrator debut, Juana Martinez-Neal opens a treasure box of discovery for children who may be curious about their own origin stories or names.

MY TWO CENTS: What is in a name? A name is a gift given to you at birth and you carry it through all your stages of life. Parents and guardians spend months deciding on their baby’s name, sometimes even long before a baby is in the picture. But what if your name doesn’t fit on your paper because of its length?

In a world where we tend to question our differences, this story does quite the opposite. Growing up in the United States, one tends to have a single first name, maybe a middle name, and just one last name. However, this differs in certain other countries, including in Latin American, where it is not out of the ordinary to have more than one name.

Meet Alma Sofia Esperanza José Pura Candela, the main character of this story. Yes, her name is long. However, wondering about the length is what leads Alma on the journey to discover the story behind her name. Throughout the book, we learn the rich history and origins of each of Alma’s names. Many of her names were inspired by her ancestors and their humble traits and contributions to the world. The people behind her names influence Alma’s passions and character, even as she embraces each person and the love they gave her as a baby. She quickly learns that those same traits are present in her everyday life, and she rightfully claims that name through her affirmation of “I am____”. Alma soon learns that with claiming her name comes a lot of love and culture. She will now be able to contribute those gifts to the world. As Alma declares, “I am Alma, and I have a story to tell.”

This story wonderfully illustrates how to embrace YOU and the name you carry throughout life. In this story, Juana demonstrates that our name is a spotlight on not only our ancestors and the imprints they left on our lives, but also a forever part of us and what we can give to this world.

This picture book illuminates an essential connection to ancestors. Inspired by her own name, Juana reminds readers that our names are not just our own, but a reflection of our culture as well.

I am always amazed at Juana’s illustrations, especially in this picture book. The beauty of the main character connecting to her past is captured in colors and soft shades that will delight the reader’s eye. Juana also brings attention to each name through the addition of colorful accents and font styles. In page after page, the illustrations offer a collective reflection of everything that Alma’s ancestors represent, forming a visual reminder that who we are is a collection of everyone who came before us.

TEACHING TIPS: Teachers of all grade levels can use this picture book to illustrate our Latinx identity. This book is a perfect addition to an identity unit, where readers can delve into their own names and family trees. Teachers can also use this book as a reading mentor text around the main character’s learning process, as well as understanding the author’s message. The Spanish version is authentic to the Spanish language and perfect for bilingual/dual language classroom settings. Alma and How She Got Her Name/Alma y como obtuvo su nombre is a definite must add to all libraries in classrooms and homes!

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR-ILLUSTRATOR: Juana Martinez Neal is an award-winning illustrator and artist. Her passion for art started as a child and led her to study at one of the best schools in fine arts in Peru. Her journey as an illustrator led her to the United States, where she continues to illustrate a variety of children’s books. For updates on her art, follow her on Instagram @juanamartinezn. Juana’s official website can be found at http://juanamartinezneal.com/

 

 

 

ABOUT THE REVIEWER: Dora M. Guzmán is a bilingual reading specialist for grades K-5 and also teaches college courses in Children’s Literature and Teaching Beginning Literacy. She is currently a doctoral student with a major in Reading and Language. When she is not sharing her love of reading with her students, you can find her in the nearest library, bookstore, or online, finding more great reads to add to her never ending “to read” pile!

¡Felicidades! to the 2018 Pura Belpré Award Winners and Honor Books

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Congratulations to the authors and illustrators who were honored at the American Library Association’s Midwinter conference!

The newest Pura Belpré Awards went to Ruth Behar for Lucky Broken Girl and Juana Martinez-Neal for her illustrations in La Princesa and the Pea.

Click on the links below to get more information on the creators and their work!

Spotlight on Latina Illustrators (including Juana Martinez-Neal)

The Road to Publishing: Juana Martinez-Neal on Landing an Agent

In the Studio with John Parra

Spotlight on Middle Grade Authors: Pablo Cartaya

Spotlight on Middle Grade Authors: Celia C. Pérez

Pura Belpré Award (Author) honoring Latino authors whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience. Click on the cover images to see our review of the title or to get more information.

Winner:

Lucky Broken Girl Cover

Honor books:

     

 

Pura Belpré Award (Illustrator) honoring a Latino writer and illustrator whose children’s books best portray, affirm, and celebrate the Latino cultural experience. Click on the cover images to see our review of the title or to get more information.

Winner:

Honor Books:

     

Book Review: La Princesa and the Pea by Susan Middleton Elya, illus. by Juana Martinez-Neal

 

Review by Dora M. Guzmán

DESCRIPTION OF THE BOOK: The Princess and the Pea gets a fresh twist in this charming bilingual retelling. El principe knows this girl is the one for him, but, as usual, his mother doesn’t agree. The queen has a secret test in mind to see if this girl is really a princesa. But the prince might just have a sneaky plan, too. Readers will be enchanted by this Latino twist on the classic story, and captivated by the vibrant art inspired by the culture of Peru.

MY TWO CENTS: In this beautifully illustrated book filled with rustic textures and warm colors comes a popular tale filled with humor and reminiscing of Latinx mother-son relationships. Readers are invited to join the quest as the queen and the prince (but mostly the queen) try to find his future wife. The queen’s love for the prince is obvious, as she expects nothing but perfection for her son. The distinct comparison between the queen and her cat’s facial expressions are priceless and bring to the reader’s attention what else they have in common–cattiness and dominance. And rightly so; that’s her hijito lindo. Then comes a fair maiden, ready to prove her love for the prince, as he also awaits her success in the queen’s test. However, nobody is aware of this test besides the queen. The true test is if she feels the pea under twenty mattresses, then she’s the one. Yes, TWENTY. VEINTE.

Will the maiden pass this impossible challenge? Will the prince be able to be with his one true love? Will the queen finally give her blessings to her son and his future wife?

If you grew up with a brother, you can totally relate to this mother-son relationship. The bond between mother and son is like no other, however this story will force you to reminisce about the times that your mom said, “Ay, mijito, let me warm your dinner” to your brother but then expected you to warm up your own dinner. Jealous? Maybe. As an adult reader, I couldn’t help but chuckle at the realistic dialogue between the Queen and her Prince, as well as the perfectly paired facial expressions between the queen and her cat, which added to the character’s moods. You can feel the prince’s desire for love, but, at the same time, he wants to respect his mother’s opinion.

This picture book’s story line will keep you laughing, as it creatively tells the story of an unbreakable mother and son bond. I absolutely appreciate a picture book that can naturally weave in the Spanish language in dialogue and its narrative text without making it awkward for the reader. The Spanish vocabulary was also highlighted in a different text, to accent its beauty throughout the story. The words fit in a natural way of storytelling.

The illustrations were stunning. Upon reading the illustrator’s note by Juana Martinez-Neal, readers discover that the illustrations are inspired by an indigenous group in Peru. The textiles and the culture’s tradition of weaving and embroidery were inspirations for the illustrations and use of color. Martinez-Neal’s attention to detail and inspiration for her illustrations are remarkable and admirable.

TEACHING TIPS: Teachers of all grade levels can use this picture book as a reading mentor text to highlight various character traits and motives, with a focus on the queen. Also, for our younger readers, this text can be used during a phonemic awareness lesson on rhyming words in English.

The inspiration behind the illustrator’s choice of texture and color can also be used in an art lesson about artists and how cultures and traditions inspire their work.

WHERE TO GET IT: To find La Princesa and the Pea, check your local public library, your local bookstore, or IndieBound. Also, check out GoodreadsAmazon, and Barnes & Noble.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Susan Middleton Elya is a popular children’s author with over 22 picture books. Her series Say Hola to Spanish and Eight Animals are distinct in how they introduce the Spanish language to all age groups. Susan’s journey as an author started at a young age with a passion for writing. Her love of language led her to study Spanish and incorporate the Spanish language and her teacher experiences within her children’s books.

 

 

JuanaABOUT THE ILLUSTRATOR: Juana Martinez Neal is an award winning illustrator and artist. Her passion for art started as a child and led her to study at one of the best schools in fine arts in Peru. Her journey as an illustrator led her to the United States, where she continues to illustrate a variety of children’s books. Alma and How She Got Her Name, her debut picture book as an author illustrator, will be published in both English and Spanish by Candlewick Press on April 10, 2018.

 

 

 

img_0160ABOUT THE REVIEWER: Dora M. Guzmán is a bilingual reading specialist for grades K-5 and also teaches college courses in Children’s Literature and Teaching Beginning Literacy. She is currently a doctoral student with a major in Reading and Language. When she is not sharing her love of reading with her students, you can find her in the nearest library, bookstore, or online, finding more great reads to add to her never ending “to read” pile!

Spotlight on Latina Illustrators Part 2: Juana Martinez-Neal, Maya Christina González & Laura Lacámara

 

By Cecilia Cackley

This is the second in a series of posts spotlighting Latina illustrators of picture books. Some of these artists have been creating children’s books for many years, while others will have their first book out this year. Some of them live in the US, while others live overseas. They come from many different cultural backgrounds, but all are passionate about connecting with readers through art and story. Please look for their books at bookstores and libraries!

 

Juana Martinez-Neal

Children's Illustrator Juana Martinez-NealJuana was born in Lima, the capital of Peru. She has been illustrating for children since she was 16. Juana attended the best art school ever, Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru – School of Fine Arts. After 3 years of a crazy 8-to-8 schedule and way too many all-nighters, she was in desperate need of a semester-break and decided to give L.A. a “test drive.” She has lived in the US ever since.

Q: What inspired you to become an artist?

A: My father and grandfather were artists. The walls of our house were full of their paintings, and we had art supplies all around the house. Drawing and painting were natural ways to use our time. Every Summer, my mom enrolled us in a different art classes. She always took us to visit Museums, and her special treat was taking us to see puppet shows. Art was part of our life. There is nothing else I could be but an artist.

Q: Tell us about your favorite artistic medium.

A: I love the process more than a specific media. I think that’s the reason why I’m a mixed media illustrator. When I add materials and change my the process, the work becomes even more interesting. The idea of solving the problem makes the process so very exciting.

Q: Please finish the sentence “Picture books are important because…”

A: They expand a child’s mind, fulfill their soul, and show new points of views.

    

 

Maya Christina González

Maya Gonzalez is an artist, author, educator, activist, peacemaker, publisher, equality lover, obsessive recycler, traveler, river lover, tree talker, sky kisser……

Her fine art graces the cover of Contemporary Chicano/a Art and is well documented as part of the Chicano Art Movement. She has illustrated over 20 award-winning children’s books, several of which she also wrote, Her book My Colors, My World won the prestigious Pura Belpré Award Honor from the American Library Association and her most recent picture book, Call Me Tree was listed in Kirkus’ Best Picture Books of 2014 that Celebrate Diversity. Since 1996, Maya has been providing presentations to children and educators about the importance of creativity as a tool for personal empowerment. Her work with children in public schools helped her develop several lines of curriculum that offer a holistic approach to learning and open doors to new ways of thinking and relating in the world. In 2009 she co-founded Reflection Press, an independent press that publishes radical and revolutionary children’s books, and works that expand spiritual and cultural awareness. And in 2013, Maya co-created an online learning environment called School of the Free Mind about expanding the mind and reclaiming the creative. The School offers e-courses for those who are ready to uncover and connect with their unique and most powerful way of living and creating.

Q: What inspired you to become an artist?

A: I remember as a child drawing my round Chicana face into the backs of books. I think on some level I knew I needed to see myself in my books. I didn’t. I know in many ways those early ‘self-portraits’ were my way of affirming my existence in a world that did not include me. We are born artists. Creativity is our greatest tool to express and transform our world. I think it was a natural act to be an artist. I think I’ve remained visually expressive because it is the most powerful and immediate way to communicate and create change.

Q: Tell us about your favorite artistic medium.

A: I am notorious for trying different mediums in my children’s books. Acrylics, watercolors, oil pastels, ink, charcoal, painted collage, photo collage, color pencils and combinations of all of those. What I love is the feeling of exploration and not completely knowing what I’m doing. I know that’s how kids feel all the time. Everything is new and curiosity rocks. So I follow that feeling. I’ve made so much art that I’m familiar with all the materials so now I’m exploring how to use them differently. More expression. More immediate and raw. This is how kids create because this is how kids feel. I’m always exploring the edges of my expression.

Q: Please finish the sentence “Picture books are important because…”

A: Picture books are important because they are powerful tools of expression, support and potential healing. I believe children’s books are one of the most radical things we can do for ourselves and our communities.

            

Laura Lacámara

Laura_photo_2015-300 dpiCuban-born Laura Lacámara is the award-winning author and illustrator of Dalias Wondrous Hair / El cabello maravilloso de Dalia (Piñata Books), a bilingual picture book about a clever girl who transforms her unruly hair into a vibrant garden. Laura also wrote Floating on Mamas Song / Flotando en la canción de mamá, a bilingual picture book inspired by her mother, who was an opera singer in Havana. Illustrated by Yuyi Morales and published by HarperCollins, Floating on Mamas Song was a Junior Library Guild Selection for Fall 2010 and was a Tejas Star Book Award Finalist for 2011-2012.

Laura earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Drawing and Painting at California State University, Long Beach. She studied printmaking at Self Help Graphics in East Los Angeles and began exhibiting and selling her work.

When a fellow artist suggested Laura’s images would be ideal for picture books, Laura signed up for a children’s book illustration class at Otis College of Art and Design. She instantly fell in love with both writing and illustrating for children. It was in that class that she wrote the first draft of Floating on Mamas Song.

Laura illustrated the 2012 Tejas Star Book Award winner, The Runaway Piggy / El cochinito fugitivo (Piñata Books), as well as Alicias Fruity Drinks / Las aguas frescas de Alicia (Piñata Books). Laura is a popular presenter at schools, book festivals, and conferences, and she is an active member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).  Laura lives in Southern California with her husband, their daughter, and a lovable mutt.

Q:  What inspired you to become an artist?

A: Having an artist father, who made a living as a graphic designer and illustrator, inspired me and showed me that it was possible to be a working artist.  In high school and beyond, I had many artist friends – we found inspiration together in art classes and museum visits.  And, to be honest, as a young adult, doing art was the only job I didn’t get fired from!

Q: Tell us about your favorite artistic medium.

A: I like painting with acrylics on a variety of surfaces – my current favorite being wood. (I love the texture.)  I also enjoy adding collage elements to my paintings.  I’ve always loved bright patterned fabrics and papers – the more the colors and patterns clash, the better!

Q: Please finish this sentence: “Picture books are important because…”

A: Picture books are important because they teach us about ourselves, our world, our feelings, our realities.  Stories with pictures can give young kids a great deal of validation and comfort.  A picture book may be the first time a child realizes, “I’m not the only one who feels that way!”

    

 

Books to Check Out:

Lacámara Laura. Dalias Wondrous Hair

Luna, James. The Runaway Piggy

Ruiz-Flores, Lupa. Alicias Fruity Drinks

Elya, Susan Middleton. La Madre Goose (coming in July)

Gonzalez, Maya Christina. Call me Tree/Llamame Arbol

Gonzalez, Maya Christina. I Know the River Loves Me/Yo se que el rio me ama

Gonzalez, Maya Christina. My Colors, My World/Mis colores, mi mundo

Alarcon, Francisco X. Animal Poems of the Iguazu

Perez, Amada Irma. Nanas Big Surprise

Perez, Amada Irma. My Diary from Here to There

Alarcon, Francisco X. Iguanas in the Snow

A New Year = New Goals and Features

Happy New Year, Feliz Año Nuevo, Feliz Ano Novo from Latin@s in Kid Lit!

We’re excited to begin our first full year online. With this new year, we have added features and ambitious personal goals. First, though, let’s recap our last few months.

We launched on Sept. 16,2013,  to coincide with National Hispanic Heritage Month. Since then, we have published 20 posts, which included our “Road to Publishing” series, guest posts, and Q&As.

We gave away 12 awesome books during our 12 Days of Christmas Giveaway, and we’ve had more than 4,000 hits from visitors all over the world. Our top 10 countries are: U.S., Canada, Philippines,UK, Netherlands, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Uruguay, Spain, and Ireland. Our single best day was when we posted a Q&A with illustrator Juana Martinez-Neal, and our most popular post overall was about our 2014 Reading Challenge.

The Reading Challenge will be a year-long project. We’ll check-in on our participants and post links to reviews of books by/for/about Latin@s. So far, we have 22 official participants, although many others have spread the word and given us positive feedback. We’d love for more people to join us, which you can do any time during the year.

We were planning to craft a post about why it’s so important to support diversity in kid lit not only in general, but specifically through our purchasing and reading choices. But, then Kayla Whaley did it so well, we reblogged her post. If you haven’t read it, you should. She makes the point so well. We can SAY we support diversity in kid lit, but we should also DO something about it. What we all can do is be more conscious of what we buy, borrow from the library, read, and review/share.

To further celebrate Latin@ kid lit, we are adding a new feature on Thursdays called “Libros Latin@s.” These will be “book talks” of children’s, middle grade, and young adult books that are written by or feature Latin@s. The book talks will include: information about the book and author, teaching tips, Lexile level (if available), other books by the author, and links for more information.

Sujei Lugo, our newest member and a children’s book specialist, will handle the picture book “book talks.” She is also beefing up our Children’s Book Lists with English, Spanish, and bilingual titles. Because of her additions, we have split the category into two sections! We encourage authors, editors, and publishers to alert us about titles we should add to any of the lists.

In addition to working on the site, we each also have personal and professional goals. Here they are:

Yoda WisdomZoraida: In 2014 my motto is “Do or do not, there is no try.” It’s a reminder to myself to do my very best. Plus, wisdom from Yoda never hurt anyone. I’m going out with an adult contemporary romance proposal, as well as a YA urban fantasy that centers around a family of Brujas. If there is time (*has a Jesse Spano moment*) I want to revisit the first YA I ever wrote, about a rebellious Ecuadorian girl who turns her quinceañera upside down.

Then there’s the non-writing stuff: have a six pack (the ab kind, not the beer kind), go to the beach, visit Disney for my birthday, learn to play the ukulele (I already bought one), make more art (the painting kind), and you know, fall in love.

Also, Zoraida’s The Vast and Brutal Sea (The Vicious Deep 3) comes out July 1, 2014!

Stephanie: My resolution is to write a picture book for my daughter.

Ashley: Writing goal: take 15 minutes a day to plant and water seeds for novel #4. Personal goal: cook a wider variety of foods (using menus from “The Fresh 20”). Academic goal:  finish and defend my dissertation.

Cindy: Writing: I will do whatever’s needed to support my debut novel, which will be in production this year! I’ll also revise my second book and get it ready for submission. Reading: I’ll read 12 or more Latin@ kid lit books and as many debuts from the OneFour KidLit crew and ARCs from the Fearless Fifteeners. Personal: I’d like to lose 10-20 pounds, and as Zoraida said, you know, fall in love.

Lila: My resolutions are to finish the middle-grade novel I’m working on, to read 12 or more Latin@ kid lit books, and to lose ten pounds. Guess which will be toughest?

Quote for 2014

Best wishes to everyone this new year! May you reach all your goals and may all your dreams come true!

The Road to Publishing: Juana Martinez-Neal on Landing an Agent

By Lila Q. Weaver

Since Juana Martinez-Neal is an illustrator, writers might be tempted to skip her how-I-landed-an-agent story. Don’t! Anyone seeking professional success will find value here. In the following interview, she shares her journey to the 2012 Showcase Portfolio Grand Prize at the SCBWI Los Angeles conference, a coup that led to agent representation and many great opportunities. No matter your craft, Juana’s approach serves as a model of careful study and preparation, which on top of her brilliant art skills, gave her the winning edge. In today’s competitive world of publishing, that’s a lesson we can all put to good use.

Latin@s in Kid Lit: Were you a published illustrator before winning the portfolio award at the SCBWI conference? If so, how did you get jobs?

Juana: Before the Portfolio Grand Prize, I was published by smaller publishers, the educational market, and advertising companies. My jobs would come from paid, online portfolios, such as childrensillustrators.com. I would also email samples to art directors that accepted email submissions. I never got around to sending postcards to a mailing list. That was a mistake! I would also attend SCBWI regional and national conferences. Whenever these conferences offered portfolio shows, I entered mine and paid for critiques. Critiques are a great way to put your work in front of editors and art directors.

Latin@s in Kid LitHow did you prepare for the SCBWI portfolio show? The competition must have been fierce!

Juana: Illustration, much like writing and every other profession, requires everyday practice. If you rush to get twelve new pieces ready a month or two before a portfolio show, chances are, your pieces will be decent. But decent doesn’t win a show. You must work everyday, year round.

The selection process is simple and repeats every year that I attend the SCBWI LA Conference. A month-and-a-half beforehand, I select fifteen to eighteen favorite pieces from everything I’ve done within the last twelve months. After printing them at 8.5” x 11”, I meet with my illustrator friends, who help me choose eight to twelve of the strongest ones. On my blog, I have a series of posts about portfolios, including how to put together a children’s illustrator portfolio, a comparison of my 2011 and 2012 portfolios, and a how-to on mounting artwork

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Most of the time, we recognize outstanding work before we produce outstanding work. Ira Glass said it beautifully here:

“What nobody tells people who are beginners — and I really wish someone had told this to me . . . is that all of us who do creative work, we get into itbecause we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, and it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase. They quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.” –  Ira Glass on Storytelling: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BI23U7U2aUY

When we put this into practice, there comes a time when our work starts matching our expectations. Our hand starts painting what our brain has envisioned. At that point, we may be ready. I didn’t know I was ready to win when I did. I knew my portfolio was decent, and I knew that eventually I would win—but not that year. I thought: I will win in 2014. I gave myself two more years.

In 2012, I was pregnant and putting my portfolio out because the following year I would have a baby to take care of and would have to miss the conference. There is an action of letting go that generates energy. That energy makes things happen and surprises us in the most wonderful ways.

Latin@s in Kid LitAfter you won the portfolio award, did agents approach you at the conference or through e-mails and phone calls? Tell us a little bit about that.Image 3

Juana: Agents can approach you all different ways if they are interested. In my case, I met Stefanie Von Borstel, of Full Circle Literary, at the Portfolio Showcase. She had been one of the judges and enjoyed looking at my work. We talked during the conference a few times and stayed in touch. Three months later, we signed a contract.

I think it’s important to meet the agents you are interested in. Listen to yourself during that first call or meeting. You need to feel comfortable and communicate easily with her/him. You will be working with that person for what you hope is the rest of your career. We are all so eager to get representation that sometimes we may let warning signs slide. Please don’t. Listen to them. You don’t want to waste time.

Latin@s in Kid LitYour experience shows how helpful conference attendance can be for connecting with agents.

Juana: If there are agents presenting at breakout sessions, go listen to them. You’ll get a great sense of who they are and how they work. You will be able to tell if you could work together. Personality counts. I’ve seen some rather quiet, introverted friends with agents that are their complete opposites. Their relationships work wonderfully. They complement each other.

Latin@s in Kid LitWhat difference has it made to your work to have an agent representing you?

Juana: Having Stefanie as my agent has improved my work. Her comments come from someone who knows this industry so well. She helps me find direction when I’m feeling a bit confused. An agent will help you polish your manuscripts and dummies and get them ready for editors and art directors. I also love the fact that they will take care of the contracts. There is so much I am not aware of when it comes to legal matters.

Latin@s in Kid Lit: What are some other tips for illustrators on getting the attention of art directors and agents?

  • Create work consistently, continuously.
  • Stay busy. If you have no paid projects, give yourself assignments regularly. Set some deadlines for yourself.
  • Keep your portfolio updated. Post new work regularly, but post only your BEST work.
  • Mail postcards consistently, every three to four months. Be critical when selecting names. A mailing list of 80 can be very effective. Send postcards to anyone you would love to work with.
  • Look into agents’ clients and books. Follow them on Twitter. See if your work is a good match. Keep in mind that if they have someone with a style too similar to yours, chances are, you won’t be picked. Why have two artists that do almost the same work?

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Image 2Juana Martinez-Neal was born in Lima, Peru, to an artistic family. At 16, she was already laying the groundwork for a career in children’s illustration. She now lives in the United States. Her work has been featured in Babybug, Ladybug and Iguana magazines, and recently made the cover of the SCBWI Bulletin. See more of Juana’s glorious gallery at her website, where you can also take advantage of detailed tutorials on portfolio selection and assembly and read fascinating illustrator interviews.