Book Talk: Not a Bean by Claudia Guadalupe Martínez, illus. by Laura González

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Welcome to another Book Talk, which can be found on our YouTube channel!

Here, Dr. Sonia Rodriguez and Dora M. Guzmán talk about NOT A BEAN, written by Claudia Guadalupe Martínez, and illustrated by Laura González.

ABOUT THE BOOK: A Mexican jumping bean isn’t a bean at all. It’s a fascinating home and food source for a special kind of caterpillar!

With Spanish vocabulary and a clever counting concept, this poetic story shares the life cycle of a Mexican jumping bean. This curious jumping insect is actually a seedpod from a shrub called yerba de la flecha, into which a caterpillar burrows, living inside the pod until it builds a cocoon and breaks out as a moth. Perfect for preschoolers and prereaders, this creative picture book explores the Mexican jumping bean’s daily life and eventual transformation and escape from the pod.

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Sonia Alejandra Rodriguez, PhD is an Associate Professor of English at LaGuardia Community College (CUNY) where she teaches composition, literature, and creative writing. Her academic research focuses on decolonial healing in Latinx children’s and young adult literature. Sonia is a Mellon Emerging Faculty Leader.

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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, Language, and Literacy. 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!

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Book Talk: Octopus Stew by Eric Velasquez

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We are an affiliate with Indiebound and Bookshop. If If you make a purchase through these links, at no additional cost to you, we will earn a small commission.

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Welcome to another Book Talk, which can be found on our new YouTube channel!

ABOUT THE BOOK: The octopus Grandma is cooking has grown to titanic proportions. “¡Tenga cuidado!” Ramsey shouts. “Be careful!” But it’s too late. The octopus traps Grandma!

Ramsey uses both art and intellect to free his beloved abuela.

Then the story takes a surprising twist. And it can be read two ways. Open the fold-out pages to find Ramsey telling a story to his family. Keep the pages folded, and Ramsey’s octopus adventure is real.

This beautifully illustrated picture book, drawn from the author’s childhood memories, celebrates creativity, heroism, family, grandmothers, grandsons, Puerto Rican food, Latinx culture, and more.

With an author’s note and the Velasquez family recipe for Octopus Stew!

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Sonia Alejandra Rodriguez, PhD is an Associate Professor of English at LaGuardia Community College (CUNY) where she teaches composition, literature, and creative writing. Her academic research focuses on decolonial healing in Latinx children’s and young adult literature. Sonia is a Mellon Emerging Faculty Leader.

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Dora 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, Language, and Literacy. 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!

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Celebrating 25 Years of the Pura Belpré Award: Book Talk About The Bossy Gallito by Lucia Gonzalez, illus. by Lulu Delacre

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We are an affiliate with Indiebound and Bookshop. If If you make a purchase through these links, at no additional cost to you, we will earn a small commission.

The Pura Belpré Award is named after Pura Belpré, the first Latina librarian at the New York Public Library. The Pura Belpré Award, established in 1996, is presented annually to a Latinx writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth.

Cover for The Bossy Gallito / El gallo de bodas (Bilingual): A Traditional Cuban Folktale

We have been marking the award’s 25th anniversary in different ways on the blog. Today, Dr. Sonia Rodriguez and Dora M. Guzmán talk about The Bossy Gallito / El Gallo De Bodas by Lucía M. Gonzálezillustrated by Lulu Delacre. The book won honors in 1996 for both narrative and illustration.

You can find our book talks on our new YouTube channel!

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Sonia Alejandra Rodriguez, PhD is an Associate Professor of English at LaGuardia Community College (CUNY) where she teaches composition, literature, and creative writing. Her academic research focuses on decolonial healing in Latinx children’s and young adult literature. Sonia is a Mellon Emerging Faculty Leader.

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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, Language, and Literacy. 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!

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Spotlight on Latinx Illustrators: Raissa Figueroa

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We are an affiliate with Indiebound and Bookshop. If If you make a purchase through these links, at no additional cost to you, we will earn a small commission.

By Cecilia Cackley

This is the tenth in a series of posts spotlighting Latinx 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 soon. 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!

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Raissa Figueroa

Raissa Figueroa is an illustrator and graphic designer based in San Diego, California. Her art graces such picture books as Princess, Unlimited, by Jacob Sager Weinstein, and Oona, by Kelly DiPucchio.

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Q: What or who inspired you to become an artist? 

A: I recently stumbled on some journals I had written in the 3rd grade at my parent’s house and found these gems:

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But life happened and I was too scared to succumb to the “starving artist” motif. I continued to sketch in the margins of my notebooks in school, fiddled with Microsoft paint and took a life drawing class in college, but in the end, I switched my major to graphic design so that I’d have a better chance financially. I learned a lot of things that I was able to use in landing my position at the small business I ended up working at from right after I graduated college in 2012 up until March of 2020. But my spark for pursuing art returned to me a bit earlier, in 2016, following a suicide attempt that left me unable to move around very well for a stretch of months. It just so happened that I stumbled across a channel on YouTube that focused on concept art. I was thrilled that such a thing even existed, and I became OBSESSED.

I watched every art-related video I could find on YouTube, blew through self directed online classes, bought books, and sketched profusely. Coincidentally, in the summer of 2016, my friend began a weekly paint night, and that’s where I discovered a love of watercolor. Even after she moved away, I still continued to practice painting, slowly building my confidence from primarily sketches and drawings with pencils, to the wonderfully frightening and exciting world of color.

I began to post to Instagram, and through a series of strange events, too long to list here, I landed a literary agent who introduced me to the world of children’s books. Through an act of God, I landed several book deals within a very short time frame, and so began the pursuit of this life path: returning to my childhood self, who seemed to know me better than I do now.

Art was a literal life-saver for me, seeing me through some very intense ups and downs in my life. There’s something that happens when I’m “in the zone” so to speak that feeds my soul and makes time, to-do lists, wants and worries, fears and anxieties, heck, even life slip away. And if that wasn’t enough, just knowing that my art can be used to bring joy others makes my heart swell with happiness and purpose. I don’t mind starving, but I definitely need to be an artist!

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Q: Tell us something about your favorite artistic medium–why you like it, when you first learned it, etc. 

A: When I began arting, I had cycled through a few mediums here, dabbled in a few mediums there, but ultimately when I had landed on watercolor in 2016, it was love at first brushstroke. Ironically, because I’ve spent so much time recently in the digital realm completing client work, I sort of stopped using it along with any kind of traditional media. I love how the colors blend and flow together so wonderfully! I hope to do more of it in the near future, and experiment with different mediums I’ve never tried before! Using my hands (and even my whole body sometimes) just gives you a whole different experience that really connects you with the process of creating something; at least for me I’ve been unable to achieve the same thing digitally, but I am *so* thankful for that Ctrl+Z…sometimes when I’m painting, I find myself tapping the page like I would my iPad.

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

A: Not only are they a work of art but they give kids a chance to fall in love with reading. My mom was extremely good about that and I remember bedtime very fondly because she always made us an offer. Another hour of cartoons, or a new story for that night. We always chose the latter! That love of reading stuck with me and has undoubtedly helped me in my journey from child to adult. Not to mention you don’t need to plug them in or access the internet to immerse yourself in another world.

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Cecilia Cackley is a Mexican-American playwright and puppeteer based in Washington, DC. A longtime bookseller, she is currently the Children’s/YA buyer and event coordinator for East City Bookshop on Capitol Hill. Find out more about her art at www.ceciliacackley.com or follow her on Twitter @citymousedc

Book Review: The Hazards of Love Vol. 1: The Bright World by Stan Stanley

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Review by Katrina Ortega

Cover for The Hazards of Love Vol. 1

DESCRIPTION OF THE BOOK: The Hazards of Love follows the story of a queer teen from Queens who makes some mistakes, gets dragged into a fantastical place, and tries to hustle their way back home.

Amparo’s deal with the talking cat was simple: a drop of blood and Amparo’s name to become a better person. Their mother and abuela would never worry about them again, and they’d finally be worthy of dating straight-A student Iolanthe. But when the cat steals their body, becoming the better person they were promised, Amparo’s spirit is imprisoned in a land of terrifying, flesh-hungry creatures known as Bright World.

With cruel and manipulative masters and a society that feeds on memories, Amparo must use their cleverness to escape, without turning into a monster like the rest. On “the other side,” Iolanthe begins to suspect the new Amparo has a secret, and after the cat in disguise vanishes, she’s left searching for answers with a no-nonsense medium from the lesbian mafia and the only person who might know the truth about Bright World.

MY TWO CENTS: Stan Stanley’s The Hazards of Love Vol. 1: The Bright World caught me totally off guard. Based on the cover, I was expecting a cute (and fantastical) love story, but I got so much more than that.

First, the artwork in this graphic novel was extraordinarily captivating. It almost felt startling at first–the colors were so strong and dramatic, and the weight of the lines was so bold. But the style, which, I believe, was intentionally done in a way that strengthened the Latinx feel of the story, quickly grew on me. The artwork also adds an air of mystery to the story itself. 

The Bright World–an alternate and fantastical universe–is brought to life through Stanley’s artwork. It is a complex world clarified through brightly (pun intended) colored illustrations and sharp, heavy black outline. The vividness of the color helps differentiate which world the story is taking place in (which is helpful, as the story line switches between present day Queens, New York, and the Bright World), and highlights the Latinidad of the storyline, reminding me of the brightness that one might see at a feria or fiesta in Mexico. Both the characters and the places in the Bright World could be mistaken for belonging in a Mexican folklore picture book. 

The story, however, is definitely not one for a picture book! The artwork appeals to young adult readers, and the story itself is definitely not one for kids. The characters of this story are well developed (and some of them are downright creepy), the world is intricate with a very detailed history of its own, and the plot is enticing while often being thrilling and suspenseful. 

Amparo, our queer, non-binary main character, is a feisty high schooler when the story begins. Through the betrayal of a mysterious cat, they find their body stolen and are thrust into a mysterious, fantastical world where their life is on the line, with no corporeal body and they’re unsure that they’ll ever find their way back home. Amparo’s experience in the Bright World is terrifying, but shows how cunning and sharp they are as a character, and how dedicated they are to returning to their real world love, Iolanthe, even if that means making a deal with a metaphorical devil and risking any hope they have of survival. All in all, The Hazards of Love Vol 1 was a delightfully fanciful way to begin this series and I’m excitedly awaiting the next volume!

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Stan Stanley

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: (via Simon and Schuster):  Stan Stanley makes comics that are sometimes creepy, sometimes funny, but always queer. She’s been making comics since she was in high school and has continued doing so throughout various science-related careers when she was supposed to be doing science. Instead, she created Friendly Hostility, The Hazards of Love, and her online journal comic, Stananigans. The Hazards of Love is heavily influenced by the ephemera of the Mexico in which Stan grew up, though she now finds herself in NYC among a lovely crew of weirdos. She lives with her spouse, a large cat, and a larger collection of bones.

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

Celebrating 25 Years of the Pura Belpré Award: Book Talk About Doña Flor: A Tall Tale About a Giant Woman with a Great Big Heart by Pat Mora, illus. by Raúl Colón

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We are an affiliate with Indiebound and Bookshop. If If you make a purchase through these links, at no additional cost to you, we will earn a small commission.

The Pura Belpré Award is named after Pura Belpré, the first Latina librarian at the New York Public Library. The Pura Belpré Award, established in 1996, is presented annually to a Latinx writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth.

We will be marking the award’s 25th anniversary in different ways on the blog. Today, Dr. Sonia Rodriguez and Dora M. Guzmán talk about Doña Flor: A Tall Tale About a Giant Woman with a Great Big Heart, written by Pat Mora and illustrated by Raúl Colón. The book won the 2006 Pura Belpré Illustration Award. You can find our book talks on our new YouTube channel!

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Sonia Alejandra Rodriguez, PhD is an Associate Professor of English at LaGuardia Community College (CUNY) where she teaches composition, literature, and creative writing. Her academic research focuses on decolonial healing in Latinx children’s and young adult literature. Sonia is a Mellon Emerging Faculty Leader.

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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, Language, and Literacy. 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!

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