Celebrating 25 Years of the Pura Belpré Award: Book Talk About ¡Vamos! Let’s Go Eat! by Raúl the Third

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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 have been marking the award’s 25th anniversary in different ways on the blog. Today, Dr. Sonia Rodriguez and Dora M. Guzmán talk about ¡Vamos! Let’s Go Eat! by Raúl the Third. The book won the 2021 Pura Belpré Illustration Award.

Cover for ¡Vamos! Let’s Go Eat (World of ¡Vamos!)

ABOUT THE BOOK: In this new Vamos! title, Let’s Go Eat, Little Lobo is excited to take in a show with wrestling star El Toro in his bustling border town. After getting lunch orders from The Bull and his friends to help prepare for the event, Little Lobo takes readers on a tour of food trucks that sell his favorite foods, like quesadillas with red peppers and Mexican-Korean tacos. Peppered with easy-to-remember Latin-American Spanish vocabulary, this glorious celebration of food is sure to leave every reader hungry for lunch!

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!

Spotlight on Middle Grade Authors: Karla Arenas Valenti

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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 Cindy L. Rodriguez

This is an occasional series about middle grade Latinx authors. We decided to shine a spotlight on middle grade writers and their novels because, often, they are “stuck in the middle”–sandwiched between and overlooked for picture books and young adult novels. The middle grades are a crucial time in child development socially, emotionally, and academically. The books that speak to these young readers tend to have lots of heart and great voices that capture all that is awkward and brilliant about that time.

Today, we highlight Karla Arenas Valenti.

Karla Arenas Valenti is an author of picture books and middle grade novels. She loves writing stories that take readers into unexpected places (emotionally and intellectually), pushing them to explore the boundaries of what they know about themselves and the world around them.  She also loves playing with magical realism, bending the worlds of her stories to create intriguing spaces for readers to explore.

Karla is the creator of the “My Super Science Heroes” series (Sourcebooks), an exploration of key historical figures depicting science as it truly is: an epic adventure with super heroes, super evil, and super science powers! Her picture book, Maria Mariposa (Chronicle) is a bilingual story about a girl who receives a gift from her home in Mexico on her first day of school in the U.S.—and how she finds a way to share the magic of that gift with everyone around her.

Karla’s debut middle grade novel, Loteria (Knopf) takes readers deep into the heart of Mexican culture, mythology, and lore in a story about free will and a simple game of chance with and life-and-death stakes. Karla lives in the Chicagoland area with her husband and three kids, two cats, and hundreds of books.

Here is the publisher’s description of Lotería, Karla’s middle grade debut, which just released on Tuesday!

HAPPY BOOK BIRTHDAY!!

Cover for Lotería

The turn of a card could change your destiny in this captivating middle grade adventure based on the Lotería card game and perfect for fans of Coco. While searching for her missing cousin, a young girl is transported to a mythical kingdom, becoming entangled in a perilous game of chance.

In the hottest hour of the hottest day of the year, a fateful wind blows into Oaxaca City. It whistles down cobbled streets and rustles the jacaranda trees before slipping into the window of an eleven-year-old girl named Clara. Unbeknownst to her, Clara has been marked for la Lotería.

Life and Death deal the Lotería cards but once a year, and the stakes could not be higher. Every card reveals a new twist in Clara’s fate—a scorpion, an arrow, a blood-red rose. If Life wins, Clara will live to a ripe old age. If Death prevails, she’ll flicker out like a candle. 

But Clara knows none of this. All she knows is that her young cousin Esteban has vanished, and she’ll do whatever it takes to save him, traveling to the mythical Kingdom of Las Pozas, where every action has a price, and every choice has consequences. And though it seems her fate is sealed, Clara just might have what it takes to shatter the game and choose a new path.

Karla Arenas Valenti weaves an adventure steeped in magic and mythology—gorgeously illustrated by Dana Sanmar—exploring the notion of free will in a world where fate holds all the cards.

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Karen Arenas Valenti

1. Who or what inspired you to become a writer?

I have always been a writer. In fact, I have been writing stories since I was in kindergarten. That said, I wasn’t able to truly focus on becoming an Author until about ten years ago. I loved writing, and I knew I had “some” talent. However, I still had a lot to learn about the craft of storytelling and kidlit publishing in general. SCBWI was invaluable in this regard, as was connecting with a community of writers (in my case through Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 Picture Book Challenge).

2. Why do you choose to write middle grade novels?

I love writing for middle graders because they are in a wonderful phase of transformation where they are growing into a new self, conscious of how big the world is and how much more meaningful their role can be. This can be at once empowering, but also so terribly intimidating. To put a book in a reader’s hand at this point is to give them a tool of self-discovery that can have a great impact on their lives. I am honored to be a part of that process. I also love writing about middle graders, for they see a world that is at once real but also teeming with magic (magical realism!). This is my tribe.

3. What are some of your favorite middle grade novels?

This is a tough question to answer, so perhaps I can answer a slightly different one – favorite 2020 and 2021 MG novels? In no particular order, I loved WHEN YOU TRAP A TIGER (Tae Keller), ECHO MOUNTAIN (Lauren Wolk, and also BEYOND THE BRIGHT SEA which I am now reading), WOLF FOR A SPELL (Karah Sutton), MAÑANALAND (Pam Muñoz Ryan), RED, WHITE AND WHOLE (Rajani LaRocca), and THE NIGHT DIARY (Veera Hiranandani).

4. If you could give your middle-grade self some advice, what would it be?

You’re right to feel confused and unmoored. This is a time of transition and growth. It will pass, and you will find a new version of yourself. Which is not to say this isn’t the most important thing happening to you right now! It is. You are in the middle of a momentous event: you are becoming.  

5. Please finish this sentence: Middle grade novels are important because…

Middle grade novels are important because they allow readers to journey through experiences that challenge them to grow and evolve in important ways within the confines of a safe space. That safe space is crucial, because it gives readers the confidence to lose themselves and experiment with the new ideas, feelings, and selves that will shape them.

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photo of Cindy L. Rodriguez by Saryna A. Jones

Cindy L. Rodriguez is a former journalist turned teacher and children’s author. She is a middle school reading specialist in Connecticut, where she lives with her family. Cindy is a U.S.-born Latina of Puerto Rican and Brazilian descent. Her debut contemporary YA novel is When Reason Breaks (Bloomsbury 2015). She also has an essay in Life Inside My Mind (Simon Pulse 2018) and wrote the text for three Jake Maddox books: Volleyball Ace (2020), Drill Team Determination (2021), and Gymnastics Payback (2021). Upcoming books are The Doomed Search for the Lost City of Z (Capstone, 2022), and Three Pockets Full: A story of love, family, and tradition (Cardinal Rule Press, 2022). She can be found on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.

Guest Post: Margarita Longoria, editor of Living Beyond Borders: Growing Up Mexican in America

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By Margarita Longoria

I want to thank Latinxs in Kid Lit for giving me an opportunity to talk about my anthology Living Beyond Borders: Growing Up Mexican in America with you!

I am Margarita Longoria, and I am the editor of a YA Anthology called Living Beyond Borders: Mexican in America, a mixed media collection of 20 short stories, poems, essays & more from celebrated and award-winning authors that explores the Mexican American experience.

This collection is very special and important to me, and I am honored and humbled to be able to share it with you all August 17, 2021. The idea of this book was born a few years ago, when my news feed was being bombarded with hate speech about Mexican people. I was upset and wanted to lash back. As a former English teacher, a librarian, and a lover of words, I decided the best way to do this should be with words. I felt beautiful words, hopeful words, and truthful words about our culture would counteract all the hateful words that were coming our way. Afterall, words and books bring people together. I am a firm believer that if you do not understand something, you should read about it. People are often misinformed about many serious issues, and, if given the opportunity to walk in someone else’s shoes, even through the pages of a book, you can begin to understand others. Before we judge, before we hate, before we form ideas about something we know nothing about, it is important to be informed. Books give you that power. I wanted to give that power to those who needed a window into our community and a mirror to those to be proud of who they are and where they come from. I reached out to several writers in the Mexican American community who agreed to take this journey with me, and I set my sights on a carefully curated anthology that would represent the culture we love. It is a dream come true and a privilege to give this book to you. I hope you enjoy this work of heart.

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The authors represented in the anthology are: Francisco X. Stork, Guadalupe Garcia McCall, David Bowles, Rubén Degollado, e.E. Charlton-Trujillo, Diana López, Xavier Garza, Trinidad Gonzales, Alex Temblador, Aida Salazar, Guadalupe Ruiz-Flores, Sylvia Sánchez Garza, Dominic Carrillo, Angela Cervantes, Carolyn Dee Flores, René Saldaña Jr., Justine Narro, Daniel García Ordáz, and Anna Meriano.

Justine Narro

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ABOUT THE EDITOR: Margarita Longoria is a lifelong bookworm, book blogger, and an award-winning high school librarian in South Texas. She is the founder of Border Book Bash: Celebrating Teens and Tweens of the Rio Grande Valley and served on state reading committees for the Texas Library Association. She is the editor of LIVING BEYOND BORDERS: GROWING UP MEXICAN IN AMERICA, a mixed-media collection of short stories, personal essays, poetry, and comics, that is a hopeful love letter from the Mexican American community to today’s young readers. She holds a BA and an MA in English and an MLS in Library Science. She is passionate about diverse books, her two sons, coffee, and Mr. Darcy. She grew up in Edinburg, Texas, and lives with her family in the Rio Grande Valley. You can visit Margie online at margiesmustreads.com and follow her on Instagram at @MargiesMustReads.

Celebrating 25 Years of the Pura Belpré Award: Book Talk About Just a Minute: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book by Yuyi Morales

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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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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.

Today, Dr. Sonia Rodriguez and Dora M. Guzmán talk about Just A Minute: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book by Yuyi Morales. The book won the 2003 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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Cover reveals for May Your Life Be Deliciosa and They’re So Flamboyant by Michael Genhart, illus. by Loris Lora and Tony Neal

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We are delighted to host the cover reveals for TWO of Michael Genhart’s upcoming picture books: May Your Life Be Deliciosa, which releases September 14, 2021 with Cameron Kids, and They’re So Flamboyant, which releases October 19, 2021 with Magination Press.

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First, here’s a description of May Your Life Be Deliciosa:

“What is the recipe?” I ask. Abuela laughs. “It is in my heart, Rosie. I use mis ojos, my eyes, to measure. Mis manos, my hands, to feel. Mi boca, my mouth, to taste. My abuela gave it to me, and I am giving it to you.” Each year on Christmas Eve, Rosie’s abuela, mamá, tía, sister, and cousins all gather together in Abuela’s kitchen to make tamales—cleaning corn husks, chopping onions and garlic, roasting chilis, kneading cornmeal dough, seasoning the filling, and folding it all—and tell stories. Rosie learns from her abuela not only how to make a delicious tamale, but how to make a delicious life, one filled with love, plenty of spice, and family.

A delicious and fortifying picture book inspired by the author’s family, featuring the Mexican tradition of holiday tamale-making

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Now, here is some information about the creators:

Michael Genhart, PhD is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in San Francisco where he sees children, teens, and adults, specializing in matters impacting the LGBTQ+ community.  He is also the author of several picture books.  In 2021 his books include MAY YOUR LIFE BE DELICIOSA (Cameron Kids/Abrams) and THEY’RE SO FLAMBOYANT (Magination Press).  Other recent releases include ACCORDIONLY: ABUELO AND OPA MAKE MUSIC (Magination Press, 2020), RAINBOW: A FIRST BOOK OF PRIDE (Magination Press, 2019) and LOVE IS LOVE (Sourcebooks, 2018).  Michael is a SCBWI Marin County Co-Coordinator.  He is represented by Nicole Geiger of Full Circle Literary.  Check out his books at www.michaelgenhart.com.

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Loris Lora is a Los Angeles based illustrator and designer.  She is a multi-disciplinary artist who has worked with various publications, surface design, and featured in galleries across the globe. Her work is largely inspired by her Mexican upbringing and appreciation of mid-century design.

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And, here’s what the illustrator had to say about the process of creating the cover:

Growing up, the holidays have always been filled with color and warmth. It’s the time of year when you can gather with loved ones and enjoy cooking together. I wanted the cover to reflect the warm connection Abuelita Pina and Rosie have while learning to make tamales. The family relationship is so important in this book and I wanted to show that bond between the two characters. I was also inspired by the bright color palette often found in Mexican artisans and folk art. Things like floral oil cloths, decorative tins & tinsel, and cazuelas de barro are some of my favorite inspirations and I was happy to be able to include them in the cover. 

Finally, here is the cover of May Your Life Deliciosa

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GORGEOUS! BUT WAIT….THERE’S MORE!

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Here’s a description of They’re So Flamboyant:

flam·boy·ant – a person (or bird!) who tends to attract attention because of their confidence, exuberance, and stylishness

This fun and funny bird’s-eye tome to individuality, community, and harmony follows the reactions of a neighborhood full of birds when a “flamboyance” of flamingos moves in. Each band of birds—a gaggle of geese, a dole of doves, a charm of finches, a brood of chickens, a scream of swifts, and an unkindness of ravens—all have their feathers ruffled and express their apprehension about the new and different arrivals. Bright pink colors, long legs, how dare they! Even a watch of nightingales patrols after dark. When the band of jays decides it is time to settle down the neighborhood, the pride of peacocks takes the lead, with support from a waddle of penguins, a venue of vultures, a mob of emus, and a gulp of cormorants. Finally, they all land at the flamingos’ welcome party only to realize that they had all been birdbrained. Their new neighbors are actually quite charming, and not so scary and different after all. Includes a note from the author on helping children to learn about acceptance, avoid stereotyping, and model welcoming behavior.

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Now, here is some information about the illustrator:

Tony Neal is an illustrator from south Leicestershire, England. His passion for art and illustration has led him to a blooming career in children’s book illustration – where he now creates works for various publishing houses and clients worldwide. Tony’s work is inspired by everyday life and the quirky details that surround us. He loves to create charming characters in whimsical scenes and telling stories with his pictures.

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And, here’s what Tony had to say about the process of creating the cover:

Creating the cover for They’re So Flamboyant, I thought it would be nice to show the flamboyant flamingos and their colourful house centre stage! Their feathered neighbours are not too sure about the new arrivals, so I wanted to show this also, with some fun character expressions overlooking and peeking out of their curtains. I decided to use more muted colours for the neighbouring houses to help contrast with the colourful pink flamingo house for more impact. The artwork was created digitally in photoshop using a drawing tablet.

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Now, here is the cover of They’re So Flamboyant:

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LOOK AT THOSE FABULOUS FLAMINGOS!

Both May Your Life Be Deliciosa and They’re So Flamboyant are available for pre-order. Click on any of the links in this post to go to Indiebound.org

Book Review: ¡Vamos! Let’s Go Eat by Raúl the Third with color by Elaine Bay

Review by Sonia Alejandra Rodríguez, PhD and Ingrid Campos

DESCRIPTION OF THE BOOK: In this new Vamos! title, Let’s Go Eat, Little Lobo is excited to take in a show with wrestling star El Toro in his bustling border town. After getting lunch orders from The Bull and his friends to help prepare for the event, Little Lobo takes readers on a tour of food trucks that sell his favorite foods, like quesadillas with red peppers and Mexican-Korean tacos. Peppered with easy-to-remember Latin-American Spanish vocabulary, this glorious celebration of food is sure to leave every reader hungry for lunch!

OUR TWO CENTS: ¡Vamos! Let’s Go Eat by Raúl the Third with color by Elaine Bay centers Little Lobo, his dog Bernabé, and his rooster friend, Kooky Dooky. Little Lobo takes his delivery services to El Coliseo to meet Luchador star, El Toro, who asks Little Lobo to get lunch orders for him and all of his famished wrestling friends before the big show that night. Little Lobo, Bernabé, and Kooky Dooky visit different food trucks and food stands in the area to find some of their favorite Mexican dishes such as tacos, tamales, churros, aguas frescas, and many more delicious treats. 

¡Vamos! Let’s Go Eat is crowded with fun, humorous characters from cover to cover: from a snake with a sombrero slithering up a utility pole, to a tortoise driving a “Tortas Tortuga” truck with “despacito” blazoned across the side, to “Armor Dillo,” a luchador armadillo covered in armor, and so much more. The illustrations are also action-packed, mimicking the high energy of any good lucha match. The cars speed by leaving zig-zag “vroom” behind. The floor retumba like waves at the rumble of the luchadors’ hungry tummies. Puffs of smoke or exhaust rise as Little Lobo dashes from one place to the next. Elaine’s color choices bring the book to life–resembling Little Lobo’s lively neighborhood. Additionally, readers will find many words for different types of foods, animals, and actions as part of the illustrations. On one spread, when Little Lobo first meets all the luchadores, their names are drawn to match their styles, like the “L” in “Lizarda” is as long as their tongue. On another page, when Little Lobo goes to pick up dessert, there are so many options that the words fill up half the page: “Flan,” “arroz con leche,” “churros,” and more. Raúl and Elaine give every inch of the pages something new for readers to find with every read.

¡Vamos! is also an extraordinary book for showcasing bilingualism in Spanish and English. Some of the speech bubbles offer immediate translation of the Spanish words and phrases: “Un poquito de esto. Un poquito de lo otro. A little of this. A little of that.” Other speech bubbles or words in the illustrations don’t offer direct translations; instead, the illustrations serve as context for translation. An example of this is when Little Lobo sits to watch the lucha, and the vendor shouts, “¡Cacahuates! ¡Palomitas! ¡Soda!” There’s no direct translation on the page but instead the reader can see the vendor toss a bag of peanuts at Little Lobo. On other pages, the English and Spanish serve as a call and response. When Little Lobo and Bernabé make it to El Coliseo for the first time, Little Lobo asks, “¡¿Qué es eso?!” and one of the luchadores responds with, “That’s our bellies. We are very hungry.” Additionally, there’s a food glossary at the end of the book, which readers can refer to if they are unfamiliar with the words. The author also encourages readers to use a Spanish-English dictionary to look up words not found in the glossary, which is a significant way to encourage proactiveness and agency in young readers. 

The heart of this story is not only Mexican food but also love and respect for street food vendors. Raúl does an excellent job at representing the diversity of street food, the types of kitchens where the food is made, and kinds of characters who make the food. After getting the long list of food orders from the luchadores, Little Lobo, Bernabé, and Kooky Dooky head outside to shop from the different food vendors. The narration reads, “A food truck is a kitchen on wheels. Food of all kinds can be prepared there. Some food sellers used modified bikes or wagons.” There are also food sellers selling out of a cooler and from a box around their neck. Additionally, in ¡Vamos!, Raúl shows that street food vendors are an important staple of any community and demonstrates how street food vendors support one another. For example, at one point in the story, Little Lobo notices: “At the elotero, the corn boils in the giant tub right on the cart. Macho gives all his husks to Tammy. She uses them to wrap her tamales.” Here, the vendors support one another by sharing supplies to create food that’ll feed a community, but the example also demonstrates how conservation is an innate part of many Latinx cultures; nothing goes to waste. 

By capturing the diversity and beauty of Mexican food and street food vendors, Raúl challenges negative stereotypes that currently may exist around both of these cultures. At a time when street vendors are under constant policing and harassment, a book like ¡Vamos! is essential reading to expand young peoples’ understanding of culinary practices and respect for those who make the food and for those who deliver it.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR-ILLUSTRATOR: (From his website) Raúl The Third is an award-winning illustrator, author, and artist living in Boston. His work centers around the contemporary Mexican-American experience and his memories of growing up in El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

Lowriders in Space was nominated for a Texas BlueBonnet award in 2016-2017 and Raúl was awarded the prestigious Pura Belpré Award for Illustration by the American Library Association for Lowriders to the Center of the Earth. He was also a contributor to the SpongeBob Comics series.

¡Vamos! Let’s Go to The Market! is Raúl’s first authorial project, which he wrote and illustrated, and is colored by Elaine Bay.

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ABOUT THE REVIEWERSSonia 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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Ingrid Campos is a 19-year-old college student interested in Latinx Literature. After graduating from LaGuardia Community College (CUNY) this year with an associates in Writing and Literature, she will continue her studies at Queens College to earn her Bachelors in English Education 7-12 . Ingrid was born and raised in Queens, New York. As a Mexican-American living in Queens and graduating from the public school system, Ingrid is inspired to become a high school teacher. One of her main goals is to center academic curriculums around more diversity and inclusivity towards Black and Brown students.