Book Review & Giveaway: ¡A Bailar! Let’s Dance! by Judith Oritz Cofer

 

Judith Ortiz Cofer was the first author to win the Pura Belpré Award for her first young adult book An Island Like You: Stories of the Barrio. On December 30, 2016, she passed away at the young age of 64, due to cancer. This week, we celebrate her life and work with reviews of four of her books and a giveaway. Please scroll to the end of this post to enter!

Review by Toni Margarita Plummer

DESCRIPTION OF THE BOOK: “A bailar! There’s music in the park today—let’s dance!” Marita and her mother are finishing their Saturday chores and anticipating Papi’s salsa concert in the park that night, so Mami makes the broom her dance partner to show her daughter how to dance to the music. “Listen to the claves, the bongos, and the cowbells. Listen to the maracas, the timbales, and the giro, they will tell you how to move your shoulders, your hips, your feet.” They dance faster and faster, so fast that they fall down on the floor laughing.

That afternoon, they put on their best dresses and dancing shoes, and old Don Jose says they look like “dos lindas flores.” He follows them slowly, “his cane tapping out a salsa beat on the sidewalk.” The music floats in and out of the barrio’s alleys, calling listeners to move, move, move. Soon Marita and her mother are leading a parade of neighbors and friends dancing and singing their way to the concert. And at the park, Papi plays notes on his trombone that are a secret between him and Marita: te veo, te ve-o, te ve-o. I see you, I see you, I see you!

Judith Ortiz Cofer’s lyrical text combining English and Spanish is complemented by Christina Ann Rodriguez’s vibrant images of the neighborhood’s unique characters—viejitos, fruit sellers, boys on skateboards and even babies—reveling in the beat of the music. Families will delight in reading together this warm, energetic look at one community’s enjoyment of the sights and sounds of salsa music.

MY TWO CENTS: The story begins with Mami and Marita singing and dancing while they clean in the kitchen. They have made up a song to Papi’s music, and Marita makes claves out of spoons to tap out the beat. The lines of the song, given in Spanish and English, permeate the book, weaving in and out of the other text. “Move move move to the rhythm that makes us…that makes us feel happy.” This creates a lovely rhythm, one which the reader feels propels the mother and daughter on their walk to the park, where Papi’s salsa band will play.  On their walk/dance Marita and Mami recruit more people, calling out to all they meet, singing their song. One stop is the hairdresser’s, where they enlist a woman who comes out still wearing her curlers and salon cape. In this way they gather a substantial following, and though not everyone can join them, they bring joy to all they meet.

Christina Ann Rodriguez’s illustrations are beautiful. My favorite was the one of Marita and Mami on the kitchen floor, holding hands and looking into each other’s eyes. It’s such a happy, spontaneous moment. We can feel their laughter. Another touching one is of Marita when they arrive at the park, a little girl surrounded by taller adults, trying to find her father on stage. The illustrations are dotted with musical notes, which hits home the idea that music is an integral part of this world. Children will enjoy finding the little dog (a Pomeranian, I think) in each spread as he follows Marita and Mami to the park, crossing the street, looking up at a skateboarder, sitting high atop a stack of watermelons.

Judith Ortiz Cofer takes young readers on a delightful journey which highlights the joy of music and the warmth of neighbors and a community. This is a book for older children, ages five to eight, as there is quite a lot of text. But even younger children will enjoy the colorful pictures and the rhythm of the words.

WHERE TO GET IT: To find ¡A Bailar!/Let’s Dance! check your local public library, your local bookstore, or IndieBound. Also, check out Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.

judith ortiz coferABOUT THE AUTHOR: Judith Ortiz Cofer is an award-winning author known for her stories about coming-of-age experiences in the barrio and her writings about the cultural conflicts of immigrants. She is the author of many distinguished titles for young adults such as An Island Like You, Silent Dancing: A Partial Remembrance of a Puerto Rican Childhood, and The Line in the Sun. She was the Regents’ and Franklin Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Georgia. In 2010, she was inducted into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame.

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Image result for Christina Ann Rodriguez illustratorABOUT THE ILLUSTRATOR: Christina Ann Rodriguez obtained her BFA in illustration from the University of Hartford. Her work has been included in various publications, including Spider Magazine. She lives in New Jersey.

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toni margarita plummerABOUT THE REVIEWER: Toni Margarita Plummer is a Macondo Fellow, a winner of the Miguel Mármol Prize, and the author of the story collection The Bolero of Andi Rowe. She hails from South El Monte, a working-class suburb of Los Angeles, and worked as an acquiring editor at a major publisher for more than ten years. Toni now freelance edits and lives in the Hudson Valley with her family. Visit her website at ToniMargaritaPlummer.Wordpress.com.

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We will be giving away a copy of each of the Judith Ortiz Cofer books reviewed here this week to one lucky winner! The titles are: Call Me MaríaIf I Could Fly, and The Meaning of Consuelo and the picture book A Bailar/Let’s Dance.

ENTER HERE TO WIN FOUR JUDITH ORTIZ COFER BOOKS!

2018 Titles By/For/About Latinx!!

 

 

AHHHH! we’re so excited about 2018! You will be, too, once you see the list below. Get your To-Be-Read lists out….Here are the 70+ titles we know about that are releasing in 2018 that are by/for/about Latinx . We plan to review as many of these as we can, so please check the site often or follow the blog for updates.  The coming year brings new books from so many of our favorite creators along with exciting debuts from Anna Meriano, NoNieqa Ramos, Mark Oshiro, Kristina Pérez, Juleah del Rosario, and Elizabeth Acevedo, among others. The books are listed by the publishing date. Please let us know in the comments if we are missing any!

HAPPY READING!

 

LOVE, SUGAR, MAGIC: A DASH OF TROUBLE by Anna Meriano, illus by Mirelle Ortega (Walden Pond Press, January 2, 2018). Middle Grade. Leonora Logrono’s family owns the most beloved bakery in Rose Hill, Texas, spending their days conjuring delicious cookies and cakes for any occasion. And no occasion is more important than the annual Dia de los Muertos festival. Leo hopes that this might be the year that she gets to help prepare for the big celebration–but, once again, she is told she’s too young. Sneaking out of school and down to the bakery, she discovers that her mother, aunt, and four older sisters have in fact been keeping a big secret: they’re brujas–witches of Mexican ancestry–who pour a little bit of sweet magic into everything that they bake. Leo knows that she has magical ability as well and is more determined than ever to join the family business–even if she can’t let her mama and hermanas know about it yet. And when her best friend, Caroline, has a problem that needs solving, Leo has the perfect opportunity to try out her craft. It’s just one little spell, after all…what could possibly go wrong? OUR REVIEW: Coming Soon

 

 

35356379LOVE by Matt de la Peña, illus by Loren Long (G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, January 9, 2018). Picture Book. In this heartfelt celebration of love, Newbery Medal-winning author Matt de la Peña and bestselling illustrator Loren Long depict the many ways we experience this universal bond, which carries us from the day we are born throughout the years of our childhood and beyond. With a lyrical text that’s soothing and inspiring, this tender tale is a needed comfort and a new classic that will resonate with readers of every age.

 

 

 

Stella Diaz Has Something to Say CoverSTELLA DIAZ HAS SOMETHING TO SAY by Angela Dominguez (Roaring Brook Press, January 16, 2018). Middle Grade. Stella Diaz loves marine animals, especially her beta fish, Pancho. But Stella Diaz is not a beta fish. Beta fish like to be alone, while Stella loves spending time with her mom and brother and her best friend Jenny. Trouble is, Jenny is in another class this year, and Stella feels very lonely. When a new boy arrives in Stella’s class, she really wants to be his friend, but sometimes Stella accidentally speaks Spanish instead of English and pronounces words wrong, which makes her turn roja. Plus, she has to speak in front of her whole class for a big presentation at school. But she better get over her fears soon, because Stella Diaz has something to say.

 

 

35566709STORMSPEAKER (Spirit Animals: Fall of the Beasts #7) by Christina Diaz Gonzalez (Scholastic, January 30, 2018). Middle Grade.

 

 

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lolalevine_no es malaLOLA LEVINE ¡NO ES MALA! by Monica Brown, illus bu Angela Dominguez (Little Brown/Scholastic, January 2018). Chapter Book. The first in the award-winning chapter book series, Lola Levine is Not Mean, is now available in a Spanish edition from Scholastic book clubs.

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THE DISTURBED GIRL’S DICTIONARY by NoNieqa Ramos (Carolrhoda Books, February 1, 2018). Young Adult. Macy’s school officially classifies her as “disturbed,” but Macy isn’t interested in how others define her. She’s got more pressing problems: her mom can’t move off the couch, her dad’s in prison, her brother’s been kidnapped by Child Protective Services, and now her best friend isn’t speaking to her. Writing in a dictionary format, Macy explains the world in her own terms–complete with gritty characters and outrageous endeavors. With an honesty that’s both hilarious and fearsome, slowly Macy reveals why she acts out, why she can’t tell her incarcerated father that her mom’s cheating on him, and why her best friend needs protection . . . the kind of protection that involves Macy’s machete. OUR REVIEW: Coming Soon

 

 

27414411PITCH DARK by Courtney Alameda (Feiwel & Friends, February 20, 2018). Young Adult. Lost to time, Tuck Morgan and his crew have slept in stasis aboard the USS John Muir for centuries. Their ship harbors a chunk of Earth, which unbeknownst to them, is the last hope for the failing human race. Laura Cruz is a shipraider searching the galaxy for the history that was scattered to the stars. Once her family locates the John Muir and its precious cargo, they are certain human civilization is saved. When Tuck’s and Laura’s worlds collide–literally–the two teens must outwit their enemies, evade brutal monsters that kill with sound, and work together to save the John Muir . . . and the whole human race. OUR REVIEW: Coming soon.

 

 

 

FLIGHT SEASON by Marie Marquardt (Wednesday Books, February 20, 2018). Young Adult/New Adult. Back when they were still strangers, TJ Carvalho witnessed the only moment in Vivi Flannigan’s life when she lost control entirely. Now, TJ can’t seem to erase that moment from his mind, no matter how hard he tries. Vivi doesn’t remember any of it, but she’s determined to leave it far behind. And she will. But when Vivi returns home from her first year away at college, her big plans and TJ’s ambition to become a nurse land them both on the heart ward of a university hospital, facing them with a long and painful summer together – three months of glorified babysitting for Angel, the problem patient on the hall. Sure, Angel may be suffering from a life-threatening heart infection, but that doesn’t make him any less of a pain. As it turns out, though, Angel Solis has a thing or two to teach them about all those big plans, and the incredible moments when love gets in their way. Written in alternating first person from the perspectives of all three characters, Flight Season is a story about discovering what’s really worth holding onto, learning how to let go of the rest, and that one crazy summer that changes your life forever.

 

 

 

THE POET X by Elizabeth Acevedo (Harper Teen, March 6, 2018). Young Adult. Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking. But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers–especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself. So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out. But she still can’t stop thinking about performing her poems. Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent. OUR REVIEW: Coming soon.

 

 

34921589LIES THAT BIND by Diana Rodriguez Wallach (Entangled Teen, March 6, 2018). Young Adult. Still reeling from everything she learned while searching for her sister in Italy, Anastasia Phoenix is ready to call it quits with spies. Then she and her friends learn that Marcus’s—her kinda boyfriend—brother, Antonio, has also gone missing. Luckily, they track down Antonio in a fiery festival in England, only to learn he has been working for the enemy, Department D, the whole time. But Antonio wants out. And so does Anastasia. But before any of them can leave espionage and their parents’ crimes behind them, a close friend turns up dead. No one is safe, not while Department D still exists. So Anastasia and her friends embark on a dangerous plan to bring down an entire criminal empire, using every Dresden Kid they can find. As their world becomes surrounded by spies, and the children of spies, Anastasia starts to question who she can really trust, including her best friends.

 

 

THE FLYING GIRL: How Aída de Acosta Learned to Soar by Margarita Engle, illus by Sara Palacios (Antheneum Books for Young Readers, March 6, 2018). Picture Book. On a lively street in the lovely city of Paris, a girl named Aída glanced up and was dazzled by the sight of an airship. Oh, how she wished she could soar through the sky like that. The inventor of the airship, Alberto, invited Aída to ride with him, but she didn’t want to be a passenger. She wanted to be the pilot. Aída was just a teenager, and no woman or girl had ever flown before. She didn’t let that stop her, though. All she needed was courage and a chance to try.

 

 

 

THE FIELD by Baptiste Paul and debut illustrator Jacqueline Alcantara (NorthSouth Books, March 6, 2018). Picture Book.
When a tropical rain storm threatens a game of pick-up futbol in an island community, is the soccer game over? Based on the author’s experiences growing up in St. Lucia. In a starred review, Kirkus Reviews calls Paul and Alcantara’s excellent picture book debut, “irresistible fun”.

 

 

 

 

ISLANDBORN by Junot Díaz, illus by Leo Espinosa (Dial Books, March 13, 2018). Picture BookEvery kid in Lola’s school was from somewhere else. Hers was a school of faraway places. So when Lola’s teacher asks the students to draw a picture of where their families immigrated from, all the kids are excited. Except Lola. She can’t remember The Island–she left when she was just a baby. But with the help of her family and friends, and their memories–joyous, fantastical, heartbreaking, and frightening–Lola’s imagination takes her on an extraordinary journey back to The Island. As she draws closer to the heart of her family’s story, Lola comes to understand the truth of her abuela’s words: “Just because you don’t remember a place doesn’t mean it’s not in you.”

 

 

HOW ARE YOU? / CÓMO ESTÁS? by Angela Dominguez (Henry Holt & Company, March 13, 2018). Picture Book. When two giraffe friends find a baby ostrich, they have some questions. Is baby ostrich hungry? Shy? Tired? Ostrich says no. So how does she feel? Friendship awaits in this book about feelings, expressed both in English and in Spanish.

 

 

 

JABBERWALKING by Juan Felipe Herrera (Candlewick Press, March 13, 2018). Middle Grade. U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera is sharing secrets: how to turn your wonder at the world around you into weird, wild, incandescent poetry. Can you walk and talk at the same time? How about Jabberwalk? Can you write and draw and walk and journal all at the same time? If not, you’re in luck: exuberant, blue-cheesy cilantro man Juan Felipe Herrera, Poet Laureate of the United States, is here to teach you everything he knows about being a real-life, bonified, Jabberwalking poet Jabberwalkers write and speak for themselves and others no matter where their feet may take them — to Jabberwalk is to be a poet on the move. And there’s no stopping once you’re a Jabberwalker, writing fast, fast, fast, scribble-poem-burbles-on-the-run. Scribble what you see Scribble what you hear It’s all out there — vamonos.

 

 

JOAN PROCTOR, DRAGON DOCTOR: The Woman Who Loved Reptiles by Patricia Valdez, illus by Felicita Sala. (Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, March 13, 2018). Picture Book. While other girls played with dolls, Joan preferred the company of reptiles. She carried her favorite lizard with her everywhere–she even brought a crocodile to school. When Joan grew older, she became the Curator of Reptiles at the British Museum. She went on to design the Reptile House at the London Zoo, including a home for the rumored-to-be-vicious komodo dragons. There, just like when she was a little girl, Joan hosted children’s tea parties–with her komodo dragon as the guest of honor. With a lively text and vibrant illustrations, scientist and writer Patricia Valdez and illustrator Felicita Sala bring to life Joan Procter’s inspiring story of passion and determination.

 

 

Moonstruck, Vol. 1 TPMOONSTRUCK by Grace Ellis, illus by Shae Beagle (Image Comics, March 21, 2018). Comics. Werewolf barista Julie and her new girlfriend go on a date to a close-up magic show, but all heck breaks loose when the magician casts a horrible spell on their friend Chet. Now it’s up to the team of mythical pals to stop the illicit illusionist before it’s too late. The first chapter of the brand-new, all-ages, magical, coffee-laden adventure from Lumberjanes creator Grace Ellis and talented newcomer Shae Beagle.

 

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SCI-FU by Yehudi Mercado (Oni Press, March 13, 2018). Comics. Hip-hop, sci-fi and kung fu all hit the turntables for the mash-up mix of the year Cartoonist/force of nature Yehudi Mercado (Pantalones, TXRocket Salvage) sets his sights on 1980s Brooklyn and Wax, a young mix-master who scratches the perfect beat and accidentally summons a UFO that transports his family, best friend, and current crush to the robot-dominated planet of Discopia. Now Wax and his crew must master the intergalactic musical martial art of Sci-Fu to fight the power and save Earth. Word to your mother.

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.35825129EL VERANO DE LAS MARIPOSAS by Guadalupe Garcia McCall, translated by David Bowles (Tu Books, March 27, 2018). Young Adult. Odilia and her four sisters rival the mythical Odysseus in cleverness and courage as they embark on their own hero’s journey. After finding a drowned man floating in their secret swimming hole along the Rio Grande, the sisters trek across the border to bring the body to the man’s family in Mexico. But returning home turns into an odyssey of their own. Outsmarting mythical creatures, and with the supernatural aid of spectral La Llorona via a magical earring, Odilia and her little sisters make their way along a road of trials to make it to their long-lost grandmother’s house. Along the way, they must defeat a witch and her Evil Trinity: a wily warlock, a coven of vicious half-human barn owls, and the bloodthirsty chupacabras that prey on livestock. Can these fantastic trials prepare Odilia and her sisters for what happens when they face their final test, returning home to the real world, where goddesses and ghosts can no longer help them? Now in Spanish, the award-winning El verano de las mariposas (Summer of the Mariposas) is not just a magical Mexican American retelling of The Odyssey, it is a celebration of sisterhood and maternal love.

 

 

ME, FRIDA, & THE SECRET OF THE PEACOCK RING by Angela Cervantes (Scholastic Press, March 27, 2018). Middle Grade. A room locked for fifty years. A valuable peacock ring. A mysterious brother-sister duo. Paloma Marquez is traveling to Mexico City, birthplace of her deceased father, for the very first time. She’s hoping that spending time in Mexico will help her unlock memories of the too-brief time they spent together. While in Mexico, Paloma meets Lizzie and Gael, who present her with an irresistible challenge: The siblings want her to help them find a valuable ring that once belonged to beloved Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. Finding the ring means a big reward — and the thanks of all Mexico. What better way to honor her father than returning a priceless piece of jewelry that once belonged to his favorite artist. But the brother and sister have a secret. Do they really want to return the ring, or are they after something else entirely? OUR REVIEW: Coming soon.

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QUIZÁS ALGO HERMOSO by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell, illustrated by Rafael López (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, March 27, 2018) Picture BookThe Tomâs Rivera Award-winning picture book MAYBE SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL is now available in a Spanish hardcover edition!
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FEATHERED SERPENT, DARK HEART: MYTHS OF MEXICO by David Bowles (Cinco Puntos Press, April 2018). The stories in Feathered Serpent, Dark Heart of Sky trace the history of the world from its beginnings in the dreams of the dual god, Ometeotl, to the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors in Mexico and the fall of the great city Tenochtitlan. In the course of that history, we learn about the Creator Twins–Feathered Serpent and Dark Heart of Sky–and how they built the world on a leviathan’s back; of the shape-shifting nahualli; and the aluxes, elfish beings known to help out the occasional wanderer. And finally, we read Aztec tales about the arrival of the blonde strangers from across the sea, the strangers who seek to upend the rule of Motecuhzoma and destroy the very stories we are reading.
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THE DRAGON SLAYER: Folktales from Latin America by Jaime Hernandez (Toon Books, April 3, 2018). Graphic Novel. How would a kitchen maid fare against a seven-headed dragon? What happens when a woman marries a mouse? And what can a young man learn from a thousand leaf cutter ants? Jaime Hernandez asks these questions and more as he transforms beloved myths into bold, stunning, and utterly contemporary comics. Guided by the classic works of F. Isabel Campoy and Alma Flor Ada, Hernandez’s first book for young readers brings the sights and stories of Latin America to a new generation of graphic-novel fans around the world.

 

 

MARIO AND THE HOLE IN THE SKY: How a Chemist Saved Our Planet by Elizabeth Rusch, illus by David Diaz. (Charlesbridge Publishing, April 3, 2018). Picture Book. Mexican American scientist Mario Molina is a modern-day hero who helped solve the ozone crisis of the 1980s. Growing up in Mexico City, Mario was a curious boy who studied hidden worlds through a microscope. As a young man in California, he discovered that CFCs, used in millions of refrigerators and spray cans, were tearing a hole in the earth’s protective ozone layer. Mario knew the world had to be warned–and quickly. Today Mario is a Nobel laureate and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. His inspiring story gives hope in the fight against global warming. Also available in Spanish (Mario y el agujero en el cielo: Como un quimico salvo nuestro planet).

 

 

31328342FUTURE LOST by Elizabeth Briggs. (Albert Whitman & Company, April 3, 2018). Young Adult. It’s been a year since Elena and Adam were first recruited by Aether Corporation and six months since they destroyed the accelerator, finally putting an end to Project Chronos and their involvement with Aether. Now they’re trying to move on with their lives. Elena’s in college and Adam is working on making genicote, his cure for cancer, safe for the public. But genicote has become a dangerous fixation for Adam. He’ll do anything to figure it out, and when he goes missing, Elena realizes that he’s done the unthinkable: he went to Aether for help with the cure. To Elena’s horror, she discovers that Aether has created a new accelerator. Adam betrayed her trust and has traveled into the future to find the fix for his cure, but he didn’t come back when he was supposed to. Desperate to find him, Elena decides to risk future shock and time travels once more. This future is nothing like they’ve seen before. Someone has weaponized Adam’s cure and created a dangerous pandemic, leading to the destruction of civilization. If Elena can’t find Adam and stop this, everyone is at risk. And someone will do anything to keep her from succeeding.

 

 

ALMA AND HOW SHE GOT HER NAME written and illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal (Candlewick Press, April 10, 2018). Picture BookWhat’s in a name? For one little girl, her very long name tells the vibrant story of where she came from – and who she may one day be. 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 and names. Simultaneous Spanish hardcover edition, ALMA Y CÓMO OBTUVO SU NOMBRE.

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ALPHABET BOATS by Samantha R. Vamos, illus by Ryan O’Rourke (Charlesbridge Publishing, April 17, 2018). Picture Book. Discover twenty-six types of vessels, from the more common–canoe and motorboat–to the unusual–umiak and Q-boat. Just like in Alphabet Trucks and Alphabet Trains, colorful art includes the letters of the alphabet hidden (and not-so-hidden) in supporting roles in the illustrations.

 

 

 

SWEET SHAPES by Juana Medina (Viking Books for Young Readers, April 24, 2018). Picture Book. In this delicious forest, the bears are made of rectangular brownies, the goldfinches are triangles of lemon tart, and the butterflies are oval jelly beans. What child could resist learning shapes from such delectable creatures as these? Collage artist Juana Medina has outdone herself with this array of tooth-achingly sweet animal desserts that come in all shapes and sizes.

 

 

 

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LOU LOU AND PEA AND THE BICENTENNIAL BONANZA by Jill Diamond, illus by Lesley Vamos (FSG/MacKids, April 24, 2018). Middle Grade. BFFs Lou Lou Bombay and Peacock Pearl are busy preparing for the Bicentennial Bonanza, their city’s two-hundredth birthday bash! And this year, the party will take place in their beloved neighborhood of El Corazón. With a baking contest, talent show, and a new gazebo planned, the community can’t wait to celebrate the founders (and historical BFFs), Diego Soto and Giles Wonderwood. But when Vice-Mayor Andy Argyle claims the festivities belong to Verde Valley, using a mysterious diary as evidence, Lou Lou and Pea smell trouble. Will the friends be able to uncover the secrets of their city’s founding, and bring the Bonanza back to El Corazón?

 

 

 

36580712DEAD WEIGHT: MURDER AT CAMP BLOOM by Terry Blas, Molly Muldoon, Matthew Seely (Oni Press, April 24, 2018). Comics. Deep in the Oregon wilderness sits Camp Bloom, a weight-loss camp where “overweight” teens can “get in shape.” Jesse would rather be anywhere else, but her parents are forcing her to go. Noah isn’t sure if he wants to be there, but it’s too late to turn back. Tony is heartbroken at the thought of giving up his phone and internet. And Kate… well, she likes the hikes, at least. As far as these four teens are concerned, it’s just another boring summer. Until one night, when Jesse and Noah witness a beloved counselor’s murder. The body’s gone by the next morning, but a blurry photo leads to one clue–the murderer is one of the camp’s staff members. But which one? As Jesse, Noah, Kate, and Tony investigate, they quickly discover that everyone’s got their secrets… and one of them would kill to keep theirs hidden.

 

 

35068505ALLIED: RUINED #3 by Amy Tintera (HarperTeen, May 1, 2018). Young Adult. Emelina Flores and her sister, Olivia, were determined to bring peace to the people of Ruina. But as the war for liberation raged on, what triumph and freedom meant to Em and Olivia slowly changed. As Olivia’s violence and thirst for vengeance became her only ambition, Em was left to pick up the pieces. But it’s not only Em who is upset by Olivia’s increased violence. Other members of the Ruined army are beginning to see the cracks, and soon a small group of them defects from Olivia’s army and joins Em instead. The two sisters are soon pitted against each other in an epic battle for the kingdom and the future, and only one will win.

 

 

LA FRONTERA / THE BORDER: El Viaje Con Papa / My Journey with Papa by Alfredo Alva and Deborah Mills , illus by Claudia Navarro (Barefoot Books, May 1, 2018). Picture Book. Join a young boy and his father on a daring journey from Mexico to Texas to find a new life. They’ll need all the resilience and courage they can muster to safely cross the border/ la frontera and to make a home for themselves in a new land.

 

 

 

36373350JAZZ OWLS: A Novel of the Zoot Suit Riots by Margarita Engle, illus. by Rudy Gutierrez (Antheneum Books for Young Readers, May 8, 2018). Young Adult. Thousands of young Navy sailors are pouring into Los Angeles on their way to the front lines of World War II. They are teenagers, scared, longing to feel alive before they have to face the horrors of battle. Hot jazz music spiced with cool salsa rhythms calls them to dance with the local Mexican American girls, who jitterbug all night before working all day in the canneries. Proud to do their part for the war effort, these Jazz Owl girls are happy to dance with the sailors–until the blazing summer night when racial violence leads to murder. Suddenly the young white sailors are attacking these girls’ brothers and boyfriends. The cool, loose zoot suits they wear are supposedly the reason for the violence–when in reality these boys are viciously beaten and arrested simply because of the color of their skin.

 

 

35707056UNDEAD GIRL GANG by Lily Anderson (Razorbill, May 8, 2018). Young Adult. Meet teenage Wiccan Mila Flores, who truly could not care less what you think about her Doc Martens, her attitude, or her weight because she knows that, no matter what, her BFF Riley is right by her side. So when Riley and Fairmont Academy mean girls June Phelan-Park and Dayton Nesseth die under suspicious circumstances, Mila refuses to believe everyone’s explanation that her BFF was involved in a suicide pact. Instead, armed with a tube of lip gloss and an ancient grimoire, Mila does the unthinkable to uncover the truth: she brings the girls back to life. Unfortunately, Riley, June, and Dayton have no recollection of their murders. But they do have unfinished business to attend to. Now, with only seven days until the spell wears off and the girls return to their graves, Mila must wrangle the distracted group of undead teens and work fast to discover their murderer…before the killer strikes again.

 

 

ALL OF THIS IS TRUE by Lygia Day Peñaflor (HarperTeen, May 15, 2018). Young Adult. In this genre-defying page-turner from Lygia Day Penaflor, four teens befriend their favorite YA novelist, only to find their deepest, darkest secrets in the pages of her next book–with devastating consequences. Miri Tan loved the book Undertow like it was a living being. So when she and her friends went to a book signing to hear the author, Fatima Ro, they concocted a plan to get close to her. Soleil Johnston wanted to be a writer herself one day. When she and her friends started hanging out with her favorite author, Fatima Ro, she couldn’t believe their luck–especially when Jonah Nicholls started hanging out with them, too. Penny Panzarella was more than the materialist party girl everyone at the Graham School thought she was–and she was willing to share all her secrets with Fatima Ro to prove it. Jonah Nicholls had more to hide than any of them. And now that Fatima’s next book is out in the world, he’s the one who is paying the price. Perfect for fans of One of Us Is Lying–and told as a series of interviews, journal entries, and even pages from the book within the book–this gripping story of a fictional scandal will keep you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end.

 

 

  feather-weight_400¡LA CELEBRACIÓN! by Susan M. Elya, illustrated by Ana Aranda (Lee & Low Books, May 15, 2018) Picture BookIt’s a sunny summer day. Come join the crowd headed for the parade. Marvel at the people riding motorcycles, bicycles, tricycles, and unicycles. Duck out of the way as firefighters spray water on hot spectators. Clap to the music as bands of musicians playing clarinetes, saxophones, flautas, trumpets, and drums march by. Feast on lemonade, watermelon, tacos, and ice cream. Wave to the corn princess as her float passes by. Then take cover when a quick rain shower comes, followed by a bright rainbow. Back in the town plaza as night falls, marvel at the sparkling fireworks that end the day’s festivities. Pop, pop, pop Bon, bon, bon With engaging text and imaginative, whimsical illustrations, this story is the perfect way to enjoy a summer day–and learn some Spanish, too.

 

 

author2ALL THE STARS DENIED by Guadalupe Garcia McCall (Tu Books, July 15, 2018). Young Adult. In the heart of the Great Depression, Rancho Las Moras, like everywhere else in Texas, is gripped by the drought of the Dust Bowl, and resentment is building among white farmers against Mexican Americans. All around town, signs go up proclaiming “No Dogs or Mexicans” and “No Mexicans Allowed.” When Estrella organizes a protest against the treatment of tejanos in their town of Monteseco, Texas, her whole family becomes a target of “repatriation” efforts to send Mexicans “back to Mexico”–whether they were ever Mexican citizens or not. Dumped across the border and separated from half her family, Estrella must figure out a way to survive and care for her mother and baby brother. How can she reunite with her father and grandparents and convince her country of birth that she deserves to return home? There are no easy answers in the first YA book to tackle this hidden history.

 

 

36142487ANGER IS A GIFT by Mark Oshiro (Tor Teen, May 22, 2018). Young Adult. Six years ago, Moss Jefferies’ father was murdered by an Oakland police officer. Along with losing a parent, the media’s vilification of his father and lack of accountability has left Moss with near crippling panic attacks. Now, in his sophomore year of high school, Moss and his fellow classmates find themselves increasingly treated like criminals their own school. New rules. Random locker searches. Constant intimidation and Oakland Police Department stationed in their halls. Despite their youth, the students decide to organize and push back against the administration. When tensions hit a fever pitch and tragedy strikes, Moss must face a difficult choice: give in to fear and hate or realize that anger can actually be a gift.

 

 

Virginia Sánchez KorrolTHE SEASON OF REBELS AND ROSES by Virginia Sánchez-Korrol (Piñata Books, May 31, 2018). Young Adult. At an assembly of liberals in Ponce, Puerto Rico, in 1887, Inocencia Martínez eagerly looks for Sotero Figueroa, a journalist and independence movement activist whose politics and handsome visage she finds extremely exciting. She is so intent on keeping him in her sights that, when he stops to speak to someone, she almost runs right into him! Inocencia, the daughter of a Spanish bureaucrat, was 18 when she first heard Figueroa speak about freedom from colonial repression and an independent Puerto Rico. Hearing the speakers at the assembly, some who advocate for total independence from Spain and others who favor a plan that would give Puerto Rico a voice in the Spanish government, fuels her dreams of becoming a leader in the movement. When Sotero requests permission to visit, Inocencia’s parents are initially horrified that a mulatto, someone of African descent, wants to court their daughter. Ultimately, just before the couple’s seditious activities force them into exile, her parents give approval for their marriage. While living in New York City, Inocencia starts her own women s group to aid the revolutionaries, following in the footsteps of her mentor, Doña Lola Rodríguez Tió. Ranging from Puerto Rico to Cuba and the United States, this engaging novel for teens follows historical figures that were instrumental in the fight for self-determination in Puerto Rico.

 

 

Image result for gloria velasquezFORGIVING MOSES (Roosevelt High School) by Gloria Velásquez (Piñata Books, May 31, 2018). Young Adult. Moses Vargas hates his life. He has been forced to move four times in as many years, and he’s tired of starting at another school, having everyone stare at him and trying to make new friends. Most of all, he doesn’t want to have to deal with questions about his father an inmate in the California Department of Corrections. When Moses discovers that someone has been sending out text messages with a photo of him and his father in a prison uniform, he ends up in a fight and then suspended for three days. School counselor Ray Gutiérrez agrees to reach out to Moses. He realizes that several boys at Roosevelt High School are dealing with absentee fathers, putting them at risk for failure or dropping out. With permission from the principal, Mr. Gutiérrez starts an after-school support program called Círculos. Moses grudgingly attends the sessions that draw on indigenous and cultural roots to empower the boys. Realizing he is not the only one with a problematic home life and the new friendship of a pretty classmate whose father is also in prison helps Moses to begin talking about his anger and embarrassment. But will he really be able to overcome his resentment towards his father? The tenth installment in Velásquez s acclaimed Roosevelt High School Series that focuses on social issues relevant to teens, Forgiving Moses addresses the painful issue of children, particularly brown and black youth, whose fathers are not present in their lives.

 

 

zoraida_vlc_photo2BRUJA BORN (Brooklyn Brujas #2) by Zoraida Córdova (Sourcebooks Fire, June 1, 2018). Young Adult. Lula must let go of the ghosts of her past to face the actual living dead of her present. Lula Mortiz may be a bruja with healing powers, but after her family’s battle in Los Lagos, she feels broken in a way she can’t seem to fix. Then tragedy strikes when a bus crash leaves her friends and her boyfriend, Maks, dead. Desperate to reclaim normalcy, Lula invokes a dark spell to bring Maks back. It isn’t until she hears that all of the bodies from the crash have gone missing that she realizes something is wrong. Lula has unwittlingly raised an army of casi muertos—creatures between the living and dead—and they’re hungry for freedom…which they can only achieve if Lula dies.

 

 

 

31179006SWEET BLACK WAVES by Kristina Pérez (Imprint, June 5, 2018). Young Adult. Two proud kingdoms stand on opposite shores, with only a bloody history between them. As best friend and lady-in-waiting to the princess, Branwen is guided by two principles: devotion to her homeland and hatred for the raiders who killed her parents. When she unknowingly saves the life of her enemy, he awakens her ancient healing magic and opens her heart. Branwen begins to dream of peace, but the princess she serves is not so easily convinced. Fighting for what’s right, even as her powers grow beyond her control, will set Branwen against both her best friend and the only man she’s ever loved. Inspired by the star-crossed tale of Tristan and Eseult, this is the story of the legend’s true heroine: Branwen.

 

 

FLOR AND MIRANDA STEAL THE SHOW by Jennifer Torres (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, June 12, 2018). Middle Grade. Miranda is the lead singer in her family’s musical band, Miranda y Los Reyes. Her family has worked hard performing at festivals and quinceaneras. Now, they have a shot at the main stage. How will Miranda make it a performance to remember? Flor’s family runs the petting zoo at Mr. Barsetti’s carnival. When she accidentally overhears Mr. Barsetti and Miranda’s dad talk about cutting the zoo to accommodate Miranda y Los Reyes’s main stage salary, she knows she has to take action. Will she have the heart for sabotage once she and Miranda actually start to become friends?

 

 

THERE’S NO BASE LIKE HOME by Jessica Mendoza, Alana Mendoza Dusan, illustrated by Ruth McNally Barshaw (Tu Books, June 19, 2018). Middle Grade. This is going to be eleven-year-old Sophia Maria Garcia’s best year ever: she’s going out for the same softball team on which her high-school softball star sister played at her age, and she’s starting middle school. New school, new Sophia. But all does not go according to plan. Sophia does not make the Waves softball team, and making friends at her new school does not go well. Maybe Sophia isn’t the pitcher she thought she might be. And her best friend is drifting away, getting interested in boys and losing interest in Sophia. As the middle school blues set in, Sophia must reach deep down and find a little UMPH–the difference between being good and being great–to figure out her own place, on the field and off.

 

 

THE FALL OF INNOCENCE by Jenny Torres Sanchez (Philomel, June 2018). Young Adult. An un-coming-of-age story that charts the devolution of 16-year-old Emilia DeJesus when she learns that the police arrested the wrong man for attacking her seven years prior, that the real perpetrator is still out there, and that beauty can be found in all lost things.

 

 

 

 

35705700THE HIDDEN CITY by David Bowles (Garza Twins #3) (IFWG Publishing, July 2018). Middle Grade. Distressed by new threats, the Garza family take a summer trip to the mountains of La Chinantla in the Mexican state of Oaxaca. While Johnny and Carol grapple with a pair of budding romances, the twins’ parents are take captive by a group of forest elementals and renegade sisimites, talking apes whose ancestors survived the destruction at the end of the Second Age. Now the shapeshifting heroes will have to find a legendary city hidden deep in the cloud forests to forge new alliances, face foes both new and old, and save the ones they love.

 

 

LENA’S SHOES ARE NERVOUS by Keith Calabrese, illustrated by Juana Medina. (Atheneum Books, July 3, 2018). Picture Book.  In the tradition of School’s First Day of School, debut author Keith Calabrese and Pura Belpre Award winner Juana Medina share a sweet, universal story about a clever little girl whose shoes are nervous about the first day of school.Today is a big day Today, Lena starts kindergarten. She is very excited. But there’s just one problem…Lena’s shoes are nervous.Lena doesn’t want to miss out on her first day of school, but she can’t go without her favorite shoes How can she convince them to be brave?

 

 

MY YEAR IN THE MIDDLE by Lila Quintero Weaver (Candlewick Press, July 10, 2018). Middle Grade. Sixth-grader Lu Olivera just wants to keep her head down and get along with everyone in her class. Trouble is, Lu’s old friends have been changing lately — acting boy crazy and making snide remarks about Lu’s newfound talent for running track. Lu’s secret hope for a new friend is fellow runner Belinda Gresham, but in 1970 Red Grove, Alabama, blacks and whites don’t mix. As segregationist ex-governor George Wallace ramps up his campaign against the current governor, Albert Brewer, growing tensions in the state — and in the classroom — mean that Lu can’t stay neutral about the racial divide at school. Will she find the gumption to stand up for what’s right and to choose friends who do the same?

 

 

A GIFT FROM ABUELA by Cecilia Ruiz (Candlewick, August 7, 2018). Picture Book. The first time Abuela holds Nina, her heart overflows with tenderness. And as Nina grows up, she and Abuela spend plenty of time together. Abuela can’t help thinking how much she’d like to give Nina a very special treat, so she saves a little bit of her money every week — a few pesos here, a few pesos there. When the world turns upside down, Abuela’s dream of a surprise for Nina seems impossible. Luckily, time spent together — and the love Abuela and Nina have for each other — could turn out to be the very best gift of all. With a soft and subtle hand, author-illustrator Cecilia Ruiz draws from her own history to share a deeply personal tale about remembering what’s most important when life starts to get in the way.

 

 

 

MARCUS VEGA DOESN’T SPEAK SPANISH by Pablo Cartaya (Viking Books, August 21, 2018). Middle Grade. Marcus Vega is six feet tall, 180 pounds, and the owner of a premature mustache. When you look like this and you’re only in the eighth grade, you’re both a threat and a target. Marcus knows what classmates and teachers see when they look at him: a monster. But appearances are deceiving. At home, Marcus is a devoted brother. And he finds ways to earn cash to contribute to his family’s rainy day fund. His mom works long hours and his dad walked out ten years ago—someone has to pick up the slack. After a fight at school leaves him facing suspension, Marcus and his family decide to hit the reset button and regroup for a week in Puerto Rico. Marcus is more interested in finding his father, though, who is somewhere on the island. Through a series of misadventures that take Marcus all over Puerto Rico in search of the elusive Mr. Vega, Marcus meets a colorful cast of characters who show him the many faces of fatherhood. And he even learns a bit of Spanish along the way.

 

 

My favorite chairImage result for rafael lopezTHE DAY YOU BEGIN by Jacqueline Woodson, illus by Rafael López (Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin, August 28, 2018). Picture BookThere are many reasons to feel different. Maybe it’s how you look, talk, or where you’re from; maybe it’s what you eat, or something just as random. It’s not easy to take those first steps into a place where nobody really knows you yet, but somehow you do it. Jacqueline Woodson’s lyrical text and Rafael López’s dazzling art reminds us that we all feel like outsiders sometimes-and how brave it is that we go forth anyway. And that sometimes, when we reach out and begin to share stories, others will be happy to meet us halfway.

 

 

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LUCKY LUNA by Diana López (Scholastic, August 28, 2018). Middle GradeIn LUCKY LUNA, Diana López returns to her contemporary, realistic CONFETTI GIRL roots, and introduces us to a funny and mischievous girl named Luna Ramos whose primas are always getting her in trouble. Or is it the other way around? Laughs and hijinks abound in this young middle grade novel about a girl and her many cousins in small-town Texas.

 

 

 

STORM RUNNER by Jennifer Cervantes (Rick Riordan Presents, September 18, 2018). Middle Grade. A 13-year-old boy must save the world by unraveling an ancient Mayan prophecy. Zane must not only grapple with a family history that connects him to the Mayan gods, but with newly acquired knowledge that his ancestry may have something to do with a leg deformity that requires he use a cane — not the greatest reality for a middle schooler.

 

 

Image result for patrick flores scottAMERICAN ROAD TRIP by Patrick Flores-Scott (Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt & Co., September 18, 2018). Young Adult. A YA novel about Teodoro “T” Avila, a 17-year old whose family is affected by the economy and the Iraq War, but when he falls for college-bound Wendy, he fights to overcome family chaos and turn his life around.

 

 

 

Image result for meg medinaMERCI SUAREZ CHANGES GEARS by Meg Medina (Candlewick, September 2018). Middle Grade. Merci Suarez knew that sixth grade would be different, but she had no idea just how different. For starters, Merci has never been like the other kids at her private school, because she and her older brother, Roli, are scholarship students. At home, Merc’s grandfaterh and most trusted ally, Lolo, has been acting strangely lately–forgetting important things, falling from his bike, and getting angry over nothing at all. No one in her family will tell Merci anything, so she’s left to her own worries. In a coming-of-age tale full of humor and wisdom, award-winning author Meg Medina gets to the heart of the confusion and constant change that defines middle school–and the steadfast connection that family defines family.

 

 

Image result for mary louise sanchezTHE WIND CALLED MY NAME by Mary Louise Sanchez (Tu Books, June 3, 2018). Middle Grade. Some days, ten-year-old Margarita Sandoval feels as if the wind might blow her away. The country has been gripped by the Great Depression, so times are hard everywhere. Then she has to leave her familia and compadres in New Mexico–especially her beloved Abuelita–to move to Fort Steele, Wyoming, where her father has taken a job on the railroad. When Margarita meets Evangeline, she’s excited to have a friend her own age . . . but it seems like Evangeline, and everyone else in town, doesn’t understand or appreciate the Sandovals’ Hispanic heritage, or Margarita’s father’s efforts to organize the rail workers in a union. How can Margarita keep her friend, find a place in Fort Steele, and yet remain true to herself?

 

 

                                                       Photo by Margot Wood.Image result for becky albertalliWHAT IF IT’S US by Adam Silvera and Becky Albertalli (HarperTeen, October 2, 2018). Young AdultWhat If It’s Us opens as Arthur and Ben meet at the post office as Ben is shipping his ex-boyfriend’s things back to him. They subsequently endure the frustration of knowing there was a missed connection, before the universe pushes them back together again in a series of failed “first” dates.

 

 

BLANCA & ROJA by 2017 Stonewall Honor recipient Anna-Marie McLemore (Feiwel and Friends, October 9, 2018). Young Adult. A magical realist Snow-White & Rose-Red meets Swan Lake, in which two sisters become rivals in a game that will turn the losing girl into a swan.
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BRIEF CHRONICLE OF ANOTHER STUPID HEARTBREAK by Adi Alsaid (Harlequin Teen, summer 2018). Young Adult. The novel follows a teen relationship columnist as she struggles with writers’ block in the wake of a devastating breakup, and her decision to chronicle the planned breakup of another couple in the summer after they graduate from high school.

 

 

 

20171227a_CarolynDeeFlores_TheAmazingWatercolorFish_FrontCover_50PercentTHE AMAZING WATERCOLOR FISH by Carolyn Dee Flores (Arte Público Press/Piñata, summer 2018). A rhyming picture book about two lonely fish, separated by a wall of books, who communicate by creating incredible worlds in watercolor. The book will be bilingual and rhyme in both Spanish and English, with Spanish translation (literary interpretation) by former Texas Poet Laureate Carmen Tafolla.

 

 

Courtney Author Photos2013_117.jpgSEVEN DEADLY SHADOWS by Courtney Alameda and Valynne E. Maetani (HarperTeen, summer 2018). Set in modern-day Japan, 17-year-old Kira, who is the victim of bullying at her school, finds solace working in her grandfather’s Shinto shrine. After realizing that she can see and commune with demons, Kira – with her younger sister in tow – partners with seven “death gods,” or “Shinigami” in Japanese, to save Kyoto from destruction.

 

 

SARAI AND THE MEANING OF AWESOME by Sarai Gonzalez and Monica Brown (Scholastic, September 2018). Middle Grade. The first book in the fictional middle grade series based on Sarai’s life, Sarai and the Meaning of Awesome, features Sarai using her creativity and entrepreneurial skills to help her community and family. The first and second books in the series will be published in September, co-authored by award-winning author Monica Brown and Sarai Gonzalez, the fierce and confident 12-year-old star of the hugely successful music video “Soy Yo” by Bomba Estéreo, who became a viral star and the face behind #SoyYo, the movemebt celebrating independent girls around the world.

 

33110891CARMELA FULL OF WISHES by Matt de la Peña, illus. by Christian Robinson (Penguin Young Readers, October 9, 2018). Picture Book. When Carmela wakes up on her birthday, her wish has already come true–she’s finally old enough to join her big brother as he does the family errands. Together, they walk through their neighborhood, past the crowded bus stop, the fenced-off repair shop, and the panaderia, until they arrive at the laundromat, where Carmela finds a lone dandelion growing in the pavement. But before she can blow its white fluff away, her brother tells her she has to make a wish. If only she can think of just the right wish to make.

 

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WE’VE GOT THE WHOLE WORLD IN OUR HANDS by Rafael López (Scholastic, October 2018Picture book. Award-winning illustrator Rafael López brings new life with his adaptation of “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” saluting the lives of all young people. The rhythmic verse and repetitive emphasis on “we” and “our” encourages inclusive communities and the celebration of unity and diverse friendships all around the world. Simultaneous Spanish hardcover edition, TENEMOS EL MUNDO ETERNO EN LAS MANOS.
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author_photoARE YOU READY TO HATCH AN UNUSUAL CHICKEN? (Unusual Chickens #2) by Kelly Jones, illus. by Katie Kath (Knopf Books for Young Readers, November 2018). Sophie’s flock of magic chickens grows in this funny follow-up to Kelly Jones’s exceptional debut: Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer. Twelve-year-old Sophie Brown is finally settling into her new home and her new role as keeper of some highly unusual chickens–chickens with secret superpowers! But the arrival of two new magical chickens and some unusual eggs to be incubated and hatched, plus an impending inspection from the Unusual Poultry Committee, has Sophie feeling pretty stressed out. Her older cousin Lupe is coming to stay with Sophie’s family for a while — but will Lupe think chickens are cool, too? Not to mention Sophie’s first day at her new school is coming right up! In this wildly funny and quirky novel told in letters and lists and quizzes, Sophie learns that sometime even an exceptional poultry farmer can use some help.

 

 

Image result for sonia sotomayorTURNING PAGES: MY LIFE STORY by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor (Philomel, fall 2018). A picture book autobiography, illustrated by Lulu Delacre, in which Justice Sotomayor follows the path of her life as it relates to the books she read along the way. Also, THE BELOVED WORLD OF SONIA SOTOMAYOR (Delacorte, fall 2018), a middle grade adaptation of her bestselling memoir, My Beloved World.

 

SOMEONE LIKE ME: How One Undocumented Girl Fought for Her American Dream by Julissa Arce. (Little, Brown, fall 2018). Young Adult.  An adaptation of the 2016 adult memoir MY (UNDERGROUND) AMERICAN DREAM. This YA adaptation chronicles Arce’s childhood in Mexico separated from her parents and her struggle to belong in America while growing up as an undocumented student in Texas.
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GALÁPAGOS GIRL by Marsha Diane Arnold, illus by Pura Belpré Honor recipient Angela Dominguez. (Lee & Low, fall 2018). Picture Book. About a girl who lives on one of the Galápagos islands, and the various species of the island that provide her with friendship and inspiration.
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PATH TO THE STARS: My Journey from Girl Scout to Rocket Scientist by Sylvia Acevedo. A middle grade memoir is a personal account of how Acevedo overcame childhood poverty through her involvement with the Girl Scouts and Head Start, to become one of the first Latinas to receive a post-graduate degree in engineering from Stanford University. The book will be published simultaneously in English and Spanish by Clarion Books/HMH in fall 2018.

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THE VAST WONDER OF THE WORLD by Mélina Mangal, illus by Luisa Uribe. (Lerner/Millbrook Press, fall 2018). Picture Book. About the life and accomplishments of Ernest Everett Just, an African-American research biologist.
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SEÑORITA MARIPOSA by Latin Grammy Award-winning children’s musician Mister G (Ben Gundersheimer), illus by Mexican artist Marcos Almada Rivero (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2018). A picture book celebrating butterfly migration as witnessed by American and Mexican children.
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Matt MendezWHEN WE WERE FEARLESS by Matt Mendez (Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, fall 2018). Young Adult. The novel tells the story of two high school friends growing up in a barrio community in El Paso, Texas.
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THE RESOLUTIONS by Mia Garcia (HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Books, fall 2018). Young Adult. The book follows four friends who assign each other New Year’s resolutions to try to change the course of their disastrous lives.
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ZOMBIES DON’T EAT VEGGIES by Jorge Lacera and Megan Lacera (Lee & Low, fall 2018). The story follows Mo Romero, a young zombie who convinces his zombie parents to try (and love!) vegetables.

 

 

 

Zara Gonzalez HoangSurishtha SehgalKabir SehgalTHREAD OF LOVE by Kabir & Surishtha Sehgal, illus by Zara Gonzalez Hoang (Beach Lane Books/S&S, fall 2018). The picture book is a sibling-love and Indian-holiday story told to the tune of the classic song “Frére Jacques.”

 

Image result for margarita engle haku finds a homeHAKU FINDS A HOME by Margarita Engle with Amish Karanjit and Nicole Karanjit, illusustrated by Ruth Jeyaveeran (Lerner, fall 2018). Picture Book.

 

 

 

 ANA MARIA REYES DOES NOT LIVE IN A CASTLE by Hilda Burgos (Tu Books, fall 2018). Middle Grade. About 11-year-old Anamay, who is upset to discover that she will be getting a new sibling until she travels to her parents’ native Dominican Republic and learns that family and community are more important than material possessions.

Book Review: Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos by Monica Brown, illus. by John Parra

Review by Maria Ramos Chertok

DESCRIPTION OF THE BOOK: Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos, written by Monica Brown and illustrated by John Parra, is based on the life of one of the world’s most influential painters, Frida Kahlo, and the animals that inspired her art and life. The fascinating Mexican artist Frida Kahlo is remembered for her self-portraits, her dramatic works featuring bold and vibrant colors. Her work brought attention to Mexican and indigenous culture, and she is also renowned for her works celebrating the female form. Brown’s story recounts Frida’s beloved pets–two monkeys, a parrot, three dogs, two turkeys, an eagle, a black cat, and a fawn–and playfully considers how Frida embodied many wonderful characteristics of each animal.

MY TWO CENTS: Any story for children that involves a positive relationship with animals is captivating, and this story certainly is. It shows how animals played a supportive and nurturing role in Frieda’s life and also how they became her artistic muse. I enjoyed learning the names of her animals and about how she responded to the stresses of having to be bedridden at two separate times in her life by using imagination, creativity, and art to liberate her mind, find enjoyment, and express herself.

This book was published in both English and Spanish. Given that I like to read to my children in both languages, I often prefer having both languages accessible in one book. And, I can see the value in marketing to distinct audiences.  I experienced the Spanish language version as more layered and nuanced and that may be because Spanish is my second language, so I had to work harder and focus more to read it and, therefore, got more out of it.

The earth-toned illustrations by John Parra are a great accompaniment to the text and drew me into the story with ease, bringing the animals and characters to life.

At the end of the book, there is an Author’s Note that provides background information on Frieda and more information about her paintings and career as an artist. The book references Frieda’s close relationship with her father, who is described in the Author’s Note as German Hungarian. Throughout her life, Frieda described her father as Jewish, but neither the book, nor the Author’s Note mention this, which piqued my curiosity since, as a Latina Jew, that had been one of the things that drew me to Frieda Kahlo. In doing a small bit of research, it appears that a 2005 book traced her paternal lineage and concluded that she was from Lutheran stock. Yet, it wasn’t completely clear to me if that included a thorough examination of her paternal grandmother, Henriette Kaufman’s lineage. Regardless, it remains curious as to why Frieda talked about her father as Jewish. Various commentators have opinions on this issue. I did learn that she changed the spelling of her name to include the “e” during World War II, so that the spelling would more closely resemble frieden which is the German word for peace.

TEACHING TIPS: The first thing that came to mind when I read this book was the image of all young readers demanding that their parents buy them a monkey! From a teaching perspective, this presents a wonderful opportunity to discuss the history of animal rights, the distinction between domesticated and wild animals, and the importance of animals being in a habitat that promotes their long-term survival. While Frieda loved all her animals, her “domestication” of a fawn and a pair of monkeys should be stressed as something unique and not to be emulated, especially because any naturally wild animal that becomes domesticated is typically not able to return to the wild successfully.

I see a second opportunity to engage in a classroom discussion about support animals (Emotional Support Dogs/ESDs, Mental Health/Psychiatric Service Dogs, Therapy Dogs, Guide Dogs for the visually impaired/blind) and how animals are used in various ways to help people.

In the U.S., it is estimated that 44% of all households have a dog and 35% have a cat. This statistic could be used to launch a conversation about why people have pets and what role pets play in our lives. For older children, this discussion can lead to the role that zoos play in society and a debate about the pros and cons of zoos.

Some 2017 resources include the film A Dog’s Purpose (for children/teens). For teachers, reading the book The Zookeeper’s Wife or seeing the 2017 movie adds an interesting angle to zoos. The new release The Dogs of Avalon (August 2017) expands the conversation about animal rights and justice.

Another route to explore is Mexican art and the role that both Frieda Kahlo and Diego Rivera (who is referenced in the book) played in shaping the field through their contributions as painters. As a creative activity, it might be fun for children to do self-portraits with pets they have and/or with animals they like (the latter for children who don’t have pets).

WHERE TO GET IT: To find Frida and Her Animalitos, check your local public library, your local bookstore, or IndieBound. Also, check out GoodreadsAmazon, and Barnes & Noble.

Click here for a Coloring Activity Sheet.

Click here for a Discussion Guide.

Click on the image below to see the book trailer!

 

monica6ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Monica Brown, Ph.D., is the award-winning author of Waiting for the Biblioburro/Esperando al Biblioburro, Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match/no combina, and the Lola Levine chapter book series, including Lola Levine is Not Mean, Lola Levine, Drama Queen, and Lola Levine and the Ballet Scheme. Her books have garnered starred reviews, the Americas Award, two Pura Belpré Author Honors, and the prestigious Rockefeller Fellowship on Chicano Cultural Literacy. She lives in Arizona with her family and teaches at Northern Arizona University. Find out more at www.monicabrown.net.

 

Parra paintbrushABOUT THE ILLUSTRATOR: John Parra is an award-winning illustrator, designer, teacher, and fine art painter. His children’s books have earned many awards including, the SCBWI Golden Kite Award, ALA’s Pura Belpré Honors, The Christopher’s Award, the International Latino Book Award, and many more. In 2015, John was invited by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York to present a special event about his work and career in art and illustration and in 2017 John’s art will be seen on six new Forever Postal Stamps from USPS titled: Delicioso. He currently lives with his wife Maria in Queens, New York. John graduated from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. Visit him on the web http: //www.johnparraart.com/home.htm, or follow him on twitter @johnparraart.

 

ABOUT THE REVIEWER: Maria is a writer, workshop leader and coach who facilitates The Butterfly Series, a writing and creative arts workshop for women who want to explore what’s next in their life journey.  In December 2016, she won 1st place in the 2016 Intergenerational Story Contest for her piece, Family Recipes Should Never be Lost.  Her work has appeared in the Apogee Journal, Entropy Magazine, and A Quiet Courage.   Her piece Meet me by the River will be published in Deborah Santana’s forthcoming anthology All the Women in my Family Sing (Jan 2018) http://nothingbutthetruth.com/all-the-women-in-my-family-sing/.  She is a trainer with Rockwood Leadership Institute www.rockwoodleadership.org and a member of the Bay Area chapter of Write on Mamas.  For more information, visit her website at www.mariaramoschertok.com

 

CLICK HERE TO ENTER OUR GIVEAWAY. YOU COULD WIN FRIDA AND HER ANIMALITOS IN ENGLISH OR SPANISH! 

 

Book Review: Martí’s Song for Freedom/ Martí y sus versos por la libertad written by Emma Otheguy, illus. by Beatriz Vidal

 

Reviewed by Chantel Acevedo

DESCRIPTION OF THE BOOK: As a young boy, Jose Martí traveled to the countryside of Cuba and fell in love with the natural beauty of the land. During this trip he also witnessed the cruelties of slavery on sugar plantations. From that moment, Martí began to fight for the abolishment of slavery and for Cuban independence from Spain through his writing. By age seventeen, he was declared an enemy of Spain and was forced to leave his beloved island. Martí traveled the world and eventually settled in New York City. But the longer he stayed away from his homeland, the sicker and weaker he became. On doctor’s orders he traveled to the Catskill Mountains, where nature inspired him once again to fight for freedom. Here is a beautiful tribute to Jose Martí, written in verse with excerpts from his seminal work, Versos sencillos. He will always be remembered as a courageous fighter for freedom and peace among all men and women.

MY TWO CENTS: Nineteenth century Cuba and New York come alive in the pages of Emma Otheguy‘s Martí’s Song for Freedom/Martí y sus versos por la libertad. Otheguy tells the story of José Martí, Cuban poet and patriot of Cuba’s independence, in prose that feels like verse, in both English and Spanish.

Interspersed throughout are excerpts from Martí’s Versos sencillos, and the effect is a powerful one. Martí himself speaks his story in these moments, affirming with his lyricism what Otheguy has told us–stories of the poet’s childhood, of watching slaves cutting sugar cane, which makes José “shake with rage,” of finding himself in exile in the Catskill Mountains that made him homesick for Cuba, and of his return to Cuba, “like an eagle healed, to join in a new war for independence.”

Otheguy does a wonderful job of capturing the act of writing, which can be difficult to describe. We see Martí’s evolution from pamphleteer to journalist, speechwriter, to poet. The word “inspiration” comes up often, and the sources of that inspiration range from people and their suffering, to people’s excitement, to trees, birds, and of course, swaying palmas reales.

Growing up Cuban-American in Miami, José Martí’s poems were the first I committed to memory. My abuela would “test” me, and I would recite. In Martí’s poems for children, both beauty and soul resided. “Los zapaticos de rosa,” a favorite in my house, was a lesson in humility and generosity, the injustice of poverty, and the innocence of childhood. Would that all children, everywhere, in every language, could learn it! In the bilingual school I attended, we memorized “Cultivo una rosa blanca…” and said it together as a class, like a prayer. When students fought, the teachers would remind us that we were all supposed to be “amigo(s) sincero(s).” So I was delighted to have the opportunity to read Otheguy’s book and share it with my daughters. The language, both in English and Spanish, is accessible. My five year old had no trouble listening to the story. The illustrations by Beatriz Vidal are rich with detail–from the colorful mantillas on the shoulders of women to Cuban tiles on the floor of rooms, to the birds that seem to alight on the text of each page.

Though I’ve heard of Martí all my life, I was surprised to learn of Martí’s time in the Catskills and the grueling work he did in a quarry while in prison, and so the book can be illuminating to readers beyond the elementary school level. Indeed, the battles Martí fought, both rhetorically and physically, and the forces of injustice that worked against him, are conflicts that resonate today across the globe. Reading the book to a child might be followed up by discussions of injustice today, and how the places where we live might resemble Cuba in the nineteenth century. Perhaps more importantly, a discussion of how we might be more like Martí could be a wonderful take-away.

The back cover features an actual portrait of José Martí, and a quote: “And let us never forget that the greater the suffering, the greater the right to justice, and that the prejudices of men and social inequalities cannot prevail over the equality which nature has created.” It is hard to imagine a Cuban childhood sans Martí, or a description of Cuba that does include reference to his influence. But beyond Cuba, Martí’s Song for Freedom/Martí y sus versos por la libertad comes at an important time when even young readers are thinking about how we might make the world a more just place.

WHERE TO GET IT: To find Martí’s Song for Freedom/Martí y sus versos por la libertad, check your local public library, your local bookstore, or IndieBound. Also, check out GoodreadsAmazon, and Barnes & Noble.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Emma Otheguy is a children’s book author and a historian of Spain and colonial Latin America. She is a member of the Bank Street Writers Lab, and her short story “Fairies in Town” was awarded a Magazine Merit Honor by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). Otheguy lives with her husband in New York City. Martí’s Song for Freedom/Martí y sus versos por la libertad is her picture book debut. You can find her online at http://www.emmaotheguy.com. Emma’s guest post for this blog provided a fascinating look at her Cuban heritage and her childhood development as a reader.


Photo of Beatriz VidalABOUT THE ILLUSTRATOR: Beatriz Vidal was born in Argentina and attended the Faculty of Philosophy and Humanities of Cordoba University. In New York, she studied painting and design with Ilonka Karasz for several years. During that time, her career as an illustrator began with designs for Unicef cards and record covers. She has illustrated many children’s books, including The Legend of El Dorado, A Library for Juana, Federico and the Magi’s Gift, and A Gift of Gracias. She divides her time between Buenos Aires and New York City.

 

 

 

ABOUT THE REVIEWER: Chantel Acevedo’s novels include Love and Ghost Letters (St. Martin’s Press), which won the Latino International Book Award and was a finalist for the Connecticut Book of the Year, Song of the Red Cloak, a historical novel for young adults, A Falling Star (Carolina Wren Press), winner of the Doris Bakwin Award, and National Bronze Medal IPPY Award, and The Distant Marvels, (Europa Editions), a Carnegie Medal finalist and an Indie Next Pick. Her latest novel, The Living Infinite (Europa Editions), is forthcoming. She is also the author of En Otro Oz (Finishing Line Press), a chapbook of poems. Her short stories, essays and poems have appeared in Prairie Schooner, American Poetry Review, North American Review, and Ecotone, among many others. She earned her MFA at the University of Miami, where she is currently an Associate Professor of English, and advises Sinking City, the MFA program’s literary journal.

Book Review: One of a Kind Like Me/Único como yo written by Laurin Mayeno, illustrated by Robert Liu-Trujillo

 

Reviewed by Maria Ramos-ChertokUnico_00-Rob Liu-Trujillo_72 dpi

DESCRIPTION OF THE BOOK: Tomorrow is the school parade, and Danny knows exactly what he will be: a princess. Mommy supports him 100%, and they race to the thrift store to find his costume. It’s almost closing time. Will Danny find the costume of his dreams in time? One of A Kind, Like Me / Unico como yo is a sweet story about unconditional love and the beauty of individuality. It’s a unique book that lifts up children who don’t fit gender stereotypes, and reflects the power of a loving and supportive community. The book is written by Laurin Mayeno, illustrated by Robert Liu-Trujillo, and translated by Teresa Mlawer.

MY TWO CENTS: One of a Kind Like Me/Único como yo is a book every elementary school should own. It takes the subject of gender identity out of the public discourse, where morality and religion weigh heavily in the debate, and puts it into the personal realm of a young boy named Danny/Danielito. Teaching readers about gender expression from a child’s point of view does exactly what children do best – cut right to the heart of the matter. Danny is clear about wanting to dress as a princess for the school parade. His determination and creativity were inspiring to me as an adult reader, yet the book offers a beautiful lesson about the importance of listening to yourself and following your dreams to young and old readers alike. Beyond the gift of the story itself, the book is written in both Spanish and English, providing entry to ideas about gender expression that I have not often encountered in traditional bilingual books. Finally, the ultimate confrontation that Danny/Danielito has with his friends offers a promising way for readers to consider how to react to someone who expresses them self in a way that challenges notions of binary gender roles. While the book is written for children, I’d recommend it as a gift to anyone who might expand their thinking on gender expression.

TEACHING TIPS: One of a Kind Like Me/Único como yo can be used in any elementary school class to begin a discussion on self-expression. A discussion question like: What are the different ways we express to the outside world who we are inside? might be an interesting entree. I’d also strongly recommend it to discuss bullying. For example, What did the kids at school do to make Danny/Danielito cross his arms? How did he deal with it? This could also be a way to get children to talk about experiences they’ve had with bullying, both as perpetrators and victims. That conversation can easily lead to having children brainstorm ideas of how to respond effectively to bullies. For older children in fourth and fifth grade, this book can be used to discuss gender identity and gender expression and how peer groups influence choices about what we share about ourselves and how we share it. It connects well with a talk about peer pressure and how to get in touch with our own sense of what is right for us and what isn’t. Finally, there is an excellent note at the back of the book to parents, caregivers and educators that provides an additional resource where one can access videos, books, guides, organizations, and other services that can be of assistance to anyone wanting to learn more about gender diversity.

photo credit: Scott Hoag of @rockwellcreative

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: For more than 17 years, Laurin Mayeno has provided consulting services to numerous organizations, resulting in greater diversity, more inclusive and equitable work environments, and improved effectiveness working with diverse populations. Laurin’s experiences as a mixed race woman growing up during the social movements of the 1960s, led her to work that fosters inclusion, equity and full appreciation for cultural diversity. Her experience as the mother of a gender-expansive, gay son, also gave her a deep appreciation for importance of responding to gender diversity, which is now a central focus of her work. Her Proud Mom videos and her bilingual children’s book One of a Kind, Like Me/Único como yo are among the resources she has developed to spark dialogue and understanding.

Robert Trujillo by Tiffany Eng

Photo by Tiffany Eng

ABOUT THE ILLUSTRATOR (From his website): My name is Robert Liu-Trujillo. I am the author and illustrator of Furqan’s First Flat Top. I was born in Oakland, California and raised all across the Bay Area. I’m a visual artist, father, and a husband who employs the use of illustration, public art, and storytelling to tell tales. These tales manifest in a variety of forms and they reflect my cultural background, dreams, and political / personal beliefs. My motivation to do what I do is to unearth beautiful and un-told stories, to be a positive and nurturing influence on my son, and to honor my ancestors and family who worked so hard for me to be here. I love music, nerdy things, and can get along well with most people. I seek fun, ice cream, and justice. I’m also a co-founder of The Trust Your Struggle Collective, a contributor to Rad Dad,  and the founder of Come Bien Books.

 

ABOUT THE REVIEWER: Maria Ramos-Chertok is a writer who lives in Mill Valley, CA. She is the founder and facilitator of The Butterfly Series, a writing and creative arts workshop for women who want to explore what’s next in their life journey. Her work, most recently, has appeared in San Francisco’s 2016 Listen to Your Mother show (www.listentoyourmothershow.com) and in the Apogee Journal of Colombia University. Her piece Meet me by the River will be published in Deborah Santana’s anthology All the Women in my Family Sing  (2017) and she will be reading in San Francisco’s LitCrawl in October 2016.  For more information please visit www.mariaramoschertok.com

Celebrating Pura Belpré Winners: Spotlight on Writer & Illustrator Yuyi Morales

 

PuraBelpreAwardThe Pura Belpré Awards turns 20 this year! The milestone will be marked on Sunday, June 26, from 1:00-3:00 p.m. during the 2016 ALA Annual Conference in Orlando, FL. According to the award’s site, the celebration will feature speeches by the 2016 Pura Belpré award-winning authors and illustrators, book signings, light snacks, and entertainment. The event will also feature a silent auction of original artwork by Belpré award-winning illustrators, sales of the new commemorative book The Pura Belpré Award: Twenty Years of Outstanding Latino Children’s Literature, and a presentation by keynote speaker Carmen Agra Deedy

Leading up to the event, we will be highlighting the winners of the narrative and illustration awards. Today’s spotlight is on Yuyi Morales, winner of the 2015 Pura Belpré Illustration Award for Viva Frida, the 2014 Illustration Award for Niño Wrestles the World, the 2009 Illustration Award for Just in Case, the 2008 Award for Illustration for Los Gatos Black on Halloween, and the 2004 Illustration Award for Just a Minute: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book.

We have already covered Viva Frida and Niño Wrestles the World. Below, we highlight the others:

 

Reviews by Cecilia Cackley

Descriptions (all from Goodreads): Los Gatos Black on Halloween: Under October’s luna, full and bright, the monsters are throwing a ball in the Haunted Hall. Las brujas come on their broomsticks. Los muertos rise from their coffins to join in the fun. Los esqueletos rattle their bones as they dance through the door. And the scariest creatures of all aren’t even there yet! This lively bilingual Halloween poem introduces young readers to a spooky array of Spanish words that will open their ojos to the chilling delights of the season.

Just a Minute: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book: In this original trickster tale, Señor Calavera arrives unexpectedly at Grandma Beetle’s door. He requests that she leave with him right away. “Just a minute,” Grandma Beetle tells him. She still has one house to sweep, two pots of tea to boil, three pounds of corn to make into tortillas — and that’s just the start! Using both Spanish and English words to tally the party preparations, Grandma Beetle cleverly delays her trip and spends her birthday with a table full of grandchildren and her surprise guest. This spirited tribute to the rich traditions of Mexican culture is the perfect introduction to counting in both English and Spanish. The vivacious illustrations and universal depiction of a family celebration are sure to be adored by young readers everywhere.

Just in Case: Yuyi Morales takes us on a new journey with Señor Calvera, the skeleton from Day of the Dead celebrations. Señor Calvera is worried. He can’t figure out what to give Grandma Beetle for her birthday. Misunderstanding the advice of Zelmiro the Ghost, Señor Calvera decides not to get her one gift, but instead one gift for every letter of the alphabet, just in case. Una Acordéon: An accordion for her to dance to. Bigotes: A mustache because she has none. Cosquillas: Tickles to make her laugh… only to find out at the end of the alphabet that the best gift of all is seeing her friends.

MY TWO CENTS: First of all, I want to take a moment and talk about just how much of a force Yuyi Morales is in picture book illustration. She has won a third of the 15 Pura Belpré Medals for illustration that have been awarded since 1996. In addition, she has won two illustration honors and one narrative honor, bringing her total to eight awards, nearly twice as many as any other artist and all since 2004. That is a huge achievement, and a testament to the vision, craft, and beauty that Morales puts into her work. There is no one quite like her working in picture books today.

All three of these picture books feature Morales’ acrylic paintings, with touches of the mixed-media that has become more prominent in her recent work. Each also has a fantastical element, from the various monster creatures in Los Gatos Black on Halloween to Señor Calavera in Just a Minute and Just in Case.

In Los Gatos Black on Halloween, the colors are layered, allowing some characters to be visible through the transparent ghosts and building up as more and more ghostly characters join what eventually becomes the monster ball in an old abandoned house. The color palette is dark and rich, contrasting the glowing moon and night sky with colored tombstones and the interior of the old mansion. Morales plays with scale and perspective to lend an otherworldly look to the spreads; sometimes we only see a pair of legs dangling over a broomstick or the round face of a ghost as its tail extends right off the page.

 

 

 

The colors in Just a Minute are brighter and the spreads less crowded than Los Gatos Black on Halloween, but the story they tell is just as dynamic. This was Morales’ first project as both author and artist, and she keeps the story moving at a fast pace as Grandma goes from cleaning to cooking, to decorating. Subtle touches of color make Señor Calavera a less scary figure for the youngest readers, including the flowers for eyeballs and the expressive mouth that finally turns into a smile. As befits a heroine who is using action to delay Señor Calavera, Grandma Beetle’s poses are precise and sharp, whether she is placing cheese in a frying pan or leaning over to put pots in the oven. Grandma’s eyes and face express her cleverness and care as she watches Señor Calavera from across the room or gives a wink while chopping up fruit. Perspective shifts reinforce the upside-down nature of this story; the floor of Grandma’s house seems to tilt as we first see Señor Calavera in close-up, peeking over her shoulder and then far away in the corner of the room, stamping his foot in frustration. The little cat’s reactions to Señor Calavera are a humorous touch, and readers will enjoy finding it on each spread, looking curious, tentative or scared, depending on the page. Readers will love the final note left by Señor Calavera and cheer for Grandma Beetle, who was so resourceful in buying herself a little more time on Earth.

Morales brings more texture and mixed media to the illustrations in Just in Case, her second effort as both author and artist. Perhaps because most of the action in the book takes place in the cemetery, rather than in Grandma’s house, the backgrounds are looser and the characters float around on the page. The new character Zelmiro the ghost blends in with the background color on each spread as he advises Señor Calavera on what to give Grandma Beetle for her birthday. The list of presents grows with the alphabet, and Morales keeps things interesting by not just including objects such as the accordion but also actions such as cosquillas (tickles) and natural phenomena like niebla (fog). One of my favorite things about this book is that it follows the Spanish, rather than the English alphabet, including letters I learned as a child, like ‘Ch’, ‘Ll’ and ‘Ñ’. Depending on where you are in the Spanish-speaking world, ‘ch’ and ‘ll’ aren’t taught as separate letters anymore, so it was nice to see them here! Some of the presents are words commonly taught in Spanish classes, such as ‘escalera’ or ‘semilla,’ but others are more colloquial and region-specific like ‘granizado’ and ‘ombligo.’ The specificity in both language and image are lovely. Careful readers will note that the historieta (comic book) that Señor Calavera gives Grandma is a handmade version of Morales’ earlier book Just a Minute and will also find the reason for the spectacular bicycle crash that ruins all the presents.

From ghosts to skeletons to grandmothers cooking elaborate birthday feasts, these three picture books showcase Morales’ talents at depicting both the light and dark in Latino culture.

TEACHING TIPS: Los Gatos Black on Halloween is a wonderful choice for a storytime, especially events connected to the holiday. Both Just a Minute and Just in Case are also perfect for reading aloud, as well as excellent teaching tools for counting and the alphabet. Morales has various activities for mask and puppet making on her website and the actions of Just a Minute in particular are perfect for acting out with younger readers. Just in Case is an excellent mentor text for classes working on writing their own culture-specific alphabet books. Just a Minute could also be used as a writing tool, with students inventing their own ways of making Death wait just a little longer.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Yuyi Morales
is a Mexican author, illustrator, artist, and puppet maker. She has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Physical Education from the University of Xalapa, México and used to host her own Spanish-language radio program for children in San Francisco, California.She has won numerous awards for her children’s books, including the Caldecott Honor for Viva Frida, Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award for Just a Minute: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book (2004) and Los Gatos Black on Halloween (2008), the Pura Belpré Author Honor for Just in Case: A Trickster Tale and Spanish Alphabet Book (2009), the Pura Belpré Illustrator Award for Viva Frida (2015), Niño Wrestles the World (2014) Just a Minute: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book (2004), Just in Case: A Trickster Tale and Spanish Alphabet Book (2009) and Los Gatos Black on Halloween (2008), and Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor for My Abuelita (2010) and Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez (2004). Morales divides her time between the San Francisco area and Veracruz, Mexico. Her next picture book, Thunder Boy Jr. (written by Sherman Alexie), will be published in May 2016.

RESOURCES:

Activities with Señor Calavera on Morales’ website: http://www.yuyimorales.com/muerte.htm

Teacher’s Guide from Chronicle: http://www.chroniclebooks.com/landing-pages/pdfs/Just_A_min.pdf

Americas Award resources: http://www.lindakreft.com/Americas/pdf/voices_minute.pdf

Elementary lesson on culture using Just in Case: http://team33culture.weebly.com/uploads/8/9/8/4/8984769/lesson_plan.pdf

Vamos a Leer blog on Los Gatos Black on Halloween: https://teachinglatinamericathroughliterature.wordpress.com/2014/10/22/en-la-clase-los-gatos-black-on-halloween-2/

Recent PW interview: http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/childrens-authors/article/63359-yuyi-morales.html

And as a bonus, here is a video from Yuyi about why she loves picture books:

 

Cackley_headshotCecilia Cackley is a performing artist and children’s bookseller based in Washington DC where she creates puppet theater for adults and teaches playwriting and creative drama to children. Her bilingual children’s plays have been produced by GALA Hispanic Theatre and her interests in bilingual education, literacy, and immigrant advocacy all tend to find their way into her theatrical work. You can find more of her work at www.witsendpuppets.com.