Scholastic Book Club Celebrates Cesar Chavez Day With “Harvesting Hope”

Latin@s in Kid Lit is excited to have the opportunity to cross-post with Scholastic’s Club Leo en Español, the largest Spanish school book club in the country offering Spanish, English, and bilingual books and educational materials to children in grades Pre K-8.

On Monday, May 31, the Scholastic site celebrated Cesar Chavez Day by highlighting Pura Belpré Honoree Harvesting Hope! Click here to see the original post, which has been reblogged below.

By Concetta Gleason
editorial assistant/admin coordinator for Club Leo

“Kindness and compassion towards all living things is a mark of a civilized society.…Only when we have become nonviolent towards all life will we have learned to live well ourselves.”

—Cesar Chavez, co-founder of United Farm Workers

Today is Cesar Chavez Day, and to celebrate we are revisiting Harvesting Hope by Kathleen Krull and Yuyi Morales. Harvesting Hope chronicles Chavez’s life as an advocate for the rights of migrant farm workers and laborers.

Cesar Chavez was born on March 31, 1927, in Yuma, Arizona. His parents, who were Mexican immigrants, prospered as business owners and farmers. However, the Great Depression crushed the family’s financial prospects, as it did to so many Americans. In 1937, Chavez’s family moved to California to find employment as migrant workers. Chavez was only ten years old when he experienced the inhumane conditions migrant workers were forced to endure as they worked long hours in the fields for meager pay. From this difficult experience Chavez learned the enduring importance of human dignity and compassion, which would fundamentally inform his leadership as an adult.

In Harvesting Hope, Krull maintains the delicate balance between showing and telling, providing significant historical background while taking the reader on a journey from Chavez’s idyllic childhood in Arizona to his hard-won victory over a corporate giant to ensure the legal rights of farm workers. Morales’s illustrations imbue the book with a dreamlike quality. Her figures command the page with grace and her use of colors shows the richness of Cesar’s emotional life and the depth of his plight as a migrant worker. This book is a worthy tribute to such a noble historical figure, and in 2004 it won the Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor.

As a leader, Chavez refused to engage in bullying tactics that dehumanized others and he is revered for being a catalyst of social change. Cesar Chavez Day is an official state holiday in California, Colorado, and Texas that is dedicated to acts of community service. Join us as we celebrate Cesar Chavez’s life works and some excellent Latino children’s literature!

Author’s Note: Club Leo en Español supports your classroom with fun and affordable books that connect children’s home language and learning. Our books include amazing series, original titles, and winners of the Pura Belpré Award, which celebrates the remarkable contributions of artists who give voice to the Latino community through children’s literature.

Club Leo en Español apoya tu salón de clases con libros divertidos y asequibles que conectan la lengua materna y el aprendizaje de los niños. Nuestra colección incluye increíbles series, títulos originales y ganadores del Premio Pura Belpré, que celebra los extraordinarios aportes de artistas que dan voz a la comunidad latina a través de la literatura infantil.

Diversity in Kid Lit was ‘On Fire’ at National Latino Children’s Literature Conference

My signed conference poster! The gorgeous artwork comes from Laura Lacamara's new book, Dalia's Wondrous Hair.

My signed conference poster! The gorgeous artwork comes from Laura Lacamara’s new book, Dalia’s Wondrous Hair.

By Lila Quintero Weaver

Let me float down to earth, grab a keyboard and pound out a report about the National Latino Children’s Literature Conference. That was my self-talk on March 15. The two-day conference, held at the University of Alabama and headed by mover-and-shaker Dr. Jamie Naidoo, had wrapped up at 4 pm the previous day.

Sixteen hours later, my whole being still felt tingly with the residual vibrations of what we’d experienced: great dialogue, stimulating talks, and warm connections with people passionate about the same thing, increasing diversity in children’s books. And it’s amazing how many presentations referenced last year’s incendiary New York Times article on minority characters in kid lit. The conference stirred my juices, but before I could touch my keyboard to write about it, Marianne Snow posted a great recap on her blog. There’s no way that I could improve on her account. 

That’s not the end of the story. Over the same weekend, The New York Times published a pair of essays from prize-winning YA author Walter Dean Myers and his son Christopher, an author-illustrator of note, on the scarcity of characters of color in children’s books. Spine tingling, timely, and powerful. Clearly, diversity in children’s books is a topic on fire!

And now, back to the conference. Since Marianne’s recap covers only the second day, here are select quotes and highlights from the first day:

NLCLC LogoLiterary agent Adriana Dominguez outlined some of the challenges facing Latin@ children’s literature: “Many editors think about Latino books as niche or institutional.” Neither of these spells the huge sales figures that the industry has become hungry for. She pointed to the Harry Potter phenomenon as a watershed moment in children’s publishing. Previously, marketing departments targeted libraries and schools, but the commercial success of Harry Potter and other blockbusters has shifted the dynamics.

Members of the audience asked how to best advocate for Latin@ children’s literature. Librarians can push these books, Dominguez said. She cited the late Rose Treviño as a personal mentor and a role model in the field of library services to children. Ms. Treviño was a beloved Houston public librarian who served the local Latin@ community and brought Latin@ books to the attention of a wider audience. Her passionate advocacy was captured in this extensive interview by Cynthia Leitich Smith.

Someone else asked, would more Latinos on the “inside” of publishing help to balance the equation? Yes, Dominguez said, because “you’re a stronger advocate for something you truly believe in.” She pointed out that graduate programs in publishing are recruiting zones for the “big five.”

In her keynote, recent Pura Belpré winner Meg Medina raised the topic of universal themes, those that address the experiences of all children, regardless of demographic labels. She reminded us that “Latino” is a uniquely American concept. Many Latin@ children grapple with the additional challenges of biculturalism. She shared that in her work, she strives to present a range of Latin@ characters, a “whole tapestry,” not merely those that the public has come to expect. (In her Monday post, Meg offered a terrific conference recap of her own.)

7789203Author-illustrator Laura Lacámara gave the day’s final keynote. Her journey into publishing has taken some interesting turns. She was first an illustrator of children’s books. Then came her debut as a writer, Floating on Mama’s Song, a story inspired by her mother’s devotion to opera. But Laura didn’t illustrate it; Yuyi Morales did. Now, hot off the presses is Laura’s newest book, her first to write and illustrate, the delightful Dalia’s Wondrous Hair (see the conference poster image, above). Count on a book talk in the near future!

The variety of breakout sessions boggled the mind. Thursday, I sat in on Lettycia Terrones’s illuminating talk on image-making in Latin@ children’s literature, followed by Araceli Esparza’s “Roots of Race in Chicano/Latino Picture Books,” another enriching experience. The next day, I heard an expert presentation by Catalina Lara on the Latin@ child and language.

Social media is an excellent tool, but let’s not forget the value of face-to-face meetings. They spark connections like nothing else. Next time you hear about a conference that addresses diversity or Latin@ children’s books, consider attending.

Book Review: Niño Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales

By Sujei Lugo

DESCRIPTION FROM THE BOOK JACKET: Señoras y señores, put your hands together for the fantastic, spectacular, one of a kind…Niño! In a single move, he takes down his  competition! No opponent is a challenge for the cunning skills of Niño, world champion lucha libre competitor!

MY TWO CENTS: As soon as you take a glimpse of the book cover, you know that Yuyi Morales is presenting you with a treat of pint-sized lucha. The colorful and mixed-media artwork and its wrestling match layout, capture the energy and enthusiasm of the characters and lucha libre itself. Written in English with a dash of Spanish words and onomatopoeias, readers are exposed to an action-packed picture book filled with elements of Mexican and other Spanish-speaking cultures.

NiñoWrestlestheWorldCover“¡Niño! ¡Niño! ¡Niño!” It is through this chant that we are introduced to Niño, a paleta eater, toy-loving, and acrobatic boy. Once Niño puts on his luchador mask, contenders such as La Momia de Guanajuato, La Llorona and Cabeza Olmeca, line up to challenge him. With his playful lucha style, Niño challenges his opponents with puzzles, dolls, marbles, popsicles and tickles, showing how Morales playfully incorporates childhood glee into this wonderful homage to lucha libre. At the end of the story we also meet Niño’s toddler sisters, who are mischievous and loud and drive Niño crazy! This is where Yuyi Morales uses the opportunity to capture and address siblings’ relationships, while showcasing the “best move” to defeat sibling rivalry.

I could not deny that it crossed my mind that Niño Wrestles the World, plays as a homage and retelling of the legacy of Mexican lucha icon, El Santo. Like El Santo, once Niño puts on his luchador mask, he never takes it off. Like El Santo, in his movies, Niño challenges the mummy of Guanajuato, the llorona, and aliens. And you could say that when later in the book Niño joins his sisters and challenges new opponents, we are seeing a retelling of adventures where El Santo joins fellow luchadores Blue Demon and Mil Máscaras. Setting the wonderful El Santo references aside, in this picture book we have a fun and energetic story and lovable characters that will release the inner luchador or luchadora in kids and adults of all ages.

Niño Wrestles the World is the 2014 Pura Belpré Illustrator Winner and was named a highly commended title by the 2014 Charlotte Zolotow Award. It was also included in a series of list such as A Fuse #8 Production 100 Magnificent Children’s Books 2013, School Library Journal Top 10 Latino-themed Books of 2013, Fanfare (Horn Book’s list of the best books for young people published in 2013), Center for the Study Multicultural Children’s Literature Best Multicultural Books of 2013 and Latinas for Latino Lit Remarkable Latino Children’s Literature of 2013.

TEACHING TIPS: While early readers and kids between the ages of 4-8 might enjoy reading this picture book, it is through the activity of reading aloud that its energy and humor really stands out. Adults and childrens’ librarians can read the book, while teaching new vocabulary and words in Spanish to kids.

Language Arts, Visual Arts, and Social Studies teachers (pre-school- 2nd grade) could also use Niño Wrestles the World with their students. The book is filled with fun onomatopoeias, adjectives and words in Spanish, which will attract students to the language learning process. Art teachers can collaborate with Language Arts teachers with the masks of the different characters of the story. Templates of different lucha masks are available on Yuyi Morales’ website, or you can be creative with your own mask!

The elements of Mexican culture exposed through Niño’s opponents, the trading-card-style information of each opponent (includes pronunciation), and Yuyi Morales’ illustrations provide the opportunity to incorporate them into Social Studies curricula. Educators should be provided with resources and materials that will serve as tools to bring multiethnic/multicultural exposure and discussion into the classroom. This is especially relevant now since Mexican American and Latin@ Studies curricula and books are constantly challenged in the U.S. public education system.

LEXILE: N/A

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 such as the 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 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 lastest picture book Viva Frida! will be released in September 2014.

For more information about Niño Wrestles the World visit your local library or bookstore. Also check out Macmillan Publishers, Goodreads, Indiebound.org, WorldCat.org, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.  

Enjoy this video of Yuyi Morales reading Niño Wrestles the World!

Congratulations to ALA Youth Media Award Winners and Honor Books

The annual award announcements from the American Library Association at its midwinter meeting is like the Golden Globes-Oscars-Grammys for the kid lit world. This year, we were especially thrilled to see the number of books by and/or for Latin@s on the lists.

Congratulations to all the winners! You can find the full list here. We’re sending out an extra abrazo to the following authors and illustrators:

Pura Belpré (Illustrator) Award honoring a Latino illustrator whose children’s books best portray, affirm and celebrate the Latino cultural experience: “Niño Wrestles the World,” written and illustrated by Yuyi Morales.

Three Belpré Illustrator Honor Books were selected: “Maria Had a Little Llama / María Tenía una Llamita,” illustrated and written by Angela Dominguez; “Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale,” illustrated and written by Duncan Tonatiuh; and “Tito Puente: Mambo King / Rey del Mambo,” illustrated by Rafael López, written by Monica Brown.

           

Pura Belpré (Author) Award honoring a Latino writer whose children’s books best portray, affirm and celebrate the Latino cultural experience: “Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass,” written by Meg Medina.

Three Belpré Author Honor Books were named: “The Lightning Dreamer: Cuba’s Greatest Abolitionist,” written by Margarita Engle; “The Living,” written by Matt de la Peña; and “Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale,” written and illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh.

          

Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award for most distinguished informational book for children: “Parrots over Puerto Rico,” written by Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore, and illustrated by Susan L. Roth.

Stonewall Book Award – Mike Morgan & Larry Romans Children’s & Young Adult Literature Award given annually to English-language works of exceptional merit for children or teens relating to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender experience: “Fat Angie,” written by e. E. Charlton-Trujillo.

William C. Morris Award for a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens: “Charm & Strange,” written by Stephanie Kuehn.