We’re busy behind the scenes planning new content to bring you, but it’s taking us longer than anticipated. Thanks for hanging with us! We’ll be back from the archives before long.
Happy Peace Day, folks!
Today, September 21, is recognized as the International Day of Peace by the United Nations. As the UN describes it, “Established in 1981 by unanimous United Nations resolution, Peace Day provides a globally shared date for all humanity to commit to Peace above all differences and to contribute to building a Culture of Peace.” It’s a moment to pause and reflect on peace or to literally cease firing at one another.
In 2018, #PeaceDay overlaps with the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The two being intertwined, it seems an apt opportunity to talk about how peace can only be achieved by bringing about a world in which human rights are upheld for all, and human rights can only be upheld if we start from a place of mutual understanding, respect, and empathy.
If you’re to broach this conversation with students, books can help shape their understanding – as can just getting to know one another beyond tropes and stereotypes.
Let us know in the comments if there are other resources you turn to for discussing peace, change making, empathy, and human rights with your students, or other ways you frame these discussions.
We’re excited to be back with you for the start of a new school year. Stay tuned for introductions to our current blogging team (with some returning from last year and others as fresh faces), news from the world of children’s lit for teachers, book reviews in English and Spanish, curated bibliographies, and more!
Today (September 10th) we’ll get underway with the 2018-2019 round of our local Vamos a Leer book group here in Albuquerque. Starting Monday (9/10), we’ll get together every month at Red Door Brewing in downtown Abq to enjoy a pint and discuss our favorite quotes. Join us if you’re local!
Below are the books that we’re looking forward to sharing with you. The complete list is the product of some amazing summertime days spent scouring the shelves and sifting through many worthwhile titles. Here’s a printable flyer for quick reference. Enjoy!!
SEPTEMBER 10th: The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Pérez • Lee & Low Books, 2017 •
From debut author and longtime zine-maker Celia C. Pérez, The First Rule of Punk is a wry and heartfelt exploration of friendship, finding your place, and learning to rock out like no one’s watching.
There are no shortcuts to surviving your first day at a new school–you can’t fix it with duct tape like you would your Chuck Taylors. On Day One, twelve-year-old Malu (Maria Luisa, if you want to annoy her) inadvertently upsets Posada Middle School’s queen bee, violates the school’s dress code with her punk rock look, and disappoints her college-professor mom in the process. Her dad, who now lives a thousand miles away, says things will get better as long as she remembers the first rule of punk: be yourself.
The real Malu loves rock music, skateboarding, zines, and Soyrizo (hold the cilantro, please). And when she assembles a group of like-minded misfits at school and starts a band, Malu finally begins to feel at home. She’ll do anything to preserve this, which includes standing up to an anti-punk school administration to fight for her right to express herself!
OCTOBER 8th: I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez • Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2017 • Grades 9+
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian meets Jane the Virgin in this poignant but often laugh-out-loud funny contemporary YA about losing a sister and finding yourself amid the pressures, expectations, and stereotypes of growing up in a Mexican-American home.
Perfect Mexican daughters do not go away to college. And they do not move out of their parents’ house after high school graduation. Perfect Mexican daughters never abandon their family.
But Julia is not your perfect Mexican daughter. That was Olga’s role.
Then a tragic accident on the busiest street in Chicago leaves Olga dead and Julia left behind to reassemble the shattered pieces of her family. And no one seems to acknowledge that Julia is broken, too. Instead, her mother seems to channel her grief into pointing out every possible way Julia has failed.
But it’s not long before Julia discovers that Olga might not have been as perfect as everyone thought. With the help of her best friend Lorena, and her first love, first everything boyfriend Connor, Julia is determined to find out. Was Olga really what she seemed? Or was there more to her sister’s story? And either way, how can Julia even attempt to live up to a seemingly impossible ideal?
NOVEMBER 12th: The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Cartaya • Viking Books for Young Readers, 2017 • Grades 7+
Save the restaurant. Save the town. Get the girl. Make Abuela proud. Can thirteen-year-old Arturo Zamora do it all or is he in for a BIG, EPIC FAIL?
For Arturo, summertime in Miami means playing basketball until dark, sipping mango smoothies, and keeping cool under banyan trees. And maybe a few shifts as junior lunchtime dishwasher at Abuela’s restaurant. Maybe. But this summer also includes Carmen, a cute poetry enthusiast who moves into Arturo’s apartment complex and turns his stomach into a deep fryer. He almost doesn’t notice the smarmy land developer who rolls into town and threatens to change it. Arturo refuses to let his family and community go down without a fight, and as he schemes with Carmen, Arturo discovers the power of poetry and protest through untold family stories and the work of Jose Marti.
DECEMBER 10th: Wild Beauty by Anna-Maria McLemore • Feiwel & Friends, 2017 • Grades 7+
Love grows such strange things.
Anna-Marie McLemore’s debut novel The Weight of Feathers garnered fabulous reviews and was a finalist for the prestigious YALSA Morris Award, and her second novel, When the Moon was Ours, was longlisted for the 2016 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. Now, in Wild Beauty, McLemore introduces a spellbinding setting and two characters who are drawn together by fate—and pulled apart by reality.
For nearly a century, the Nomeolvides women have tended the grounds of La Pradera, the lush estate gardens that enchant guests from around the world. They’ve also hidden a tragic legacy: if they fall in love too deeply, their lovers vanish. But then, after generations of vanishings, a strange boy appears in the gardens.
The boy is a mystery to Estrella, the Nomeolvides girl who finds him, and to her family, but he’s even more a mystery to himself; he knows nothing more about who he is or where he came from than his first name. As Estrella tries to help Fel piece together his unknown past, La Pradera leads them to secrets as dangerous as they are magical in this stunning exploration of love, loss, and family.
JANUARY 14th: Step Up to the Plate, Maria Singh by Uma Krishnaswami • Tú Books, 2017 • Grades 3-5
Nine-year-old Maria Singh longs to play softball in the first-ever girls’ team forming in Yuba City, California. It’s the spring of 1945, and World War II is dragging on. Miss Newman, Maria’s teacher, is inspired by Babe Ruth and the All-American Girls’ League to start a girls’ softball team at their school. Meanwhile, Maria’s parents–Papi from India and Mama from Mexico–can no longer protect their children from prejudice and from the discriminatory laws of the land. When the family is on the brink of losing their farm, Maria must decide if she has what it takes to step up and find her voice in an unfair world. In this fascinating middle grade novel, award-winning author Uma Krishnaswami sheds light on a little-known chapter of American history set in a community whose families made multicultural choices before the word had been invented.
FEBRUARY 11th: Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera • Riverdale Avenue Books, 2016 • Grades 9 +
Juliet Milagros Palante is leaving the Bronx and headed to Portland, Oregon. She just came out to her family and isn’t sure if her mom will ever speak to her again. But Juliet has a plan, sort of, one that’s going to help her figure out this whole “Puerto Rican lesbian” thing. She’s interning with the author of her favorite book: Harlowe Brisbane, the ultimate authority on feminism, women’s bodies, and other gay-sounding stuff.
Will Juliet be able to figure out her life over the course of one magical summer? Is that even possible? Or is she running away from all the problems that seem too big to handle? With more questions than answers, Juliet takes on Portland, Harlowe, and most importantly, herself.
MARCH 11th: The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo • HarperTeen, 2018 • Grades 7 +
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.
APRIL 8th: The Disturbed Girl’s Dictionary by NoNieqa Ramos • Carolrhoda Lab, 2018 • Grades 9 +
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.
The summer months may seem quiet at times, but really there’s a veritable buzz of activity. In the world of children’s literature, authors, illustrators, publishers, reviewers, librarians, and even teachers (whose summer breaks are rarely ever actual breaks) are hard at work pushing for diversity, representation and accuracy. Anansesem is in this vanguard.
A brief aside for those unfamiliar with the organization. In their own words,
Anansesem is an online magazine devoted to Caribbean children’s and young adult literature written by both new and established writers. It was founded in 2010 to encourage the writing and illustration of Caribbean literature for and by young people. Major issues are published twice a year in .pdf format while guest posts and online-only features are published throughout the year.
We are proud to have published some of the most distinctive and distinguished voices in Caribbean literature for young people. Previous contributors to the ezine have included Alix Delinois, Floella Benjamin, Ibi Zoboi, Itah Sadu, Lynn Joseph, Margarita Engle, Nadia L. Hohn, Olive Senior, Tracey Baptiste, Vashanti Rahaman and Verna Wilkins.
The ezine invites submissions of Caribbean short stories, poetry and illustrations for children regardless of the geographical location of either the author or characters. We also publish book reviews, interviews and non-fiction. Submissions by Caribbean citizens get first priority.
We’re huge fans of Anansesem here at Vamos a Leer, and frequently turn to them to help contextualize and better understand the Caribbean literature that crosses our desks. Their latest announcement has us even more over the moon than usual. They’ve introduced starred reviews! This means that they’re putting the power of meaningful and informed reviews back in the hands of the Caribbean community. Read more about why they’re doing this, what they aim to achieve, and how they’ll go about it, in the announcement from Summer Edward, Anansesem editor-in-chief: Introducing the Anansesem Starred Review (And Giving Caribbean Books For Young People The Reviews They Deserve).
Their May issue (forthcoming) introduces starred reviews for Marti’s Song for Freedom / Martí y sus versos por la libertad by Emma Otheguy and Beatriz Vidal, The Field by Baptiste Paul and illustrated by Jacqueline Alcántara, All the Way to Havana by Margarita Engle and illustrated by Mike Curato, and Hurricane Child by Kheryn Callender. The issue also includes, among other items, spotlights on illustrators Lulu Delacre and Rosa Colán Guerra. Check their website for the full PDF (nominal cost associated) or a free sample of the publication.
Dear fellow readers,
Summer is most certainly upon us now, with just about every classroom emptied of students and community libraries filled with youth reading summer book lists.
Here at our Vamos a Leer offices at the University of New Mexico, everything is extra quiet after a busy year. Some of our nearest and dearest student bloggers, including Alin and Kalyn, have graduated this term from their master’s program with us, and are moving on to new adventures; our last student blogger, Santiago, is thankfully still with us one more year, but at the moment is tthrough Mexico and Spain, among other places; our education consultant and blogger-in-chief, Katrina, is catching up to life after a wonderful year in the classroom; and I am spending these days trying to catch up on reading and mapping out our titles for the coming year (it’s a hard life, eh?!). Yet even while this feels a bit calmer than the frenetic school year, there’s still much afoot just outside our doors in the world of children’s literature. The Américas Award was just announced in Spain, for example, as part of the annual congress of the Latin American Studies Association (LASA), with four of our absolutely favorite writers acknowledged as the top recipients. Winners include Ibi Zoboi’s American Street and Duncan Tonatiuh’s DANZA! , and Honorable Mentions include Margarita Engle and Mike Curatos’s All the Way to Havana and Ruth Behar’s Lucky Broken Girl. Plus there’s a whole list of Commended Titles that are either already on our shelves (hello, Bravo!, Marti’s Forest World, Song for Freedom, Rubén Darío, Lucia la luchadora, among others) or just crying out to be read (The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora, The First Rule of Punk, Sing Don’t Cry, and more).
Here at Vamos we’re fortunate to support the Américas Award through our university’s involvement with the Consortium of Latin American Studies Programs, and we’re particularly excited to be a part of it in 2018 because the award is celebrating 25 years! Stay tuned for details about anniversary celebration activities during Hispanic Heritage Month.
All of which is to say, we’re still here! Drop us a line, give us some ideas, ask us some questions, and join us in delving into summer books.
Buenos días! In light of LGBTQIA Pride month, we decided to extend our writing schedule into June and provide you with a Reading Roundup of LGBTQIA Latin American/Latinx children’s books. We decided to focus specifically on children’s books rather than include YA titles because it seems books for younger readers are particularly scarce and difficult to find. In effect, we wanted to do the legwork for you!
In our search we came across the following useful websites for discovering other books that intersect Latinx and LGBTQ themes:
Another resource we want to point out to you is an animated series created in 2017 by Somos Familia. It documents a Latinx family’s journey in understanding the coming out of their gay son. It has 15 episodes and is in Spanish with English subtitles.
Sometimes we find books that seem interesting, but we don’t include them in our roundup unless we can actually read and review a hard copy! This proved particularly so for this search! Of the many that we were unable to review personally, here are a few that made the top of our list. Based on the information we could find online, they look promising!
Most importantly, for the teachers who may not feel comfortable teaching this subject, especially with young readers, here are articles to prompt reflection and resources to help you on the way:
And now, without further ado, here are the best titles we came across that would help young readers with this topic:
One of a Kind Like Me/Único como yo
Written by Laurin Mayeno
Illustrations by Robert Liu-Trujillo
Translations by Teresa Mlawer
Published by Blood Orange Press
Age Level: 4-7
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 / Único como yo is a sweet story about unconditional love and the beauty of individuality. This unique book lifts up children who don’t fit gender stereotypes, and reflects the power of a loving and supportive community.
I loved this book and its statement of the importance of love, respect and understanding. Through this book, we see the possibilities of fun and happiness when one embraces both bravery and acceptance. This book is filling an important gap in children’s literature, showing the liberation that Danny feels when he is true to himself and his identity even as a young child, demonstrating that gender need not prevent us from feeling happy, comfortable and free. I appreciated the note at the end of the book with the photos and story of the original Danny who inspired the story. The author, Laurin Mayeno, is Danny’s mother, and she and Danny wrote this story together. Robert Liu-Trujillo’s illustrations are beautiful, soft and filled with color; they complement the story perfectly. Mayeno is a major proponent for supporting diverse families like her own. In the author’s note, Mayeno offers the website she founded, outproudfamilies.com, as a great resource for diverse families. I also suggest checking out Maria Ramos-Chertok’s review of the book on one of our favorite sites, Latinx in Kid Lit. In this review, Ramos-Chertok offers teaching tips for using the book in the classroom.
Antonio’s Card/La tarjeta de Antonio
Written by Rigoberto González
Illustrations by Cecilia Concepción Álvarez
Published by Children’s Book Press
Age Level: 7-10
Antonio loves words, because words have the power to express feelings like love, pride, or hurt. Mother’s Day is coming soon, and Antonio searches for the words to express his love for his mother and her partner, Leslie. But he’s not sure what to do when his classmates make fun of Leslie, an artist, who towers over everyone and wears paint-splattered overalls. As Mother’s Day approaches, Antonio must choose whether or how to express his connection to both of the special women in his life.
Rigoberto González’s bilingual story resonates with all children who have been faced with speaking up for themselves or for the people they love. Cecilia Concepción Álvarez’s paintings bring the tale to life in tender, richly hued detail.
In this bilingual story, Rigoberto González sensitively discusses situations with which young children of gender-diverse families are often confronted. In the story, Antonio has ambiguous feelings – he is self-conscious about the gender norms broken by his mother and her partner, Leslie, yet at the same time, he loves Leslie and is happy to have her in his life. Throughout his struggle, Antonio’s mother and Leslie are nothing but supportive and understanding; they do not push ideals onto Antonio, but show him constant love, which eventually overpowers Antonio’s self-conscious feelings. Furthermore, I like that this book brings to light the gendered aspect of holidays like Mother’s Day, offering multiple perspectives on how such holidays can help children celebrate diverse families. Cecila Goncepción Álvarez’s illustrations are beautiful and soft, reflecting the loving relationship between Antonio, his mother, and Leslie. Lee & Low Books also has a teacher’s guide for Antonio’s Card/La tarjeta de Antonio that we recommend checking out.
Call Me Tree/Llámame Árbol
Written & Illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez
Published by Lee & Low Books Inc.
Age Level: 6-10
What does it mean to be like a tree?
For one young child, it all begins
as a tiny seed
that is free to grow
and reach out to others
while standing strong and tall—
just like a tree in the natural world.
With this gentle and imaginative story about becoming your fullest self, Maya Christina Gonzalez empowers young readers to dream and reach . . . and to be as free and unique as trees.
This is a beautiful book about a gender-neutral child who beautifully grows into a tree. I love this book and believe that its messages of belonging and diversity, as well as the importance it gives to our connectedness with nature, are relatable and empowering for children. Its illustrations are also breathtaking. If you would like to read a more in-depth review of this book, please check out Lorraine’s post. Also, I recommend checking out the interview with Maya Christina Gonzalez about why she made the protagonist of Call Me Tree/Llámame Árbol gender neutral. Lee & Low Books also made a Teacher’s Guide to accompany the book.
Written by Lesléa Newman
Illustrations by Maria Mola
Published by Lee & Low Books Inc.
Age Level: 4-8
Casey loves to play with his blocks, puzzles, and dump truck, and he also loves things that shimmer, glitter, and sparkle. Casey’s older sister, Jessie, thinks this is weird. Shimmery, glittery, sparkly things are only for girls. Right?
When Casey and Jessie head to the library for story time, Casey proudly wears his shimmery skirt and sparkly bracelet. His nails glitter in the light. Jessie insists that Casey looks silly. It’s one thing to dress like this around the house, but going outside as a “sparkle boy” is another thing entirely. What will happen when the other kids see him?
This sweet and refreshing story speaks to us all about acceptance, respect, and the simple freedom to be yourself. Shimmery, glittery, sparkly things are fun—for everyone!
Just looking at the sparkly cover of this book, I was excited to read it. This book has been on our shelves for some time, and we’ve been eager for the chance to share it with you, our readers. While this book does not have as much Latinx content as other books on the list, it is a beautiful story that discusses issues of bullying from a standpoint that demonstrates the importance of family. It also demonstrates the importance of not passing judgments upon others, and shows the value of acceptance and the irrelevance of gender norms in a way that children will understand. Lee & Low books has a teacher’s guide for Sparkle Boy, which I recommend checking out. Enjoy!
Family Poems for Every Day of the Week/Poemas familiares para cada día de la semana
Written by Francisco X Alarcón
Illustrations by Maya Christina González
Published by Lee & Low Books Inc.
Age Level: 4-8
the first day el primer día
of the week is de la semana fue
dedicated to the Sun— dedicado al Sol—
with family around con familia alrededor
it’s always sunny siempre hace sol
on Sunday el domingo
So begins this bilingual collection of poems that takes us through the week day by day. Children spend Sunday visiting their grandparents, play with school friends on Monday, daydream on Tuesday, eat popcorn at the local market on Wednesday, and more, until we arrive at Saturday, when they get to play nonstop all day. Along the way, we also learn how the names of the seven days came to be.
Partly based on the real life experiences of Alarcón’s own family, this festive, celebratory collection of poems highlights the daily life of children while also honoring the experiences of the poet’s Latino family in the United States. With her vibrant illustrations, illustrator Maya Christina Gonzalez has created a loving tribute to childhood, to family, and to Francisco Alarcón, who passed away in January 2016.
This is a beautiful book that illustrates the importance of love and family, and it also highlights the interconnectedness of ancient languages across the world and their connection to all of us today. While reading this book, I was overwhelmed by feelings of comfort and inclusivity. Family Poems for Every Day of the Week / Poemas familiares para cada día de la semana is not explicitly LGBTQIA, however, Francisco X Alarcón identified as gay and this book demonstrates that not all books that honor specific experiences, such as LGBTQIA experiences, need to explicitly label them. Sometimes we can just acknowledge individuality. Maya Christina González is a major promoter of gender rights and she and Alarcón worked on a number of books together. González made a five-week Gender Blog Series, which I recommend checking out. For a more in-depth review of this book, I suggest taking a look at the review that Beverly Slapin wrote for the De Colores blog. Lee & Low Books made a teacher’s guide for this book as well.
¡Eso no es normal!
Written by Mar Pavón
Illustrations by Laure du Faÿ
Published by Nubeocho Ediciones
Age Level: 3 and up
El elefante tenía una trompa larguísima.
Con ella ayudaba a sus amigos,
pero el hipopótamo siempre se burlaba
–¡Eso no es normal!
Pero, ¿Qué es “normal”?
The elephant has a very long trunk.
With it he helps all his friends,
but the hippopotamus always mocks him and says:
“that’s not normal!”
But what is “normal”?
This book was very fun to read and illuminates the special qualities that everyone has to offer, especially those that are less common. As the author and illustrator revealed the fun and ridiculous ways that the elephant used its long trunk, I was laughing out loud. This book is not only fun, but it does a great job at shedding a positive light on our differences and reveals important lessons about treating others with respect. While this book is neither Latin American/Latinx, it is written in Spanish and could be used in the Spanish classroom. And, similar to the preceding title, it does not specifically address LGBTQ issues, its emphasize on accepting individuals can become part of a discussion about how individuality is an important aspect of the LGBTQIA experience — again, one which doesn’t need to be explored with explicit language. I hope you like this book as much as I do!
¡Hola a todos! I want to thank you all for sharing this wonderful space with me. Unfortunately, although also fortunately, this is my last post, as I will be graduating over the summer. I am grateful to have been able to share all of the resources with you, and hope that you enjoy these last ones! J
– Check out this book review of Diary of a Reluctant Dreamer: Undocumented Vignettes from a Pre-American Life by Alberto Ledesma as reviewed by Latinxs in Kid Lit. According to the review, the vignettes “brings penetrating light into the liminal spaces occupied not only by Dreamers, but all undocumented immigrants, and makes a convincing case that their stories deserve a chapter in our national narrative.” After you read the review, you might also want to learn more about how Alberto Ledesma produced the Diary, and if you’re not sure about the book yet, check out De Colores’ review, too.
— Here is New Mexico Artist Agnes Chavez on the importance of art and science education. “Creativity and innovation are core skills that youth need to be ready to thrive in the 21st century,” and according to Chavez they can be attained through both science and art.
– Feliz belated Día de los niños (April 30th)! If you’re not familiar with the day, learn more from acclaimed author Pat Mora, who has been a champion of the event for many years: the History of Día de los niños/Día del libro
— You can view the book review of nipêhon/Wait, by Caitlin Dale Nicholson and Leona Morin-Neilson, shared by American Indians in Children’s Literature. The reviewer expressed that the “inclusion of syllabics in this book is wonderful; it’s great for Native and non-Native kids to see. It’s also an important addition for young (and old!) Cree language learners.”
— In terms of incorporating music into teaching, check out these 10 Jazz Books to connect kids to music by our beloved friend PragmaticMom. I have personally read My name is Celia/ Me llamo Celia by Monica Brown and I loved the book. I hope you do, too!
– Get to know America Reads Spanish Week’s List latest edition (covering April 29th, 2018). The list includes la vida de Selena, a Hispanic music icon, among others.
–For those interested in transnational Latinx social justice, you might want to view how the biggest general strike in American history revived the US working class on May Day.
–Lastly, with Cinco de Mayo happening this weekend, we recommend you read Rethinking School’s informative piece on Rethinking Cinco de Mayo.
Image: Hand. Reprinted from Flickr user Mattias under CC©.