Community Highlight: Anansesem Introduces Starred Review

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Hi all,

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.

Happy reading,
Keira

Catching our Breath and Celebrating the Américas Award

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?!). person-2468249_1920Yet 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 FreedomRubén 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).

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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.

Happy reading,
Keira

Mira, Look: Photographic, The Life of Graciela Iturbide

photographicSaludos a todxs,

Today’s post will highlight a recently-released graphic novel about which we are very excited: Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide, written by Isabel Quintero and illustrated by Zeke Peña. We’re thrilled to see this book released from Getty Publications, but we have yet to hold it in our hands. So, our full review is pending. Instead, we’re offering this preview inspired by the author’s and illustrator’s upcoming visit to Albuquerque! If you’re in town, save the date for April 10th, when they’ll be speaking at Hodgin Hall on UNM’s campus!!!

This beautiful graphic novel is available as the English edition (linked above) and as a full, Spanish-language edition called Iguana Lady: La vida de Graciela Iturbide. The novel documents the life and work of the Mexican photographer Graciela Iturbide.

Direct from the publisher, here is a summary of the book:

“Graciela Iturbide was born in Mexico City in 1942, the oldest of thirteen children. When tragedy strikes Graciela as a young mother, she turns to photography for solace and understanding. From then on Graciela embarks on a photographic journey that takes her throughout her native Mexico, from the Sonora Desert to Juchitán to Frida Kahlo’s bathroom, to the United States, India, and beyond. Photographic is a symbolic, poetic, and deeply personal graphic biography of this iconic photographer. Graciela’s journey will excite young readers and budding photographers who will be inspired by her resolve, talent, and curiosity.”

The J. Paul Getty Museum’s website has videos that document Iturbide’s work as a photographer, the process for how Quintero and Peña put together this beautiful graphic novel, and also classroom resources to help share the book with students. The website also provides a thoughtful, extensive digital preview of the text as part of the educator resources.photographic_preview (1)_Page_04

In addition, Getty has also put together:

Our copies are already on the way, so we’ll be back in the near future to share a full review with you.

In the meantime, we’ll dwell for a moment on Quintero and Peña as the creators behind this fascinating publication.

Here on our blog we have highlighted Isabel Quintero as a Featured Author. We have also reviewed and created an educator’s guide for her first YA novel, Gabi: A Girl in Pieces. It is one of the absolute favorites among our local book group! She’s also written the recently-released Ugly Cat and Pablo for younger readers, among other essays and poems. Her work is always incredible, be it lighthearted or gritty, as you can read more about in this article, “Author Visit REHASH: Isabel Quintero, YA, and Children’s Writer (and Poet!)” from this blog on children’s literature run by English & Comparative Lit department at SDSU.

 

Pages from photographic_previewZeke Peña likewise holds a place in our hearts. He is the illustrator behind Photographic and also the illustrator behind the hand-drawn sketches and collages in Gabi. Peña, a cartoonist and painter from El Paso, Texas, writes on his website that, “Most of my work is inspired by living on the border and remixes historical narratives with what’s going on today. I use comics to subvert American history and reclaim stories that were burned by colonialism; resistencia one cartoon at a time.” You can learn more about how identity is forefront in his work in this article by Remezcla, “The river holds our history: Artist Zeke Peña Traces the Rio Grande’s Place in Fronterizo Identity.

We hope that this post inspires you to explore this work of art more thoroughly; we know we are excited to read it!

Saludos,
Kalyn & Keira

March 16, 2018 | Week in Review

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Saludos a todxs,

As the week draws to a close, we are pleased to share our findings from happenings related to Latinx narratives, children’s literature, and multicultural education, but first we acknowledge the humbling power and strength of the many students and teachers who marched, stood, or took a knee this week to protest shootings within schools. To be inspired by the students’ actions and to fit them within a larger history of social protest by youth, visit the Zinn Education Project on Twitter.

~ Keira

  • We start with a piece from the NYTimes: “Black Kids Don’t Want to Read About Harriet Tubman All the Time.” It’s an article that resonates with a lot of our internal conversations here at Vamos a Leer. The author, Denen Millner, acknowledges the advances in making children’s literature more inclusive, but critiques the industry’s ongoing tendency to focus on the mirror images of “degradation and endurance” of her people. She writes, “You can fill nearly half the bookshelves in the Schomburg with children’s books about the civil rights movement, slavery, basketball players and musicians, and various “firsts.” These stories consistently paint African-Americans as the aggrieved and the conquerors, the agitators and the superheroes who fought for their right to be recognized as full human beings…Meanwhile, stories about the everyday beauty of being a little human being of color are scarce.”
  • Following up on last week’s article we shared on  What Do the Allegations Against Sherman Alexie Mean for Native Literature?,  now we draw your attention to Booktoss’ analysis of “The Single Story of ‘Part-Time Indian'” and related resources for expanding your bookshelf’s collection of indigenous writers for young readers. p.s. if you haven’t already, definitely take a moment to watch the TED talk with Chimamanda Adichie!
  • Lee & Low’s blog, The Open Book, is offering an ongoing series exploring what culturally responsive teaching looks like at different grade levels, and offering concrete examples and resources to go along with that. This week, they focused on Grade 4: Studying Informational Text .
  • Also from The Open Book, an interview featuring Maya Christina Gonzalez on Honoring Francisco X. Alarcón and Family. “Released last fall from the Children’s Book Press imprint of LEE & LOW BOOKS, Family Poems for Every Day of the Week/Poemas familiares para cada día de la semana is a celebratory collection of poems that highlights the daily life of children every day of the week while also honoring the experiences of Latino poet Francisco X. Alarcón, who passed away in January 2016. We interviewed illustrator Maya Christina Gonzalez about the important role that family and friends play in Family Poems for Every Day of the Week and what the creative process was like.”
  • From the amazing Jacqueline Woodson’s Twitter feed, we were tuned into this feature of Slam Poet Elizabeth Acevedo Debuts Novel, ‘The Poet X’.When asked what gave her the idea to write the novel, Acevedo responds with ” I was teaching eighth grade English Language Arts at a school with a high population of students of Latin American descent. One day, one of my students asked me why we never read books with students that looked like her and her classmates. I decided to write a book for her, and her classmates, and my younger self, and my best friend, for anyone who wants to read a story from a place that feels familiar.” Definitely a new #TBR for us here at Vamos a Leer!
  • Dwelling for a moment on Acevedo, here’s another review of the book and its impact for reclaiming heritage for young adult readers. “While struggles with faith, family, and self-acceptance are not unique teenage experiences, it is their presentation through the lens of Xiomara’s Afro-Latina heritage that makes her story a startling standout. “
  • Edi Rodríguez at CrazyQuiltEdit tackled the issues of #kidlitwomen in two recent posts titled Black Girls Economics in Young Adult Fiction and Black Girls Economics in Young Adult Fiction part 2 or This is What Marley Dias Was Talking About, a sobering reminder of how little representation and opportunities exist for authors of color. This series is part of her March effort to celebrate “Women’s History month with 31 days of posts focused on improving the climate for osical and gender equality in the children’s and teens’ industry.” She invites everyone to join the conversation on her blog or follow on Twitter via #kidlitwomen. She opens her post on Black Girls Economics with this poignant quote from Jacqueline Woodson, “What am I going to do about a time of my life in which the brilliance of Black girls had no mirror?”
  • Continuing with the theme of #KidLitWomen, Debbie Reese of American Indians in Children’s Literature is running a “campaign to lift Indigenous women who have written books for children and teens.” Visit her blog to be inspired, open your mind to new writers, and benefit from her hard work in compiling amazing titles from which you can choose. As she notes in the conclusion to her March 10th post on the topic: “I made an Indigenous #KidLitWomen pdf for you that has book titles on it, plus some gorgeous covers! Right after the book title is the name of the Native woman. In parenthesis is that woman’s nation, followed by the publisher and year the book was published. Here’s what it looks like (and beneath the image of it, you’ll see the book list), but hit that pdf link and print it out as many times as you want! Take it with you to the book store, to the library… to your next book club meeting!”
  • We’re a bit late catching wind of this resource, but still couldn’t resist sharing: 21 Books for an Inclusive Read Across America Day. It starts with Yo Soy Muslim, which we recently reviewed here, as well as many of our other favorite titles, such as Drum Dream Girl, Separate is Never Equal, Mama’s Nightingale, and more!
  • Similarly, we wish we’d found this sooner, but it maintains its power today, because every month should be Black History Month! From The Conscious Kid, Black Books Matter: Children’s Books Celebrating Black Boys. This is a “curated list of children’s books celebrating Black boys, in partnership with Moms of Black Boys United. These books center, reflect, and affirm Black boys, and were written and illustrated by Black authors and artists.
  • Finally, if you’re in the New York area in April, you might consider registering for The Color of Children’s Literature Conference organized by Kweli, an online magazine whose “mission is to nurture emerging writers of color and create opportunities for their voices to be recognized and valued….[their] vision is for a world where the narratives being told reflect the truth of our histories and the possibilities for our future.”

Author’s Corner:

Saludos a todxs,

Our Vamos a Leer book group meets this evening to discuss the young adult novel, The Only Road, by Alexandra Diaz.

While we always want to take a moment to highlight the authors being read in our local meetings, Diaz has special significance for us because she’s right here in New Mexico with us as a resident of Santa Fe!

In describing herself, Diaz writes that all her life she has had “an overactive imagination [which] had her making up stories at an early age and led to getting an MA in Writing for Young People from Bath Spa University. The daughter of Cuban refugees, she is a native Spanish speaker who currently lives in Santa Fe, NM.”

Beyond that succinct summary, we can add that she is the author of several young adult novels which have been well received. Her most recent book, The Only Road, was designated as a Pura Belpré Honor Book and an Américas Award Winner in 2017. As the publisher writes, “Inspired by true events, The Only Road is an individual story of a boy who feels that leaving his home and risking everything is his only chance for a better life. It is a story of fear and bravery, love and loss, strangers becoming family, and one boy’s treacherous and life-changing journey.” It some ways, it reads as an even younger version of Enrique’s Journey, although here we learn of Jaime and his sister, Ángela, as they come northward from Guatemala to escape the violence surrounding his family.

Here at Vamos a Leer, we found that Diaz had managed an interesting feat – she had taken the harrowing, traumatic experiences of youth migrants and somehow tempered their story for younger readers. In reviewing the book for Latinxs in Kid Lit, Cris Rodes highlights Diaz’s decision to write the text for young readers, noting that while its gritty attention to reality may make it difficult for younger readers, they should nonetheless be given the chance to appreciate this novel. The harsh details of the story are smoothed, Chris writes, “with familiar stylistic choices and tropes of children’s and middle-grade texts. From its large print and short chapters, to the straightforward, albeit lyrical language, this text remains easily accessible to young readers.”

According to an interview with KidLit441, Diaz acknowledges that the idea for the book came from her editor, writing that “A few years ago there was a huge wave of unaccompanied immigrant children arriving into the U.S. when previously it had been the adults who would immigrate and then send for their families later on. This wave was sparked in part by violent gangs taking over villages in Central America and forcing children into their gangs, or being killed. My editor knew that someone had to write these children’s story and I was asked to do it. As the daughter of Cuban refugees, immigration is something that I have grown up with and it close to my heart. Even though my parents’ experience was different than what is happening today, at the core the stories are the same—having to leave your home for a new place because it’s the only choice.”

It’s perhaps that last point which captures most accurately why the book drew us in – Diaz’s ability to speak to a sense of shared humanity. This is a book to balance out the apathetic or dismissive news headline, and instead draw out an empathetic understanding of youth migrants.

Best,
Keira

 


Image: Photo credit to Owen Benson. Reprinted via KidLit441.

March 2, 2018 | Week in Review

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Hello, all,

Here are a few resources that caught our eye in the past week from the world of diversity in children’s literature. Enjoy!

  • Junot Díaz has revealed his tour dates for his children’s book, ISLANDBORN. This is Díaz’s first venture into children’s books and he’s started off splendidly with this ” picture book [that] celebrates cultural diversity in the U.S. and poses questions about identity and belonging, as Díaz tells the story of a young girl’s imaginary journey back to her birthplace: ‘The Island.'”
  • Dolly Parton is known for many things, but not everyone knows she’s dedicated to promoting literacy in her home community. Just this week, she announced that she’s donated her 100 millionth book and has started a new partnership with the Library of Congress. Learn more on her website.
  • Latinx in Kid Lit shared a cover reveal for Bookjoy, Wordjoy, a new children’s book out by writer Pat Mora and illustrator Raúl Colón from Lee & Low Books.
  • From the blog, Blog on the Hyphen, we came across this great list of 10 Contemporary Afro-Latino Authors to Know. Regardless that Black History Month is officially over, these authors should still be making their way to your TBR list.
  • We’re excited to share Lee & Low’s news that they’re starting the Más Pinata collection as part of their Bebop Books imprint. “Más Piñata is a series of leveled books for Emerging and Beginning Readers, available in both Spanish and English. Más Piñata offers rich, culturally-relevant stories that support meaningful literacy development in guided reading and biliteracy settings.”
  • Lastly, De Colores shared a beautiful review of Jorge Argueta’s latest book, Agua, Aguita / Water, Little Water, written alongside illustrator Felipe Ugalde Alcántara  “…for the great beauty and teaching that it encompasses, Agua, Agüita / Water, Little Water / At Achichipiga At is highly recommended.”

Cheers,
Keira

February 23, 2018 | Week in Review

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Hello, all,

I’m with you for one more week while Alin is away. It’s a treat for me to contribute here at Vamos a Leer. I hope you enjoy reading the resources as much as I enjoyed gathering them. Be well and have a good weekend!

  • Have you heard about the Children’s Africana Book Award, or CABA? It’s much like the Américas Award, but with a focus on Africa. In February, CABA is inviting readers everywhere to choose any week during the month as a “Read Africa Week.”  They “invite teachers, librarians, parents, and concerned adults to kick off Black History Month with great books about Africa and continue reading about Africa all year.”  Learn more at the CABA website, where they offer recommendations and reviews to get you started.
  • An NPR segment on February 19th focused on teaching about slavery using the Zinn Education Project.  As the Zinn Education Project reports, “the segment addressed the question of ‘How Do You Teach Slavery?’ with Adam Sanchez, Zinn Education Project curriculum writer/teacher organizer. Sanchez, who has written extensively about teaching people’s history, is a high school U.S. history teacher and Rethinking Schools editor. Also on the show were Hasan Kwame Jeffries, chair of the Teaching Tolerance ‘Teaching Hard History’ Advisory Board and associate professor of history at Ohio State University, and Maureen Costello, director of Teaching Tolerance, Southern Poverty Law Center. The 1A show focused on a new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center called ‘Teaching Hard History: American Slavery.’ The one-hour show is streaming online.”
  • With Black Panther sweeping the nation, some educators are curious about how to bring it into the classroom. One teacher did just that, designing a curriculum for “students who are seeing Black Panther, as a means to having them engage more critically and thoughtfully with the film. The curriculum assumes that students…have previous experience studying the African continent, its diversity, and colonialism.” To read Tess Raser’s curriculum for 5th-8th grades (and adaptable to high school), check out her Black Panther Film Movie Companion for Middle Grades.
  • Author Lyn Miller-Lachmann recently wrote a blog piece on “Seven Asian American Authors Speak Out,” recounting an afternoon when “more than 100 people, mostly teens and young adults” packed together in a room to hear Asian American authors discussing the writing experience and what it meant to find, read, and then write books with characters whose stories matched their own lives. As Miller-Lachmann observed, “The panelists offered fascinating insights from their experiences as well as valuable advice for all writers, whether they write own voices stories or develop characters from outside their personal experiences.”
  • Bustle recently highlighted the cultural invisibility of Afro-Latinx cultures by publishing a piece on How Afro-Latinx People Made Huge Contributions to Black History – Then Got Erased. “As scholars Juan Flores and Miriam Jimenez Roman write in the journal Latin American and Caribbean Ethnic Studies, ‘the groups are presented as adversarial and mutually exclusive: either you are Latino [sic] or you are Black.’ Often times, celebrations of Black History Month follow this paradigm, without recognizing Afro-Latinx people as foundational to Black history.”
  • NPR shared a piece on “Afro-Latino Musical Traditions,” which you can listen to anytime. “You can hear it there. African culture is embedded in the beats and rhythms of Latin America. And this is Black History Month.”
  • Last week we shared that Houghton Mifflin Harcourt launch Versify, a new diversity imprint. This week we learned that Penguin Young Readers is treading the same path, launching a new imprint “called Kokila, that will focus on diverse books for children and young adults….authors and illustrators already set to be published under the Kokila imprint include Pablo Cartaya, Sherine Hamdy, Myra El-Mir, Isabel Quintero, Zeke Peña, John Corey Whaley, Calista Brill, and Nilah Magruder.” Some of our favorites and TBR authors are on this list, so we’re excited to see what new books come to our shelves!

 

Cheers,
Keira


Image: Beadwork from KwaZulu-Natal, a province in South Africa. Reprinted from Flickr user Karen Lotter under CC©.