Welcome Back! Our Reading List for the Year

Dear friends,

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!!

Cheers,
Keira

SEPTEMBER 10th: The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Pérez • Lee & Low Books, 2017 •
Grades 3-6

The First Rule of Punk

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+

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

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+

The Epic Fail

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+

Wild Beauty

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

StepUpToThePlate_final_cover

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 Takes a Breath

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 +

The Poet X

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 + 

The Disturbed Girls DictionaryMacy’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.

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Community Highlight: Anansesem Introduces Starred Review

Anansesem May 2018 Issue Cover.png

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

We’re the People: An Inclusive Summer Reading List

We're the People Summer Reading ListWith the heat wave underway (particularly here in Albuquerque), now is the perfect time to wander inside to cool public libraries.  If you’re ready to move beyond the old set of titles from which to choose, you can search out the less-commonly-recognized but phenomenal titles written and/or illustrated by authors and arts of color.

The search for an inclusive reading list is made all the easier by the recent publication of the “We’re the People” summer guide produced by the following amazing women: Edith Campbell, Sarah Park Dahlen, Sujei Lugo, Lyn Miller-Lachmann, Debbie Reese, and Ebony Elizabeth Thomas. You can read more about how they developed the list at Lyn Miller-Lachman’s blog.

In this annotated list of picture books, middle grade, and young adult, you’ll find, as Lyn writes, “books written and/or illustrated by authors and artists of color — African American, Asian American, Latino, and Native American. Some include LGBTQIA protagonists or protagonists with disabilities. They include contemporary, historical, and speculative fiction as well as graphic novels and nonfiction.”

Intrigued? We certainly were. I have personally added quite a few titles to my already full bookshelves. To see their suggestions for yourself, check out the full guide on the blog Crazi QuiltEdi: Promoting literacy for teens of color one book at a time.

Happy reading,
Keira

TBR Reflections and Reviews~Darkroom: a memoir in black and white

As many of you know, in January I made a resolution to read more books by and about Latinos.  As part of this resolution, I made a list of books that I’d like to read this year.  While I realize that I won’t have time to write full reviews of all of those books, I’d like to be able to at least offer my reflections on those books, so I’ve created a new category of posts: TBR Reflections and Reviews. Continue reading