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middle grade

Summer Reading Solution:  A Ready-Made Author Study Guide for You

By Discussion materials, middle grade, picture books
Summer reading is here – and this year it’s more important than ever to keep kids connected to learning through books and stories. The best way to do that? By making reading come alive beyond the page. That can sound daunting, but don’t worry. I am very proud to share with you a beautifully-prepared author study kit, based on my books, that you can use with your whole family. Everything you need is included. This kit was created by Kass Minor with assistance from The Author Village. Kass is a well-known educator, presenter, and the Executive Director of The Minor Collective. Alongside partnerships with the Teachers College Inclusive Classrooms Project and the New York City Department of Education, since 2005, she’s worked as a teacher, staff developer, adjunct professor, speaker, and documentarian. She also has impressive, kid-friendly, creative mojo! She’s taken five of my titles and designed simple, family-friendly activities to extend the story into your child’s world. You’ll find a plan for taking a walk in your community, recipes from the books to try in your kitchen, templates for sharing letters and postcards, a way to unearth old family stories, and much, much more. I couldn’t be more excited. Reading and writing aren't about levels or tests. They're about what words do inside of us and the worlds they open. The question is always, how does this story mean something to me? How does it connect me to others? What does it make me think about? What does it...
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Free Books: Flash Pre-Order Promotion for Merci Suárez Can’t Dance

By Giveaways, middle grade
Soooooo, the cat is out of the bag thanks to my friend Colby Sharp who made the announcement last night during our conversation on his YouTube channel. My wonderful publisher, Candlewick Press, is doing an exciting preorder incentive for Merci Suárez Can't Dance!" If you pre-order your copy at any retailer, Candlewick will send you a FREE hardback copy of the first Merci adventure, Merci Suárez Changes Gears. Wow! I'm so delighted. So, now - if you haven't gotten around to reading the first book yet, you have the perfect chance to do it. And if you loved the first book, here's a chance to get a copy to share as you continue on the Suárez journey. It's fast and easy. All you have to do is pre-order Merci Suárez Can't Dance at any retailer and then fill in this form. Candlewick will take care of the rest while supplies last. Happy reading!
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A Playlist for Merci Suárez Can’t Dance

By Discussion materials, middle grade
A present for you! Here's a bilingual playlist I pulled together in honor of Merci Suárez Can't Dance, which will be in bookstores on April 6. If you attended the recent Candlewick Press 2021 preview event at ALA in January, you already received this in your virtual goodie bag. But for those of you who weren't at ALA this winter, here's a way to get in the mood for the book's release. All pre-orders at the site of your choice are appreciated, of course. I'll have finals details for you soon about the virtual indie store book tour coming in April, where I'll be talking all things Merci with some of my most admired friends in publishing. If you want a sneak peek at the dates and special guests we know so far, come over to the Events page. Remember, though, more are coming. So on to the music. You might not find all of these songs kid-friendly for students in elementary school, so listen first and pick your favorites. Why did each song make the list? Read on. Maybe readers will make their own list? I'd love to know what they'd put on their own playlist. Enjoy! Songlist X/ Artist:  Jonas Brothers, featuring Karol G I’m sure this was on the DJ’s playlist at the Heart Ball. You can find a performance of this on You Tube that features some great dance moves that Merci would struggle with, for sure! Con Calma/ Artist:  Daddy Yankee The twins and Lolo love to...
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A Two-for-One ARC Giveaway

By Appearances, Giveaways, middle grade
It feels good when someone says they’re happy to see you, doesn't it? That’s true in my social life, and it’s true in my book life, too. That’s why I’m so happy to have my upcoming novel, Merci Suárez Can’t Dance on Kirkus’s list of Most Anticipated Books of 2021. It officially pubs on April 6. Here’s the thing. The days leading up to bringing a new book into the world are always nerve-wracking, no matter how long you’ve been writing. Will your readers like it? Is it on par with your other books? Is a critic out there going to grind it into dust? Those questions have been on my mind even more than usual for Merci Suárez Can’t Dance, mostly because it’s a sequel to Newbery-winning Merci Suárez Changes Gears. A while back, Travis Jonker did a 20-year survey of Newbery titles for School Library Journal to see how many had sequels or prequels. It turns out, plenty of authors have written sequels to their Newbery winners, but I wonder if any of them worried like I did as they were drafting. The first problem I ran into was my writing process, which has always been largely intuitive. Typically, I start with a character and a rough idea for a conflict, and then I draft my way into the story until a plot starts to take shape. This time, though, I saw that I would finally need some sort of outline to help keep track of what happened in...
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4 Recipes for Hispanic Heritage Month – All Inspired By My Books

By Cuban Cooking, Latino Life, middle grade, picture books
I know lots of friends have been reading my books during Hispanic Heritage month. Since you're home, maybe you'd like to try some recipes - straight from the pages of some of my picture books and novels? From Merci Suárez Changes Gears Café con leche is Merci and Lolo’s breakfast drink. Cuban coffee is basically espresso that is heavily presweetened. To make a proper con leche, brew your espresso in whatever type of machine you use. (Here below is my collection.)  My mom used to put 2 – 3 tsp of sugar in the percolator, but some folks add it to the coffee after it has percolated. To finish, heat equal parts milk and add to the coffee. Another variation – cheating a bit, but it was Tía Isa’s favorite. She called it, simply, “la leche.”  Heat a mug of milk, adding 2 tsp of sugar. Then dissolve 1 T of instant espresso into the milk. Batidos are smoothies, basically, with a creamy backdrop. Lolo loves batidos de mamey or batidos de piña, but here’s a recipe using strawberries and bananas, which are easier to find. Tía Inés was probably the expert at these. Ingredients: 1 c strawberries with the tops sliced off 1 banana 1 T sweetened condensed milk 1 T sugar 1 T fresh lime juice 1 ½ c crushed ice Put all ingredients in a blender and garnish with a cut strawberry. Other fruits to try when the summer months return: a mix of watermelon and papaya...
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Lolo meets Grandpa Ray: A Rick and Merci Suárez Changes Gears Mash-up – plus swag!

By Guests, middle grade, picture book, middle grade, YA, Pre-order giveaway
I’ve always loved birthdays, especially book birthdays. They’re even better when you share them with a friend. That’s what’s happening next month. Merci Suárez Changes Gears appears en rústica (paperback) with its beautiful new art on April 7. (Thanks again, Joe Cepeda!)    Rick, the follow-up to George by Stonewall award-winner (and my book pal) Alex Gino, pubs on April 21. It has been starred in Kirkus, SLJ, PW, and Booklist! Both our books take a close look at friendships, bullies, and beloved grandpas. Which got Alex and me thinking:  What would happen if two of our characters – Lolo and Grandpa Ray – met in person? We were sure they’d have a lot to say about their grandkids, memories and secrets, so we decided to… um… listen in. Check it out, and read about our pre-order swag below!  The Scene: Lake Worth Beach pier, in Lake Worth Beach, Florida.  It is February and the sand is crowded with tourists, young families and their children, who are making sand castles or skim-boarding at the shore. Overlooking the sand is the paved walkway with benches. Two older gentlemen, LOLO (aka Leopoldo Suárez) and GRANDPA RAY (aka Raymond Ramsey) sit on either end of a bench along the walkway, facing the ocean. They are watching the waves and enjoying the roller bladers, the dogs racing for frisbees, the woot of the people fishing far out at the end of the pier. LOLO, white haired and wearing a Sol Painting, Inc. baseball cap, is digging...
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A Teachers’ Guide on steroids, in the best way possible.

By Discussion materials, middle grade, Schuyler VanValkenburg, Teachers' Guide, The Writing Life

Candlewick Press sent along their hot-off-the-press Teachers’ Guide for Merci Suárez Changes Gears. The former teacher inside me is going to gush here. It’s fabulous, and that’s because it’s written by a super-charged educator and reading coach. The questions and activities across the curriculum are smart and get the kids talking, thinking, and working on everything from Ancient Egypt to the social dynamics of their school. So I’m sending a big applause to Kellee Moye, a middle-school reading coach and teacher from Orlando, Florida. Kellee is the coauthor of the blog Unleashing Readers, a member of the 2016–2018 ALAN Board of Directors, a member of NCTE, ALAN, and ALA, the chair of the 2014 Amelia Elizabeth Walden Book Award committee, and her school’s 2017–18 Teacher of the Year. Here it is as a pdf [ MerciSuárez_TG ]for you to download. Or you can follow the link at the top of the article. Either way, I think folks who’ll be using the book in their classrooms next fall will find something useful. OK, next stop… Massachusetts!

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Events! Events! Events! Join me in Las Vegas, New York City or Washington DC

By Appearances, Awards and news, middle grade, The Writing Life, young adult

I’ve recently had several glorious weeks filled with family, local friends, beautiful spring weather and time to write. It’s been wonderful. BUT, I will be hitting the road again soon and I so hope to see you in one of my upcoming events. If you’re near Las Vegas on May 29th and 30th, join Padma Venkatraman, Phil Bildner and me at the 2019 Summit on Teaching YA Literature at the University of Nevada. Next up, I’ll be jetting to New York City for this year’s ever-popular BookCon on June 1st! Join Tracey Baptiste, Soman Chainani, Raina Telgemeier and me for a conversation about the very best in middle grade. Soon after, I will be in the best company with my friends and well-respected authors Elizabeth Acevedo and Robin Benway for an evening conversation at Politics & Prose Bookstore at the Wharf. We’ll chat about our writing and how our personal experiences and recent awards have influenced our work. See you there? Check out my calendar of events for more details and other upcoming dates. Until then, I’ll have my head down working and enjoying my family and, of course, taking long walks with Hugo.    

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Coming Up: Sunny California for the L.A. Times Festival of Books

By Appearances, middle grade, The Writing Life, young adult

Sunny California, here I come. I’m in town for this weekend’s LA Times Festival of Books and I couldn’t be more excited. Come say hello! Here’s where you can find me: On Sunday at 11am I’ll be on a YA panel with friends and fabulous authors Ibi Zoboi and Elizabeth Acevedo:  “Young Adult Fiction: Writing the Real World, Conversation 2101.” We’ll be in the very good hands of Claudette S. McLinn, as moderator, who is the executive director of the Center for the Study of Multicultural Children’s Literature. Later that day, I’ll “change gears” (ha!) and chat with three wonderful authors Marie Cruz, Karyn Parsons, and Lisa Ramee for the “Middle Grade Fiction: Grown Up Challenges” panel at 1:30pm. My friend and Hamline MFA colleague Brandi Colbert will be our moderator. Besides these panels, I can’t wait to meet up with fellow authors, librarians and, most of all, READERS! And, of course, enjoy some delicious California cuisine… See you there!

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