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picture books

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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Evelyn Del Rey Is Moving Away Wins the 2021 Margaret Wise Brown Prize in Children’s Literature

By Awards and news, picture books
On Friday, Hollins University, here in Virginia, announced that my picture book, Evelyn Del Rey is Moving Away, has won the 2021 Margaret Wise Brown Prize in Children's Literature. The honor book this year is Christian Robinson's You Matter (Atheneum 2020). I'm delighted to be honored with Christian whose work I so admire. And I  am so grateful to the many friends and colleagues who sent sweet messages my way as soon as they saw the news on social media. Evelyn Del Rey Is Moving Away has enjoyed success beyond what I could have ever predicted - which goes to prove that, in publishing, your career includes so many things that you can't control. I wrote the book remembering my childhood friends, and I was sure it would be turn out to be a quiet book that would resonate with a core of readers. What I didn't know, of course, was that Covid 19 would upend our lives and make us long for our loved ones in new ways. I didn't know that kids might need an emotional roadmap on how to stay connected with friends. I didn't know that Jumpstart's "Read for the Record" would come along and bring the story to millions of kids. The medal is a beautiful honor also because it's named for Margaret Wise Brown, who graduated from Hollins in 1932, and went on to write Goodnight Moon, The Runaway Bunny, and other children’s classics before she died suddenly, doing a can-can kick that caused an...
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Evelyn Del Rey se muda is an Audie Finalist

By Awards and news, picture books
This week, I got a note from Candlewick telling me that Evelyn Del Rey se muda has been named an Audie finalist in the Spanish language category. The Audie’s are the highest award in audiobooks, and this year they received over 1500 submissions across all categories, the largest amount they have ever received. The news has come at such a poignant time. It has been almost a year since my friend, Teresa Mlawer, the celebrated Spanish language publishing icon, passed away. Even if you’re not up to speed on publishing en español, you’ll recognize her name as the translator of many famous children’s books, like Where the Wild Things Are and Harold and the Purple Crayon. I’m proud to say that she was also the translator of most of my own books, including Evelyn Del Rey se muda, bringing to each work the vocabulary and idioms of Cuban Spanish, the language I hear in my heart whenever I write about family. Evelyn, Teresa told me when we last spoke, was the final book project that she would work on. Many beautiful things have happened to the English edition of Evelyn Del Rey is Moving Away, but I am proud to say, that with Teresa’s fine translation, the Spanish edition has been well-received, too. It was recently named by Bank Street College as one of the best Spanish-language picture books for kids in 2020. And now, of course, we have this unexpected nomination for an Audie. I want to point here to...
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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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A chat with Jennifer Laughran at a.k.a. Literaticast. Take a listen!

By Appearances, Awards and news, Latino Life, picture books, The Writing Life

Last week, I had the pleasure of chatting with literary agent Jennifer Laughran over on her podcast where she chats about all things kidlit with those of us in the industry. If you don’t subscribe, do so fast. Jennifer gathers publishing people from across the spectrum, so you get the benefit of understanding this business from multiple perspectives. For our segment, we talked about Merci Suárez and her family. We chatted about creativity and writing for kids of all ages. We touched on world-building in realistic fiction. I explained the importance of community for me especially in the world of social media. I made a few book recommendations, too, and of course, my dog and writing partner briefly joined the conversation. Happy Monday everyone!

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March Madness – Bookish-style

By Appearances, Latino Life, picture books, The Writing Life

I’ve been writing like a crazy woman against an upcoming deadline for a new middle grade novel. Right now, I’m at the point when I’m turning to algebra for some sort of comfort –which is a stretch, considering that math was always my worst subject. Still, in my head, I keep looping a word problem that goes like this: “Meg has 140 pages written. If she writes 2 pages a day for 3 days per week and then tosses one page a week, when will she reach an arbitrary  (but kind of respectable) number like 250 pages? And, more important, will they be good?” Anyway, I’ve been working fairly close to home since December, which has felt like a blessing. It’s quiet. I have the comfort of my coffee pot, my dog, stretchy pants and fuzzy slippers. I can slip into someone else’s wonderful book when I’m lost. (Thank you Kelly Barnhill for The Girl Who Drank the Moon.) My spring calendar is almost all within the mid Atlantic, too. But there are a few presentations to mention. As I look ahead to March, I have a day trip to Orlando for a Girl Bullying and Empowerment Conference and  a few school visits. (Schedule here). In the spirit of staying close to home, though, I especially wanted to highlight two events that are happening in my area, in case you want to join in. The first is a shared book talk at the University of Richmond with my good friend, Lila…

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Coming your way San Antonio!

By Latino Life, picture books

I’m packing my bags and getting in the mood for my trip to San Antonio this weekend where I’ll meet up with 90 authors for the city’s fabulous one-day, free-and-open-to-the-public book orgy: the San Antonio Book Festival  on Saturday, April 2, 2016. There’s a bunch of kid lit authors scheduled– including some of my very favorite Latino picture book authors and assorted book people. I haven’t crossed paths with a few of these guys in a long while. (I’m looking at you, John Parra and Aurora Anaya Cerda.) So, we’re all a looking forward to our Latino kid lit family reunion. If you’re in San Antonio this weekend, please come by the children’s tent and say hola, que tal. Angela and I will be talking about how we worked together on Mango, Abuela and Me – and we’ll read your little one the story ourselves. (In the meantime, here are some fun facts I found for you about the “most romantic city.” I say that it pays to know what you’re getting into…)          

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In Service to Richmond: How I choose where to go for free

By Appearances, Community work, Latino Life, picture books

Here’s what I know about children’s book writers in my community. We believe that kids matter, and we believe that books and stories help strengthen them and their families. With that in mind every year, I help lead literary events, such as Girls of Summer and YAVA (as in, Young Adult Virginia) at the Richmond Public Library. But I also donate visits to a few schools and community organizations that might not otherwise be able to afford an author visit.  I’ll be doing two of those visits this month. I can’t usually do school visits for free. Like most writers, I keep a roof over my head by cobbling together both advances (which can be years in between) and appearances. Most organizations understand that reality, and they find ways to pay, either through generous PTA groups, grants, partnerships with other organizations, or school improvement funds. Still there are always some that just can’t find the funds. Ay! What do we do then? The task of picking where to go for free is awful, mostly because there are just so many places where economics stand in the way of good things for kids. Also, for me, I always feel the urgent weight of exposing kids to authors from diverse backgrounds. It matters not only because they’d benefit from sharing stories that represent all experiences, but also because meeting an author might inspire kids of color to consider careers in the literary arts, which they may not have considered viable for them, too. (Certainly, we’re not there yet as you can see in Lee…

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Happy Holidays, Mango!

By Awards and news, picture books, The Writing Life

I was one click away from shutting down my computer for the afternoon, when I checked my email to find some good news. Mango, Abuela and Me just got voted a best book by Chicago Public Library for 2015. And only yesterday, Mango also made the Reading Rockets Holiday List for young readers. Nice to think of this book being under someone’s tree or menorah. Thank you, everyone, for reading my work and for admiring Angela’s lovely illustrations. We really appreciate these recommendations!  

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A book birthday – and time to remember las abuelas who inspired the story

By Appearances, picture books, Trailers

Today is the book birthday for Mango, Abuela and Me – my second picture book, so sweetly illustrated by the talented Angela Dominguez.  So far, so good. It has earned very nice reviews and mentions, including stars in Booklist and PW. Plus, I got word last week that it has gone into its first reprinting, so I’m thrilled, to say the least. This time around, I’m delaying the launch a couple of weeks until Sunday, September 13, 2015, 1 PM – 3 PM. That’s when my pal, Gigi Amateau (Two for Joy) and I will do a joint book event at bbgb in Carytown to celebrate our new books and, even more important, National Grandparents Day. According to USA Today, more than 4.9 million kids in America are being raised by their grandparents, a number that basically doubled since 2000. That wasn’t exactly the case for Gigi and me, but our grandmothers helped raise us just the same, and we love them for it. Our own grandmothers are gone, but Grammy, Abuela Bena and Abuela Fefa continue to make impact on us as women, mothers, and authors. Benita Metauten was my mother’s mother. She had an eighth grade education and rolled cigars for a living in her family’s small enterprise. She would eventually marry a bicycle salesman, have four children, and find herself in the US. When she arrived from Cuba in 1968 –her nerves in tatters – I wasn’t sure I’d like her. The worried look on her face and the…

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My new book trailer: Mango, Abuela, and Me

By picture books

Do you need a book trailer? Plenty of authors will say no, but trailers are fun to make, even if you don’t have any visual art skills. The one below was made on i-movie, plain and simple. Personally, I like the exercise of distilling an entire book idea down to a minute or less.  It’s a visual “elevator pitch” and another way to get readers engaged in what’s coming. Anyway, here’s the trailer for my next picture book, Mango, Abuela, and Me, due from Candlewick Press on August 25, 2015. Illustrated by the lovely Angela Dominguez. [wpvideo jpcNNVhC]

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