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AppearancesCommunity workWhat I'm Reading
June 6, 2022

Wanna Be In My Book Club?

Nothing means summer more to me than reading outside. Whether at the pool, park or beach, it’s been a life-long passion and a way that I reset. The summer is when I dive into the books that truly appeal to me, instead of the ones that I dutifully read for reviews, presentations or teaching. At last, no one is looking over my shoulder or expecting anything! If I could wish anything for kids after a long, hard school year, it would be that same feeling of freedom to read what feels right. That same feeling of escape. So, this year, I’m going to carve a little bit of time to share that summer reading love with kids in my own community. I’m partnering with Henrico County Public Libraries for a tween book club where I’ll meet with readers to talk about what we’re reading. I’ve curated a list of book suggestions for kids in 4 – 6th grade or so (see the beautiful covers below). It includes some of my favorite well-known names, but also titles by authors who might be new to them. And, of course, I’ve made sure the list is inclusive. If you live in the Richmond community, I hope you’ll stop by one of my five book talk dates – or all of them, if you like. I’ll discuss different titles each time, and have the kids weigh in, and offer suggestions based on what they’ve been reading. Yes, I’ll have snacks and giveaways. Maybe even…
#LetsStayConnectedWhat I'm Reading
February 8, 2021

Let’s Connect: My New Bookshop page

Hi everybody! I've been such a Goodreads failure over the years, but it has never stopped me from wanting to offer readers more connection with my books and my reading tastes in a simpler, quicker way. So this weekend, my fabulous assistant, Kerri, and I worked on a super easy page for Meg Medina Books. I hope you'll visit from time to time, not only to see my books, but also to see what I'm reading and recommending. My first two specialty shelves are the Latinx Sampler and Favorite Writing Books. I'll be updating those frequently, so check back. As always, I hope you'll first consider making your purchases directly from your local indie bookseller. But for online shoppers looking for an alternative, here's a way to get 10% back from the purchase to indies. Happy reading! *Disclosure: Bear in mind that Bookshop links are affiliate links and if you use them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. I post them for your convenience and hope you will make your purchases where you are most comfortable. 
AppearancesWhat I'm Reading
February 1, 2021

Celebrate with Your Favorite Authors on World Read Aloud Day

It’s World Read Aloud Day this Wednesday, February 3. I hope you’re planning to take some time to read aloud to your favorite kid this week – in person, by Zoom, or in whatever way you can manage. And do the voices – no skimping! I’d be very honored if you chose one of my picture books, in English or Spanish, but any good book will do.   And just in case you're rusty, here are some tips on how to up your reading game from Reading Rockets. The celebration isn't just for the picture book set. To honor World Read Aloud Day – and give you some ideas for your bookshelves ­­‑ a few book friends and I will be on Kate Messner’s site this week doing five-minute readings of titles due out in 2021. I'll be previewing Merci Suárez Can't Dance, coming soon on April 6. The whole thing runs just under an hour, I think. So, follow #WorldReadAloudDay on twitter and bookmark this link to Kate's site on Wednesday when the video posts. Thanks, Kate, for the gracious invitation! Also keeping me busy this week is a school visit with students through Brooklyn Public Library  – virtually – of course. (In person visits? Fuggedaboudit for a while.) I'll also be marking the start of Black History month. I'm always on the fence about these designated months, like Hispanic Heritage Month and Women's History month. We should be reading inclusively all year long and encouraging those habits in young…
What I'm Reading
January 4, 2021

Three brand new titles that warmed my winter break

I'm back from two glorious weeks of  baked goods and hours spent on the sofa reading for pleasure. Part of my holiday haul always includes new books from the past year. This time around, I received Mexican Gothic, Furia and The Enigma Game, all of which I'll be savoring in the coming days. But first, I wanted to give a shoutout to three titles that were part of my couch vacation and that are due out in the next few weeks. Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo (YA; Dutton, Jan 2021):  I've been a fan of Malinda Lo's fantasy novels for a good while, but here she turns her storytelling skills to historical fiction, immersing us in San Francisco during the late 1950s. Lily Hu is in her last year of high school, a girl who dreams of space exploration – and exploring her own sexual identity as a lesbian. The novel weaves in so much erased history, not only about San Francisco's Chinatown community, but of LGBTQ Asian women, early space exploration and US/China relations. It's a hefty read, but one that is meticulously researched and told with unflinching honesty. Here's Malinda talking about Last Night...     Love is a Revolution by Renée Watson (YA; Bloomsbury, Feb 2021):  This is a sweet YA love story set in Harlem, one that follows high school senior Nala through a hot crush on Tye, a handsome social justice warrior she meets through her cousin, Imani. What's the trouble?…
Latino LifeWhat I'm Reading
September 15, 2019

Some titles for Hispanic Heritage Month

Repeat after me:  "I will read works by Latinx authors throughout the year." It goes without saying that good books are good books - any time of the year. And yet, I know it's Hispanic Heritage Month, September 15 through October 15. So, here's a quick look at a few hot-of-the-press works that I think you might want to pick up. Dancing Hands by Margarita Engle and illustrated by Rafael López (picture book, August 2019) The Gumazing Gum Girl: Book 4 Cover Blown by Rhode Montijo (chapter book, October 2019) Strange Birds:  A Field Guide to Ruffling Feathers by Celia Pérez (middle grade, September 2019) The Fresh New Face of Griselda by Jennifer Torres  (middle grade, August 2019) Each Tiny Spark by Pablo Cartaya (middle grade, August 2019) The Other Half of Happy by Rebecca Barcarcel (middle grade, August 2019) The Truth Is by NoNieqa Ramos (young adult, September 2019) For more great title ideas all year long (remember, you promised,) visit my go-to site for the latest in Latinx kid lit:
AppearancesChapter BooksMiddle GradePicture BooksWhat I'm ReadingYoung Adult
June 26, 2019

Summer reads on the airwaves in a city near you

So, I’ll be on a radio tour for the next couple of weeks, which I love, since it involves zero travel and lots of time to talk books. They’ve asked me to recommend a few summer reads, both older and new. Here’s the list of titles I’m drawing from. I won’t be able to talk about all of them every time, but I hope to plug each of them at some point. Check out the list of stations on my events page and tune in if you can! Picture Books A Big Mooncake for Little Star by Grace Lin Hello Lighthouse by Sophie Blackall Papi Has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero and illustrated by Zeke Peña Under My Hijab by Hena Khan and illustrated by Aaliya Jaleel Bilal Cooks Daal by Aisha Saeed and illustrated by Anoosha Syed  Chapter Books and Early Middle Grade A Boy Called Bat by Elana Arnold (other titles in series: Bat and the Waiting Game and Bat and the End of Everything) Juana and Lucas: Big Problemas by Juana Medina (other titles in series: Juana and Lucas) The Magnificent Mya Tibbs by Crystal Allen (other titles in series: Spirit Week Showdown and The Wall of Fame Game) Dory Fantasmagory by Abby Hanlon (four books in series; next installment this fall.) Middle Grade The Last-Last Day of Summer by Lamar Giles Silver Meadows Summer by Emma Otheguy The Benefits of Being an Octopus by Ann Braden New Kid by Jerry Craft The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson The True History of Lyndie B. Hawkins by Gail Shepherd…
May 1, 2017

What the real reading heroes look like

I’ve talked about soft censorship of my novel, Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass all over the country: how the book isn’t purchased at all, or is kept with the librarians, or is shared with only a select group of kids. And of course, I occasionally still get comments on my website that look like this: Still, it’s been a while since I’ve seen a full-on challenge that required so much time and advocacy on the part of teachers and school leaders. Last week, I had the pleasure of spending the day at South County Middle School in Lorton, VA, where the entire eighth grade read Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass. They invited me as a visiting author to talk with the students about the book. A welcome gift: a charm bracelet honoring the novel South County Middle School is in Fairfax County, one of the most forward thinking municipalities in my state. The school is basically a little jewel, too. Clean building. Peaceful vibe. Decent kids from all backgrounds. Teachers who get giddy talking about new teaching ideas. Parents who show up for virtually everything. As schools go, it doesn’t get much better. So, it’s interesting to me that it’s also the place where use of my novel was so hotly debated. It was officially challenged by a small group of parents in a fight that dragged on and made its way up through the ranks of the School Board. The fearless team. Ms. Manning is…
July 21, 2014

Fan trailers: Thanks Melissa Hanes!

I took a beautiful ride to Farmville, VA last week to be part of Longwood University's Summer Literacy Institute. What can you say about a couple hundred teachers, librarians, and library science students gathering in the summer to study strategies for helping people fall in love with reading? These are educators with true passion for books and kids. After the regional authors presented on Friday morning, we had a chance to workshop with the participants on a topic of our choice. (My session was on making zines with kids.) A.B.Westrick admiring a poster about her debut novel, Brotherhood An unexpected treat was seeing how the library science students researched our work and created posters. One of the posters for my work included links to two original trailers for my books. Here are the Vimeo links Melissa Hanes' trailers for  Tia Isa Wants a Car and Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass. Thank you, Melissa! It was fun to see your mini-movies! All in all, it was a beautiful experience, so thank you Professors Wendy Snow, Francis Reeves, Audrey Church and friends.) Big shout out, too, for  L.M. Elliott, and Jason Wright, new author friends from Virginia. Happy summer!        
AppearancesThe Writing LifeUncategorized
February 26, 2013

A True Bienvenidos

A warm welcome! I spent a wonderful morning at Good Shepherd Episcopal School visiting with students from Pre-K through the eighth grade. It is so exciting to find schools like this where  the students are so obviously honored and loved. Favorite comment: On hearing that my tía Isa was actually a terrible driver:  "Your next book should be Tía Isa Goes to the Emergency Room." Three best questions: Do you ever find that you accidentally put pieces of one story in another story? How do you know if your idea should be a book? (With a worried look.) Is your tía Isa still driving on the streets? Most touching event: Chef Sue (who cooks homemade from organic produce every day for these sweet kids) made me "lechon" (pulled Cuban pork), white rice and black beans, so that I could enjoy un buen almuerzo. We even had merengues for dessert.  (A big hit. "Yum! You got this cookie right," said one of the third graders.) A Cuban feast for school lunch! Chef Sue! Best slang I taught them: ¡Pin Pan Pun! (rollaway bed) Happiest coincidence: Señora Cardounel, the  Spanish teacher, is from Cuba, too. We chatted in Spanish and swapped lots of stories. I hope she'll visit me soon. The fabulous Mrs. Dysart Thank you, Ms. Dysart and all the lovely faculty and students at Good Shepherd! If I had to go to school again, I would want to go to a place just like Good Shepherd.
December 11, 2012

My Day in DC

Here's a little photo-journal of my recent day in Washington with The Open Book Foundation where I worked with Kindergarten, second grade and eighth grade. Who can resist these young people? So bright and sweet! Adorable in every way. If you had your own car, what color would it be? Where would it take you? One of the eighth grade students becoming acquainted with magical realism... autographing for the students... You spell your name how? The Open Book Foundation arranges with the publisher to have each child receive an autographed copy of the author's book. The Foundation arranges with the publisher to have each student receive a free book by the author. Reading en español...
September 10, 2012

Are You a Superhero of Culture? Guest blog by author Hester Bass

Sept. 22 - 23, 2012 at the Washington Mall The National Book Festival is just around the corner, and I plan to attend for the first time. I love visiting DC, so it was an easy decision to plan a day at the National Mall that celebrates all things literary. What's not to love about a fall day with nothing to do but meet authors and find out about new books?    In preparation for the fun, I'm happy to introduce you to one of the authors I'll be visiting. Hester Bass is a fellow Candlewick author and a downright lovely person. We met last year at the Ezra Jack Keats Awards, where the work of Gulf Coast artist Walter Anderson and Hester's  beautiful picture book about him (The Secret World of Walter Anderson, illustrated by E. B. Lewis) were the subjects of an exhibit during the festivities.  Please look for her Saturday, September 22, from 10 a.m. until 5:30 p.m.,  at the Alabama booth in the Pavilion of the States.  MM Superheroes, Save Us! In America today, it seems we live in the Cult of the Hero. The word is so overused and thus diluted that its definition is endangered, although its true meaning is felt all too acutely every September 11. A bold act of courage or selflessness is easier to recognize than invisible efforts to save the intangible, but there are people saving the culture of America every day and yes, they deserve to be called heroes. America The Melting…
AppearancesCommunity workpicture book, middle grade, YAThe Writing LifeUncategorized
June 20, 2012

Scenes for the Girls of Summer Live Launch

The Girls of Summer 2012 site is live -- 18 great summer reads for girls! But here are some shots from a truly magical night under the shady trees of Library Park in Richmond, VA. More than 100 girls, moms, librarians, teachers, and friends gathered for ice cream, book talks, and a chance to meet the fabulous Wendy Shang, author of The Great Wall of Lucy Wu. Thank you to everyone at the Richmond Public Library, to bbgb tales for kids (our bookseller), to Penelope Carrington for filming, and to the Ice Cream Connection for the fantastic refreshments and music! Winners of our picture book, chapter book, and early middle grade bag of books! Cute or what? My new magical realism book bag. A present from Betty Sanderson! The lucky winner of our middle grade and YA book titles!
May 25, 2011

Bound books here at last!

Just a quick note:  My box of books arrived today! I was all misty eyed when the delivery guy brought them to my stoop. And, here's the correct link for the review of Tía Isa Wants a Car in PW. Sorry if you had to fish around for the info with the old link. Finally, hope you can come to the book launch at bbgb tales for kids on June 11, 1 - 3 pm or, later in the month, to an arts-crafts-and-reading activity June 26 at Barnes & Noble (Short Pump) 2 pm. Check out events page for other dates.
April 30, 2011

A poem to share

Last night I went to a Writing Show sponsored by James River Writers here in Richmond. In honor of poetry month, we feasted on the work and wisdom of Daniel Custódio, a slam artist from the Bronx; Luisa Igloria, a contemporary poet from the Virginia Beach area (also the head of the MFA writing program at Old Dominion University); and Susan Greenbaum, our local singer/songwriter and all-around darling person. Nathan Richardson hosted. I don’t consider myself a poet…for reasons that may become self evident in a second. But, so what? I’m not an Olympic swimmer either. That doesn’t keep me from enjoying my own sad paddle across the pool -- or from getting the benefits. What I learned from the panelists is that what matters more is the daily exercise (Luisa called it a devotional) of writing in a form that connects image and personal meaning so tightly. So on this, the very last day of poetry month, I’m sharing a very early piece. The backstory is this:  My father-in-law’s first love was a girl named Bella Lechuga, which translates roughly to “beautiful lettuce” in English. “What happened to her?” I asked him once. He didn’t know. After they left Cuba, everyone scattered to the winds. Señora Bella Lechuga Beautiful Lettuce Leans over the sewing machine Puts one good eye close To be sure her stitches are still straight. Knuckles lumped hard and red Claw her fingers around the lace. In the hot metal and threads She finds her white wrist…
Random howls into the worldThe Writing LifeUncategorized
April 4, 2011

Tía Isa: the book and the woman

I never thought of myself as a picture book writer, but this June all that changes. TÍA ISA WANTS A CAR (Candlewick Press) will be in bookstores. It’s the story of a girl and her favorite aunt working together to buy the first family car. I wrote the text when I was in between novels and needed to play with words for a while to clear my mind. I'd been thinking about my aunt and our first family car – an old Buick Wildcat. It was a dented heap that never wanted to start, and it stalled at the most inconvenient times – like in the middle of a u-turn with on-coming traffic. Truth is, though, that the car was only half the trouble. My aunt – the real tía Isa – was a lousy driver. She'd arrived in this country in 1968, having completed a year of required labor in Cuba’s sugar cane fields to earn her way off that island. Maybe as the result of all she’d been through during the revolution (or maybe just because she was cursed with “anxious genes” as is common in my clan), tía Isa was a ball of nerves, filled with ticks and odd habits that sometimes frightened me as a kid. Her jumpy lip always reminded me of a bunny’s. In any case, when she came home one day with her driver’s license, the family was shocked but grateful for the milagro. A car – even an   old jalopy like the…
March 4, 2011

¡Mucho gusto!

Introductions are always a little awkward, except when you’re an author meeting kids of any age. Thankfully, they go right for what matters, no small talk. So here, by way of introduction, are my vitals in kid format. I live in Virginia with my family (husband, mother-in-law, three teens), a black, shaggy dog (Noche) and a fierce hunting machine cat named Wolfe. My house is, in fact, messy, especially around deadlines, when I forget to bathe and I wander around mumbling dialogue. My favorite candy is MilkDuds, no matter what my dentist says. I buy the extra big box at the movies every time. I write for about four hours a day at a little desk tucked in my livingroom. When I can’t think of what to write I walk Noche or throw in some laundry. Yes, I speak Spanish and English. My family is from Cuba. No. I’m not especially rich or famous. I don’t need extra big sunglasses or anything. You can ask me other burning questions, and I’ll do my best to answer them.