Latina writer of books for kids of all ages.

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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 the lady in purple.

By the time the English staff took me to dinner, you couldn’t have guessed all they had gone through. Principal Marsha Manning, Anne Dougherty in the library, and the entire eighth grade team had to educate and advocate in ways that were surely painful and time consuming. And more, they put their reputations as educators and their relationships with parents on the line for the sake of giving kids something they felt was important to read. The good news is that the district had in place a process for how to deal with challenges, a framework that kept everyone calm in the face of what can easily become a pit of accusations and distrust. It’s hard to keep people at the table and sticking to the process in the face of fear, but this team did it. And in the end, I came to the school and had one of the loveliest experiences I’ve had on a campus.

original bookmarks made by students

A little montage for you:

“Thanks,” one girl told me, “for what you said about representation. People call me a Pocha. And I’ve never known what to say.”

Another girl wanted to talk to me in private about her body and how others have labeled it undesirable.

One girl said that she’s embarrassed that she can’t speak Spanish very well, that her parents tease her about it.

A boy asked me privately after the assembly, “So what should I do? Because I take a lot around here, and it doesn’t stop.”

“What advice do you have for me if I want to write something that’s really hard to say?” another boy asked, barely above a whisper.

That’s what a school visit looks like when the students are trusted to read. They have a chance to think about who they are and what they are living. They have a chance to consider all the ways they can respond to what comes their way. It gives them one more tool that helps in this long job of growing up.

To the faculty and leadership at South County, and to the School Board and to the PTO parents who stepped up for my novel, I want to say thank you. It would have been so easy to give up, to choose another book and move on to the next task on your list. Thank you for having courage to stand up for students’ right to read. Thank you for giving thought to how to include kids who did opt out. Thank you for modeling how to be strong. Courage and compassion are in ample supply at your school. For all the ways your students treated me as the star, I hope they never forget that the real superheroes in this have been in their building all along.

Love notes from students left in anticipation of my visit

Meg’s next appearances

Saturday May 6, Twin Cities Teen Lit Conference, Minnesota, with Jay Asher, Jeff Zentner, Box Brown and more!

Saturday, May 20, 2017, Gaithersburg Book Festival, Maryland

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fan trailers: Thanks Melissa Hanes!

Campus - Fountains - 0013I 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

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.Poster for Meg Medina books

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!

 

 

 

 

A True Bienvenidos

A warm welcome!

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:

My fellow dinersDo 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!

A Cuban feast for school lunch!

Chef Sue!

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

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.

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.

Adorable in every way.

If you had your own car, what color would it be? Where would it take you?

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...

One of the eighth grade students becoming acquainted with magical realism…

autographing for the students...

autographing for the students…

You spell your name how?

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...

Reading en español…

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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 Pot retains some pockets of distinct culture, and it is often because some Superheroes saved the day by stepping in to preserve the art, the music, or the flavor of a region when threatened by various “villains” ranging from gentrification to “Generica,” the relentless march of branding across our country and the world.

Independent thinkers see the world in their own special way and make a contribution to society just by being themselves. When they see something worth keeping, they don’t wait for the perfect circumstances to come along; they just go about the business of saving a local independent bookstore, for example, one cash mob at a time.

Winner, Orbis Pictus Award

I enjoy reading and writing about American Heroes of Culture such as Walter Anderson, the Gulf Coast artist who preserved his luminous view of the natural world around him in art of many colors and forms nearly too numerous to name. I kept waiting for someone to write a book for children about him until I realized that it must be my job, so I wrote The Secret World of Walter Anderson, my attempt to become not just a consumer but also a creator of culture. Anderson’s legacy was nearly swamped by Hurricane Katrina, along with the distinct culture of the Mississippi Gulf Coast and other locales, but people worked diligently to save it and so it survives.

Walter Anderson, self-portrait

Anderson’s work usually inspires the viewer to step back and look at his or her own surroundings with new eyes – just what art should do: refresh and renew those who come in contact with it. That’s what independent thought does as well: refresh and renew all those who experience it.

This year is full to the brim with “versus” that threaten to fracture this country – Democrat vs. Republican, e-book vs. print, online vs. in-person, and the list can go on and on. The culture of America is worth saving, so please allow these words to be your cape-and-tights: Think independently. Consider what in your community makes you happy, serves others, and preserves (or creates) culture and find a way to save it – even if it is simply the spirit of kindness, the charm of civil discourse, or the delights of cooperation. Remember the rugged individualism that made America great and reject the extreme jingoism that is tearing it down. Think independently. Act locally. Sometimes the Superheroes of Culture, those who can truly save us, are us.

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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!

Mammas, grandmas, bitty babies

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!