Latina writer of books for kids of all ages.

Archive for the ‘What I’m reading’ Category

Why I Wish I Could Be Split in Two

logoIt’s too early to be in this airport, but I’m on the way to the Southwest Florida Reading Festival. I’ll step off the plane and head to right to a school to read Mango, Abuela and Me. Then, it’s all preparation for my time outside tomorrow.

beach-with-palm-treesThe downside to being in the Florida sunshine, though, is that I’ll miss the presentation of the inaugural Walter Award at the Library of Congress. We Need Diverse Books‘s judges picked three of my favorite reads of 2015.

I want to send a huge congratulations to winners Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely (All-American Boys), and honor winners Margarita Engle (Enchanted Air); Kekla Magoon and Ilyasa Shabazz (X).

I am in DC in spirit!

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All things wise and ghostly: Old & new titles to scare you at every age

It’s coming up on October, a tough month for those of us who despise being terrified. What can I tell you? Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin did me in when I was a teen, and I don’t think I ever recovered.

Anyway, here’s a quick list of titles (old and new) that I’ve loved anyway for their nudge toward all things ghostly and wise.

Picture books

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Middle Grade/ YA

6a00d83451584369e200e54f7d4a268834-800wi18070700 71Vwvp8-XfL9780545162074_p3_v1_s523x595(I just couldn’t leave Harry Potter out…)

Adults

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Meet the Enchanting Margarita Engle

11193381_392733620920999_5592796247599447170_nFor more than two decades, Margarita Engle has produced award-winning work for children of all ages. Among her many distinctions, she is a multiple recipient of the Pura Belpré medal, the Américas Award, and the Jane Addams Award. She is also the first Latina author to have earned a Newbery Honor Award for her 2008 novel-in-verse, The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom.

enchanted-air-9781481435222_hrMargarita has long been known for impeccable research and thoughtful books that shine new light on figures in history. But her new project goes inward. Her memoir-in-verse, Enchanted Air (Simon and Schuster,) arrives in book stores this week. Here at the dawn of the United States’s new relationships with Cuba, Margarita tells us about her book, her own relationship to Cuba, and what it means to write from the heart. 

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When we speak of reciting poems “by heart,” we mean “from memory.”

That is because memories live in the heart, in emotions, in a past that remains swirled together with the present and future. Memories are the one place where time is defeated by love.

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Margarita and her mother

Writing about one’s own childhood is a process of writing by heart. There are no guidelines, no patterns to follow, no research to depend on, no papery or digital maps of the mind. When I decided to write ENCHANTED AIR, Two Cultures, Two Wings, all I had was my own memories, and the emotions they still contain, long after adulthood has made an unusual childhood seem like someone else’s strange, impossible life.

I wrote this memoir in the form of free verse—and in present tense—in order to bring the memories back to the surface, an experience I have always dreaded, and never thought I would want to share in public, where I am guaranteed to cry when I read the poems out loud.

My reasons for writing a memoir are various, depending on what the reader brings to my pages:

Enchanted Air is a celebration of the role of travel in a child’s education.

Enchanted Air is a plea for peace and family reconciliation.

Enchanted Air is an act of empathy for stateless people.

Enchanted Air is a true story meant to speak directly to bicultural children, and to the adults who try to understand us.

Yes, I do mean ‘us,’ not ‘them,’ because with respect to this aspect of childhood, I still carry it around inside my heart, like a series of linked poems. Bicultural children can feel divided or doubled, claiming both the daily self and the invisible twins we turn into when we cross the border between our two parents’ homelands.

I am not a typical Cuban-American, and I don’t presume to speak for those who are. I am neither a refugee nor an exile. As the California-born daughter of an American father and Cuban mother, I was blessed with the chance to visit relatives on the island both before and after the revolution. Now, as Enchanted Air goes into print, I worry about how it will be perceived in Miami, but it is my own true story, my only true story, the first time I have tackled a post-revolutionary topic in any of my books for young readers. I hope they will accept it in the spirit in which it is offered, as a testament to that very word: HOPE.

Dr. Jamie Naidoo, Teresa Mlawer, Margarita Engle, Adriana Dominguez, Lila Quintero Weaver (front), Laura Lacámara, me, and Irania Patterson

Dr. Jamie Naidoo, Teresa Mlawer, Margarita Engle, Adriana Dominguez, Lila Quintero Weaver (front), Laura Lacámara, me, and Irania Patterson

Caminar by Skila Brown

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On Saturday, I had the chance to talk about one of my favorite reads of last year.

I read Caminar by Skila Brown in the fall, and I’m so glad I finally had the chance to talk about it on Weekend Reads.

I’m often asked who has permission to write Latino stories. My personal view: the person with the humility, depth, research skills, and writing chops to do it. In this case, that person was Skila Brown.

Here are some thoughts on violence, children’s literature, and the need to tell our histories.

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Girls of Summer’s Big, Bad, Birthday Bash

It’s here! The Girls of Summer Reading list goes live on our blog today. (Click over and check out the titles and our reviews.) But what this really means is that we’re at the start of a big week for us, since our live events happen this week, too. Last minute plans, airport pickups, raffle items – agh!

Gigi and I are so proud of the collection this year – especially since it marks our fifth anniversary of celebrating strong girls and reading.

Where did five years go?

We launched the list as our daughters were making their way out of high school. Today, Judith is living her dream of running a barn in California, training horses with a sure and skilled hand. Sandra has just moved into her own apartment in Washington, DC and will take the helm of a second grade class in the fall. And Cristina has recently landed her first official office job with Midas Auto Parts – an employer whose embrace of community extends to helping individuals with disabilities make meaningful contributions.

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Judith and Tiny

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Sandra’s graduation day with friends. Next stop DC!

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The ultimate strong girl: Cristina

Gigi and I have changed, too. We continue to write and publish books about strong girls and to see our respective careers unfold in ways that we could never have imagined five years ago. Earning the Pura Belpré award for Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass has provided me an incredible platform that I hope I’ve used wisely. I’ve crisscrossed the country encouraging more books that represent all kinds of young people.

Gigi, Tim Tingle, Ellen Oh, Kwame Alexander and me at the Library of Congress

Gigi, Tim Tingle, Ellen Oh, Kwame Alexander and me at the Library of Congress

To Richmond’s great fortune, Gigi recently became the Chief Impact Officer for the United Way of Richmond and Petersburg, where she uses her skills and vision to manage $5.0 million in philanthropic grants and initiatives that help the people in our community learn more, earn more, and lead safe and healthy lives.

But most fun for us has been watching Girls of Summer grow. It’s not really ours any more. It belongs to the community – as it should. Our little project began as a personal expression of our passions for motherhood, books, girls, and our shared city. But five years later, it has been warmly embraced by the incredible staff at Richmond Public Library and bbgb books, where it is now an annual event covered by the likes of CNN and NPR. Other organizations – such as James River Writers, the Junior League, and Richmond Family Magazine – have found clever ways to add their spin to our original idea. Best of all, though, is that we get to see loyal teachers, librarians, parents, and girls come year after year for ice cream (thank you Dabney Morris!) and book lovin’.

I hope you’ll decide to escape this week’s heat wave (94 degree??? Bleh) and help us usher in the summer months. We’re having two celebrations in our area. You won’t be sorry if you come to both, especially since we’ve packed each one with amazing authors for a live Q & A and signing. Look who’s coming to party!

Patty Parks, librarian, Gigi and me at Girls of Summer 2012

Patty Parks, librarian, Gigi and me at our first Girls of Summer

Wednesday, June 17, 7 PM, at the Richmond Public Library, Main Branch, Franklin Avenue. We’ll be joined by two fantastic authors:  Debut novelist Aisha Saeed, a powerful and important new voice who helps lead the We Need Diverse Books campaign; and Sharon Draper, winner of multiple Coretta Scott King Awards and a New York Times bestseller. Sharon is this year’s winner of the American Library Association’s prestigious Margaret A. Edwards Award, which honors an author for significant and lasting contributions to young adult literature.

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Saturday, June 20, 2015, 1 – 3 PM, Northside Library, Charlottesville, VA. The Junior League of Charlottesville has been hard at work for months to welcome the ever-fabulous Newbery-Honor winner, author/illustrator CeCe Bell, and veteran writer – and debut novelist – Marilyn Hilton to our first-ever Girls of Summer WEST party.  Join them, plus some of our favorite Girls of Summer authors from the Charlottesville area for all the fun.

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See you all there!

IMG_0849 copyUn abrazo –

Meg

Birds of a Feather…

1_busboys_logo300I’m checking out another great indi bookstore. It’s Busboys and Poets  in Washington, DC, and I’m going to their 14th and V location for the first time this Friday.

That’s because it’s time for the awards ceremony for the Las Américas prize. This year, top prize went to the lovely picture book Parrots Over Puerto Rico by Susan Roth and Cindy Trumbore, an especially delightful pick from Lee and Low, a smaller publisher that has long been advocating and promoting diverse children’s literature.

main_parrotsfc-w-sealIt’s the story of the near extinction of wild parrots in Puerto  Rico and how that sad situation was turned around. I hope you’ll stop in to the Young Readers Center at the Library of Congress to see an exhibit of the book and its art, which runs through the end of October.

As part of the festivities, Las Américas also sponsors an annual educator workshop – hosted by Busboys and Poets – where teachers and librarians can get hands-on ideas and materials for bringing high quality Latino literature into their classroom or library. I’m so happy to be able to present alongside Duncan Tonatiuh this year. (9:30 – noon). Duncan won honorable mention, as well as a Pura Belpré Honor medal, for his exquisite book Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale. My own novel, Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, was selected as a commended title this year (along with all of these).

If you’re a teacher or librarian, it’s not too late to register. The reasonable $25 registration fee gets you breakfast, a free book, and ideas from Duncan and me on how to use our books in the classroom to help students explore culture and identity. (Registration info here: I’ll even have swag, people.

I know it’s a busy time at the start of a school year. And I know it’s easy to think that you don’t really need a workshop like this if you’ve got mostly non-Latino students. But please consider this:  Empathy is part of the 21st century skill set, and books give kids a chance to build that. There’s nothing like getting inside someone else’s skin for a while to help you consider new points of view.

Anyway, I’ll be trekking up on my favorite Amtrak. (I love you DC, but you can keep your traffic!) Hope you can be there. And don’t forget, you can join us for the author reception, 3 PM – 5 PM inside the Pickford Theater/Madison Building of the Library of Congress. Please email here to say you’re coming: dwolteri@tulane.edu

See you then!

Cariños de,

Meg

Directions to Busboys and Poets: U Street Metrorail stop Yellow/Green line

PDF on the teacher workshops: aateacherworkshop

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Book Hoarding and other things I admitted to on Book Riot

imagesMy heroes at Book Riot have a new podcast series called Reading Lives, where authors talk about pretty much anything except their own books. I’m on there today, episode #2, where Jeff O’Neal and I talk about my book collection fetish, as well as all the titles and authors (some surprising) that have shaped everything from my sense of culture to how I parented.

These days I do a lot of interviews, but I can’t remember a time when doing one was this much fun. Maybe it’s because Jeff (aka @readingape on Twitter) is so charming, but maybe too because the hook is so simple. Two people talking about the books we love, old and new. What can I say?  It’s a literary geek’s dream.

If you’ve got some time, check it out. You can subscribe on i-tunes, too.