Newbery award winner and New York Times bestselling author

Posts tagged ‘Mango Abuela and Me’

Latinos in Richmond Exhibit at the Valentine

Angela and I got to celebrate with the other Pura Belpré winners in 2016. She’s the fifth from the left.

I’m heading out on this soggy morning for two good reasons.

One, Angela Dominguez, who illustrated Mango Abuela and Me and is the illustrator behind the Lola Levine series by Monica Brown and several of her own award-winning titles, has moved to Richmond! We’re having a “welcome to RVA” lunch, which I hope is the beginning of lots of new adventures for her in our town.

Angela couldn’t have arrived at a better time, which brings me to reason number two for venturing out. This weekend marks the opening of LATINOS IN RICHMOND/ NUESTRAS  HISTORIAS, a small but potent exhibit at the Valentine Museum.

My grandmother’s Virgen de la Caridad is on loan to the exhibit.

For about a year, I’ve volunteered as part of an advisory committee helping Wanda Hernandez and her colleagues at the Valentine curate this loving first peek at Latinos in our city. You’ll find artifacts and stories of how we began making our way here – dating back to colonial days. There is a little bit of everything, including a terrific graphic that shows the fairly recent political lift-off of Latinos here in the Commonwealth.

YAQUI DELGADO ‘s marked manuscript is on display

There’s food, music, and free admission today, so maybe I’ll see you.  But if not, I hope you’ll take a minute to walk through in the coming months and read the stories of who is here in your neighborhood, why we got here, and what we offer.

Cariños,

Meg

 

Nuestras Historias/ Latinos in Richmond

July 27, 2017 thru April 15, 2018

The Valentine Museum

1015 E. Clay Street, Richmond, VA  

#CelebrateYoungReaders grand opening at the Library of Congress

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The Young Readers Center at the Library of Congress is having a grand opening for its Saturday hours this weekend. That means, when folks visit the capital, their kids can have a place to rest from museums and seek shelter in a story time with mom and dad.

697_234I’ll be kicking off the festivities with our beloved Librarian of Congress, Dr. Carla Hayden. I’ve planned a Mango, Abuela and Me read-aloud and book talk, followed by Q& A with kids from around the country.

There will be games, book talks, and performances led by Erica Perl author of Capybara Conspiracy, for older kids, as well. I hear through the grapevine that there’s a wrap up that honors the Chinese New Year (Rooster), too.

I plan to stay the whole day, so whether you’re a fan of picture books or a YA reader, please come keep me company! Now more than ever is the time to celebrate books, reading, and knowledge.

Our twitter hashtag for the day: #CelebrateYoungReaders

PDF for you to download: yrc-grand-opening

 

When Reading Across Generations Works

A few photos for you from my wonderful time in Herndon Virginia as part of their Big Read event.  Thank you Signe Fredrich’s and all of Arts Herndon for the kind invitation!

The highlight, by far, was my time with the students – of every age. I visited Herndon High School and Herndon Elementary, plus a special off-site program that stole my heart. It’s called All Ages Read Together, which is housed at the Herndon Senior Center. It pairs senior volunteers with a group of off-the-chart adorable preschoolers. (See for yourself.) It seems like such a smart way to help little ones get ready for kindergarten, while also engaging our seniors meaningfully so that isolation doesn’t creep up on them.

I am so grateful for the welcome I received everywhere. (I’m looking at you, too, library staff at Fortnightly!) Special thanks to Julie Brunson for all the preparation she did to help bring Mango, Abuela and Me to life for both the students and the volunteers.

The students worked on parrot projects before I came to visit them.

The students worked on parrot projects before I came to visit them.

Adorable beyond belief.

Adorable beyond belief.

Kids run the range from readers, like this young lady, to children who are learning to hear the sound of their voice and the names of letters

Kids run the range from readers, like this young lady, to children who are learning to hear the sound of their voice and the names of letters

Telling us about the picture they drew of themselves and their families

Telling us about the picture they drew of themselves and their families

Just back from El Salvador, where he visited his abuela and ate pupusas!

Just back from El Salvador, where he visited his abuela and ate pupusas!

The senior volunteers who work with the children in ALL AGEES READ TOGETHER. (Lead teacher Julie Brunson second from the right, top)

The senior volunteers who work with the children in ALL AGES READ TOGETHER. (Lead teacher Julie Brunson second from the right, top)

Mango slices anyone?

Mango slices anyone?

Miss Olivia made us empanadas., just like Abuela did in the book

Miss Olivia made us empanadas. (Abuela would approve!)

And Carmine helped us label things in Spanish and English, just like in the book

And Carine helped us label things in Spanish and English, just like in the book

The beautiful students at Herndon High School, about to finish their years as ESL students. These students were funny, charming, and so sweet. Great questions about Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, which they all read in English.

The beautiful students at Herndon High School, about to finish their years as ESL students. These students had great questions about Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, which they all read in English. Such a charming and loving bunch…

It's always a party when you get to talk with Kwame Alexander, who is basically a treasure to Virginia.

It’s always a party when you get to talk with Kwame Alexander, who is basically a treasure to Virginia. (Photo by Kim Dare)

 

What I Was Up To: Advocacy, San Antonio, and Frito Pie

The beautiful graphic created by my sweet friend R.J. Palacio

The beautiful graphic created by my sweet friend R.J. Palacio

If you follow kid lit, you probably know by now that a group of almost 300 authors took a stand on behalf of readers in North Carolina. This direct letter of support kids in NC was spearheaded by R.J. Palacio, and both Phil Bildner and Alex London did some seriously heavy lifting in terms of drafting the letter and gathering names. Thanks to SLJ for picking up the story; to the authors who we contacted on such short notice for their support; and to everyone who retweeted and showed support by sharing the message on social media.

As all this was unfolding at lightning speed, I was also on my way to San Antonio – land of the River Walk and Frito Pie. It was a wonderful weekend of meeting old writing friends and new. I also got to read Mango Abuela and Me together with my illustrator, Angela Dominguez. Such a sweet moment. Authors sometimes don’t meet their illustrators, so this was a rare blessing.

Anyway, here are a few other highlights.

At the opening cocktail party with Xavier Garza, Emma Virján, Sonia Manzano, Pam Muñoz Ryan and John Parra

At the opening cocktail party with Xavier Garza, Emma Virján, Sonia Manzano, Pam Muñoz Ryan and John Parra

My first-ever ingested Frito pie. I hate to admit how good it was.

My first-ever ingested Frito pie. I hate to admit how good it was.

Strolling the river walk that ran alongside Hotel Havana, where I stayed

Strolling the river walk that ran alongside Hotel Havana, where I stayed

With Aurora Anaya Cerda at Ocho. Don't forget that La Casa Azul is still an online bookstore.

With Aurora Anaya Cerda at Ocho. Don’t forget that La Casa Azul is still an online bookstore.

My swanky frig in my 1950s inspired room. Check out the letters.

My swanky frig in my 1950s inspired room. Check out the letters.

Emma Virján as a Pig in a Wig

Emma Virján as a Pig in a Wig. We make sacrifices for our work, people.

With Sonia Manzano and Pam Muñoz Ryan - bellísimas personas!

My geeky fan moment with Sonia Manzano and Pam Muñoz Ryan – bellísimas personas!

Monica Brown and I flanking illustrator Angela Dominguez who has worked on books by each of us

Monica Brown and I flanking illustrator Angela Dominguez who has worked on books by each of us

In the children's tent. Got to see Don Tate, and met Daniel Miyares for the first time

In the children’s tent. Got to see Don Tate, and I found my (maybe) long lost Medina cousin Daniel Miyares on the end.

My stash!

My stash!

Coming your way San Antonio!

squash2I’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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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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In Service to Richmond: How I choose where to go for free

IMG_3687Here’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 & Low’s recent survey.)

So, over the years, I’ve learned to think beyond financial need. There are plenty of places that are deserving based on finances, but that doesn’t make them a good fit for me. I’m looking for places that are invested in how to empower kids around their own story, their voice, and that of others.

The decision of where to go comes down to this: In addition to enormous financial need, I look for places that will use my author visit as more than just another assembly. I try to get a feel for whether they (1) truly respect the kids and families they serve and (2) show innovation in how they encourage the use of books and story in kids’ lives. Finally – and this is the most unfair, I know – it usually takes someone’s personal recommendation.

All of this to say that for the first half of 2016, I’ve picked St. Andrews School and the Sacred Heart Center, both in Richmond. 

220px-StAndrewsSchoolEarly1900sI’ll visit St. Andrew’s for the first time this afternoon. It has been a quiet jewel in our community for over a century, though. Established by Grace Arents, the niece of philanthropist Lewis Ginter to serve the Oregon Hill community, the school offers intimate, high quality education to students whose parents face financial hardships. I love that it was established by a woman who had the vision invest in children, regardless of their economic status.

sa-logo-R1All these years later, accepted students receive a scholarship to attend. I’m so excited to visit their newly renovated building and to see first-hand why this school consistently graduates young people who go on to further their education here in Richmond and beyond. You can check out their fine work here on their website.

Logo_COLOR_blackletteringOn Feb 18, I’ll also be packing up my Mango puppet, computer, and games and heading across town to visit the Sacred Heart Center, whose mission is to help Latino families in Richmond succeed. I’ll work with parents who are learning English as a second language (the way my whole family did.)  Our work together will focus on how to use pictures books – both in Spanish and English – to strengthen their relationship with their little ones and to inspire a love for stories and writing. I’m told that we’ll have paletas (ice cream pops) too, so now I’m really excited. (We have several excellent shops in Richmond.) Obviously, I’ll chose mango flavor if it’s available.Column_IceBox_rp0715

Please check out both organizations and consider making a donation of your time, talent, or money.

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Huge Win for Latino Authors at ALA: Mango, Abuela and Me Among medalists

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It’s been a huge and unexpected day for me, to say the least.

But it has been a HUGE day for Latino authors and illustrators all the way around.  A ceiling-shattering day.  A day that represents such an astounding shift in respect and perception that it brings tears to my eyes as I am typing this.

For the first time, we have Latino winners and honor books in so many of the major awards – the Feldman, the Seilbert, the Printz, the Caldecott, the Odyssey, non fiction awards and the very highest one, the Newbery. I am so very proud of my friend, Matt de la Peña, for his gorgeous book, Last Stop on Market Street. (The full list of ALA winners is here.) 

MANGO_jacket_for_Meg copyIf you were watching the ALA awards this morning, you know that Mango, Abuela, and Me was given the 2016 Pura Belpré honor book award for literature, as well as receiving an honor for the illustrations. Congratulations, Angela! (Full list of Pura Belpré winners here.)

This award celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.  Since its inception, the Pura Belpré award has sought to shine a light on the Latino experience in children’s literature. In so many ways, this has become my life’s work. To have this medal on my book – this year in particular – is such an affirmation.

A huge congratulations to Margarita Engle and Rafael Lopez winners of the Pura Belpré medal for literature and illustration, respectively. I feel so humbled to have my work included alongside yours. Congratulations to all the winners. Wow.

I can’t thank the committee members enough for believing in my work.  (They are Ana-Elba Pavon, Chair; Sylvia Cecilia M. Aguinaga; Patricia Rua-Bashir; Maria F. Estrella; Maria C. Mena; Teresa Mlawer; Abigail Yvonne Morales; and Oralia Garza de Cortes, REFORMA, Cultural Competency.) I know it couldn’t have been easy to volunteer your time so generously, especially in a year when so many wonderful books were up for consideration.

A big hug to Kate Fletcher, my editor, and to all my friends at Candlewick who make me feel like a winner every single day. (Special kudos to designer Heather McGee and Ann Stott who art directed along with Chris Paul.) Much appreciation, too, goes to my agent, Jen Rofé, for her friendship and tireless advocacy on my behalf.

But mostly, I’m grateful to everyone who has read and shared Mango, Abuela and Me. Thank you for using this book to help children feel proud of who they are and to help us all celebrate the many ways to speak the language of love and respect.

Cariños,

Meg

Happy Holidays, Mango!

MANGO_July1 copyI 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.RR_masthead

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

MANGO_jacket_for_Meg copyToday 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.

Bena on her wedding day in 1925

Bena on her wedding day in 1925

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 nervous hives that covered her feet frightened me. She became my babysitter after school, though, and our relationship grew. I began to enjoy her strange obsession with Lucha Libre wrestling on  TV, as well as the countless stories of her life in Cuba, stories most people wouldn’t tell a five-year-old:  grisly hurricane deaths, infidelity scandals in her old town, a man who tied up his daughter when she misbehaved, the day my uncle was sent to prison for trying to leave Cuba illegally.  She had no filter, but maybe that’s why I loved her. And more, it was Bena who knew how to cook a proper lechón in our family, and Bena who showed me how to look carefully for rocks in the dry beans and how to use a wine bottle instead of a rolling pin on empanada dough.

Unfortunately, it was also Bena whose anxieties about life in this new country eventually kept my aunts and mother from taking risks on new jobs and better opportunities. If Bena wanted anything in this life at all, it was security and safety, and she would get them at anyone’s expense. She was gentle but she ruled others through her worry and doubt – never a good combination. Over time, her anxieties worsened, so that by the time she was 98 and bedridden, we were all swallowed up in her care. No one could stray far from her bedside without her panicking.

Bena with cotorraStill, in better times, I enjoyed her. It was this grandmother for whom I bought a small parrot one day  at Woolworths. I loved animals, of course, but it was also a little offering to help her feel better about missing Cuba and the beautiful pet parrot she had left behind. That act would be the tiny seed that grew into the manuscript for Mango, Abuela and Me.

Not that the book is all Bena. I had another grandmother, too, whom I fondly recall as the General. Shades of her are in Mango, Abuela and Me, as well. Josefa Medina, known as Fefa, was my father’s mother, and she was another sort of abuela altogether. Sometimes we have grandmothers that we don’t know as well or even ones that make us feel uncomfortable. For a long time, that was Fefa for me.

 

Fefa and me in Queens. She made me that stylish maxi dress

Fefa and me in Queens. She made me that stylish maxi dress

Fefa was clear-eyed, tough, and unsentimental. But she was undoubtably one of the smartest and most moral women I ever knew. It was fascinating to watch her move through the world. She had only a sixth grade education, but what she lacked in formal schooling, she more than made up for in practical sense, dignity, perseverance, and a sense of duty. Her own life had started out with poverty and family troubles. (She and her siblings were dispersed among far-flung relatives when her father realized he couldn’t feed them. She was married at 14 and a mother of two by age 16, a fact that still pains me when I think about it.) But these hard experiences made her determined to build a stable family. She raised my father, who became a doctor, and my aunt, who went on to become a pharmacist.

Fefa disapproved of my parents’ marriage – sure that it would never work. She even stubbornly boycotted their wedding. But a few years later, she was utterly mortified by their divorce and was heartsick over what it might mean for my sister and me. She responded by insisting on staying involved in our lives. A seamstress in New York’s garment district, she would sew my annual wardrobe and deliver it every June for my birthday – a huge economic relief for my mother. Shorts, dresses, pants suits – each piece was laid out on my bed with pride so that it could be photographed and admired. It was even Fefa who bought me my first bikini at Ohrbachs in New York when I was thirteen. It was a day-glo orange and yellow number – certainly skimpy by her standards. I still remember how her eye twitched in disapproval when I stepped out of the dressing room. She had promised me a bathing suit, though, and Fefa was always good on her word.

My birthday wardrobe stash from Fefa

My birthday wardrobe stash from Fefa

Still, in daily interactions, there was nothing soft about my grandmother, and she scared me. She was an iron-fisted woman who demanded things her way. This was not an adult to whom you could confess your hate of tomatoes in your salad, for example. You ate them and shut up. And worse, she didn’t really appreciate my brand of girl. Fefa had antiquated and unshakable ideas about femininity, – a fact that was so suffocating as a kid. I was never allowed to play outside with my cousin Diego and his band of rough boys when I visited, for instance. I’d have to sit on the stoop miserably while they played tag all around me.

But maybe life wears down everyone’s rough edges eventually. This was certainly true for Fefa. Years into my adulthood – after I had become a mother and lived nearby with her great-grandchildren in Florida – Fefa and I finally seemed to soften toward each other. Maybe I had finally started to realize how the harsh events of her life had shaped her. Or maybe she took pity seeing me juggle three little kids and a career. I don’t know the exact catalyst, but there was definitely a change. And while I can’t say I was ever her favorite grandchild, I think in the end she saw that the wild child with knots in her hair and scabby knees had managed to turn out all right after all. When I hold this book, I wonder if maybe she’d even be proud to know that I thought of her and Bena on every page.

Holy communion with las abuelas_NEW

My holy communion day with Fefa and Bena

All of my books explore family in one way or another. Maybe that’s my life’s work, who knows? The dynamics of people who love each other deeply and sometimes hurt each other anyway is endlessly interesting to me. With Mango, Abuela and Me, I think even the youngest reader can relate to feeling tentative about a grandparent or feeling a divide, whether it’s language that is the obstacle or something else. But I hope families who come to this story also discover the strength to be found when we connect across the generations of our families. That’s what I found out, anyway. We learn our own story by learning the story of all those imperfect people who came before us. We take our place inside the long, unfolding tale of our own people.

 

Can’t make the official launch event? Signed copies of Mango, Abuela and Me are available starting today at Chop Suey Books at 2913 W Cary Street, RVA.  Call Ward and let him know you’d like to have one! 804 422 8066 or e-mail info@chopsueybooks.com

CLICK to see trailer: