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Mango Abuela and Me

Celebrate with Your Favorite Authors on World Read Aloud Day

By Appearances, What I'm Reading
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...
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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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Latinos in Richmond Exhibit at the Valentine

By Appearances, Community work, The Writing Life

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. 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. 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  

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#CelebrateYoungReaders grand opening at the Library of Congress

By Appearances, Community work, The Writing Life

    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. I’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  

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When Reading Across Generations Works

By Appearances, Community work, The Writing Life

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.  

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

By Appearances, The Writing Life

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.

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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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Why I Wish I Could Be Split in Two

By Appearances, The Writing Life, What I'm reading

It’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. The 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

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

By Awards and news, The Writing Life

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.)  If 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…

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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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NY, NY: A Helluva Town

By Appearances, The Writing Life

Before I post the photos from BEA and BookCon in New York, I have to show you what I got in my inbox. It’s a project based on Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass. My librarian friend, Shelley Armstrong, sent me the work of Jordan, Kasey, Myles, and Nick from Dr. Lee Bloxom’s 9th grade English class at the Thomas Dale High School West Campus in Richmond, VA. What better way to teach the impact of audience on writing, than to have a group of kids adapt a story for another age group?  Here’s my bad-ass YA novel as a picture book.  TDHS Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Butt. (Thanks for sending this Shelley!) Okay, the photos I managed to get my hands on. Next time you’re in the city, I recommend staying at the Library Hotel, at 41 and Madison Ave., just up the block from NYPL’s famous stone lions. The entire decor in the hotel is based on the Dewey decimal system, complete with an old card catalog at the reception desk. Each floor houses different categories. You can stay in the paranormal section, romance languages, botany. Even the street outside is decorated with brass plaques featuring quotes by famous literary figures. So strange and fun!   I fell in love with a little gem of a school in the East Village called the Cornelia Connelly Center. Sweet, smart students – with great questions. Looking for a place to make a meaningful donation? This is it. Thank you…

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The Big Apple: BEA and Book Con 2015

By Appearances, The Writing Life

I’ll be spending almost the whole week in the Big Apple! This year I’ll be part of Book Expo America and BookCon for the first time, which feels exciting. Here are the highlights, including some off-site places where I’ll pop up, too. Back to the scene of the crime in Queens on May 27!  I’ll be talking about Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass and my other books back at the Flushing branch of the Queens Public Library, mere blocks from where I went to junior high school – and tangled with my own real-life bully so many years ago. Flashbacks here I come. Cornelia Connelly Center in the Village, May 28:  Interestingly, this gig came as the result of a Jesuit priest who heard me speak at a Hispanic Heritage talk I gave at the Federal Reserve Bank last year. So excited to speak to the young women at this Catholic School. Speed dating at the ABC/CBC Tea, Friday, May 29, 3:30 PM, Javits Center Room 1E12/13:  Booksellers will be getting lithos of my upcoming picture book Mango, Abuela, and Me, which hits bookstores in August. Public We Need Diverse Books reception at my favorite bookstore in Spanish Harlem, Friday, May 29, 7 PM:  Join We Need Diverse Books authors at La Casa Azul, which is – hands down – one of my very favorite bookstores. Such a beautiful spot and a thoughtfully curated collection of works by Latino authors writing in Spanish and English. (143 E 103 Street, near…

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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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Notes from the road: writing with depth, finding the joy & honoring your roots

By Appearances, The Writing Life

I’m finally home after a long stretch in Northern Virginia. This weekend was the SCBWI Midatlantic annual writers conference, where I taught an intensive for the first time on how to write characters with depth, and how to develop a compelling voice in writing. Yikes. I had forgotten how hard it is to teach writing – and how much you learn from doing so. What I came to was this: Layers, depth and voice in writing really come from how deeply you want to go inside yourself and how honestly you can lay bare what you find.  I hope my SCBWI colleagues who attended were able to find something useful during our session. I’m wishing them lots of time to remember, to record, and to write. Then it was on to the Arlington Central Library. You could fit all of my hometown, Richmond, inside the hip pocket of Arlington. What a busy and vibrant place – especially its library. (Favorite feature: a vegetable garden planted in the beds that border the entrance.) Lisa Cosgrove-Davies, Youth Services Librarian, worked with the Arlington Teen Advisory Board to coordinate two school visits at Jefferson Middle School and Washington Lee High School, followed by an evening talk at the library. Now, was I feeling confident? No, I was not. It’s always a crap shoot on whether people come to an evening library event, and Dallas was playing Washington to boot. But I kept channeling the words of Pat Cummings, who reminded me at the conference that the real joy in…

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