Newbery award winner and New York Times bestselling author

Posts tagged ‘The Hope Tree Project’

Claremont Elementary Spanish Immersion School: The Hope Tree Grows

Part of Claremont’s display for El Dia De Los Muertos

What a week! A nail-biter election that took me late into the night, and then up at 5 am (when it was still tan oscuro!) to get to Claremont Elementary School in Arlington, VA. (Thank you to Sherry Lord for inviting me!) Claremont is a funky Spanish Immersion school that’s going to do a version of the Hope Tree project as their fifth graders move on to middle school. Again, we’re asking, What is a hope you have for yourself?

Coolest trio ever

Such a pretty school, and the art is everywhere you look. I love these giant looming heads over the stage (inside one of those strange rooms called a cafetorium). They are César Chávez, Pocahontas, and Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr.

Oh! And look at these urns in their lovely garden. I spotted them when I arrived. Hmmm…they are sitting near benches and empty trees. You thinkin’ what I’m thinkin’?

These two want some milagros hanging in the trees nearby…

A Little Bit of Fiesta at City Hall

Happy Hispanic Heritage Month! This is a month for everybody to channel their inner Latino, but don’t worry if you don’t know an empanada from a salsa. I can help you, especially if you’re in the downtown Richmond, Virginia area next week. That’s because on Monday, September 17, 2012 The Hope Tree Project comes to the lobby of City Hall at Broad Street and 9th Street! (Map here.) We’re having a little lunchtime party as the kickoff, and I hope you’ll come.

You’ll remember that this exhibit of the hopes and dreams of Richmond’s young people started out as a collaboration between me, eight area high schools, and the folks at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden last spring, when The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind first pubbed. Well, we’ve moved the exhibit to its final phase —  the concrete jungle — where the public can see what our kids are thinking about themselves and our community. The exhibit is, of course, free and open to the public.

The lobby doesn’t have trees (bummer) but I have a plan. Or I should say… my friends at Pine Camp Art Center (Shaun Casselle) and the Office of Multicultural Affairs (Tanya Gonzalez) have a plan. All those twigs that fell out of trees during last month’s gusty days?  Yep, they’re being recycled into the show. (How’s that for clever use of resources?) We’ll be spending our Saturday putting them in place.

If you work downtown, please come down and join us for the  reception on Monday, September 17, noon. I’ll have some nice treats from Spanish Soul, a new Puerto Rican restaurant near my home. The exhibit will run through October 12.

Cariños de,

Meg

Where to buy Meg’s books and audiobooks.

Wordles: samples from The Hope Tree Project

Me again. Two posts in one week Geez.

First, the spiffy StyleWeekly article is here!  Thanks Julie Geen for spreading the word about The Hope Tree Project!

Also, do you know about wordles?  They’re handy as a wrap-up for a school activity or, in this case, as a display for a community project. You plug in words or phrases that emerged from an experience, and – POOF! — out comes a graphic. For phrases, separate each word with a ~.

Give it a try here.

Here are the Wordles of phrases describing the dreams represented in each milagros for The Hope Tree Project. I took the phrases from the artist statements the school provided. Click to enlarge each.

Meadowbrook High School's wordle

 

Lee Davis High School Wordle

Huguenot High School's wordle

Hermitage High School's wordle

Henrico High School's wordle

The Steward School's wordle

The exhibit continues through July 4, 2012.

The Hope Tree Exhibit Opens

The milagros make a beautiful sound in the breeze.

Last night was a nearly perfect launch for the Hope Tree Project at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.  I say nearly because the school bus carrying 27 artists from Meadowbrook High School got a flat tire on I-95. They missed the opening, but not to worry. The folks at the garden are going to send them free passes so the students can come see their creations. I do wish they could have seen the outpouring of support from the community, though, especially the Latin Ballet dancing in their honor.

Here are some shots of the private unveiling. I’m including the program and the text of my comments, in case you love long-winded speeches. Here’s a link, too, to Latin Ballet of Virginia and to Kevin’s contagious music with Ban Caribe.

Some photos of the milagros appear page 2 of today’s Richmond Times Dispatch (metro sec.), and there will be an article in StyleWeekly tomorrow.

The exhibit runs through July 4. I hope you’ll take the time to visit the Garden soon. It really is a stunning place where you can gather your thoughts and refuel, whatever age or interest.  Be sure to stop by the exhibit. It’s an amazing thing to be surrounded by aspirations.

Many, many thanks again to L.C. Bird, Meadowbrook High School, Huguenot High School, The Steward School, J.R. Tucker High School, Lee Davis High School, Hermitage High School, and Henrico High School. And a huge shout out to my publisher, Candlewick Press for the facebook ads and for help in funding the refreshments.

The wild animals from the ballet "Verde" by Latin Ballet

Little dancers!

Kevin Davis of Ban Caribe and two young drummers from LBV. I've watched these boys grow up!

Some people make life easier. Kelly Riley at Lewis Ginter is one of them.

Some of the Nat'l Art Honor Society students from L.C. Bird. As sweet as they come.

Party Hats, Everyone!

There’s a celebration everywhere you look this coming week!

Monday is World Book Night, that biblio-glorious event started in the UK to spread the love of reading. Right now, the event is targeted to adults and doesn’t include  children’s books. (I know. Sad.) I’ll be celebrating anyway by signing copies of my YA novel, The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind at Barnes & Noble (Chesterfield Towne Center Mall) from 5 – 7 pm. Giveaways will include signed copies of my books for your favorite school library and a free school visit to one lucky raffle winner.

But that’s not the only celebration on the horizon. It’s also El Dia de los Niños on Saturday, April 28– a national celebration of reading and children across many cultures.

In honor of the fun, I’ll be at the Chesterfield County Public Library (Meadowdale Branch) for the morning, where I’ll read Tia Isa Wants a Car and do a craft with the little ones at 10:30. (Who doesn’t love a glue stick?) At 11:30, my favorite thing: a free writing workshop for teen writers. Here’s the address: 4301 Meadowdale Blvd., Richmond, VA 23234. Branch phone number is 804-318-8778. ¡Vengan, por favor!

And of course, you know the Hope Tree Project is just around the corner at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. Tune into  Radio Poder, 1380 AM, on Monday, April 23 at 11 am and I’ll tell you all about it. I’ll be talking with my favorite Richmond Latina, Tanya Gonzalez. The milagros are absolutely beautiful. Wait til you see…

More soon!

Cariños de,

Meg

A Familia of Latino Children’s Writers and Illustrators

René Colato Laínez's newest title; Joe Cepeda illustrator

We talk a lot about the dry spells in a writer’s life – those awful times when your lack of ideas makes you crave a straightforward job as a cashier at Target or shoveling manure.

illustration by John Parra

But every so often – as happened to me this weekend at the National Latino Children’s Literature Conference – a writer receives a precious gift, an experience that lights something inside and changes everything for the good.

The NLCLC is the brainchild of Dr. Jamie Naidoo at the University of Alabama, a herculean task he takes on every other year with his tireless team of current and former library science students.

I know what you’re thinking. Alabama? Why a conference to celebrate Latinos in a state with some of the nation’s most disturbing anti immigration lawsThe answer is, Sí, Alabama. What better place to send a group of passionate Latino authors, researchers, illustrators, and bad-ass librarians to fan passions, make connections, and work in the community?

“I have thick glasses and white hair,” one of the attendees confessed in our small group. “Who would suspect me?”

Some of the dangerous radicals!

It was especially exciting to tell the attendees about The Hope Tree Project (the topic of my talk). Several were interested in taking the idea for the project to their own schools and communities. Imagine all those hope trees taking root! Cindy Frellick of the Greenville Library in South Carolina even lent me a necklace of milagros she purchased in Mexico to wear for the unveiling on April 30. (Gracias, Cindy! I will wear it proudly and return it to you.)

Isabel Campoy and Alma Flor Ada - the poinoeers

The sessions were fantastic – everything from hands-on writing experiences to discussions of community projects, craft and career paths. I was in the prestigious company of Dr. Alma Flor Ada and Isabel Campoy– pioneers, intellectuals, scholars — and two of the most joyous women I have met. They glow when they have a chance to talk about books, youth, and the growing body of work by Latino writers and illustrators. There’s plenty to celebrate, they say. When they started in this field in the early 1960s, you could hardly find a book with an authentic representation of Latino families. But today, we have the beautiful and prize-winning work of  John Parra, Joe Cepeda, René Colato Laínez, Monica Brown, and Lila Quintero Weaver  – a rising talent – to name just a few.

Joe Cepeda's cover for Esperanza Rising

But by far the best magic happened in the quiet moments when we had a chance to meet one another as friends and fellow artists — each of us trying to name and make sense of Latino identity for kids – and, maybe in some way, for ourselves. Remarkably, we were strangers for about five minutes. After that, we found our way to each other’s hearts. My mother always says that Latinos have a special calorcito, a warmth that makes you feel as though you’re with family. I love all my writing friends, but I thought of my mother’s words more than once this weekend. My colleagues and I enjoyed professional talk, but also food, wine, laughs — even a crazy sprint across six lanes of traffic as we yelled our tongue-in-cheek, defiant battlecry. Run! It’s la migra!  

front: Jamie Naidoo, Lila Quintero Weaver, Monica Brown, me
top row: Rene Colato Lainez, Alma Flor Ada, John Parra, Isabel Campoy, Joe Cepeda

Monica Brown's beautiful tribute to the late Celia Cruz

Over our two days, we taught and we learned. We started figuring out ways to help each other along, shiny-eyed as we confessed new projects we were feeling braver to try. And, of course, we made plenty of room for silliness and laughter. (What did you expect? We’re children’s book people!) Ask John Parra to tell you about his bear camping story some time. Or Monica Brown to explain the birds and the bees of the author/illustrator relationship. Joe Cepeda will tell you why you must only send him two-line emails if you have something important to say to him. And if you ever meet René Colata Laínez, make sure he croons elevator songs for you or recites the ga-gillion words for “drinking straw” he knows from across Latin America.

It was hard to get back on a plane and say adios. Our lives will get busy, and we are a far-flung tribe. But here’s what I know. Somos de una casa. We are of one house. And for that reason I won’t ever keep them too far from my sights.

Cariños de,

Meg

If you’d like to support multicultural literature, including Latino lit, please consider making a donation to the National Latino Children’s Literature Conference 2014.  Contact Dr. Jamie Naidoo at the University of Alabama.

Meg’s next appearances:  

A writing workshop at Pamunkey Regional Library April 4;  School visit to Riverside School, Richmond, VA, April 5. See calendar tab for details!

The Hope Tree Project

There are all sorts of ways of launching a new book into the world. This time around I’ve decided to go big. I’ll have my regular launch at the ever-fabulous bbgb tales for kids on March 17. But when The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind pubs next month, I’ll have about 500 high school students to help me celebrate, too.

That’s because they’re part of a project I’m working on in partnership with The Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden and eight area high schools here in Richmond. The Hope Tree Project is a connection of art, reading, and community building for young people – a good addition to the Virginia Commission of the Art’s Minds Wide Open 2012 celebration of children and the arts.

The students and their art or ESOL teachers have agreed to create Latin American ex votives — or milagros — that symbolize a hope or dream that they have for themselves or for the community. When they’re done, we’ll decorate five crape myrtle trees in the beautiful children’s garden with their collective wishes.

Milagros are part folk art and part religious votives in Latin America. The tiny charms are attached to statues of saints, to the walls of churches, or even to women’s jewelry. Why? To ask for a favor or to thank a saint for help, of course. It’s a connection of the sacred or mystical to every day needs. Not that this is new, of course. The ancient Romans made them, too, as did many cultures across the world.

The hard part of the project won’t be making the milagros. Over the years I’ve spent working in schools, I know that high schoolers have the technical skill to produce some drop-dead gorgeous work. What will tax them, I think, is the question I’ve asked. It’s hard to be 17 and at the beginning of everything. Exciting, sure, but there are so many unknowns. But what I told students at the Steward School yesterday is that putting your wishes out in the world is the first step in making them become a reality. If you don’t make a dream for yourself, others are only too happy to rush in and fill in the vacuum. It’s what my main character, Sonia Ocampo found out.  And really, we should all be asking ourselves this question as we chart a path in life.

So folks, I’m giving you a lot of advance notice. Please mark your calendars for Monday, April 30, 2012 at 6 pm for the unveiling at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens where you’ll meet me and some of the artists from the following high schools: Steward School, Huguenot, Meadowbrook, L.C. Bird, Tucker, Hermitage,  Henrico, and Lee Davis. (You’ll even be able to add your own milagros to the collection.) The display will continue through July 4, and then selected pieces will move to City Hall for a display during Hispanic Heritage month in September.