Category Archives: Children’s Books

Cascarones and carpets: A look at Easter books for children

It’s Easter season. The holiday celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ is an important event in the Latino community. Here are some books about the holiday and Latino rituals:

celebrate-mardi-gras-with-joaquin-harlequin-alma-flor-ada-paperback-cover-artAlma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy cover the beginning of the Lenten season with the bilingual children’s book Celebrate Mardi Gras with Joaquín, Harlequin/ Celebra el Mardi Gras con Joaquín, Harlequín. In A Surprise for Mother Rabbit/La sorpresa de Mamá Coneja, Ada tells a story of diversity by using rabbits.

ImageIn Dance of the Eggshells: Baile De Los Cascarones, by Carla Aragón, two children learn the history of the confetti-filled eggshells that are crushed on people’s heads. This MexConnect.com story also gives some background into the eggshells.

LegendoftheCascaronThe Legend of the Cascarón, by Roxanna Montes-Bazaldua also tells the history of the eggshells. Want to learn how to make cascarones? Check out this webpage from PBS Kids and this YouTube video.

Sawdust CarpetsSemana Santa is the Holy Week that leads to Easter. In Amelia Lau Carling’s Sawdust Carpets, two Asian children visit Antigua, Guatemala, during that time and learn about its traditions – including the elaborate carpets made for the processions.

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In the news: Sáenz, Díaz win Pura Belpré Awards

The new year brings honors for books released last year. Here’s a look at some recent award winners, plus the usual round-up of new releases and other links.

AristotleDanteBenjamin Alire Sáenz’s 2012 young adult novel Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe won three major honors today at the American Library Association’s Youth Media Awards. His story of two teenagers who form an unlikely friendship earned the Pura Belpré Author Award, which honors books that depict the Latino experience; a Michael L. Printz Honor Book, which awards outstanding books for young adults; and the Stonewall Book Award, which recognizes stories that represent the lives of lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgendered youth.

martin-de-porresThe other Pura Belpré recipients were The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano, an Honor Book winner for author Sonia Manzano, and Martín de Porres: The Rose in the Desert which won the Belpré Illustrator Award for David Díaz.

• Several Latino writers made the 2013 Rainbow List for books aimed at youth that depict the LBGTQ experience. They are Jeanne Córdova, When We Were Outlaws:  a Memoir of Love & Revolution; Rigoberto Gonzalez, Mariposa Gown; Sáenz, Aristotle and Dante; Charles Rice-González, Chulito: A Novel.

SummeroftheMariposasGuadalupe Gárcia McCall’s Summer of the Mariposas earned a place on the Amelia Bloomer Project Top Ten List for feminist books for youth.

Reyna Grande was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award in the autobiography category for her memoir The Distance Between Us.

ThisIsHowYouLoseHerJunot Díaz is up for The Story Prize, given to short story collections, for his book This is How You Lose Her. Diaz’s book was also named to the Reference and User Services Association’s 2013 Notable Books List.

Sergio Troncoso’s 2011 novel From This Wicked Patch of Dust won the Southwest Book Award, which is given by the Border Regional Library Association.

• Houston’s Tony Díaz, leader of the Librotraficante movement, will receive the Robert B. Downs Intellectual Freedom Award from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

MyBelovedWorldOut in bookstores:

• Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor has the number one book on The New York Times’ Hardcover Non-Fiction chart with her memoir, My Beloved World.

• Fiction: In Thomas Sanchez‘s American Tropic, an ecoterrorist is on the loose in the Florida Keys. In Kind of Kin by Rilla Askew, an Oklahoma family comes under fire for hiring undocumented immigrants from Mexico.

Literary Magazines:

• The Kweli literary journal, which features works by people of color, is accepting submissions until March 1.

Dagoberto Gilb is among the writers with works in the latest issue of Make: A Chicago Literary Magazine.

Writing contests:

• Feb. 12 is the deadline to submit scripts for consideration for the 2013 Austin Latino New Play Festival, which is open to Texas/Tejano playwrights this year. The festival, sponsored by Teatro Vivo, features a different play each night from May 16 to 18.

Other news:

Cuban-American poet Richard Blanco, who recited his poem at President Obama’s inauguation, was profiled on the Poets.org website and the Poetry Foundation website. Watch that poem and read 14 other works by Blanco on the MediaBistro website. In this Huffington Post article, he talked about how his homosexuality was not accepted in his family.

• Cuban-American Dolores Prida, a playwright, newspaper columnist and the “Dolores Dice” columnist for Latina magazine, passed away last month, Latina reports. Here are articles about her from the Associated Press, CNN, Huffington Post, The Nation and The New York Times. Read Prida’s columns at the Voices of NY website.

• In this School Library Journal story, librarians reacted to a recent New York Times article about the lack of Latino literature in classrooms.

Las Comadres Para Las Americas National Latino Book Club has announced its first book selections of the year – including the anthology Eight Ways to Say “I Love My Life” and Sabrina Vourvoulias’ science-fiction novel Ink.

Los Angeles Times columnist Héctor Tobar interviewed Sandra Cisneros for the LA Review of Books. Tobar also wrote about Latino Books y Más, a bookstore that specializes in Latino literature in Palm Springs, Calif., that is closing down. Cisneros delivered her playlist, with selections from from Chavela Vargas to The Beatles,to the alt.latino website of NPR.

Manuel Gonzales, author of the The Miniature Wife and Other Stories, was featured in The Austin Chronicle. Hear Gonzales read one of his book’s stories, “Pilot, CoPilot, Writer”, on the Poets and Writers website.

• Poet Martín Espada discussed his works, including his most recent book The Trouble Ball, on the TV show Bill Moyers and Company.

• Daniel Alcarón, whose novel At Night We Walk in Circles will come out in the fall, talked to Poets and Writers magazine about the importance of literary awards.

• The Publishing Perspectives website discussed how more translations are needed for books by Latin American writers.

• Natasha Wimmer talked to the website Sampsonia Way about translating the works of Roberto Bolaño.

Joy Castro, author of Hell or High Water, discussed her faith to the In the Fray website.

In February:

• In honor of Black History Month, here’s a look at Afro-Latino writers. Want to read a great romance for Valentine’s Day? Try something from this list of great love stories, Latino-style.

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She has the cure for what ails you: The curandera in Latino lit

Bless Me Ultima, which The Hispanic Reader reviewed earlier this week, features an enduring figure in the Latino culture – the curandera, or healer. That figure has played a role in some of the great books in Latino literature. In this great post from La Bloga, Ultima author Rudolfo Anaya and children’s author Monica Brown talk about the role of curandera. Here’s a look at some great curanderas:

BlessMeUltimaCoverBless Me Ultima – Young Antonio Marez is growing up in rural New Mexico when his family takes in Ultima, an elderly curandera. She helps heal his dying uncle, but townspeople believe she places curses on people. This book by Rudolfo Anaya has become one of Latino lit’s best known and beloved books, and has stirred controversy for its profanity.

The+Hummingbird's+DaughterThe Hummingbird’s Daughter – In revolutionary Mexico, Teresita Urrea learns healing powers from a villager named Huila. Soon, she attracts the attention of hundreds of villagers, hoping she will cure them. The brilliantly funny book, written by Luis Alberto Urrea, rivals Ultima in the amount of profanity. The sequel, Queen of America, in which Teresita’s celebrity takes her to the United States, is now in paperback.

SoFarFromGodSo Far From God Ana Castillo’s book about a mother and her four daughters in New Mexico features a whole chapter devoted to villager Dona Felicia’s remedies. Dona Felicia goes on to teach the remedies to one of those daughters, Caridad, after she is traumatized after an attack. Caridad ends up becoming a saint to villagers because they believe she has special powers.

Clara_and_the_CuranderaClara and the Curandera – In this bilingual children’s book written by Monica Brown and illustrated by Thelma Muraida, the curandera has a cure for a young girl who is afflicted with a nasty case of the grumps.

Sources: Wikipedia, Challenging Realities: Magic Realism in Contemporary American Women’s Fiction by M. Ruth Noriega Sánchez

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In the news: Books from Bolaño, Saramago; new literary magazine

(I’m still taking a break, but check out my story I wrote about a Dallas theater company’s adaption of Sandra Cisneros’ Women Hollering Creek for the Theater Jones website.)

The Hispanic Reader will be taking a long hiatus, so here’s the new releases, events and holiday books to keep you entertained for the rest of the year. See you in 2013.

New releases:

Nov. 13Woes of the True Policeman is the last book Roberto Bolaño wrote before his death. The novel follows a Chilean professor as he undergoes several personal crises.

Nov. 30 – In the children’s book The Poet Upstairs by Judith Ortiz Cofer, a young girl makes friends with a writer.

• Dec. 4 – Raised From the Ground, by the late Nobel Prize winner José Saramago, is a reissue of a book – published for the first time in English – that depicts the lives of Portuguese peasants.

Dec. 11 – The children’s book The Beautiful Lady: Our Lady of Guadalupe by Pat Mora features the iconic Mexican figure.

Awards:

• The National Book Awards announced its nominations, with Junot Díaz’s  This is How You Lose Her shortlisted in the fiction category and Domingo Martinez’s The Boy Kings of Texas making the non-fiction category. Martinez spoke to NPR about how he learned about his nomination. Winners will be announced Nov. 14.

Literary magazines:

• The second issue of the literary magazine Huizache, produced by CentroVictoria – the Center for Mexican American Literature and Culture at the University of Houston-Victoria, is out. Contributors include Lorna Dee Cervantes, Rigoberto Gonzalez, Luis J. Rodriguez, Michele Serros and Gary Soto.

Book Festivals:

• The Miami Book Fair Festival International takes place Nov. 16-18. Featured authors include Malin Alegria, Roberto Ampuero, Joy Castro, Sandra Cisneros, Jeanne Cordova, Junot Díaz, Christina Diaz Gonzalez, Reyna Grande and Justin Torres.

Other News:

Sandra Cisneros discussed her newest book, Have You Seen Marie?, to NBC Latino, CNN and the LA Review of Books.

Junot Díaz talked to Wired magazine about the science-fiction book he’s writing, Monstro, and to LA Review of Books about his current book, This Is How You Lose Her.

Luis Alberto Urrea’s Into the Beautiful North has been named a 2013 Big Read selection by the National Endowment for the Arts.

• Pulitzer Prize winner Oscar Hijuelos will be featured in Symphony Space’s Artful Dining fundraiser Nov. 12 in New York City. Sonia Manzano will lead the discussion.

• Mexico City celebrated the 50th anniversary of Gabriel Gárcia Márquez’s move to that city by putting up posters honoring him, according to an article by Héctor Tobar in the Los Angeles Times. Tobar also wrote about a MacArthur Grant-winning Orange County barbershop that features a bookstore and is teaming up with Chapman University to promote Latino literature.

• Ploughshares magazine talked to Aurora Anaya-Cerda, owner of the La Casa Azul Bookstore in East Harlem, N.Y., that is devoted to Latino literature.

• Voices of New York wrote up about the Las Comadres Para Las Americas writer’s conference last month, with some interesting insights about Latinos in publishing.

• Want a blog that features the poetry of Pablo Neruda with pictures of cats? Here you go.

Also:

• Celebrating birthdays in November: The late Carlos Fuentes, right, and Nobel Prize winner José Saramago.

• Celebrating birthdays in December: Sandra Cisneros, Nobel Prize winning poet Juan Ramon Jimenez and Manuel Puig.

• Looking for gifts for the holidays? Here some some Christmas books for children and adults.

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La Llorona, chupacabras, oh my! Spooky books for children and teens

Boo! October brings the greatest holiday ever – Halloween. It’s not just about the candy, but listening to stories that put goosebumps on your arms and a shiver in your bones. As part of book blogger Jenn Lawrence’s meme, Murder, Monsters, Mayhem, here’s a look at spooky tales, Latino-style, for children and young adults. Look for a list of suspense books for adults later this week.

In Mexican folklore, no figure is more haunting than La Llorona, the woman who drowned her children and spends her time calling for them. Her tale has been told in numerous books, including La Llorona/The Weeping Woman by Joe Hayes, who talked about the story’s enduring legacy to The Hispanic Reader last year.

Texas-based writer Rene Saldaña Jr. also explores the myth – and others – in his book, Dancing with the Devil and Other Tales from Beyond / Bailando con el diablo y otros cuentos del más allá. La Llorona is becoming part of mainstream pop culture: She will be the subject of NBC’s Grimm in the Oct. 26 episode. Wilmer Valderrama talked about the project to NBC Latino. And here’s Lila Downs singing about La Llorona.

La Llorona and those other spooky beasts – the chupacabras – are part of Texas-based children’s writer Xavier Garza books, including Creepy Creatures and Other Cucuys, Kid Cyclone Fights the Devil and Other Stories and Juan and the Chupacabras/ Juan y el Chupacabras. The Rio Grande Valley native talked about the inspiration for the books to the San Antonio Express-News last year.

For more universal creatures, Alma Flor Ada writes about ghosts in What Are Ghosts Afraid Of? El susto de los fantsmas. In A Mummy in Her Backpack/Una Momia en su mochila by James Luna, a girl ends up with an unusual souvenir from vacation. Los Gatos Black on Halloween by Marisa Montes and Yuyi Morales is a poem about the creatures that haunt the night.

Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy combines Halloween and the other upcoming holiday, Dias de los Muertos, in Celebrate Halloween and the Day of the Dead with Cristina and her Blue Bunny Celebra el Halloween y el Día de Muertos con Cristina y su conejito azul. Pat Mora’s Abuelos describes a Halloween-like holiday in northern New Mexico that has Mexican and Pueblo roots.

For young adults, You Don’t Have a Clue: Latino Mystery Stories for Teens features a variety of tales from as Saldaña, Diana López and Sergio Troncoso. Guadalupe Garcia McCall’s recently released novel Summer of the Mariposas also features La Llorona – in a gentler light than most books – and chupacabras.

The Beautiful Creatures series, written by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, features teenagers who meet otherworldly beings called Casters. The book soon will be a major motion picture starring Viola Davis and Emma Thompson. Alisa Valdes’ The Temptation features a romance between supernatural teens.

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Labor Day literature: The farmworkers movement in print

Americans will celebrate workers this Labor Day weekend. Two of the Latino community’s most prominent figures – César Chávez and Dolores Huerta – led the farmworkers movement in the 1960s, demanding better conditions for the workers who picked grapes in California. The movement not only had an impact on workers’ rights, but on Latino literature as well.

Here’s a look at some books about Chávez and Huerta, a couple of novels that portray the life of farmworkers, and the story of how the movement gave birth to one of the Hispanic community’s most prominent theaters:

For children: Children can learn about the movement in Side by Side: The Story of Dolores Huerta and César Chávez by Monica Brown, Harvesting Hope: The Story of César Chávez by Kathleen Krull and Dolores Huerta: A Hero to Migrant Workers, by Sarah Warren.

For adults: The Words of César Chávez is a book of Chávez’s speeches and writings. It was included in the Library of Congress exhibit, The Books That Shaped America. Delano: The Story of the California Grape Strike, by John Gregory Dunne and Ilan Stavans, is a comprehensive look at the strike, while Cesar Chavez: Autobiography of La Causa by Jacques Levy focuses on Chávez. (A film of Chávez’s life is being made into a movie starring Diego Luna, according to The Los Angeles Times.) The Fight in the Fields by Susan Ferriss and Ricardo Sandoval is the companion to the 1997 PBS documentary of the same title.

Fiction: Two of Latino literature’s most acclaimed novels focus on the plight of farmworkers. The 2000 young adult novel Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan depicts a teenager working the fields in the 1920s. The 1996 novel Under the Feet of Jesus by Helena Maria Viramontes tells the story of California farmworkers through the eyes of a 13-year-old worker.

Theater: During the Delano Grape Strike, Luis Valdez began presenting plays on flatbed trucks and union halls. He eventually founded El Teatro Campensino, and went on to write the play and the movie Zoot Suit and the movie La Bamba. He recently talked about his theater’s roots to AARP VIVA radio. (The program is in Spanish.)

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Meet Victoria Griffith, author of “The Fabulous Flying Machines of Alberto Santos-Dumont”

National Aviation Day takes place Aug. 19 in honor of Orville Wright who, along with his brother Wilbur, launched the first man-powered flight. But Brazilian Alberto Santos-Dumont also had a role in the beginnings of aviation and he is the subject of Victoria Griffith’s children’s book, The Fabulous Flying Machines of Alberto Santos-Dumont.

Griffith is a former journalist who has worked for the Financial Times.

Q: Tell me about your book and the story of Alberto Santos-Dumont. 

Brazilians say Alberto was the TRUE inventor of the airplane, not the Wright Brothers. Leaving that controversy aside for a moment, Alberto certainly deserves recognition for his role in aviation history. He was the only person ever to have run daily errands in a flying machine – a dirigible, or controllable balloon, of his own invention that he would use to hop around Paris. He would tether it to lampposts and ask the waiters in nearby cafes to bring up him some coffee. At the turn of the last century, Alberto was one of the most famous people in the world. Bakers in Paris would make pastries in the shape of his dirigible.

Alberto grew up on a coffee plantation in Brazil. When his father became partially paralyzed after falling off a horse, the family moved to Paris in search of a cure. There, Alberto took his first balloon ride. He was immediately hooked. All his life, he dreamed of making flight available to every one in the world. He complained to his friend, Louis Cartier, that he had a hard time checking the time on his pocket watch when he was up in the air. Cartier invented the wristwatch for Alberto! The Santos-Dumont model, in fact, is still available at Cartier stores.

But Alberto wanted to go farther and faster than his dirigible would take him. In 1906, Alberto was ready to give his airplane a try. No in Paris had heard of the Wright Brothers’ flights, because of their secretive nature. The Wrights were terrified that some one would steal their patents. As a result, there were only a handful of witnesses when they flew in Kitty Hawk a few years earlier. And their plane needed high winds and a catapult system to get off the ground. Alberto’s airplane took off of its own volition, which is why some historians still recognize him as the Father of Flight.

Q: How did you find out about his story? Why hasn’t his story received as much attention as the Wright Brothers?

One day, my daughter Sophia came home from school and said she had learned that the Wright Brothers had invented the airplane. My Brazilian husband was horrified. “Everyone knows that the inventor of the airplane was Alberto Santos-Dumont!” he said. I was intrigued. I had lived in Brazil and heard of Alberto, but I knew little of the details of his work. I was fascinated to discover that there was still so much controversy surrounding the invention of the airplane.

Nationalistic sentiments influence our view of history. So it makes sense that the Wrights would be recognized as the inventors here in the United States and other parts of the world, while Alberto would be seen as the Father of Flight in Brazil. But I do think Americans should make a space for Alberto in the history books.

Q: You lived in Brazil, and your husband is Brazilian. Were there any Brazilian writers that you admired?  What is the literary scene like in Brazil?

Magical realism authors like Jorge Amado enjoyed international fame some decades ago, but in general I think Brazilian writers’ use of the Portuguese language is too sophisticated and specific to translate well to other languages. Take “The Girl from Ipanema” poem by Vinicius de Moraes, used in the lyrics of a very popular Bossa Nova song by the same name. In the English version, the words are pretty banal, a song about a pretty girl walking by. In the Portuguese version, the poet wonders about a beauty that belongs not just to one person but to the world around. It’s so much more profound.

Similarly, one of my favorite children’s books in Brazil is by the songwriter Chico Buarque. It’s called Chapeuzinho Amarelo, and it’s about a girl who’s afraid of everything, but especially the wolf, or lobo. One day, she hears the wolf calling his name over and over. When he stops, the lobo has become a bolo, or cake. Of course, no one can be afraid of a cake, and Chapeuzinho is transformed into a girl who is not afraid of anything. This kind of sophisticated wordplay is difficult to access unless you speak the language.

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