Category Archives: latinx

Barely Missing Everything

Written by: Matt Mendez

Cover Art by: Dana Ledl

For ages: Young Adults

Language: English

Topics Covered: Growing Up, Latinx Identities, Racism, Sports, Alcohol & Marijuana Use, Family, Incarceration, Filmmaking, Friendship, Police Brutality, Pregnancy. 

Summary: This book was one of those stories that everything I anticipated to happen did not happen, I was constantly surprised at the deft storytelling of Mendez’s plot line.  Told from three viewpoints, the reader gets the full scope of what life is like for these characters.  Barely Missing Everything is a text that normalizes the experiences of working Latinx families barely making it, and the dreams that accompany hardly making ends meet.

Juan and his best friend JD are almost out of high school, and both love basketball. (I don’t particularly even like sports, but this book is incredible!)  Fabiola is Juan’s mom, and she’s just holding on while trying to balance raising Juan, their awful landlady, a surprise pregnancy, and Juan getting arrested after a party he attended got broken up by police.  So many of these moments in the book made me cringe and think “No! Why that decision?!” but the plot is so believable the reader can imagine knowing these characters and caring about them, wanting what’s best for them in the long run, which led to those protective thoughts.

Each character we come across has hopes and dreams, desperately wishing to escape their situation for a better one.  This is a book that normalizes the experiences of marginalized populations, and allows for diverse experiences to be broadcast to a wide audience.  Barely Missing Everything is emotional, raw, and impossible to put down. I mean Jason Reynolds said the book is “sure to bring a quake to the literary landscape” so really what else can we say to convince you to read it?

Simon and Schuster were kind enough to send us this book, but all opinions are our own along with the decision to review the book!

About the Author & Cover Artist:

rs=w-1240,h-620,cg-trueMatt Mendez has worked on airplanes all of his adult life and is the author of the YA novel Barely Missing Everything and the short story collection Twitching Heart.  He earned his MFA from the University of Arizona where he also taught creative writing.  His work has appeared in Pank, The Literary Review, Huizache, and other places.  Matt is from El Paso, Texas but now lives with his wife and two daughters in Tucson, Arizona.  You can visit him at mattmendez.com or follow him on Twitter @mgmendez.

 

me-ondrej-szollos_1000Dana Ledl is the cover artist for Barely Missing Everything! She lives in Prague, and is a freelance graphic designer.

They Call Me Güero; A Border Kid’s Poems

Written by: David Bowles

Cover Art by: Zeke Peña

For ages: YA upper elementary/middle grades

Language: English & Spanish

Topics Covered: Growing Up, Mexican-American Experience, Immigration, Prejudice, Culture & Traditions, Poetry, Own Voices, Latinx. 

Summary: Our narrator is a twelve year old boy known only as Güero, a slang term/nickname for a person with red hair and freckles.  He lives near the border of Mexico, and goes on the weekends to the market to buy groceries and visit family.  This book of poetry gives short snippets and vignettes in the life of Güero, including his introduction to poetry from his seventh grade teacher.  Bowles skillfully interjects these light topics of life in Texas with more introspective and difficult subjects such as immigration, racism, and prejudice.  This book is excellent, it’s great to see a main character’s perspective that is often underrepresented, especially in poetry. Güero’s life experience is a very specific area of the country, and we don’t know enough about it from a young person’s perspective.

About the Author & the Cover Artist:

David-Bowles-cpp-CROPPED-lo-res-768x679David Bowles is a Mexican-American author from south Texas, where he teaches at the University of Texas Río Grande Valley. He has written several titles, most notably The Smoking Mirror (Pura Belpré Honor Book) and They Call Me Güero (Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award, Claudia Lewis Award for Excellence in Poetry, Pura Belpré Honor Book, Walter Dean Myers Honor Book).

His work has also been published in multiple anthologies, plus venues such as Asymptote, Strange Horizons, Apex Magazine, Metamorphoses, Rattle, Translation Review, and the Journal of Children’s Literature.

In 2017, David was inducted into the Texas Institute of Letters.

David’s literary representation is Taylor Martindale Kean and Stefanie Von Borstel of Full Circle Literary. His Hollywood representation is Sandra Ávila of Inclusion Management.

J1400x933-13422+copyZeke Peña makes comics and illustrations as an accessible way to remix history and explore complex issues. He was born in Las Cruces, NM and grew up in El Paso, TX. He has a degree in Art History from the University of Texas, Austin and is self-taught in drawing and painting. He has published work with VICE.com, Latino USA, The Believer Magazine, The Nib, Penguin Random House, Holt/Macmillan and Cinco Puntos Press. In 2018 he received the Boston Globe Horn Book Award for a graphic biography he illustrated titled Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide. His first children’s book My Papi Has a Motorcycle, written by author Isabel Quintero was published in 2019 by Kokila, a Penguin Young Readers imprint.

The Piñata that the Farm Maiden Hung

Written by: Samantha R. Vamos

Illustrated by: Sebastià Serra

For ages: 3 years and up

Language: English & Spanish

Topics Covered: Latinx Identity, Rhyming, Hispanic Culture & Traditions,

Summary: This book reads like a rhyming poem, set up in a style that adds to the pages before to create mouthfuls of rhymes and jumbles.  It’s very similar to the song Ratlin Bog, if anyone is familiar with that!

The book goes through the steps in making a traditional piñata and teaches many different animal names in Spanish at the same time! The entire farm gets involved in braiding rope, making the paste, and decorating the piñata for the party. A goose stirs the paste, the cat shreds the paper, and the horse hauls the water! There are many other steps that require mammalian assistance, and the farm inhabitants are happy to oblige.   This is a pretty quick read, great to introduce vocabulary to young readers.

Serra’s illustrations are bright and cheerful, the way he gives the animal helpers personality will draw in a reader of any age.

Reflection Questions:

  • Have you ever seen or smashed a piñata?
  • Was it similar or different to the one in the story?
  • Why do you think so?
  • What was a new word you learned when hearing the story?

About the Author & the Illustrator: 

samantha-r-vamos-photoSamantha R. Vamos was born in Madison, Wisconsin, where her parents met during graduate school. Vamos grew up on the East Coast and attended Georgetown University Law Center and practiced law in Washington, DC and Chicago, Illinois. After, her family lived in the Pacific Northwest for ten years – with the funniest cat and the sweetest dog – before moving to beautiful Northern California. Writing has always been a passion. Vamos has written stories since she was a teen and publishing those stories was one of her greatest dreams. Vamos was most influenced to write by her mother. She loves writing stories for children!  BEFORE YOU WERE HERE, MI AMOR (Viking, 2009) was inspired by the birth of Samantha’s sister’s first child. THE CAZUELA THAT THE FARM MAIDEN STIRRED (Charlesbridge, 2011) popped into her head while she was cooking. She was inspired to write ALPHABET TRUCKS (Charlesbridge, 2013), after watching a zipper truck along a highway. ALPHABET TRAINS (Charlesbridge, 2015) and ALPHABET BOATS (2018) are companion books in the alphabet transportation series.
Six of Samantha’s favorite books (there are many more) include “Watership Down” by Richard Adams, “Lonesome Dove” by Larry McMurtry, “The Power of One” by Bryce Courtenay, “A Confederacy of Dunces” by John Kennedy Toole, “The Bear Went Over the Mountain” by William Kotzwinkle, and “The Time Traveler’s Wife” by Audrey Niffenegger.Some children’s favorites include “Dinner at the Panda Palace” by Stephanie Calmenson, “One Hungry Monster” by Susan Heyboer O’Keefe, “Agent A to Agent Z” by Andy Rash, “Brave Irene” by William Steig, “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, “The Graveyard Book” by Neil Gaiman, “Okay for Now” by Gary D. Schmidt, and the “Harry Potter” series by J.K. Rowling.

sebastia-serra-largeSebastià Serra has illustrated more than seventy children’s books in Spain, Italy, France, UK, Portugal, Taiwan, Brazil and the United States. Also, he has worked as graphic designer for several television shows, family theater and many museums and cultural institutions.

Serra was selected three times for the M oyster degli Illustratori di Libri per ragazzi  at Bologna Children’s Book Fair and Also for the  Society of Illustrators of New York, in the Original Art exhibition: The Fine Art of Children’s Books Illustration.

He also took part in illustration exhibitions at  The Museum of American Illustration of New York,  Chicago Art Institute, Northwestern University of Illinois, Itabashi Art Museum of Tokyo , Korea  Society of Illustrators ,  International Illustrators Exchange of Prague and Frankfurt Book Fair.

He won the Mercè Llimona Prize, the Lola Anglada prize, the Serra d’Or Critics Prize, and twice Junceda Prizes by the Professional Association of Illustrators of Catalonia.

Sound Off Saturday Featuring: Mama Tortuga!

Happy Saturday!  We are thrilled to have been able to connect this week with Johana, also known as Mama Tortuga!  She is a powerhouse of bilingual and herbal activism and knowledge, with a flair for business.  Johana is a hustler and has tons of fantastic projects that she’s currently working on.  We hope you enjoy learning about them as much as we did!
The Tiny Activist: Introduce yourself/your organization!f70d4b_5e94206b839e4548ac290c241396f086~mv2_d_1836_3264_s_2

Mama Tortuga: Hello, hola!! I am Johana usually called Mama Tortuga. I have created a bilingual website called www.mamatortuga.org to support and provide resources to families around the world, that want to raise free, eco-conscious, multilingual, global citizens. Our perspective is multicultural. We love to create community and to support communities that are working to create a better and improved world!!! I have a very eclectic point of view, from music and arts, to activism, to freedom, our family is here to support this and amplify those voices that need to be amplified!!!

TTA: What are you passionate about?

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Johana and her family- Photo Credit: @R Dot Photography

 

MT: Very passionate about a wholesome approach to live!! From intersectional feminism, mindful parenting, sustainability, arts, and love!!! I am a student of life!! I am also a lover of nature and work alongside my family in our small backyard garden.

TTA: Tell us about a project you’re currently working on!

 

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“Parenting is a spiritual practice. Social Activism is a spiritual practice”

MT: Right now I am working on creating ways to support myself, an immigrant Latina mother, and support other women in my community in learning and healing. Always looking for ways I can generate funds and spaces for us to grow!! Locally, I am offering Spanish and English social classes in the area of West Palm Beach, Fl. I am also on a local Spanish radio, where I support ancestral knowledge on herbals and multicultural traditions. Online, I am offering platforms to support resources for global and conscious families. Also, I am documenting much of my adventures, because I believe our voices are important, even if my English is not perfect!! Always showing solidarity with oppressed groups and searching for a different mindset for our world!!! Right now working on a class to be offered at the Florida Herbal Conference of next year in Spanish!!!

 

TTA: How can people support you on your journey?

 

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“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need”

MT: Thanks for asking this!! We offer a line of wonderful and original Mama Tortuga T-shirts on all sizes for you $21 for sizes S, M, L and $18 for children, includes shipping, we also offer custom orders for bigger sizes or special merchandise. Also, I would love to be offered jobs on translation, multicultural consultant and talks, that are paid. I had been doing a lot of these jobs in the past decade. Sadly, many times, we are not being acknowledged. Also, I would love to be part of online collabs and convos. It is about forming a supporting community!!!

 

TTA: What book was your favorite in 2019 so far?

MT: So hard to choose!! Going to mention some: The Book of Forgiving: The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and Our World by Desmond Tutu and Mpho Andrea Tutu, The Holly Wild by Danielle Dulsky and Jambalaya by Louisa Teish

Screen Shot 2019-07-27 at 11.55.22 AMTTA: What are you looking forward to in the coming year?

MT: For my website to keep growing and new connections that make a reality the dreams I have about having a supportive community. That the passion that I have for justice and solidarity and healing can come to fruition in abundance of resources and love!!!f70d4b_6ed50d5703164302a09e00d41ac84851mv2.jpg

 

Stay Connected with Mama Tortuga!

Green, multicultural and mindful family

Spanish Conversational Groups 

Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré

Written by: Anika Aldamuy Denise

Illustrated by: Paola Escobar

For ages:  4-8 years

Language: English & Spanish

Topics Covered: Travel, Emigration, Puerto Rican Culture & Traditions, Literacy, Community, Trailblazer, Multilingualism, Latinx Authors.

Summary: The story opens in 1920’s Puerto Rico.  Pura leaves with her aunt to visit New York City for a wedding, and with her Pura brings the stories of her home.  Manhattan is very different from Puerto Rico, but Pura decides to make the move to NYC and thus begins her new life.  Working first in a garment factory, she is unsatisfied.  When a job at her local library becomes available, Pura is the perfect candidate because she speaks Spanish, English, and French!  She is perfect for the job and loves working there, until she realizes that none of the stories she grew up hearing are in the library.  Luckily, she has story seeds that are ready to be planted and grow.  During the children’s story hour, Pura dazzles listeners with tales she knows well and believes others should know!  She decides to learn to make puppets, and brings her beloved folktales to life within the walls of the library.  Pura performs in English and Spanish, and she is the first Puerto Rican librarian in New York City.  Not satisfied, Pura writes down her stories and mails them to book publishers, hoping to make a book of stories.  She is published, and continues on her journey to plant story seeds in remembrance of her first home.  At a speaking engagement, Pura meets her husband Clarence and together they travel to new cities bringing stories and music to audiences all over the country!  After Clarence passes many years later, Pura returns to her original library and sees the fruits of her story seeds have flourished.

This important story tells the life of Pura Belpré, first mainstream Latinx author in America.  She used her storytelling abilities to build bridges between communities and advocate for her own culture and community.  In the back of the book is an Author’s Note that gives more extensive biographical information about Pura, as well as a bibliography, stories (including articles and films) for further reading, and some stories that Pura is responsible for bringing to mainstream publishers.  The book does a great job of integrating Spanish words and phrases into the story so it’s easily understood by both listeners and readers.  Pura Belpré is truly a figure that we have no business forgetting!  Both librarians and community activists alike can learn from Pura’s methods and legacy, and we all should continue to work in preserving her life’s mission of promoting folktales and bilingual stories.

Reflection Questions: 

  • How do you think Pura felt after moving to a brand new city?
  • Can you speak any other languages?
  • Why do you think it was important for Pura to promote bilingual storytelling and the folktales she grew up hearing?
  • What’s your favorite story?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Read the stories that Pura worked so hard to get published!  Do you recognize any of them?  Having bilingual books, even if students are not totally understanding both languages can introduce them different writing styles and literacy in additional to the vocabulary.
  • Make your own puppets and have a puppet show for another class!  What stories do you want told, and feel passionately about introducing to others?  Learn more about puppetry styles and crafting methods, and choose a construction style that works for your classroom’s ability and skill level.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

anikaAnika Aldamuy Denise grew up in Queens, in a book-loving, food-loving Puerto Rican-Italian family.

As a little girl, she enjoyed reading, writing short stories, and performing one-girl shows in her living room.

She graduated college with a degree in communications, and went on to get a Very Grown-up Job in advertising. While doing her Very Grown-up Job, she met lots of nice people and learned a great many useful things, but couldn’t shake the feeling she was meant to do something… different.

One day, she met the dashing children’s book illustrator Christopher Denise, who explained he drew “animals with clothes on” for a living… and encouraged her to write him a story. (Also, to go on a date with him.)

One wedding, three kids, and many messy first drafts later, Anika is back to writing short stories (in the form of picture books!).

She still enjoys those living room performances, but now plays the part of “Mom” under the direction of her three daughters: Sofia, Isabel, and Esmé. It has been her best role so far.

paolaPaola Escobar is a Colombian graphic designer and illustrator. She has worked for a variety of publishers including SM Spain, Planeta, Norma, Fleurus. In the UK she has worked with Oxford University Press, Penguin Random House, Scholastic UK, Laurence King, HarperCollins and Little Brown Book Group, and Little Bee Books and Simon & Schuster in the US. In addition she has worked across a broad range of printed and digital magazines. She currently works as a freelance illustrator and lives very happily in Bogota with her husband and dog Flora.  You can find her on Instagram @paoesco8ar 

Green is a Chili Pepper: A Book of Colors

Written by: Roseanne Greenfield Thong

Illustrated by: John Parra

For Ages: Ages 3 to 5

Language: English, Spanish

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Culture & Traditions, Latinx Culture, Community, Family, Love, Self-Expression.

GreenisaChiliPepper
“Orange are the marigolds on Day of the Dead. Orange are the platos for special bread”

Summary: Green is a Chile Pepper is a joyful celebration of the many colors found in latinx communities, from the orange marigolds for Dia de los Muertos to the blue of the ojo de dios craft that children create under a bright blue sky. Each new color is accompanied by a Spanish translation that is prominently visible on the page, and the illustrations feature children of color with diverse skin colors and gender presentations.

SLJ1401w_Libro-GreenIsAChiliPepper
“Yellow is masa we use to make tortillas, tamales, and sweet corn cake!”

From food (yellow masa corn tortillas) to parties (watch out for the pink piñata!) each page also offers up an array of Spanish vocabulary, and each italicized word can be found in the glossary at the end of the book.

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Descriptive Glossary

The glossary doesn’t just offer a translation, but goes above and beyond, including important information about Latinx culture that can broaden the readers perspective and understanding, even if they have never heard the words before.

Green is a Chile Pepper received the Pura Belpré Award Illustrator Honor for John Parra’s vibrant work, and won a Latino Book Award, and we can’t say enough about how fabulous it is! 

Reflection Questions:

  • What was your favorite color in the book?
  • What did you notice about the objects that the author picked to illustrate each color?
  • What was your favorite Spanish word in the book?
  • What are some other Spanish words you know?

Continuing the Conversation: 

  • Look at the rainbow and what objects do you think of? Create your own version of the story with your community in mind, and translate your special words into Spanish-what do those words sound like? (Note: google translate doesn’t always have the correct translation-do you have friends who may be able to tell you if they are wrong?)
  • Listen to songs in Spanish– what musicians do you like? Where does that music come from? Learn more about their culture!

 

indianagamexicohuicholand-peru
God’s Eyes from India (Naga), Mexico (Huichol) and Peru.

Create your own ojo de dios (“god’s eye”) which can be used to communicate with whatever spiritual connection you choose! Learn about the rich history of the god’s eye and how it can be found all over the world!

 

 

 

 

About the Author & the Illustrator: 

roseanne-potrait-1

 

Roseanne Greenfield Thong is a journalist and English teacher. She is the author of Round Is a Tortilla, Round Is a Mooncake, Red Is a Dragon, One Is a Drummer, and Wish. She lives in Fountain Valley, California.

 

 

JohnParraPortrait2010

John Parra is an award winning illustrator, fine artist, designer, and educator, best known for award-winning picture books. Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos (written by Monica Brown, NorthSouth Books) was named a New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book of the Year, Pura Belpré Honor for Illustration, Center for the Study of Multicultural Children’s Literature Best Book, and Smithsonian Best Book of the Year. John has received many awards and honors including three Pura Belpré Honors for Illustration, two SCBWI Golden Kite Awards for Illustration, and The Christopher Award, among many others. is an award-winning illustrator, artist, educator, and designer. His illustrations are featured in When Thunder Comes and Round Is a Tortilla. His Hispanic roots and heritage provide a rich cultural palette of inspiring imagery and customs. He lives in Jamaica, New York.

Sound Off Saturday Featuring: Dr. Meza!

TTA: Introduce yourself!

Dr. M: Dr. Rocio Rosales Meza, I am a Xicana Feminist Psychology Professor and Mother. I am a proud daughter of Mexican immigrants, a native Spanish speaker, and a first generation college student.

TTA: What are you passionate about?

Dr. M: I am passionate about liberation and social justice and gentle, feminist parenting. My mission is to create a liberated, conscious, peaceful community in the now and for future generations.

TTA: Tell us about a project you’re currently working on!

Dr. M: I am currently working on setting up a Patreon community to share resources related to the intersections of liberation, parenting, psychology, education, and social justice. I’ve received so many requests for resources and from folx wanting to hear more and learn more from me, so I’m finally in the process of getting this together for our IG community. I’m excited about all the possibility to connect and create!

TTA: How can people support you on your journey?

Dr. M: Folx can support me and my work by engaging with me on Instragram, joining my email list to learn about the things I’m working on and resources I’m sharing, and eventually joining my Patreon community to make my work sustainable. I am honored to be of service.

TTA: What book was your favorite in 2018?

detail_746_Revolutionary_mothering_medium
Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Front Lines

Dr. M: My favorite book in 2018 was Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Front Lines. It speaks so much to my experience as a Mother of color and how motherhood has liberated me. It inspires me to continue to be revolutionary in my mothering, resisting compartmentalizing, hiding my motherhood and child, my life. It encourages me to continue to show up as my full self to resist the patriarchy as both a woman of color and mother of color. A must read for all.

TTA: What are you looking forward to in the coming year?

Dr. M: I’m looking forward to building a community of folx that want to raise conscious, liberated children and selves. I am looking forward to encouraging more mothers, mothers of color, women of color to show up as their full selves…to step into their power, to know they deserve to be well, at peace, free, and to not just survive but thrive. I believe our children, the world will benefit when womxn, mothers, especially womxn of color and mothers of color are liberated. Social justice and equity is important, but even more than that is our liberation…freedom to unlock our every potential, our every strength, our every dream…IMAGINE alll the possibilities! We already accomplish so much in the face of the patriarchy, imagine how much more we can accomplish in liberation, in peace, in wellness, together…thinking of that is just awe inspiring!

Let’s create a new world together, for us, and for our children

because they, we, are so worthy.

Stay Connected

with Dr. Meza!

Dr. Meza’s Website

Dr. Meza on Instagram

Dr. Meza on LinkedIn