Monday, September 16, 2013

Call for Proposals: National Latino Children's Literature Conference

The National Latino Children's Literature Conference (March 13-14, 2014) and is a great way to network and connect with Latino authors and illustrators, literary agents, literacy experts, librarians and other educators working with Latino families. With the renewed focus this year in the publishing world on the publication of Latino children's and young adult literature, this conference is very timely. 

The call for paper and poster proposals for the conference opened today. Read more here:  

Thursday, September 5, 2013

REFORMA Review: Sweet Dreams

Sweet Dreams/Dulces sueños
By Pat Mora, illustrated by Maribel Suárez 
Rayo/HarperCollins, 2008. $14.89 (Hardcover). ISBN 978-0-06-085042-5. 
Grades PreK-2

In this second helping of Mora’s My Family/Mi familia easy-reader series, an abuelita prepares her three grandchildren for bed with soft kisses and whispers about sleeping animals. The repetitive text –along with the soothing, slightly disproportionate illustrations of a happy Latino family – is perfect for young readers. Librarians will find this a welcome addition to their collection of easy-readers in Spanish or English.


Naidoo, J. C. (2008). Sweet Dreams/Dulces sueños. Written by Pat Mora. Illus. by Maribel Suárez. REFORMA Newsletter, 26 (1/2), 27.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Latina Author Meg Medina Disinvited from Author Visit Because of Book Title

Latina children's and YA author Meg Medina's newest book Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass doesn't quite sit well with a school principal. Because the book has the word "Ass" in the title, the principal thinks it is inappropriate for tweens and early teens. Read more . . . reposted from  Meg's blog.

Let me start by saying that I am not making this up.

This week I was officially uninvited to speak on bullying at a middle school due to the title of my latest YA novel, YAQUI DELGADO WANTS TO KICK YOUR ASS. The timing could not have been more ironic. September is the month when the American Library Association celebrates Banned Book Week, our annual reminder about the importance of intellectual freedom.

Sure, the title has raised eyebrows – as I knew it would. But the title of my book wasn’t an issue several months ago when I was contracted  to be part of the school’s anti-bullying event. YAQUI DELGADO WANTS TO KICK YOUR ASS  is the story of girl’s unraveling as she navigates being in the crosshairs of a physical and emotional abuser. I had planned to talk about my own experience at the hands of a bully long ago – and all that the experience robbed from me.  Then, as now, there were no easy answers, no clear path out of the torment that I couldn’t trust the adults around me to stop. I had also planned to talk about how that ugly sliver of life became fiction and about how writing and books help us make sense of our life experiences, good and bad.

But last Friday, I received a painful email from the teacher who had reached out to me in the first place. She was apologetic as she explained that her principal needed reassurances. He needed to be sure that I would not state the name of my novel. Or show a slide of the cover. Or use “coarse language” during the presentation. These were fifth through eighth graders from a community that was described as “mixed” and who might not appreciate bad language.
I took a deep breath.

Here is part of my reply:
“…For me to come to your school and distance myself from my work feels disrespectful of me as an author, but worse, it feels dishonest in dealing with the students, most especially those who are on the receiving end of harassment that already makes them feel ashamed. If I refuse to even name my book or tell them that the title comes from hearing those awful words firsthand, I would only be adding to that shame.As you mention in your email, you see this firsthand every day. I believe that one way we adults can help is to acknowledge the reality of what our kids are experiencing…” 

In an effort to be fair, I suggested sending home a note to let the Concerned Adults opt out for their students. No dice. The ax fell yesterday when the principal emailed me to say that our visit was cancelled. He explained that although he’d once been an English teacher, he had “other considerations” as a school principal. Wow, I wanted to ask. What happened?  And what could those considerations be, exactly, especially when the stakes are so high?

I’ll say only this:  I make absolutely NO APOLOGIES for the title of my book. The title is bold and troubling, and it suggests exactly what’s inside. Besides, we can fret all we want about the word ass, but that word isn’t the real trouble, is it?  What’s hurting our kids is the savagery on their phones, and Facebook pages and in their classrooms.  That, and the reluctance of those around them to step up and do the tough work of pulling the issue out into the open and talking about what bullying really looks and sounds like and about its radioactive impact that lasts for years into the future.

That’s what YAQUI DELGADO WANTS TO KICK YOUR ASS is about. It’s not just a book with a coarse word in the title. The story tries to get at the truth of what our young people are dishing out or receiving.  And most important to me, it’s a book that might have helped a kid like 12-year-old Gabrielle Molina before she decided to take her own life earlier this year.
Read her story and ask yourself this:  Would Gabrielle’s parents and teachers have objected to her reading a book with the word ass in the title if they knew it might have helped her survive?

My challenge to you is read the book and share it with tweens and teens - particularly those that face bullying at home, school, or in their community!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

REFORMA Review: Journey of Dreams

Journey of Dreams. 
By Marge Pellegrino. 
London: Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2009. 250 pp. $15.95 (Hardcover). ISBN 978-1-84780-061-9. 
Grades 6-9. 
English with Spanish and Quiché.

Tomasa watches in horror as her peaceful village in the Highlands of Guatemala is leveled by guerrilla soldiers who burn her home; massacre her Abuela, neighbors, and friends; and steal her hope for survival. Set in the mid 1980s, the gripping narrative follows the thirteen-year-old Tomasa and her family as they set out on an arduous journey through Guatemala, Mexico, and eventually to the United States where they attempt to seek political refuge. Imbued with elements of magical realism and oral tradition, this thriller is sure to spark discussion and provide teens with a new perspective on the reasons families immigrate into the “land of the free.”


Naidoo, J. C. (2010). Journey of Dreams. Written by Marge Pellegrino. REFORMA Newsletter, 28(1/2), 22.

REFORMA Review: Grandma's Pear Tree

Grandma’s Pear Tree/El peral de abuela. 
By Suzanne Santillan. Illus. by Atilio Pernisco. Trans. by Cambridge BrickHouse
McHenry, IL: Raven Tree Press, 2010. 32 pp. $16.95 (Hardcover). ISBN 978-1-934960-80-6. 
Grades K-2. 
English with some Spanish.

 After getting his ball stuck in his Abuela’s pear tree, a young boy asks various family members for help. Each of them give him advice on how to get the ball out of the tree but their suggestions only make matters worse. The simple vocabulary of the text is appropriate for the intended audience; however, the character dialog seems unnatural with Spanish words being repeated after their English equivalent and at times there are gaps in the text that will not be easy for early readers to follow. In addition, Spanish words are highlighted in a different color than the surrounding English text. In some instances, the chosen color makes the Spanish text hard to read against the background of the page. While the cartoon illustrations carry a certain charm about them, they are not consistent with the story, going from day to night and back to day with no logical explanation.

Not Recommended.

Naidoo, J. C. (2010). Grandma’s Pear Tree/El peral de abuela. Written by Suzanne Santillan. Illus. by Atilio Pernisco. Trans. by Cambridge BrickHouse. REFORMA Newsletter, 28(1/2), 21.

REFORMA Review: The Firefly Letters

The Firefly Letters: A Suffragette’s Journey to Cuba.
By Margarita Engle. 
New York: Henry Holt and Company 2010. 151 pp. $16.99 (Hardcover). ISBN 978-0805090826. 
Grades 5 and up. 
English with some Spanish.

Based upon the writings of Swedish suffragette Fredrika Bremer, Engle’s latest novel in verse provides readers with a glimpse into the daily lives and struggles of both free and enslaved females living in Cuba in 1851.  Told in alternating voices, as in her other historical books on Cuba, the stirring narratives skillfully demonstrate the ties that bind humans: both figuratively and physically. The main characters of Cecilia, Elena, and Frederika are complex enough to propel the story but simple enough to keep reluctant tweens and teens engaged. Includes historical and author notes, as well as references to materials by and about Fredrika Bremer.

Recommended for school and public libraries.

Naidoo, J. C. (2010). The Firefly Letters: A Suffragette’s Journey to Cuba. Written by Margarita Engle. REFORMA Newsletter, 28(1/2), 21.

REFORMA Review: Mother Goose on the Loose

Early Literacy Programming En Español: Mother Goose on the Loose® Programs for Bilingual Learners. 
By Betsy Diamant-Cohen. 
New York: Neal-Schuman, 2010. 177 pp. $65 (Paperback with CD-ROM). ISBN 978-1555706913. 
Professional Book for Librarians. 
English with Spanish.

In this thoughtful and highly useful resource, Diamant-Cohen takes elements of her energetic Mother Goose on the Loose® literacy program and incorporates them with early childhood literacy strategies used with Spanish-speaking, bilingual children and their families. Information and theory related to bilingual language development as well as tips for partnering with the Latino community are also provided by prominent Latina early literacy specialists. Of particular importance is a discussion on the appropriate use of Spanish in relation to the Latino population served, in addition to social considerations for selecting rhymes in English and culturally-relevant rhymes in Spanish. Step-by-step guidelines, bilingual songs and rhymes, planning templates, flannelboard patterns, and much more are included on a CD that will be quite useful to aspiring librarians developing bilingual and Spanish programs for young children. One shortcoming of the guide is minimal reference to Día and Día resources which should be obvious sources for planning an early literacy program serving Latino children and their families. Additionally, while some Spanish-language rhymes and Latino children’s books are referenced, more common titles are overlooked to make space for Spanish translations of English books and rhymes. The author stresses the importance of incorporating both types of literature into programs for bilingual learners but does not provide links or references to many of the rich sources available for selecting high-quality, culturally relevant Latino children’s literature. Nonetheless, this is a worthy source of ideas for any librarian serving Spanish-speaking populations.


Naidoo, J. C. (2010). Early Literacy Programming En Español: Mother Goose on the Loose® Programs for Bilingual Learners. Written by Betsy Diamant-Cohen. REFORMA Newsletter, 28(1/2), 20. (Professional Book)

REFORMA Review: Chavela and the Magic Bubble

Chavela and the Magic Bubble. 
By Monica Brown. Illus. by Magaly Morales. 
New York: Clarion Books, 2010. Unpaged. $16.00 (Hardcover). ISBN 978-0-547-241-24197-5.
Grades PreK-3.  
English with Spanish.
Little Chavela loves chewing gum and blowing it into bubbles of all shapes and sizes. She especially enjoys sharing a piece of her chicle with her Abuelita and listening to stories about her grandmother’s childhood in Mexico. One morning the young girl finds a package of Magic Chicle which she chews and blows into a magnificent pink bubble that transports her back in time to the Mexican village where her great grandfather was a chiclero harvesting the sap of the sapodilla tree to make gum. While in this rainforest, Chavela experiences its supernatural beauty and meets a mysterious girl with a doll in a blue dress. Imbued with magical realism, this mouth-watering, snappy tale will dazzle readers as its text changes shape along with Chavela’s many bubbles. At the same time, Morales’ blazing, color-suffused illustrations will have young children pouring over the book for hours in search of their own magical stick of chicle. An adaptation of the Latin American folk song “Tengo una muñeca” is also included along with an author’s note chicleros.

Highly Recommended.

Naidoo, J. C. (2010). Chavela and the Magic Bubble. Written by Monica Brown. Illus. by Magaly Morales. REFORMA Newsletter, 28(1/2), 19.

REFORMA Review: Border Crossing

Border Crossing. 
By Jessica Lee Anderson. 
Minneapolis, MN: Milkweed Editions, 2009. 174 pp. $17.00 (Hardcover). ISBN 978-1-57131-689-9.
Grades 7 and up. 
English with some Spanish.
Fifteen-year-old Manz is content to spend his summer working on a cattle ranch with this best friend Jed. Although the work is hot, the job is a great escape from his mother’s depression, which seeps into every corner of their house. Unfortunately, it isn’t long before the biracial teen begins to hear voices telling him to beware La Migra who want to ship him back to Mexico as part of Operation Wetback. These voices, which Manz deems as The Messenger, convince him that he can trust no one as they are all working for the Operation. Anderson provides readers with a glimpse into the downward spiral that engulfs the teen as he drowns in voices that only he can hear. With very few books representing mental illness, particularly paranoid schizophrenia, in the Latino community, this is an important addition to the young adult collection of most libraries.


Naidoo, J. C. (2010). Border Crossing. Written by Jessica Lee Anderson. REFORMA Newsletter, 28(1/2), 19.

REFORMA Review: What Can You Do with a Peleta?

What Can You Do with a Paleta?/¿Qué puedes hacer con una paleta?. 
By Carmen Tafolla. Illus. by Magaly Morales. 
Berkeley, CA: Tricycle Press, 2009. Unpaged. $14.99 (Hardcover). ISBN 978-1-58246-289-9. 
Grades PreK-2. 

Lyrical language and vivid illustrations abound in this beautiful follow-up to Tafolla’s What Can You Do with a Rebozo?. Perfect for young children, the bouncy text follows a young Mexican child as she describes the many things that you can do with una paleta (a traditional Mexican popsicle) from painting ice mustaches to making friends. Magaly Morales’ (sister to Yuyi Morales) bold acrylic illustrations sparkle with life and exude the warmth of a Mexican barrio. This charming title will make summer storytimes sizzle and leave the mouths of young readers watering for more!


Naidoo, J. C. (2009). What Can You Do with a Paleta?/¿Qué puedes hacer con una paleta?. Written by Carmen Tafolla. Illus. by Magaly Morales. REFORMA Newsletter, 27 (1/2), 27.

REFORMA Review: The Secret Legacy

The Secret Legacy. 
By Rigoberta Menchú with Dante Liano, Illus. by Domi. Trans. by David Unger. 
Groundwood Books, 2008. 64 pages. $19.95 (Hardcover). ISBN 978-0-88899-896-5.  
Grades 3-6. 

In this third book from the team that introduced young readers to the lives and folklore of Maya Guatemalans in The Girl from Chimel and The Honey Jar, readers meet seven-year-old Ixkem who has been selected by her grandfather to continue the tradition of guarding the sacred cornfields from animal predators. On the first day of her new job, the girl is spirited underground by a group of tiny magical nahuales or animal spirits that encourage Ixkem to tell them stories of human customs in exchange for a special secret meant for her grandfather.  As she weaves each tale, the girl introduces Mayan folktales to both the reader and the animal spirits, and is eventually returned to her family where she shares the special secret the nahuales have sent. Menchú’s unique folktale collection, perfectly complemented by Domi’s naïve illustrations, will intrigue older elementary children and encourage them to learn more about Mayan customs and folklore.


Naidoo, J. C. (2009). The Secret Legacy. Written by Rigoberta Menchú with Dante Liano. Illus. by Domi. Trans. by David Unger. REFORMA Newsletter, 27 (1/2), 26

REFORMA Review: Rogelia's House of Magic

Rogelia’s House of Magic. 
By Jamie Martinez Wood.
Delacorte Press/Random House, 2008. 300 pages. $15.99 (Hardcover). ISBN 978-0-385-73477-6.
Grades 6-9. 
English with some Spanish.

Marina and Fern are two friends who couldn’t be more different. While the first can not speak Spanish and fails to embrace her heritage, the latter celebrates her Mexican heritage with gusto and pushes her friend to follow step. The two teenage Latinas’ lives are turned upside down when Marina’s new housekeeper Rogelia moves in with her granddaughter Xochitl. Rogelia is a cuandera who agrees to teach the girls magic while showing them how to be healers. Xochitl is an apprentice curandera but has lost faith in her abuela’s power since her grandmother failed to save her twin sister after a fatal accident. However, it is Xochitl that has to eventually band with Marina and Fern to use their magic and save Rogelia’s life. Filled with crushes, teenage drama, and magic, this quick read will introduce many teens to certain aspects of Mexican culture such as curanderas. Although the novel is clichéd at times, it does an adequate job depicting the power of teenage female friendships in much the same way as works such as Brashares’ The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.

Recommended as a secondary purchase. 

Naidoo, J. C. (2009). Rogelia’s House of Magic. Written by Jamie Martinez Wood. REFORMA Newsletter, 27 (1/2), 25.

REFORMA Review: Pepita on Pepper Street

Pepita on Pepper Street/Pepita en la calle Pepper
By Ofelia Dumas Lachtman illustrated by Alex Pardo DeLange
Piñata Books, 2008. Unpaged. $15.95 (Hardcover). ISBN 978-1-55885-443-7. 
Grades K-3. 

In this latest book in the Pepita series, our young protagonist finds her new neighborhood extremely dissatisfying. A few of her neighbors attempt to be friendly to the girl but she rudely dismisses each of them. Her parents encourage her to embrace her new surroundings and seek friendships. Pepita refuses and has “huffy” altercations with her neighbors. Eventually she meets a girl her age and, in a trite ending, becomes her friend. The overall negative and didactic tone of the book is somewhat balanced by bright, cartoon illustrations. However, children seeking a book to help them transition after a new move will be better served elsewhere.

Not recommended.

Naidoo, J. C. (2009). Pepita on Pepper Street/Pepita en la calle Pepper. Written by Ofelia Dumas Lachtman. Illus. by Alex Pardo DeLange. REFORMA Newsletter, 27 (1/2), 24.

REFORMA Review: Mexican Whiteboy

Mexican Whiteboy
By Matt de la Peña
Delacorte Press/Random House, 2008. 247 pages. $15.99 (Hardcover). ISBN 978-0-385-73310-6.
Grades 6-9. 

Life for biracial teen Danny Lopez is confusing. His blonde hair, blue-eyes, light skin, and inability to speak Spanish make him fell outcast in his father’s Mexican family. His dark skin brands him an outcast in his predominantly white, private high school. In addition to these feelings of isolation and identify confusion, Danny is dealing with the absence of his father who left when Danny was a young boy – an absence that Danny seeks to fill by playing the all-American sport that his dad taught him. During a summer visit with his paternal cousins in San Diego, the teen eventually develops his self-confidence and understands the truth behind his father’s disappearance. Although the plot features a sport that will attract many reluctant readers, the slow pacing through out two-thirds of the novel and the rushed inclusion of a random hate crime and suicide attempt within the last few chapters may be off-putting for the intended audience.  With other excellent books available on similar topics (Benjamin Sáenz’s He Forgot to Say Goodbye and Oscar Hijuelos’ Dark Dude), this pitch is not likely to hit a smashing homerun with teens.

Recommended only as a secondary purchase.

Naidoo, J. C. (2009). Mexican Whiteboy. Written by Matt de la Peña.  REFORMA Newsletter, 27 (1/2), 24.

REFORMA Review: The Best Gift of All

El mejor regalo del mundo: La leyenda de la Vieja Belén/The Best Gift of All: The Legend of La Vieja Belén
By Julia Alvarez, illustrated by Ruddy Núñez, Translated by Rhina Espaillat
Santillana USA, 2009. 32 pages. $14.99 (Hardcover). ISBN 978-1-60396-325-1
Grades 1-3

Alvarez skillfully weaves a memorable tale of the little known legend of La Vieja Belén, an elderly woman who brings gifts to poor children in the Dominican Republic after the visits of Santa Claus at Christmas and the tres reyes on Epiphany. A lengthy author’s note expounds on the tradition of La Vieja Belén comparing it to the Italian legend La Befana. While the rhythmic English text is engaging, it is the Spanish text that truly sparkles in a beautifully cadenced style. This is a unique addition to holiday collections, particularly for those libraries serving children from the Dominican Republic.


Naidoo, J. C. (2009). El mejor regalo del mundo: La leyenda de la Vieja Belén/The Best Gift of All: The Legend of La Vieja Belén. Written by Julia Alvarez. Illus. by Ruddy Núñez. Trans. by Rhina Espaillat. REFORMA Newsletter, 27 (1/2), 23.

REFORMA Review: Kitchen Dance

Kitchen Dance
By Maurie J. Manning
New York: Clarion Books, 2008. Unpaged. $16.00 (Hardcover). ISBN 978-0-618-99110-5
Grades PreK-2
English with some Spanish

“¡Oye! Do you hear?” Scrape! Splash! Clunk! Clang! Those are the sounds of the Kitchen Dance that two young children overhear as they are trying to sleep. When they tiptoe down the stairs to investigate, they find their Mamá and Papá dancing the tango as they are cleaning dishes and putting away leftovers. Soon everyone joins the fun, singing “¡Cómo te quiero!” and twirling around in a “circle of family.” This light-hearted story, filled with bright watercolor images featuring an exuberant Latino family, celebrates the bonds of familia and is sure to be a crowd-pleaser during storytime.


Naidoo, J. C. (2009). Kitchen Dance. Written and Illus. by Maurie J. Manning. REFORMA Newsletter, 27 (1/2), 23.

REFORMA Review: Gringolandia

By Lyn Miller-Lachmann
Curbstone Press, 2009. 290 pages. $16.95 (Hardcover). ISBN 978-1-931896-49-8. 
Grades 9 and up
English with some Spanish

Ever since the night his father was captured by Chilean soldiers, seventeen-year-old Daniel Aguilar’s life has been painful. Although five years since the incident, he still believes he is responsible for his father’s arrest and subsequent imprisonment and torture. Daniel, his mother, and his younger sister Tina have sought asylum in the United States, all the while fighting for the release of his father. Eventually Mr. Aguilar is released from prison and sent to the U.S. (Gringolandia as he calls it). Unfortunately, his years of abuse have left him broken, inside and out. It is up to Dan and his gringa girlfriend to help Mr. Aguilar overcome depression, alcohol abuse, and suicidal thoughts in order to return to Chile and continue as an activist to free other political hostages and prisoners. Told with raw honesty, Miller-Lachmann’s gritty novel grabs readers from the first word and holds them hostage until the very last. This poignant novel and essential purchase for library collections introduces young adults to a horrific period in history, finally giving a voice to those long silenced.

Highly Recommended.

Naidoo, J. C. (2009). Gringolandia. Written by Lyn Miller-Lachmann. REFORMA Newsletter, 27 (1/2), 22.

REFORMA Review: The Disappeared

The Disappeared
By Gloria Whelan
Dial/Penguin, 2008. 137 pages. $16.99 (Hardcover). ISBN 978-0-8037-3275-9. 
Grades 6 and up
English with some Spanish

Told in alternating chapters from the perspectives of Silvia and her older brother Eduardo, this slight novel attempts to describe the terror and secrecy surrounding los Desaparecidos (The Disappeared) during Argentina’s Dirty War. Each chapter is intended to serve as a mental letter from one teenage sibling to the other, detailing their surging emotions from the time just prior to Eduardo’s capture by the government for his anarchistic views up to the teens’ final escape into Spain.  Notwithstanding the inclusion of a helpful epilogue with information on this tumultuous period in Argentina’s history, the novel’s underdeveloped characters and trite conclusion will leave readers with more questions than answers.

Not Recommended

Naidoo, J. C. (2009). The Disappeared. Written by Gloria Whelan. REFORMA Newsletter, 27 (1/2), 21.

REFORMA Review: What Can You Do with a Reboza?

What Can You Do with a Rebozo? 
By Carmen Tafolla illustrated by Amy Còrdova
Tricycle Press, 2008. Unpaged. $14.95 (Hardcover). ISBN 978-1-58246-220-2. 
Grades PreK-2
English with some Spanish

What can you do with a Rebozo?! Through simple text and vibrant acrylic illustrations, readers follow a young Latina as she introduces them to the many, varied creative uses for a rebozo ranging from a bandage for a puppy to a super hero cape to a beautiful hair ornament. A brief author’s note on the history of rebozos along with discussion questions will be helpful to teachers and librarians as they encourage readers to use their own imagination to discover what they can do with a rebozo.

Recommended for young children

Naidoo, J. C. (2008). What Can You Do with a Rebozo? Written by Carmen Tafolla. Illus. by Amy Còrdova. REFORMA Newsletter, 26 (1/2), 27.

REFORMA Review: The Temptress Four

The Temptress Four 
By Gaby Triana 
HarperCollins, 2008. 247 pages. $16.99 (Hardcover). ISBN 978-0-06-0887-0. 
Grades 7-12

“Eight days of strife and storms . . . . Bonds will be broken.  . . . ‘One of you’ . . . ‘will not come home.’” These aren’t exactly the words best friends Fiona, Killian, Alma, and Yoli want to hear the evening before they embark on a Caribbean cruise to celebrate their high school graduation. However, the fearless foursome are determined not to let a fraudulent fortuneteller ruin their vacation. Filled with typical female teen drama of boys, fashion, flirting, and secrets, this fast-paced read speaks to teens who question life beyond high school, but really skimps on details related to Latino culture. Recommended as a light beach read, but those readers seeking deeper cultural details, as well as teen angst, are better served by Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez’s Haters (2006).

Naidoo, J. C. (2008). The Temptress Four. Written by Gaby Triana. REFORMA Newsletter, 26 (1/2), 27.

REFORMA Review: The Surrender Tree

The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom
By Margarita Engle 
Henry Holt, 2008. 169 pages. $16.95 (Hardcover). ISBN 978-0-8050-8674-4. 
Grades 6-12 
English with some Spanish

Returning to the topic of Cuban slavery as in her award-winning The Poet Slave of Cuba, Engle’s highly accessible, fictionalized verse follows the life of Rosa la Bayamesa, an herbal healer and military nurse, during her efforts to help slaves and soldiers involved in Cuba’s wars and struggles for independence from 1850-1899.  Readers are introduced to not only Rosa but also her husband, a young slave girl, and the opposing forces trying to suppress Cuban slaves. The author’s and historical notes, chronology, and selected references are welcomed additions that ground the poems within their historical context.

Highly Recommended.

Naidoo, J. C. (2008). The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom. Written by Margarita Engle. REFORMA Newsletter, 26 (1/2), 27.

REFORMA Review: Count on Culebra

Count on Culebra: Go from 1 to 10 in Spanish
By Ann Whitford Paul, illustrated by Ethan Long
Holiday House, 2008. Unpaged. $16.95 (Hardcover). ISBN 978-0-8234-2124-4. 
Grades 1-3 
English with some Spanish

Not your traditional counting book, this convoluted story follows Culebra’s attempts to rid Iguana of the pain from her stubbed toe. Young readers are introduced to the Spanish words for 1-10 via a collection of cooking utensils tied to Iguana’s tail. While the bright gouache illustrations are busy on some spreads, children cannot resist counting the menagerie of cooking tools. A pronunciation guide and glossary are provided along with a recipe for Cactus Butter Dulces. This is a secondary purchase for libraries with noted reservations in the ability to teach Spanish numeric words and overall design.

Naidoo, J. C. (2008). Count on Culebra: Go from 1 to 10 in Spanish. Written by Ann Whitford Paul. Illus. by Ethan Long. REFORMA Newsletter, 26 (1/2), 23.


No English
By Jacqueline Jules, illustrated by Amy Huntington
Mitten Press, 2007. Unpaged. $17.95 (Hardcover). ISBN 978-1-58726-474-0.
Grades 1-4
English with some Spanish

An increasing number of Spanish-speaking and immigrant children are enrolled in preschool and elementary schools around the country. Many of these children feel alienated from their English-speaking classmates because of language barriers. This sensitive book describes the confusing experiences of Blanca, a second-grade Argentinean girl, as she navigates her new English-only classroom. Through the kindness of one of her classmates, Blanca eventually feels welcomed in her school. Although the book is a little contrived, educators will find it a useful discussion starter in schools with English language learners. An accompanying website also provides classroom activities.


Naidoo, J. C. (2008). No English. Written by Jacqueline Jules. Illus. by Amy Huntington. REFORMA Newsletter, 26 (1/2), 26.

REFORMA Review: Bebé Goes to the Beach

Bebé Goes to the Beach 
By Susan Middleton Elya, illustrated by Steven Salerno 
Harcourt, 2008. Unpaged. $16.00 (Hardcover). ISBN 978-0-15-206000-8. 
Grades PreK-1 
English with embedded Spanish.

In this rollicking sequel to Bebé Goes Shopping, mamá attempts to keep her bebé entertained all the while trying to soak up the sun. Keeping with the style of the Shopping book, bouncy English text is sprinkled with Spanish phrases that, for the most part, can be understood via contextual clues. Salerno’s animated illustrations exude a vintage flair that will remind young children of their favorite cartoon. A hot choice for summer preschool storytimes! 


Naidoo, J. C. (2008). Bebé Goes to the Beach. Written by Susan Middleton Elya. Illus. by Steven Salerno. REFORMA Newsletter, 26 (1/2), 23.


REFORMA REVIEW: Quinito, Day and Night

Quinito, Day and Night/Quinito, día y noche
By Ina Cumpiano, illustrated by José Ramírez
Children’s Book Press, 2008. 24 pages. $16.95 (Hardcover). ISBN 978-0-89239-226-1. 
Grades PreK-3

In this welcome sequel to Quinito’s Neighborhood/El vecindario de Quinito, readers are introduced to a plethora of opposites in English and Spanish through the daily interactions between Quinito, a well-adjusted Latino boy, and his familia. The simplistic text, accompanied by vibrant illustrations reminiscent of John Steptoe’s early work, makes for a wonderful addition to the early childhood collections and story hour programs of all public libraries.

Highly Recommended.

Naidoo, J. C. (2008). Quinito, Day and Night/Quinito, día y noche. Written by Ina Cumpiano. Illus. by José Ramírez. REFORMA Newsletter, 26 (1/2), 26.

REFORMA Review: Down to the Bone

Down to the Bone 
By Mayra Lazara Dole
Harper Collins, 2008. 376 pages. $17.89 (Hardcover). ISBN 978-0-06-084311-3. 
Grades 7+ 
English with some Spanish

“Happy Anniversary! I never thought I could love someone sooooo much. Remember our first kiss?” The worst day of Laura’s life begins when she gets caught reading these sentiments from the love letter she received the day before.  Her Catholic School Nun catches the Cuban teen pouring over the letter and proceeds to read it to the entire class. Unfortunately, the letter is from Laura’s flyy girlfriend! Told through a striking voice which mirrors the life of many LGBTQ Latin@s, Dole’s emotionally-charged first novel follows Laura as she explores what it really means to be a tortillera (Cuban slang for a lesbian).  With so few good books on the topic, this is a welcome addition to libraries serving the needs of today’s teens.


Naidoo, J. C. (2008). Down to the Bone. Written by Mayra Lazara Dole. REFORMA Newsletter., 26 (3/4),18.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Looking at Alabama via the Darkroom

Set predominantly in Marion, Alabama during the Civil Rights era, the graphic novel Darkroom: A Memoir in Black and White juxtaposes Argentinian immigrant Lila Quintero's cultural outsider status as the adolescent daughter of the only Latino family in town with those of African Americans during some of the darkest days in Alabama history. Through a series of vignettes, readers follow Lila and her siblings' struggles to marry their new American identities with the cultural traditions and dreams of her South American family. Her "foreign" status in the racially charged black, white South provides her with an outside vantage point but also makes her the object of suspicion. Lila leads her young adult audience on a roller coaster of adolescent experiences ranging from to her naïveté about the caustic racism around her to being the target of racist remarks to debasement by the very people she tries to befriend. In the final chapter, she eludes to her new journey as an adult into the racism prevalent in her homeland of Argentina. While the author-illustrator examines important historical events during her adolescent years, the narrative works best when considered separately rather than collectively. At times, the vignettes are not in chronological order which leads to confusion on part of the reader. Some chapters are stronger than others and, personally, I would've preferred a more dramatic (and less detached) telling. Nonetheless, the artwork is visually stunning, far superseding my expectations for a small university press. The black and white illustrations are emotionally arresting and filled with small details that extend gaps in the storytelling. Weaver's talent is most observable in her ability to portray an arrange of emotions and situations with a vividness that places the reader within the time period. Considering the current political climate towards Latinos in Alabama, I would love to see her take on the new Juan Crow laws and compare those with the Jim Crow ones that she experienced first hand as a young adult. Undoubtedly, her Darkroom will spark important classroom discussions and like all important books will be met with its share of criticisms for her use of graphic, true-to-life language and images present in the 1960s. Recommended for public library collections.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Looking Around YOUR Neighborhood

Welcome to My Neighborhood: A Barrio ABC. Quiara Alegría Hudes. Illus. by Shino Arihara. New York: Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine Books, 2010. Unpaged. $16.99 (Hardcover). ISBN 978-0-545-09424-5. Grades 1 – 3. English with some Spanish.

Take a look around your neighborhood. What do you see? Trees, playgrounds, cars? Look closer and I'm sure you can find litter, broken glass, graffiti, and unsightly buildings. Now, think about how you'd describe your neighborhood to a friend or a child. Are you going to focus on the trees and playgrounds or the graffiti and unsightly buildings? Will you share a little of both in your neighborhood's descriptions? While I personally don't advocate for wearing the metaphorical "rose-colored" glasses, I'm going to lean towards the positive aspects of my community. For instance, I won't describe all the buildings that were ripped away by our bout of tornadoes on April 27th or the piles of rubble lying on the streets or even the uprooted trees. No, I'm going to focus on the more positive aspects such as the chirping birds, cloudless sky, flowing river, and laughing people. Why? Because I want people to think positive things about my neighborhood. Wouldn't you want the same? This is certainly NOT what you find in Welcome to My Neighborhood: A Barrio ABC.

Instead, readers will find a mixed bag of surprises as they follow two children exploring their predominantly Puerto Rican barrio from A to Z. Positive aspects of the community are noted such as muralists, urban gardens, wise elders, and street games. However less appealing elements of urban life, such as abandoned cars, broken bottles, and burnt buildings, are also highlighted. While the book attempts to show that all neighborhoods have both good and bad characteristics and even introduces a melding of cultures with the Chino-Latino bodega, the overall impression of a barrio is far less positive. Picture books about other cultures don't highlight the gangs on the corner, the baggies of white powder, or the polluted water running in the streets. Why would you want to do this the books about the Latino culture?

Aside from the descriptions of good and bad traits of the neighborhood, the book also has several other problems. Some of the alphabet representations are forced, such as “X is for XXL, my favorite T-shirt size.” A pronunciation guide for Spanish words is also absent.

Not Recommended.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Save the Date for the 15th Anniversary Celebracion of the Pura Belpre Award

On June 26, 2011 from 1:00 – 4:00 p.m. during the American Library Association’s Annual Conference, REFORMA (The National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-Speaking) and the Association of Library Service to Children (ALSC) will celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Pura Belpré for Latino children’s literature. As part of the Quince Celebracíon, we will commemorate 15 years of excellence in children’s literature written and/or illustrated by Latinos. We will also confer the awards to the 2011 winning Belpré authors and illustrators. This free event is one not to be missed. Need more information? Contact Hope to see you there!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Does your teaching program need a little Zing?

Mora, Pat. Zing! Seven Creativity Practices for Educators and Students. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin/SAGE, 2010. 140 pp. ISBN 978-1-4129-7839-2, $23.95 (pb).

Educators looking for that “zing” or energy boost to begin inspiring creativity in themselves and their students will find plenty of useful tidbits, encouraging dichos, and delightful anecdotes from well-known Latina poet, educator, and children’s author Pat Mora. Written as a series of letters to educators, the book is grounded in seven creativity practices: value your creative self, enjoy quiet, gather your materials, begin your project, revise, share your creations, and steadily persist in your creative work. Each of the seven chapters contains two letters: one meant to inspire educators’ personal creativity and one meant to support educators as they facilitate creative opportunities in their students.

Mora’s poetic voice, which describes her international travels and experiences as a cultural outsider, provides just enough encouragement and real-world sensibility to motivate teachers and librarians serving children from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds. Opportunities for further exploration of the creative practices and writing invitations are provided throughout the book. Pair this with Maya Christina Gonzalez’s Claiming Face for the perfect mix of philosophical and practical ideas for integrating creativity into classrooms to promote cultural understanding and positive ethnic identity development.

Jamie Campbell Naidoo, Ph.D.
University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Magical Realism Abounds in the Lacamara's and Morales' Floating on Mama's Song

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Me, Frida and you need to know about me!

Frida Kahlo is the subject of a new picture book biography by Amy Novesky and David Diaz Me, Frida!. Published by Abrams Books for Young Readers, this book has received very little attention this year and I wanted to make sure that YOU knew about it. Below is my review from REFORMA.

Me, Frida. Amy Novesky. Illus. by David Diaz. New York: Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2010. Unpaged. $16.95 (Hardcover). ISBN 978-0-8109-8969-6. Grades 1-3. English with some Spanish.

A lovely little bird on the arm of an enormous elephant; this is how Frida Kahlo imagines herself when she and her husband, famed artist Diego Rivera, visit San Francisco together for the first time. As Diego’s fame grows as large as the city, Frida struggles to find her place and her voice as an emerging artist. The comparison of Frida’s journey to that of a bird is explored throughout Diaz’s flaming illustrations in the form of a pink bird that travels with the artist from Mexico and throughout San Francisco to eventually find itself one of the subjects in Frida’s important portrait Frieda and Diego Rivera. Novesky’s straightforward text gives readers a glimpse into Frida’s life that can be further explored in more comprehensive titles such as Carmen T. Bernier-Grand’s Frida: Viva La Vida! Long Live Life! (2007). Recommended as an additional purchase.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Belpré Award-Winning Illustrator Rafael López's New Children's Book Blog

Have you ever wondered how an illustrator created those amazing images in your favorite book? What are the various muses behind the beautiful imagery? What types of emotions are intentionally imbued in the illustrations? Rafael Lopez, the award-winning illustrator of the Book Fiesta answers all of these questions and more in his new children's literature blog. Available:

Friday, July 2, 2010

Celebrate Latino Heritage and the World Cup with Monica Brown's Pelé Picture Book

Check out Moncia Brown's Book Trailer for her picture book Pelé: The King of Soccer/El rey del futbol.

Pele, The King of Soccer/El rey del futbol from Monica Brown on Vimeo.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Two New Novels on Cuba: The Red Umbrella and Leaving Glorytown

Recently, two juvenile novels have been published which portray complementary perspectives on the life of children during the first few years of Castro's regime in Cuba. Published in 2009 by FSG, Eduardo F. Calcines' Leaving Glorytown: One Boy's Struggle Under Castro describes the life hardships and horrors brought about by Castro's control in Cienfuegos, Cuba. From the time he is three until just before he turns fifteen, Eduardo watches as family members are killed or tortured and as food becomes more and more scarce. The novel follows the boy's life until he escapes Cuba with his family before he is drafted into the army.

Another novel, The Red Umbrella (Christina Diaz Gonzalez, Knopf, 2010) begins with the carefree life of fourteen-year-old Lucia and her younger brother Frankie and follows the two children as they see their family ripped apart as a result of the corruption and influence of Castro's government. Whereas Eduardo in the previous novel endures many years under Castro's regime, Lucia and her brother are able to escape to America via Operation Pedro Pan. Unfortunately, the children must leave their parents behind in Puerto Mijares and go to live with two complete strangers in the cornfields of Nebraska. Gonzalez does a good job depicting the anguish of leaving one's roots and adopting an entirely new culture. The crumbling of the Old Cuba is made clear through the letters Lucia receives from her family and her best friend. Lucia watches her friend go from a strong headed girl interested primarily in the latest fashion to a conditioned trainer for the Revolution.
Together, these two novels provide contemporary children with a glimpse into the lives of their counterparts during the early years of communist Cuba. Both are recommended for grades 5 and up.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Tortilla Sun: A great NEW Latino children's book for middle elementary

Tortilla Sun. Jennifer Cervantes. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books, 2010. 224 pp. $16.99 (Hardcover). ISBN 978-0-8118-7015-3. Grades 3-6. English with some Spanish.

Twelve-year-old Izzy is not happy when her mother ships her off to her Nana’s rural village in New Mexico for the summer while she pursues her doctoral studies in Costa Rica. Having moved from place to place most of her life, Izzy just wants to spend her summer at her newest home in San Diego and plant roots. What she doesn't know is that her real roots are actually in her Nana’s village along with answers to her million questions about her dad who died just before Izzy was born. Filled with magic, memorable characters, good home-cooking, a little romance, and a cat who thinks she’s a dog, this is one summer cuento that middle elementary children will not want to miss. The particular strength of this book is its appeal to children in grades 3-6 as there are very few fiction titles about Latinos for this age group outside Gary Soto’s books. Suffused with magical realism and the sabor of the Mexican American culture, the book also includes a recipe for making your own tortilla sun. Recommended.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Noche de Cuentos: Family Literacy Event Grants!

Noche de Cuentos (Night of Stories) is a new family literacy program celebrating the power of story in the lives of Latinos, immigrants, and all families. It is sponsored by REFORMA and the American Library Association. Libraries can submit a mini-grant application to receive funds to host their own Noche de Cuentos event. More information is available at: The image at the right is the free poster that can be downloaded (from the website) by libraries, schools, and literacy organizations wanting to host their own Noche de Cuentos event. Latina author/illustrator Yuyi Morales provided the image (an illustration from My Abuelita, 2009, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) for the poster.

Registration Now OPEN: National Latino Children's Literature Conference - April 2010

Registration for the 2010 National Latino Children's Literature Conference is now open and the call for program and poster proposals has been extended until February 26, 2010. For more information about this exciting event, visit the conference website: .

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Surrender your ears to the audiobook of The Surrender Tree?

I am a huge fan of audiobooks. I consume at least one a week during my short commute to work. In preparation for the Americas Award Ceremony today in DC, I listened to the audiobook version of Margarita Engle's The Surrender Tree (winner of a Newbery Honor, Belpre Author Award, and the Americas Award). I absolutely LOVED the book in traditional, paper format and was excited to be on the committee awarding it this year's Americas Award.

As soon as I saw an audiobook version of Engle's moving novel, I practically knocked over three teens at my local public library to get my hands on it. This was going to be my appetizer to the Americas Award celebration feast! Unfortunately, after Margartia's short introduction on the audio, my ears were accosted by the apathetic voice of the reader for the character Rosa in the book. I couldn't decide if the reader was longing for a better job beyond her life as audiobook reader (letting her deflated exasperation seep into the ears of her listener) or if she thought young listeners really couldn't care about the inflection and cadence that should be present when reading poetry. Regardless of her motivation, the reader's lack of interest in her role as Rosa was glaringly obvious and would have made any voice coach cringe with embarrassment.

After the first 5 minutes, her voice became so grating that I started to reach for the eject button on my car stereo. However, I rarely give up on a book -audio or print - and decided to endure the rest of the audiobook. I had hopes that our dear Rosa reader would gain some enthusiasm or momentum over the course of our week together. Maybe, as she was reading, she could dream about the lush landscapes she was describing or at least dream of the shopping trip she'd take after her work for Listening Library was complete. Alas, this was not to be! As I was pulling into my parking spot on Thursday evening, I gave a great sigh of relief when the last few words of the audio were uttered, and went in search of something to relieve my audio indigestion.

Bottom line dear readers - The Surrender Tree is a magnificently, wonderful book that should find its way into the hands of upper-elementary, middle, and high school readers. The print version of Engle's novel-in-prose holds great potential for opening young minds to the injustices of the world. The audiobook version has great potential for audio acid reflux - unless you want young minds to stumble and never enjoy audiobooks again, steer them far, far away.

Meanwhile, my ears are ringing and I'm off to find a better book beat.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Muddy Mess: The Latest in Latino Celebrity Children's Publishing

Celebrity writers have been dabbling in the arena of children’s literature for decades; but there have been very few Latino and Latina celebrities writing for children. You can count them all on one hand with Gloria Estefan being one of the more recent with her Noelle the Bulldog books. Today’s post brought the very latest celebrity-authored book by Latinos. Mario Lopez and his sister Marissa Lopez Wong have created a new picture book, Mud Tacos! (2009, Celebra Children's Books - A Member of Penguin Group Inc.), which follows a young Mario and his sister as they search for ingredients for real tacos and trick their stubborn older cousin into almost eating a mud taco. As can be expected, the writing is stilted, the tone is somewhere between saccharine and didactic and Maryn Roos’ cartoon-style illustrations, though quite cheerful, add little to the story. While a book by Mario Lopez is certain to have appeal, the overall package leaves much to be desired. Lopez should continue Dancing with the Stars and leave Writing for Niños to quality authors such as Yuyi Morales, Margarita Engle, Pat Mora, Maya Christina Gonzalez, Alex Sanchez, and Francisco Jimenez.

2009 Américas Award Ceremony: October 17th, 2009

You are ALL invited to the 2009 Américas Award Ceremony which will be held October 17th, 2009 at the Library of Congress. This FREE event will honor Yuyi Morales for her book Just in Case and Margarita Engle for her book The Surrender Tree. For more information on the award and/or the ceremony, visit I had the exciting opportunity to be a member of this year's awards selection committee.

Making of Yuyi Morales' My Abuelita

Watch this cool new video by award-winning Latina artist, author, and illustrator Yuyi Morales where she talks about the magic behind her newest book My Abuelita. You'll need the latest version of flash to view it!

Making My Abuelita from Yuyi Morales on Vimeo.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month TODAY!

Hispanic Heritage Month is September 15th - October 15th. What can YOU do to celebrate the rich diversity of the Latino cultures with your students, children, etc?
  • Share culturally relevant and authentic books about the Latino cultures such as those winning the Américas, Tomás Rivera, and Belpré Awards.
  • Invite the parents, grandparents, and other familia of your Latino children to share stories, songs, rhymes, etc. from their culture.
  • Celebrate the love of reading with recommended Día activities listed in this blog. Although Día is in April, websites celebrating this holiday have considerable information on planning library and literacy programs that celebrate Latino cultures.
  • Have children use their information literacy skills to find information about famous Hispanic Americans and Latinos.
  • Invite Latino community leaders to speak to your students/children.
  • Highlight the storytelling and important contributions of Puerto Rican children's librarian Pura Belpré via the book The Storyteller's Candle/La velita de los cuentos, written by Lucía González and illustrated by Lulu Delacre (Children's Book Press 2008).
  • Share recommended Spanish children's and young adult books found in America Reads Spanish's Essential Guide to Spanish Reading for Children and Young Adults. Available:
  • Celebrate Hispanic Heritage EVERYDAY not just this month.

For statistical information on the Latino population to share during Hispanic Heritage Month, check out the U.S. Census Bureau's website:

Spicy Hot Poetry!

"Red as chili sauce, drip-drop, Spicy hot" . . . If you are looking for an animated version of poetry including a few symbols from the Latino cultures, then check out the animated version of Spicy Hot Colors by Sherry Shahan. Available:

Interestingly, the print version of the book includes Spanish color words but this online version does not - although it does include a few other Spanish words.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Piñata in a Pine Tree: A Latino Twelve Days of Christmas. Written by Pat Mora and Illus. by Magaly Morales. New York: Clarion, 2009. 32 pages. $16.00 (Hardcover). ISBN 978-0-618-84198-1. Grades PreK-3. Spanish and English.

From una piñata to ocho pajaritos serenando to doce angelitos celebrando, a young girl receives a series of presents from her amiga each of the doce days between Christmas and Día de los Reyes. Astute readers will also discover another story in the background illustrations that depicts the girl’s parents and abuela preparing for the arrival of her new baby sister. Whether they are exploring the luminescent illustrations or singing along with the re-imagined Christmas carol, children of all ages will delight in this lyrical and visual celebracíon. Librarians will particularly appreciate the in-text pronunciations for the various Spanish words and phrases. Back matter includes a glossary, author’s and illustrator’s notes, and the musical score for the song A Piñata in a Pine Tree. Highly Recommended.

Reviewed by Dr. Jamie C. Naidoo, Assistant Professor, School of Library & Information Studies, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Celebrate Día

Celebrate El día de los Niños/El día de los libros:
Children's Day/Book Day with these GREAT Resources

El día de los Niños/El día de los libros (Day of the Child/Day of the Book) Toolkit is a 100 page online document describing booktalks, author visits, storytelling, and other ideas that can be used to celebrate El dia de los Niños/El dia de los libros on April 30th. These suggestions can be used for units in the classroom all throughout the school year! The comprehensive document is available at:

Official Día Webpage with recommended books and library programs celebrating Latino Children's Literature & Literacy

Dígame un cuento/Tell Me A Story: Bilingual Library Programs for Children and Families – Created by the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, this useful online manual suggests bilingual story hour programs for Latino children and their families. Early childhood educators can consult this resource to learn about activities using Latino children’s books. Available at:

Pat Mora's Día Website:

¡Imagínense!: Latino Youth Literature and Literacy Initiatives

¡Imagínense! is a multifaceted program combining current research and practice to assist librarians, teachers, and other educators in meeting the literacy needs of Latino children and adolescents. The director and founder of ¡Imagínense! is Dr. Jamie Campbell Naidoo an assistant professor at the University of Alabama’s School of Library and Information Studies.

Several key objectives outline the purpose of ¡Imagínense!. These include:

* Emphasizing research on the literary and literacy needs of all Latino youth.
* Promoting early childhood and adolescent literacy among Latino families.
* Fostering acceptance of Latino cultures through the use of culturally relevant children’s and young adult literature and resources.
* Educating librarians, teachers, and child-care workers about literacy services for Latino youth and their families.
* Supporting collaborative community-based projects that promote Latino literacy (understanding of the Latino culture).

¡Imagínense! is organized according to four Latino Youth Literature and Literacy Initiatives or LYLLIs (pronounced lilies). Many of the LYLLIs are in collaboration with other programs and include:

Research Division- conducts research on the reader responses of Latino children and young adults, evaluates library and educational programs serving the literacy needs of Latino youth, and analyzes current and past representations of Latinos in children’s and young adult media (literature, film, etc.). A current research project under this LYLLI includes studying how the public libraries Alabama serve Latino children through their collections and library programs.

Training Division – prepares librarians, teachers, and other educators with the necessary tools to select Latino youth literature and design successful literacy programs for Latino youth and their families. Examples of projects under this LYLLI include workshops at school media, public library, and teacher conferences such as the American Library Assocation, AIMA, the Alabama Library Association, and the University of Southern Mississippi’s Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival.

Material Evaluation Division (¡Imagínense Libros!) – provides a virtual evaluation collection of children’s and young adult literature about Latinos, Spanish-language materials for youth, and bilingual picturebooks. This valuable resource allows librarians and teachers to evaluate materials before purchasing them for their library collections.

Outreach Division – collaborates with other agencies to create projects that (1) encourage literacy among Latino families, (2) incorporate high-quality Latino youth literature into programs for the general community, or (3) promote Latino literacy. An example of a project under this LYLLI Annual Celebration of Latino Children’s Literature conference. This is a collaborative effort between the University of South Carolina’s College of Education and the University of Alabama’s SLIS. Co-planner of this conference is Dr. Julia Lopéz-Roberston from the University of South Carolina’s Language and Literacy Department. Components of the conference include a program for Latino children and their families as well as the presentation of practical and theoretical information related to Latino youth literacy.

Depending on the Latin American country represented and the species of flower, Lilies can symbolize hope, peace, or vitality. In Spanish, ¡Imagínense! means “just imagine!” Through the various division of LYLLIs, ¡Imagínense! challenges educators, researchers, and librarians to just imagine the hope and vitality that literacy can offer today’s Latino children and adolescents. Just imagine the endless opportunities for Latino youth to be supported by high-quality research, training, evaluation, and outreach. ¡Imagínense Libros!

Education-Based Latino Literacy Programs

¡Colorín Colorado! – Supported by the American Federation of Teachers, the National Institute for Literacy, and the U.S. Department of Education, this reading program provides information on the importance of reading in the lives of English Language Learner (ELL) children. Activities and links are available concerning children’s literature about Latinos, helping Latino families, how the school can help Latino families, etc. Teachers and librarians could consider using the activities, the free 92 page booklet, and video clips in units in their classrooms and programs. Available at:

Lee y serás (Read & You Will Be) – The program is a “multi-faceted, multi-year, reading initiative to inform, engage, and help prepare families and communities to support the reading development of Latino children. Lee y serás was created by Scholastic in partnership with the Latino Community Foundation, a National Latino Advisory Committee, Univision, and Verizon Communications” (Scholastic’s webpage, 2005). The program provides support for Latino parents with training about early literacy, offers educators resources that will create print-rich learning environments for Latino children, and supplies information to public agencies to support Latino literacy in the community. More information about the program is available at: or

Common Publishers & Distributors of Children’s and YA Books about Latinos

Piñata Books -
Cinco Puntos Press –
Children’s Book Press –
Lee & Low –
Groundwood Books –
Del Sol Books –
Lectorum –
Santillana USA –

Select Latino/a Illustrators and Authors of Children’s & Young Adult Literature

Alma Flor Ada has written many novels, picturebooks, and collections about Latino children.

Julia Alvarez, a Dominican American author and literature professor, was primarily a writer of adult fiction and poetry until 2000 when she began writing fiction books for older children.

Information on Latino Illustrator Robert Casilla and examples of his art:

Veronica Chambers, an author from Panama, considers herself a secret Latina. She appears to be African American and growing up she felt alienated in the Latino community because of her physical appearance. Chambers has written numerous adult books and in the late 1990s began writing children’s books about her Latino roots.

Lulu Delacre, a Latina children’s author/illustrator born in Puerto Rico, began writing and illustrating children’s books in the late 1980s. Delacre strongly believes that Latino children should encounter themselves and their heritage in the books they read. More information can be found at:

Information on Latina Illustrator Maya Christiana Gonzalez’s artwork and children’s books:

Susan Guevara’s art has received many awards including Pura Belpré Award, the Américas Award, the Américas Commended, and the Tómas Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award.

Marisa Montes, a Puerto Rican American author and Writing Professor, has published several beginner chapter books about the Puerto Rican American culture. She created the Get Ready For Gabi series which is about a middle-class, third-grade, Puerto Rican American girl and the daily challenges she faces at school and growing up in the U.S. Gabi has been compared as a Latina Junie B. Jones. More information on Montes can be found at:

Pat Mora, a Latina poet and children’s book author, has written many books for children with Latino characters. Mora is an advocate for Latino Children’s Literacy and creator of El día de los niños/El día de los libros.

Yuyi Morales is an Latina artist, writer, puppet maker, and Brazilian folk dancer who grew up in Mexico. For more information on Morales, visit:

José-Luis Orozco, a native of Mexico City, has created thirteen collections of children’s songs, games, and rhymes available in song book, cassette, or CD formats. Three of his collections (De Colores, Diez Deditos, and Fiestas) have been illustrated by Elisa Kleven. Orozco’s music collections are available at

Pam Muñoz Ryan, a writer and educator of both Mexican and Spanish descent, has created a variety of books on many different topics including Mexican Americans. For more on Ryan, consult:

Esmeralda Santiago, a Puerto Rican American author, has written numerous teen novels recounting her experiences growing up in the U.S. as a newly arrived immigrant from Puerto Rico. Santiago has also edited two collections of Latino/a memoirs. For more on Santiago, consult:

Simón Silva, a Chicano artist, spent much of his childhood working in the fields with other immigrant children. His vibrant gouache illustrations depict the everyday experiences of Latino farmers in the United States. His art has recieved the Pura Belpré Honor Award and the Américas Commended.

Gary Soto is one of the few Mexican American authors who write for children, young adults, and adults. He is the most well-known Chicano author for children and has published more than 20 picturebooks about the Latino culture. Information on Soto is available at: .