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: .

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Check out the 2nd Annual National Latino Children's Literature Conference

Check out the 2nd Annual Celebration of Latino Children's Literature Conference to be held in Columbia, SC on April 24-25, 2009.

Since 2000, the Latino population has accounted for half of the population growth in the United States with the greatest gains noted in areas of the South, among which include South Carolina and Alabama (Pew Hispanic Center, 2008). With this growth comes the critical need for mentorship and research as we begin the process of understanding the richness of Latino children and their families in an effort to support their lifelong learning and community empowerment. It is imperative for schools and libraries to reach out to Latino families in ways that are culturally and linguistically relevant. As practicing and preservice educators and librarians serving the literacy and informational needs of nuestro futuro, we must deepen our understanding of the Latino cultures and learn ways to celebrate their rich diversity within our classrooms and libraries.

To jumpstart this process, The Universities of South Carolina and Alabama are pleased to announce the Second Annual Celebration of Latino Children’s Literature Conference to be held at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, SC. This national conference, sponsored by the College of Education and the School of Library and Information Sciences at USC and
the School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Alabama, is designed for individuals interested in celebrating Latino children’s literature in their schools, libraries, literacy organizations, homes, and community‐based sites of learning. Featuring nationally‐acclaimed Latino literacy scholars and award‐winning Latina authors, the conference is truly a unique experience.