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In Maya’s Blanket/La Manta de Maya, written by Monica Brown and illustrated by David Diaz, Maya takes an old blanket that her abuela sewed for her and turns it into many different things. Her blanket turns into a dress, then a skirt, then a rebozo, a scarf, a headband and even a bookmark! Maya teaches us that something old can be turned into a new and beautiful something else.
In this season of crazed holiday shopping, sometimes it can seem like nothing’s worth having unless it is brand new. But creating DIY projects–either for yourself or as gifts–can often be more meaningful, and it is also much more Earth-friendly!
DIY means “do it yourself.” This means you’re making, building, or repairing something without professional help. People who DIY are known as “DIYers.”
Here are some great DIY projects you can do with items from around your house:
Last week the world lost one of the most brilliant writers of the century. Gabriel García Márquez is considered a genie of modern literature. His words echo the unique and majestic essence of his intrepid spirit. García Márquez will live forever thanks to his master pieces full of imagination and beauty. My Name is Gabito written by the award-winning author Monica Brown and delightfully illustrated by Raúl Colón depicts the childhood of the 1982 Nobel Prize Literature recipient Gabriel García Márquez.
Gabito was born on March 6, 1928 in Aracataca, Colombia. Gabito was nurtured by his grandparents along with a 100-year-old parrot named Lorenzo el Magnifico. His grandfather was an important figure for the development of Gabito’s talent. Gabito loved learning words from his grandfather’s dictionary. Gabito realized that the more he read, the more imaginative his stories became. Gabito witnessed the struggles of poor banana workers in his hometown. This situation created an urgent sense of justice and equal opportunity for all people. This life experience was evident in his novels because he often shared stories about the banana workers.
Gabito grew, grew, and grew. Gabito became one of the most famous Latin-American writers in the world. As a result, Gabriel García Márquez became an international figure. Gabito wrote more than thirty books, some of his emblematic novels are Love in the Time of Cholera, Living to Tell the Tale, and the best-seller One Hundred Years of Solitude. During his lifetime, Gabito received the most prestigious awards for his merit. In 1982 he won the Nobel Prize for Literature reaffirming the remarkable gift to produce incomparable stories. Gabito married his boyhood girlfriend, Mercedes Bacha Pardo, and they had two sons named Rodrigo and Gonzalo. This is a phenomenal life for an incredible human being. My Name is Gabito helps children learn and appreciate the extraordinary journey of Gabriel García Márquez, and it also allows them to discover the dynamism of the renowned author. His legacy will last for an eternity in our hearts and in our mind. Thanks to the Tlapazola community from Oaxaca, Mexico for spreading the legacy of the eternal Gabito.
Monica Brown is the author of several award-winning children’s books, including the Marisol McDonald series, and is a Professor of English at Northern Arizona University. Brown recently spoke to KNAU Public Radio about the power of dehumanizing language after a politician used the word “deportable” to refer to an immigrant. She has allowed us to reprint her comments below, and you can hear her radio segment here:
Deportable. The prefix de signifies removal, separation, reduction or reversal, as in deforestation or demerit. De reverses a verb’s action, as in defuse ordecompose. De is not often used with a noun, but it was last week. That’s when Republican Representative Steve King referred to one of First Lady Michelle Obama’s guests as “a deportable.” He tweeted it.
When I heard this description of 21 year old Ana Zamora, a hardworking college student and DREAMer, it felt like a blow to the chest. When President Obama enacted his 2012 executive order on immigration, Ana Zamora wrote him a thank you letter. She said, “I am finally a person in the United States…”
Not according to Representative King. To him, she is a deportable.
I am a bilingual Latina whose mixed ethnic heritage lets me embrace the multiplicity, complexity and beauty of the Americas, North and South. It pains me to see the way Latino bodies are often marked with the mantle of illegality, and to witness the way immigrant children of the Americas are made objects to reject, a class of “deportables” if we were to use King’s terminology. I suggest we don’t.
In migrating to the United States, Ms. Zamora’s parents brought with them their dedication to family, hard work, and dreams of a better future for their children. Ms. Zamora is the embodiment of those dreams. Chicana sage Gloria Anzaldua once described the U.S.-Mexico border as a “1,950 mile-long open wound.” It is a place of conflict, confrontation and pain. The term “a deportable” rubs salt in that wound by devaluing and dehumanizing a young woman who represents the very best of our country.
As a professor of English and children’s author, I know words matter. Within my community, an immigrant without documents might be described as “sin papeles.”Without papers. It is a legal status they lack, not who and what they are.
Thankfully, many have come to understand that, in the words of Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, “no human being is illegal.” Today I’d like to state, unequivocally, that no human is a deportable, either.
When Reyna accidentally breaks her abuelito’s old vihuela, she travels around her neighborhood trying to figure out how to repair it. In the process, she discovers her grandfather’s legacy. Written by Jennifer Torres and illustrated by Renato Alarcão.
A young girl finds her mother’s poems written when her mother traveled around in a military family. The young girl writes her own related poems. Written by Nikki Grimes and illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon.
Ira Aldridge dreamed of acting in Shakespeare’s plays. Because of a lack of opportunity in the United States, Ira journeys to England to pursue his dream of becoming an actor. Written by Glenda Armand and illustrated by Floyd Cooper.
Maya has a blanket stitched by her Grandma. The blanket later becomes a dress, a skirt, a shawl, a skirt and a headband. This story is inspired by the Yiddish folk song “Hob Ikh Mir a Mantl” (“I Had a Little Coat”). Written by Monica Brown and illustrated by David Diaz.
Claire Takata discovers her deceased father’s connection to the yakuza, the Japanese mafia, and puts her and her family’s lives in danger. Written by Valynne E. Maetani.
Trail of the Dead
In this sequel to the award-winning Killer of Enemies, Lozen and her family, on the run from the tyrants who once held them hostage, embark on a journey along a perilous trail once followed by her ancestors, where they meet friends and foes alike. Written by Joseph Bruchac.
Out this September from the Children’s Book Press imprint of LEE & LOW, Maya’s Blanket/La manta de Mayaputs a child-focused Latino spin on the traditional Yiddish folk song “Hob Ikh Mir a Mantl” (“I Had a Little Coat”) about a piece of fabric that is made into smaller and smaller items. We interviewed author Monica Brown about how she’s been inspired by the book.
1.What inspired you to write a children’s book based on the Yiddish folk song “Hob Ikh Mira Mantl”?
I’ve always loved the idea song, which is as much about creativity as it is about recycling and creating something from nothing. The song has inspired several books, in fact, and still inspires me. I often draw on my cultural heritage for inspiration, and Maya’s Blanket/La manta de Maya is no exception, paying homage to different aspects of my Jewish and Latina identity. It celebrates the two languages I speak, side by side on the page, along with a history of multigenerational storytelling passed down from both sides of my family.
I love the message of the song–that an object can be transformed again and again, and ultimately into something intangible and lasting through effort, creativity, and imagination. I like the idea that we can extend the life of things we love—with our own two hands or our imagination.
2.Did you have a favorite lullaby that your parents sang to you growing up? What about a lullaby that you sang to your daughters?
My mom sang me wonderful songs in Spanish. As a child I loved in particular Tengo una muñeca vestida de azul, which translates into I have a doll dressed in blue. When her granddaughter and namesake Isabella was born, my mother, Isabel Maria, made up a special song for her. It started with this line “Isabelita, Chiquita bonita de mi Corazon” and ended with “Corazon de melon!” It was a silly sweet line, but I’ve forgotten the lines in between, and now my mother is gone.
As a child, my only babysitters I knew were my tías and my Nana, my paternal grandmother, who taught me to embroider and sew. I stayed overnight at my Nana’s often and when I did, “the sandman” would visit us at night. For those who don’t know, the Sandman myth, which originates in Europe, is of a character who sprinkles sand on children’s eyes, bringing them happy dreams. My Scottish and Italian Nana would be sure the sandman visited each night. If I behaved just okay during the day the sandman would sprinkle regular sand on my forehead to help me fall asleep. If I was good, I would get silver sand, and if I was very, very good, I would get gold sand sprinkled on my forehead. I could feel the different types of sand as my Nana’s hands smoothed across my forehead, hair, and closed eyes.
3. Do you have an object today that’s your “Maya’s blanket,” i.e. that you are continually finding new uses for and don’t want to part with?
As an adult I have more of a subject than an object, and it is the subject of childhood memory. I think I became a children’s writer so I can go back and be in that moment of childhood innocence to remember what it feels like to be comforted by a beloved grandmother or my mother, to remember those minutes and hours, forever gone, of days spend with my Nana, who patiently taught me to embroider, and to sew and stitch or my mother, who shared story after story of her childhood in Northern Peru, and her dreams and her art.
I’ve never used an electric sewing machine, but thanks to my Nana I’ve still managed to stitch and mend and sew my daughter’s things—even a Halloween costume or two with those basic stitches my grandmother taught. I have my Nana’s sewing basket still, just as I am surrounded by my mother’s paintings each time I pick up a pen or open up my computer to write.
5. MAYA’S BLANKET provides an important message about recycling! Do you have any tips on how people can be more eco-friendly?
As a teacher, I always think the place to begin with is education and The Environmental Protection Agency has a website with lots of resources for children, parents, and especially teachers: http://www2.epa.gov/students. I also love that the Sierra Club has a student coalition for high school and college students that trains and connects young environmental activists: http://www.sierraclub.org/youth. Finally, well, I want to give a shout out to my fellow writers by highlighting Authors for Earth Day: http://www.authorsforearthday.org, a group that supports conservation through literacy.
It is my hope that children and the adults in their lives can become more aware and conscious of the challenges using our natural resources responsibly, and looking to for more creative solutions to persistent problems.
About the Book:
Maya’s Blanket/ La Manta de Maya
by Monica Brown, illustrated by David Diaz
Out September 2015
Ages 5-9 ~ 32 pp. ~ bilingual
Learn more about the book here.
Celebrate the universal love for reading, and Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15-Oct. 15), with WAITING FOR THE BIBLIOBURRO, by the award-winning team of Monica Brown and John Parra. Enter to win one of three (3) hardcover copies of this heartwarming tale that every child will enjoy. Giveaway begins September 19, 2011, at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends October 15, 2011, at 11:59 P.M. PST.
Reading level: Ages 4-6
Hardcover: 32 pages
Book overview: Inspired by the heroic efforts of real-life librarian Luis Soriano, award-winning picture book creators Monica Brown and John Parra introduce readers to the mobile library that journeys over mountains and through valleys to bring literacy and culture to rural Colombia, and to the children who wait for the Biblioburro.
Critical acclaim: “The book is perfect for read-alouds, with occasional, often onomatopoeic Spanish words such as “quiquiriquí,” “tacatac” and “iii-aah” adding to the fun.” –Kirkus Reviews
About the author: MONICA BROWN’s Peruvian-American heritage has inspired in her a desire to share Latino/a stories with children. Her books have garnered starred reviews, The Américas Award, and a Pura Belpré Honor. In addition, she received the prestigious Rockefeller Fellowship on Chicano Cultural Literacy from the Center for Chicano Studies at the University of California. Monica is currently Professor of English at Northern Arizona University in U.S. Latino and Multicultural Literature.
About the illustrator: JOHN PARRA is an award-winning illustrator, designer, teacher, and fine art painter whose work is avidly collected. John’s books have received starred reviews and have appeared on the Texas 2×2 Reading List. He has received the SCBWI Golden Kite Award for illustration, the 2006 International Latino Book Award for Best Children’s Book Interior Illustrations, and the 2010 Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor Award for Gracias/Thanks, written by Pat Mora.
A note from Monica: I love librarians. Like me, (and I’ll bet you too if you are reading this), librarians are book people. Book people find joy between the pages of a book, but their passion doesn’t stop there. True book people must share books with others. They believe that placing books in young hands and sharing stories with young minds is meaningful. Luis Soriano is a book person… When I wrote WAITING FOR THE BIBLIOBURRO, I didn’t want to presume to tell Luis’s story for him, so I created a fictional story inspired by his, from the perspective of a little girl whose life he changes.
Abigail Sawyer regularly reviews books for us here at PaperTigers, and she’s also, in her own words, “a lifelong library lover and an advocate for access to books for all”, so who better to write an article for us about “unconventional libraries” and the children’s books they have inspired. Abigail lives in San Francisco, California, USA, where her two children attend a language-immersion elementary school and are becoming bilingual in English and Mandarin: an experience that has informed her work on the blog for the film Speaking in Tongues. I know you’ll enjoy reading this as much as I have.
On Traveling Libraries and Heroic ‘Book People’: Inspiring children’s books about getting books to people in remote places and difficult circumstances
My sons and I paid our first-ever visit to a bookmobile over the summer. For us it was a novelty. We have shelves of books at home and live just 3 blocks from our local branch library, but the brightly colored bus had pulled up right near the playground we were visiting in another San Francisco neighborhood (whose branch library was under renovation), and it was simply too irresistible. Inside, this library on wheels was cozy, comfortable, and loaded with more books than I would have thought possible. I urged my boys to practice restraint and choose only one book each rather than compete to reach the limit of how many books one can take out of the San Francisco Public Library system (the answer is 50; we’ve done it at least once).
The bookmobiles provide a great service even in our densely populated city where branch libraries abound. There are other mobile libraries, however, that take books to children who may live miles from even the nearest modern road; to children who live on remote islands, in the sparsely populated and frigid north, in temporary settlements in vast deserts, and in refugee camps. The heroic individuals who manage these libraries on boats, burros, vans, and camels provide children and the others they serve with a window on the world and a path into their own imaginations that would otherwise be impossible.
Shortly after my own bookmobile experience, Jeanette Winter‘sBiblioburro (Beach Lane Books, 2010), a tribute to Colombian schoolteacher Luis Soriano, who delivers books to remote hillside villages across rural Colombia, arrived in my mailbox to be reviewed for Paper Tigers. I loved this book, as I do most of Winter’s work, for its bright pictures and simple, straightforward storytelling. Another picture book, Waiting for the Bibiloburro by Monica Brown (Tricycle Press, 2011), tells the story of Soriano’s famous project from the perspective of one of the children it
Monica Brown, illustrated by Julie Paschkis, Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People Henry Holt, 2011.
Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People, a picture book biography by Peruvian-American scholar Monica Brown, exudes the spirit of Neruda’s poetry without quoting a single line. The work of award-winning illustrator Julie Paschkis contributes greatly to the success of the book. Beginning with his childhood love of nature and the teacher who inspired him to become a writer, Brown traces Neruda’s rich life, including the awakening of his political consciousness, his escape from Chile over the Andes, and even the houses he treasured over his lifetime. Her language has its own poetry:
“He wrote about scissors and thimbles and chairs and rings.
He wrote about buttons and feathers and shoes and hats.
He wrote about velvet cloth the color of the sea.”
Integrating streams of Spanish and English words into every illustration, Paschkis’s folk-art paintings capture Neruda’s poetic sensibility in visual form. Amidst the masks and clocks and seashells, the fruit and spectacles and pottery, that she depicts to accompany the above text, Paschkis weaves evocative and beautiful words from Neruda’s poems: alcachofa, thistle, clavos, whistle, thrum, timber, azul, apple…
To illustrate Neruda’s participation in a coal miners’ strike, Paschkis pictures people waving word-streaked banners: recoger, defend, nunca, libre, friend, corazón. “When he saw that they were cold and hungry and sick, he decided to share their story,” Brown writes. “Even when his poems made leaders angry, he would not be silenced, because he was a poet of the people.”
An author’s note at the back of the book gives a summary of Neruda’s life, including the names of some of his most famous poems. A resources page follows with a bibliography of Neruda’s poetry books and a reading list of further biographical reading.
This latest in Brown’s biographical series will be welcomed by parents and teachers eager to introduce Neruda’s magical poetry to young readers. (Brown’s earlier books for children include bilingual biographies of Gabriel García Márquez and of Neruda’s seminal teacher, Gabriela Mistral.) The sounds of the words included to illustrate the story of the beloved writer’s life capture the beauty and mystery of poetry for adults and children alike.
I love librarians. Like me, (and I’ll bet you too if you are reading this), librarians are book people. Book people find joy between the pages of a book, but their passion doesn’t stop there. True book people must share books with others. They believe that placing books in young hands and sharing stories with young minds is meaningful. Luis Soriano is a book person. Luis first came to my attention when I read the New York Times article, “Acclaimed Colombian Institution has 4,800 books and 10 legs” by Simon Romero. Fascinated, I did some research and came across Valentina Canavesio’s short film Biblioburro—The Donkey Library. The story filled me with joy and not a little pride in the resourcefulness and passion of the Latino culture that Luis and I share. Growing up, Luis Soriano did not have the benefit of extensive formal studies and unlimited financial resources. What he did have was vision—and two donkeys named Alfa and Beto. For years, Maestro Soriano has delivered books in rural Colombia to children who don’t have access to libraries. Some don’t even have teachers or schools. But Luis, who received his school degree at 16, and then became a teacher and librarian, has made it his life’s work to change that.
When I wrote Waiting for the Biblioburro, I didn’t want to presume to tell Luis’s story for him, so I created a fictional story inspired by his, from the perspective of a little girl whose life he changes. I contacted Mr. Romero, the writer, and Ms Canavesio, the filmmaker, and through them, reached Luis himself. I knew as I was writing this book that I wanted Luis’s blessing–I was lucky enough to get it, and to get to know Luis over the phone and through emails. I also wanted to make sure that his foundation shared in the profits from this work, which my publisher made happen. When I first spoke to Luis over the phone and across thousands of miles, I was felt that I was in the presence of greatness—he is great man with a great heart. Luis shared with me his wish to sow the seeds of creativity and to cultivate dreams in the minds of children.
After talking with Luis, I felt inspired to write an imaginative rendering of Luis’s legacy—a legacy not only of literacy, but of sharing one’s own stories with the world. My story is about a creative little girl named Ana who loves books and reading, but who doesn’t have access to a library, books, or even a teacher. It’s her story of waiting, discovery, and finding a voice. I hope that Ana’s story, like Luis Soriano’s vision, will inspire us all to be literacy workers and activist librarians, teachers, parents, and friends. What would you do to bring books to children? Would you ride a donkey for miles, risking attack and robbery? Would you build a library with your own hands? Luis Soriano did. And we can too.
Watch the book trailer for Waiting for the Biblioburro here.
Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children: A Ball for Daisy, illustrated and written by Chris Raschka.
Three Caldecott Honor Books also were named: Blackout, illustrated and written by John Rocco; Grandpa Green, illustrated and written by Lane Smith; and Me … Jane, illustrated and written by Patrick McDonnell.
Coretta Scott King (Author) Book Award recognizing an African American author and illustrator of outstanding books for children and young adults: Kadir Nelson, author and illustrator ofHeart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans.
Two King Author Honor Book recipients were selected: Eloise Greenfield, author of The Great Migration: Journey to the North, illustrated by Jan Spivey Gilchrist; and Patricia C. McKissack, author of Never Forgotten, illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon.
Coretta Scott King (Illustrator) Book Award: Shane W. Evans, illustrator and author of Underground: Finding the Light to Freedom.
One King Illustrator Honor Book recipient was selected: Kadir Nelson, illustrator and author of Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans.
Coretta Scott King – Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement: Ashley Bryan.
Pura Belpré (Illustrator) Awardhonoring a Latino writer and illustrator whose children’s books best portray, affirm and celebrate the Latino cultural experience: Diego Rivera: His World and Ours, written and illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh.
Two Belpré Illustrator Honor Books were selected: The Cazuela that the Farm Maiden Stirred illustrated by Rafael López, written by Samantha R. Vamos; and Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match /Marisol McDonald no combina, illustrated by Sara Palacios, written by Monica Brown.
Pura Belpré (Author) Award:Under the Mesquite written by Guadalupe Garcia McCall.
Two Belpré Author Honor Books were named: Hurricane Dancers: The First Caribbean Pirate Shipwreck written by Margarita Engle; and Maximilian and the Mystery of the Guardian Angel: A Bilingual Lucha Libre Thriller, written by Xavier Garza.
Monica Brown, illustrated by Sara Palacios, Spanish translation by Adriana Domínguez, Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match / Marisol McDonald no combina
Children’s Book Press, 2011 (as of 2012 an imprint of Lee & Low Books).
Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match/Marisol McDonald no combina is a perky bilingual tale about a mixed-heritage girl with a lot of spunk, by award-winning author Monica Brown (Waiting for the Biblioburro; Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People).
Inspired by the author’s personal experience as a Peruvian-American of European, Jewish and Amerindian descent, Marisol McDonald introduces us to a one-of-a-kind girl who defies stereotypes.
Stripes, polka dots and flower prints peacefully co-exist on Marisol’s outfit ensembles. In real life, however, her looks, clothes, playground games and food preferences seem to puzzle her friends, who love to say she “doesn’t match”.
Enchanting and quirky Marisol clearly marches to the beat of her own drums. And why wouldn’t she? After all, there’s nothing wrong with liking peanut butter & jelly burritos; wanting to play a game of soccer-pirates; or signing her first name in cursive and her last in print.
When a school friend challenges her, “Marisol, you couldn’t match if you wanted to!”, Marisol sets out to prove him wrong, dressing for school the next day in a single solid color, eating a “regular” peanut butter & jelly sandwich for lunch, playing a “normal” game of soccer… and feeling wrong all day long, until a thoughtful note from her teacher snaps her back to her old, cheerful, “mismatched” self.
Radiating joy and fun, Sara Palacios’ Pura Belpré Honor illustrations bring Marisol to life and convey the riches of her life and heritage. Children will enjoy looking for and finding clues in the pictures to all the different cultures, as well as to the story’s geographical—and very apt—setting.
Marisol’s lively story ends on a happy and sweet note, leaving readers with the important message that diversity is something to be embraced and celebrated.
Fifteen-year-old Odilia and her younger sisters embark on a journey to return a dead man to his family in Mexico, and must outwit monsters and witches to make it back home again in this YA fantasy that retells Homer’s The Odyssey.
Chewing chicle and blowing bubbles is one of my favorite’s hobbies. I love bubble gum but not as much as today’s character. Chavela and the magic bubble is written by the award-winning author Monica Brown and sweetly illustrated by Magaly Morales. Chavela chews gum all day long. She can chomp: pink, blue, orange, white, twisted rolls, gumballs, sour cherry, rainbow-colored, and even sugar-free chicle. Chavela is very good at blowing bubbles. She can blow big colorful bubbles shaped like balloons and tiny ones shaped like jellybeans. Chavela is a creative girl with a great imagination.
One day, Chavela’s abuelita shares stories about her hometown Playa del Carmen, the rainforest, the birds, and butterflies. Later, Chavela goes inside of a tiny corner store and an unusual package catches her attention. The package says Magic Chicle ‘Deep in the rainforest of Mexico there is a magical sapodilla tree.’ Her abuelita explains that gum is made from chicle, the sap of the sapodilla tree. She also mentions to Chavela that her great-grandfather was a chiclero (a person who takes care and harvests the sapodilla tree).
At home, Chavela opens the Magic Chicle and begins to chew piece by piece until nothing is left. Then she blows with all her might an enormous bubble that lifts her up into the sky. The wind is pushing her toward the rainforest, the land of the sapodilla trees. A girl holding a doll with a pretty blue dress greets Chavela and they begin to sing “Tengo una muñeca vestida de azul…” Chavela plays with the children under the shade of the sapodilla tree all day long. She is so tired by the afternoon that she falls asleep. As the moon rises, Chavela wakes up a little bit worried because she doesn’t know how to get back home. Suddenly, drops from the sapodilla tree fall on the tip of her nose. She realizes that by chewing and blowing with all her might, she will be able to return home. In a blink of an eye, Chavela is lift up to the sky heading north. Chavela’s abuelita is waiting for her with a smile and a pretty doll with a blue dress. Chavela’s trip and each piece of bubble gum is a connection with her cultural heritage. Remember that reading gives you wings!
If writing for children were a scoop of ice cream, then a Highlights Founders workshop is a hot fudge sundae.
Attending “Writing Memorable Nonfiction: Pleasures and Possibilities, Problems and Practice,” taught by Peter Jacobi last week was a delicious treat.
Already, I dream of returning for a second helping.
Peter Jacobi is Indiana University School of Journalism’s Professor Emeritus and Adjunct Riley Lecturer. He wrote The Magazine Article: How To Think It, Plan It, And Write It, and Writing With Style.
Peter Jacobi’s classroom presentation was college level, informative, interesting, endearing, and peppered with stories about his days as a journalist “following Nixon around.”
The class was small - 6 students total, and it was held in the living room of the home of original founders of Highlights magazine, Garry and Caroline Myers. We had a busy schedule each morning after a breakfast of blueberry scones, scrambled eggs flavored with cream cheese, slabs of country ham, a selection of berry yogurts, compotes of fresh raspberries, melon, and strawberries, blintzes filled with ricotta and smothered in peach preserves. I sat cross-legged in a fireside chair sipping black coffee, fingerhugging my pen listening to Peter Jacobi reinforce structure. “Tell them what you’re gonna tell them, tell them, then, tell them what you told them.”
Dinner at the Highlights Founders Workshop with fellow students
(Kent Brown is seated at the head of the table, Mr. Jacobi is at front on the left)
Friday evening dinner was shared with my classmates. I sat next to Peter Jacobi and across from Highlights coordinating editor, Kim Griswell, and science editor, Andy Boyles. We were a captivated audience as Kim Griswell spoke about Highlights article needs, Andy Boyle related a personal tale about a family member, and Peter Jacobi reported on a Highlights summer 2006 Chautauqua event.
We were served grilled baby lamb chops, corn pudding, and best-you-ever-ate potato salad, followed by strawberry shortcake, dolloped with whipped cream, by Highlights professional cook staff. It was a night I will not soon forget.
Saturday evening, Kent Brown, Highlights Editor in Chief Emeritus, stopped by and joined in the fun. We listened to stories about the history of Highlights, his Grandmother Myers’ house, and as a special treat, tales of the late “Uncle Jack.”
Sharing at a Founders Workshop ended the day. My sleeping accommodations were private and cozy. As each attendee is assigned her/his own cabin, complete with twin beds, desk, dresser, comfy chair, mini refrigerator, coffee maker, and private bath, it was no wonder I had difficulty leaving. Nestled in the rolling hills of Pennsylvania woods, I was reminded of Goldilocks and the three bears. Everything there was “just right.”
At Highlights, Founders Workshops are open to writers of all levels and offered year round. I find them more delightful, more personal, more writer-friendly than huge events. I’m one of those weird writers who relishes privacy and people. At Founders, it’s the cherry on the sundae.
You can learn more about Highlights, Founders Workshops, and the fine teachers who teach them by visiting http://www.highlightsfoundation.org
Be sure to read requirements carefully, and sign up early. Classes are limited to no more than 12 students, and they fill up fast.
Guest Blogger Lydia Breiseth is the manager of the bilingual English-Spanish website Colorín Colorado, whose mission is to provide educators and parents with information about teaching English language learners to read and succeed. Ms. Breiseth began her career teaching English to adults in Ecuador with the educational exchange program WorldTeach, and has subsequently taught English and Spanish in a variety of educational and family literacy programs to students of all ages. Prior to working at Colorín Colorado, Ms. Breiseth served as the Community Affairs Liaison at Telemundo Washington DC, managing outreach initiatives to the region’s Hispanic community.
Here are five ideas for ways to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month:
Look for children’s books by authors such as Alma Flor Ada, George Ancona, Francisco X. Alarcón, Pam Muñoz Ryan, Pat Mora, Monica Brown, Lulu Delacre, Gary Soto, or Jorge Argueta. While these authors write about a number of themes, many of them focus on culturally relevant stories, traditions, and events that students of all backgrounds will find engaging.
Talk about the biographies of important Hispanic and Latin American figures from history and look for children’s books about those figures. For example, César: Yes, We Can!/César: ¡Sí, Se Puede! by Carmen T. Bernier-Grand offers poems about César Chávez, while Harvesting Hope: The Story of César Chávez by Kathleen Krull and Yuyi Morales focuses on Chávez’s famous march on behalf of California’s migrant farmworkers.
With older students, talk about what it means to be Hispanic American in the U.S. today. What are the opportunities and challenges for young Hispanic Americans and immigrants of different backgrounds? What has their family experience been? How might Hispanic Americans’ vote play a part in the upcoming presidential election?
Look for cultural events in your area that you can attend with students or your family. During Hispanic Heritage Month, many schools, museums, libraries, cultural associations, and performance groups offer presentations with art, music, poetry, puppet shows, cinema, drama, or other activities for audiences of all ages. You may even be able to do some taste-testing of yummy cuisine while you’re at it!
Local PBS stations are offering Hispanic Heritage programming, including documentaries, performances, and bilingual children’s shows. Check out some of the special programs PBS will be showcasing.
Also check out local PBS listings for Reading Rockets’ newest television program, Toddling Toward Reading. Hosted by country music legend (and First Book Board member) Reba McEntire, the show offers a look at how pediatricians are getting involved in bringing books to babies; the crucial need for family-support services to engage and involve parents of young children; and the benefits of inclusion for the special needs preschooler. The show also features master teacher Dr. Rebecca Palacios who runs a dual-language immersion preschool in Corpus Christi, Texas. While teaching her kids, she also mentors teachers-in-training on how to provide top-notch teaching in a preschool environment.
Find ways to connect babies, toddlers and preschoolers with books with these parent tip sheets on reading in both English and Spanish. Hispanic Heritage Month is a great opportunity to introduce even soon-to-be readers to poems, stories, and traditional songs found in books.
By René Colato Laínez Congratulations on your new book Pele King of Soccer, Monica you are truly the queen of Latino children’s book biographies. How did you get the idea for this great book?
How fun to be queen of something! More seriously, I am surrounded by people that inspire me, from the children I meet to the folks in publishing who fight to get these stories told. As a Peruvian-American, I grew up with an appreciation for Pelé's physical genius and an understanding of what he represented for the children of South America. The idea to write about him grew out of conversations with my husband (who has coached each of our girl's soccer teams) and my agents, Stefanie Von Borstel and Lilly Ghahremani. I've was also inspired by my brother Danny, who has played soccer semi-professionally and who now plays for the CAL Men's Club team. Since I have a soccer-crazy family, this was a natural project for me. Tell us about Monica, the big foot player.
Well, I had a particular coach--Coach Charlie--who called me "big foot" because I had such a big kick! I always played defense. As you can see from the photo, I played AYSO!
Your daughters must be thrilled with this book. What was their first reaction? I know they are fútbol players too.
They were so excited! I dedicated the book to my nine-year-old daughter Juliana who plays for a club, Flagstaff United. We travel with her team and it is truly amazing to watch these rough-and-tumble nine year old girls leave everything on the field!
The illustrations of the book are wonderful. I love how the illustrator captured Pele in action in the cover. How was the process of illustration? Did you have contact with Rudy Gutierrez?
Rudy and I have been in contact over email and I hope to have the pleasure of meeting him in person soon. He is incredibly talented and has a great spirit. Rudy has worked quite a bit in the music industry--he illustrated Santana's Shaman album cover--and his blend of color, movement and rhythm was perfect fora story about Pelé.
We have many writer visitors in La Bloga. Can you tell us about Monica, the researcher? What places do you visit? Books? Media?
I put a great deal of time and effort into research and I think my biographies are stronger for it. The internet is a great initial source, but I always end up with real books from a real library! In addition to writing children's books, I'm a professor and a scholar and ever since I was a college student I've found libraries restful, meditative places. The more thoroughly I research, the more inspiration I have to draw on. In some cases, I'm able to glean information directly from the source.
Now that you have all the data, what is the process of writing the books? You must collect tons of great information and we know that children’s books are very limited with words. How do decide what to include?
Well, first I think about the shape and structure of the book. Will I begin in the present and then look backwards to the subject's childhood? Will there be a recurring image, rhythm or theme? I begin with these questions and then I begin drafting. It's hard to fully describe the process of writing because honestly, I can't pinpoint the source of a particular line or turn of phrase except to say that if feels like a gift when it's flowing. When I have a complete draft, I ask myself more questions: Have I captured the spirit of my subject in all its brilliance and joy? Will children and their parent's be moved and inspired by this story? Will they have fun reading it?
A little bird told me that your next book is about Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez. Can you tell us about it?
I cannot begin to express how excited I am about this book! The book, illustrated by the incredible Joe Cepeda, is called Side by Side: The Story of Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez/Lado a Lado, La Historia de Dolores Huerta y Cesar Chavez and is forthcoming from HarperCollins Rayo this Fall. Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez were partners in leadership and my book places this side by side in history. Dolores Huerta reviewed the manuscript and she and her family were incredibly helpful in terms of writing a historically accurate book. It was an honor to write this book, inspired by two people who are my personal heroes.
There are many children full of dreams and in your books they can see that dreams can become a reality. What is your message for your readers?
My message is one of inspiration and pride in our beautiful and diverse Latinidad. So many of my subjects came from challenging beginnings, but they believed in themselves and achieved greatness. As a boy, Pelé and his friends were so poor that they couldn't afford an actual soccer ball and would play with a sock stuffed with newspapers. I want all children to feel that their only limitation is their own imagination. As teachers, writers, artists, and activists, it is our job to make sure that this is true.
Thanks Monica, where can our readers catch you and say hi! When and where are your future presentations?
I will be speaking at several events this spring, including the International Reading Association in Phoenix and The Texas Library Association Annual Meeting in Houston. I'm always interested in visiting schools, conferences, and book festivals. Speaking to students and their teachers, as well as other creative writers through children's writing workshops, is particularly rewarding. The best way to find out about my upcoming appearances or to contact me about speaking to your group is to check out my website at www.monicabrown.net
Monica Brown is the award-winning author of My Name is Celia: The Life of Celia Cruz/Me Llamo Celia: La Vida de Celia Cruz(Luna Rising), My Name is Gabito: The life of Gabriel Garcia Marquez/Me Llamo Gabito: La Vida de Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Luna Rising); Butterflies on Carmen Street (Piñata); Pelé, King of Soccer/ Pelé, El Rey de Futbol (HarperCollins Rayo); and the forthcoming Side by Side: The Story of Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez (HarperCollins Rayo).
Hi there! We wanted to share some information on an upcoming conference. Let us know if you’re going!
Latino Children’s Literature Conference
National Latino Children’s Literature Conference: Connecting Culture & Celebrating cuentos
This April 23rd and 24th celebrate the rich traditions and diversity within the Latino cultures at the National Celebration of Latino Children’s Literature Conference. Discover how to meet the informational and literacy needs of Latino children via high quality, culturally-relevant literature and the latest educational strategies. Engage in unique networking opportunities with librarians, teachers, educators, and researchers from across the nation as we explore how to make intercultural connections and serve this rapidly growing, uniquely diverse population.
As the number of Latino children and their families continues to increase, so does the need for understanding these diverse cultures. This exclusive conference provides a forum for sharing current research and practice addressing the cultural, educational, and informational needs of Latino children and their families. At the same time, the conference also examines the many social influences that Latino children’s literature has upon the developing child.
Beginning Friday April 23rd at 1 p.m. on the historical University of Alabama campus, nationally-recognized Latino children’s literature expert Oralia Garza de Cortés will launch the recurring conference theme “Connecting Cultures and Celebrating Cuentos” with a powerful keynote address. Participants will then have the opportunity to attend breakout sessions related to Latino children’s and young adult literature, library services to Latinos, and literacy education for Latino children. Immediately following these small group sessions, award-winning Latina author Monica Brown and award-winning Latino artist Rafael López will discuss the collaborative synergy behind their work.
Friday evening, award-winning Latina author and storyteller Carmen Tafolla will celebrate El día de los niños/El día de los libros (Children’s Day/Book Day), Latino children’s literature, and cultural literacy with a free community event at the Tuscaloosa Public Library. This Noche de Cuentos (Evening of Stories) begins at 7 p.m. and includes storytelling, refreshments, and free books for the niños.
On Saturday April 24th, Dr. Monica Brown energizes participants and opens the day’s events with a keynote address at Mary Hewell Alston Hall. Breakout sessions for both practitioners and researchers as well as graduate and undergraduate students will follow and include a variety of topics related to Latino children’s literature and literacy. Research posters will also be on display throughout the conference.
Lunch will be served at the Ferguson Center and will be followed by an engaging keynote at Mary Hewell Alston Hall with award-winning artist and illustrator Rafael López. Afterwards breakout sessions will include topics related to education, literacy, storytelling, and library services for Latino children. Storyteller and award-winning author Dr. Carmen Tafolla will bring down the house with a grand finale performance followed by a book signing with conference authors. Attendees will have additional opportunities to talk with first-time, Latina children’s li
Hola, how is everyone doing with the World Cup Fever? Now the tension is on to discover which teams will make it to the semifinals. But we need to wait until Friday.
Monica Brown wrote a beautiful book about Pelé the king of Soccer. This is the bilingual description of the book:
Do you know how a poor boy from Brazil who loved fútbol more than anything else became the biggest soccer star the world has ever known? Turn the pages of this book to read the true life story of Pelé, King of Soccer, the first man in the history of the sport to score a thousand goals and become a living legend. Rudy Gutiérrez's dynamic illustrations make award-winning author Monica Brown's story of this remarkable sports hero truly come alive!
¿Sabes cómo un niño brasileño pobre que amaba el fútbol más que nada en el mundo se convirtió en la estrella más importante del deporte? Lee este relato y entérate de la historia de Pelé, El rey del fútbol; el primer hombre en la historia del deporte capaz de marcar mil goles y convertirse en una leyenda viva. Las dinámicas ilustraciones de Rudy Gutiérrez destacan vívidamente los momentos recreados por la escritora premiada Mónica Brown en este extraordinario libro.
Last year La Bloga had the honor to interview Monica Brown. This is just the first question. To read the complete interview click here.
Congratulations on your new book Pele King of Soccer, Monica you are truly the queen of Latino children’s book biographies. How did you get the idea for this great book?
How fun to be queen of something! More seriously, I am surrounded by people that inspire me, from the children I meet to the folks in publishing who fight to get these stories told. As a Peruvian-American, I grew up with an appreciation for Pelé's physical genius and an understanding of what he represented for the children of South America. The idea to write about him grew out of conversations with my husband (who has coached each of our girl's soccer teams) and my agents, Stefanie Von Borstel and Lilly Ghahremani. I've was also inspired by my brother Danny, who has played soccer semi-professionally and who now plays for the CAL Men's Club team. Since I have a soccer-crazy family, this was a natural project for me.
In celebration of the 2010 World Cup, author Monica Brown created this book trailer about Pelé, the legend at the heart of Brazilian Soccer. She's also donated a signed copy of the book to the readers of La Bloga.
Leave a comment about your favorite fútbol's team and why you would like this book. La Bloga will choose and announce the name of the lucky reader next Wednesday.
Hola Monica, your new book Chavela and the Magic Bubble is wonderful and full of magic. As a child did you like chewing gum?Were you able to make fancy shapes like Chavela?
As a child, I loved chewing gum, but I certainly didn’t have Chavela’s talent for creating butterflies and dogs out of chicle! I could, and still can, however, blow a bubble inside a bubble. Where did you get the inspiration to write this book?
This book was inspired by my daughter Isabella, my Chavelita, who asked me the question, “Mommy, where does bubble gum come from?” I knew I had to do some research to fully satisfy her curiosity and I was delighted to learn about the wonderful Sapodilla trees of Southern Mexico and Central America. While most chewing gum is now made from other synthetic substances, I found out that there are still chicleros harvesting chicle from these trees and acting as stewards of nature.
The other inspiration for this book may surprise you. I had just written a biography of my favorite writer, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, titled My Name is Gabito: The Life of Gabriel Garcia Marquez/ Me Llamo Gabito: La Vida de Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and I wanted to write a story for children that explore my favorite literary genre, magical realism.
I know that your daughter Chavela was eager to hold this book in her hands. What was her first reaction when she saw the final book?
She loved it! It was the first time she had a character in a book named just for her.
What was the process from manuscript to publish book for Chavela and the Magic Bubble?
It was an unusual journey because I actually wrote the book many years ago and the manuscript was originally bought by Rising Moon/Luna Rising, an imprint of Northland, an independent publisher. Before the book came out, Northland was bought out by a larger publisher who only wanted their backlist. The rights eventually came back to me and the illustrator, Magaly Morales. We were happy to publish the book with Jennifer Greene at Clarion books, who did a fantastic job. In essence though, my agent had to sell this book twice!
You use a traditional song, tengo una muñeca vestida de azul, in the story. Why did you decide to include it? As a child, what were your favorite traditional songs?
I included it in part as a homage to my mother, Isabel Brown, who sang it to me as a child and in part because a doll with a blue dress is central to the story! It is interesting to note that there are many different versions of this song across the Americas. I learned this version from my mother, who was born in Piura, Peru and gave it my own interpretation. If you were able to chew Chavela’s magic chicle where would you go?
I love this question! Well, I just got back from the Feria del Libros in Panama City, Panama and I already want to go back and spend more time in that country, with it’s beautiful people and rainforests. But it would only be a stop on my way to Peru to visit family. It’s been three years since I’ve been there and that’s about three years too long.
Your awarded children’s book biographies are very popular. Is there a different process to write fiction than nonfiction?
It is very different, actually. With a children’s fiction picture book there are no limitations to where my imaginati
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Full Name - Monica Brown Date of Birth - 10/24/69 Location - Flagstaff Arizona Website - MonicaBrown.net Genre -Children's Literature
Writing Credits and Awards I have received the Américas Award for children’s literature and my work has received starred reviews in Kirkus and School Library Journal. My books have also been selected for several best of lists and as Junior Library Guild Selections. Most recently published work(s), Side by Side: The Story of Dolores Huerta and Cesar/Lado a Lado: La Historia de Dolores Huerta y Cesar Chavez and Chavela and the Magic Bubble
Can you tell us a little something about Side by Side/Lado a Lado? It’s my pleasure to share the “story behind the story” of this book. Writing this book was inspiring and intimidating because both individuals are my personal heroes. Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez did what some of us only dream about doing. They worked to change the world and make it better. They were dedicated to advocacy and human rights for our nation’s farm workers and believed, as I write in my book, “that it was time for the workers to share in the harvest.”
Few people know the important role that Dolores Huerta played as co-founder of the UnitedFarm Workers movement. I wanted to tell her story, and I wanted my daughters to know thatwomen can be incredible leaders in the fight for change.
As I was writing the book, it was an honor to talk with Dolores Huerta and her daughter, Lori de Leon, and I was thrilled that Dolores agreed to share a quote after reading the manuscript which is included in the book. At age 80, Dolores Huerta is still fighting for justice through her foundation. She is an inspiration to all! You can find out more at www.doloreshuerta.org.
Chavela and The Magic Bubble is wonderfully imaginative and colorful. It's also your first non bilingual picture book. Do you plan to write anymore in the future? The majority of my children’s books are bilingual English/Spanish and I hope that is always the case. It is the publishers decision, but if I have a choice, I will always go with bilingual books.
My books have also been translated into Greek and Portuguese. I’m hoping that there will be a Spanish edition of Chavela and the Magic Bubble in the near future!
Side by Side/Lado a Lado is your fifth biography. While reading it I took great pleasure in knowing children would be introduced to Dolores Huerta, a woman who worked just as hard as Cesar Chavez for the rights of immigrant workers. Why do you think it took so long for Dolores Huerta's story to be told for children?
This question would be hard to answer in a paragraph! The important thing to note is that we are in a moment where new voices and stories are being told that represent a multiplicity of identities and the diverse and complicated history of the United States.
Are you working on anything now? Yes! I’m working on two projects—one is a biography of Pablo Picasso for a Spanish publisherand the other is another fiction picture book, tentatively titled, Maya’s Blanket. I also superexcited about a book I just completed, which is called Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match, whichwill be out from Children’s Book Press in 2011. Other forthcoming books inc
• Pub. Date: August 2011 • Publisher: Random House Children's Books • Format: Library Binding , 32pp • ISBN-13: 9781582463988
Ana loves stories. She often makes them up to help her little brother fall asleep. But in her small village there are only a few books and she has read them all. One morning, Ana wakes up to the clip-clop of hooves, and there before her, is the most wonderful sight: a traveling library resting on the backs of two burros‑ all the books a little girl could dream of, with enough stories to encourage her to create one of her own. Inspired by the heroic efforts of real-life librarian Luis Soriano, award-winning picture book creators Monica Brown and John Parra introduce readers to the mobile library that journeys over mountains and through valleys to bring literacy and culture to rural Colombia, and to the children who wait for the BiblioBurro.
A portion of the proceeds from sales of this book support Luis Soriano’s BiblioBurro program.
Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People
By Monica Brown. Illustrated by Julie Paschkis.
• Pub. Date: March 2011 • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. • Format: Hardcover , 32pp • ISBN-13: 9780805091984
Once there was a little boy named Neftalí who loved wild things wildly and quiet things quietly. From the moment he could talk, he surrounded himself with words. Neftalí discovered the magic between the pages of books. When he was sixteen, he began publishing his poems as Pablo Neruda. Pablo wrote poems about the things he loved—things made by his friends in the café, things found at the marketplace, and things he saw in nature. He wrote about the people of Chile and their stories of struggle. Because above all things and above all words, Pablo Neruda loved people.
The 9th annual National Latino Writers Conference takes place May 19 – 21 at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA. The conference is uniquely devoted to writing by and for Latinos and is a magnet for Latino writers whose work has often been neglected by major publishing houses. Nationally prominent authors, editors and agents will come together to present workshops, panels and participate in one-on-one consultations with participants. Children’s book author Monica Brown will teach two workshops on Writing for Children and Francisco Alarcón will be teaching El Poder de la Poesía: Poetry for Two Languages. While all workshops and panels are closed to the public, the May 19th poetry reading by Alurista in the Bank of America Theatre will be open and free to the public.
Waiting for the Biblioburro is already receiving rave reviews (see below) and to celebrate it’s release Monica will be giving away three dedicated and signed copies of the book on August 9th. Visit Monica’s Facebook page for all the details.
The Horn Book, July/August 2011
“This sample of the impact of traveling librarians on rural children, inspired by a Colombian teacher-librarian [Luis Soriano], not only celebrates their work but eloquently portrays a matchless way to inspire learning: by feeding the natural hunger for story….Small, brown-faced Ana’s enthusiasm is contagious, and the satisfying denouement, in which she donates her homemade book to the traveling collection, is just right.”
Kirkus Reviews, June 15, 2011
“Parra’s colorful folk-style illustrations of acrylics on board bring Ana’s real and imaginary worlds to life…The book is perfect for read-alouds, with occasional, often onomatopoeic Spanish words such as “quiquiriquí,” “tacatac” and “iii-aah” adding to the fun.” Publishers Weekly, May 9, 2011 “Parra’s naïve-styled acrylics brim with scenes of country life. A palette of salmon pinks and turquoise and sky blues, painted on board, give the book a rough-hewn, handmade quality and an innocent, childlike appeal (with her wide face, delicate features, and rouged cheeks, Ana even resembles a porcelain doll). In a metafictional ending, readers will notice that the book Ana hands the bibliotecario upon his return is this very book–fitting, as this truly is Ana’s story.”