2012 National Hispanic Heritage Month Roundup

Welcome to the second annual roundup of children's and young adult book reviews, interviews, and more celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month. This year's roundup focuses on lists and awards, in hopes of raising awareness of great books by Latin American authors and illustrators--and making it easier for interested readers to find them.

Lee and Low Books is celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month by highlighting some of their many wonderful titles written and illustrated by Latino/a authors and illustrators, including favorite picture books by Pat Mora and Carmen Lomas Garza.

Tu Books, an imprint of Lee and Low, publishes science fiction, fantasy, and mystery books for kids that feature diverse characters and settings. I'm especially excited about Summer of the Mariposas by Guadalupe Garcia McCall, which is described as "a magical Mexican American retelling of The Odyssey." You can read the first three chapters here.

This is also a good time of year to start thinking about the Pura Belpre Award, which is presented by ALSC and REFORMA and "recognizes excellence in the areas of literary merit and outstanding illustration in books for children and young adults by authors and illustrators who identify themselves as Latino." The Heartland chapter of REFORMA runs a mock Pura Belpre every year; they haven't put up the list of titles under consideration for the 2013 awards yet, but past years' mock Belpre lists are a great source of titles.

Another useful list comes from the UNM Institute of Latin American and Iberian Studies: its monthly, teacher-oriented book group Vamos a Leer reads and discusses children's literature related to Latin America, with an emphasis on the K-12 classroom. Check out their blog, Vamos a Leer: Teaching Latin America and Literacy, where you'll also find (among other great resources) the Latin American YA Bookshelf.

The 2012 Americas Award for Children's and Young Adult Literature, for work that "authentically and engagingly portray[s] Latin America, the Caribbean or Latinos in the United States," is being presented to Monica Brown and Julie Paschkis for Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People (Henry Holt and Company, 2011) and to Margarita Engle for Hurricane Dancers: The First Caribbean Pirate Shipwreck (also Henry Holt, 2001), this Friday, October 5, at the Library of Congress. Congratulations to Monica (interviewed today by Latina author Meg Medina) and Margarita!

And thank you for reading. If you'd like to contribute to the roundup, please leave a comment with your links or recommendations. ¡Gracias a todos!

Celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month

September 15 to October 15 is National Hispanic Heritage Month, when the Library of Congress officially recognizes the "histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America." The dates are a little awkward: most of us know that February is African-American History Month, and May is Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, but Hispanic Heritage Month is half-September and half-October. Maybe it's a metaphor?

Anyway, I'll be celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month(s) here with reviews of children's books by authors and illustrators whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America (see above). One book I'm especially looking forward to writing about in this context is Marisol McDonald Doesn't Match/Marisol McDonald no combina by Monica Brown (illustrated by Sara Palacios; Children's Book Press, 2011). Marisol is actually Peruvian-Scottish-American, mismatched and marvelous.

Just like last year, I'll also be hosting a National Hispanic Heritage Month roundup of reviews, author interviews and more on October 3. I'd love to get lots of participation, so please send me your links or leave them in a comment on this post or on the roundup post in October. Recommendations and requests are also most welcome. ¡Muchas gracias!

Martin de Porres, the rose in the desert

I wish I knew what drew Gary D. Schmidt, better known for realistic middle grade fiction such as The Wednesday Wars (a 2008 Newbery Honor book) and Okay for Now (2011), to the story of Martin de Porres, the first black saint in the Americas (actually, Schmidt tells us, Martin was the son of an African mother and a Spanish nobleman, born in Lima and educated by his father in Ecuador). The author's note at the back of Martin de Porres: The Rose in the Desert (illustrated by David Diaz; Clarion, 2012) is no help.

Schmidt's text, however, emphasizes Martin's humility and service to the poor as well as his love of animals (the note does tell us that Martin is patron saint of, among other things, social justice, public education, and animal shelters). And David Diaz illuminates Martin's story with his distinctive mixed-media illustrations, in what the Horn Book calls "Latin American hues [?] of red, turquoise, gold, and brown."

My favorite image is more subdued: It's night. Martin, in his black-and white Dominican habit, carries a basket of bread. He has a brown dog at his heels. Two silvery angels guide his way.