November 19, 2017

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23 YA and Middle Grade Books To Honor Hispanic Heritage Month

This Friday, September 15, kicks off National Hispanic Heritage Month, a four-week celebration of the cultures, histories, and peoples of Spanish, Mexican, Caribbean, and Central and South American descent. The following fiction, nonfiction, and professional reading titles explore the myriad ways in which Latinx young people navigate family, friendships, school, and public life in North America—and all are unforgettable reads.

Though this month is a joyous occasion, we must recognize that the Trump administration’s shameful move to end DACA directly harms the Latinx community in the United States. Librarians and educators serving and supporting Latinx tweens and teens will want to display and promote these excellent selections.

Fiction

ALSAID, Adi. North of Happy. 304p. Harlequin Teen. Apr. 2017. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780373212286. POP

Gr 8 Up–Carlos, 18, lives a sheltered, affluent life in Mexico City. His future is all set out for him by his well-intentioned father. But when his older brother Felix comes for a visit, he encourages Carlos to follow his dream of cooking instead. Suddenly, Felix is tragically killed by a stray bullet, and Carlos begins to question everything in his life. But Felix hasn’t completely left him; his ghost keeps Carlos company, pushing him to follow his heart. Carlos buys a one-way plane ticket to the United States, to eat at a famed restaurant on a tiny island near Seattle, something the brothers had dreamed of doing. There Carlos meets Emma, the chef’s daughter, and they instantly connect. His time with Emma is a respite from his solitary pain. The protagonist is given a dishwasher job at the restaurant, and he begins to learn the ins and outs of the kitchen, eventually securing early morning cooking lessons with the chef. But there’s a catch—Carlos must end his relationship with Emma. As Carlos pursues his dreams, the visits from Felix become fewer and fewer. This is a story of how tragedy can make us question the things that matter most in life. Alsaid has created a quiet, introspective novel dealing with love, loss, and the spaces in-between. Readers will appreciate the peek at a small Washington island and a fine restaurant. This title will also appeal to budding chefs and fans of the popular culinary arts movement. VERDICT Recommended for all YA collections.–Emily Valente, Brooklyn Friends School

This review was published in School Library Journal‘s May 2017 issue.

BEHAR, Ruth. Lucky Broken Girl. 256p. Penguin/Nancy Paulsen Bks. Apr. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780399546440.
Gr 4-6–Ruthie’s English skills have finally gotten her promoted to the “smart” fifth grade class, and she’s the “hopscotch queen of Queens” this week. Her family are still struggling with their recent move from Cuba, but she has a strong family network, some new friends, and a pair of brand-new white go-go boots. When a car accident leaves her in a body cast, Ruthie is scared, lonely, angry, and confused. The year that she spends healing in bed is one of growing up, of hard times and good friends, and of new skills and the determination to be herself in her new country. Behar’s first middle grade novel, a fictionalized telling of her own childhood experiences in the 1960s, is a sweet and thoughtful read, slowly but strongly paced, and filled with a wealth of detail that makes the characters live. Both poetic and straightforward, this title will appeal to young readers with its respect for their experiences and its warm portrayal of a diverse community. In addition to Ruthie’s realistic and personal voice, the novel’s strength is in its complex portrayal of the immigrant experience, with overlapping stories of who goes and who comes and the paths they travel. VERDICT Recommended and relatable. Hand this to fans of Rita Williams-Garcia and those who loved The Secret Garden​.–Katya Schapiro, Brooklyn Public Library

This review was published in School Library Journal‘s January 2017 issue.

Spot-MG-Cartaya-TheEpicFailofArturoZamoraCARTAYA, Pablo. The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora. 256p. Viking. May 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781101997239.

Gr 5-8–Arturo Zamora is determined to save his family’s Cuban American restaurant, the decades-old hub of their Miami neighborhood, from an unscrupulous developer who seems to have bought city council approval for his land grab. Cartaya treats this subject with a mixture of humor and heartfelt nostalgia. The warmth and solidarity of Arturo’s family and their deep relationships within their community are palpable. Arturo’s confusion as he experiences his first pains of love for their summer houseguest leavens the sense of impending doom. Eventually, the neighborhood pulls itself together to preserve La Cocina de la Isla. Sprinkling his writing with Spanish, Cartaya incorporates mouthwatering descriptions of Cuban cuisine, the poetry of José Martí, and the general wackiness of young teens’ friendships effortlessly into his narrative. VERDICT Touching and funny, this is an excellent middle grade novel about Cuban American life. For most collections.–Miriam Lang Budin, Chappaqua Library, NY

This review was published in School Library Journal‘s March 2017 issue.

CHAMBERS, Veronica. The Go-Between. 208p. Delacorte. May 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781101930953.
Gr 7 Up–Fifteen-year-old Camilla and her wealthy family live in a mansion in Mexico City, complete with bodyguards and staff. She wears designer clothes and participates in the “Rich Kids of Mexico City” Instagram account, where teens flaunt wealth and status. The family’s prosperity is the result of Cammi’s mother’s career as a renowned telenovela actress and her father’s success as a voice-over artist in movies. Even her older brother, now living in Switzerland, excels academically, while Cammi rides the current of their fame. When a jealous “friend” outs the teen’s mother’s anxiety issues, Cammi and her family decide to take a sabbatical, which coincides with a television sitcom job for her mother in Los Angeles. Once there, Camilla discovers that immigrating to a new country is not easy: her mother struggles with her acting role of a maid, her father misses home, and Cammi feels slapped by the racist perceptions toward Mexicans at her elite private school. In fact, she realizes that it is simpler to go along with their stereotypical assumptions that she is a poor “chola” on scholarship than to explain the truth and lose her newfound anonymity. Yet the constant strain of spinning lies becomes wearing, and when the inevitable happens, Camilla is forced to reconsider what she values, make amends, and accept her own identity. This book presents a fairy-tale lifestyle not often seen in Latinx literature, while also exploring themes of biculturalism/biracialism and racist stereotypes about Mexican immigrants. VERDICT A light read for fans of realistic fiction, and a good choice for general purchase.–Ruth Quiroa, National Louis University, Lisle, IL

This review was published in School Library Journal‘s March 2017 issue.

DELACRE, Lulu. Us, in Progress: Short Stories About Young Latinos. 256p. illus. by Lulu Delacre. glossary. notes. HarperCollins. Aug. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062392145.
Gr 6-8–In a collection of 12 tales, readers hear fictionalized narratives of young Latinos drawn from news stories. The selections represent a variety of children from diverse countries of origin and include standard prose as well as the poetic “Pickup Soccer” and the musical “Cubano Two.” The entries highlight issues that some Latinos face, such as problems with food and obesity, cultural identity, the deportation of relatives, the quest to obtain legal status, and prejudices some have toward fellow Latinos from different backgrounds. While these stories offer an interesting cross section of the Latino experience, there is a preponderance of sad and serious tales (with topics that include a sister who bullies, an epileptic seizure mistaken for a criminal attack, and the death of a parent). Spanish words are sprinkled throughout and defined in the back, and refranes (sayings) introduce each piece. The author’s mixed-media portraits accompany each entry, and the original articles that inspired each offering are listed and discussed. VERDICT This welcome update to short story collections such as Gary Soto’s Baseball in April and prose alternative to Alma Flor Ada’s Yes!: We Are Latinos is a solid addition to libraries and would also add much-needed diversity to classroom study.–Karen Yingling, Blendon Middle School, Westerville, OH

This review was published in School Library Journal‘s May 2017 issue.

MG-Diaz-TheOnlyRoadredstarDIAZ, Alexandra. The Only Road. 320p. S. & S./Paula Wiseman Bks. Oct. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781481457507.

Gr 5-8–After the murder of their cousin/brother Miguel, Jaime and Ángela (ages 12 and 15) are given the “option” to join the powerful gang controlling their Guatemalan village. A refusal means certain death, so their families make the difficult decision to send the pair north, secretly gathering resources, paying smugglers, and identifying safe houses—all the while aware that their children might not survive the journey. The cousins depart hidden in the bed of a truck with small bags of food and cash concealed in their waistbands. After crossing the Mexican border, they take a bus further north, barely escaping border guards, and briefly stay at a safe church from which they are transported in a locked, airless freight train car. Throughout, the young people experience mercy and loss and observe violence and its results as they walk or ride atop a train, finally reaching a border town. After working to acquire additional cash necessary for a reputable coyote, they cross the Río Bravo and border wall and finally arrive at another refuge center. There are references to violence and sexual abuse, but these are handled in an age-appropriate manner while also reflecting the experiences of many immigrants. Jaime’s first person perspective enables readers to begin to comprehend the realities of undocumented youth immigration, its underlying causes, and the sacrifices and hardships made to reach safety in the United States. VERDICT An important, must-have addition to the growing body of literature with immigrant themes.–Ruth Quiroa, National Louis University, Lisle, IL

This review was published in the School Library Journal March 2017 issue.

ENGLE, Margarita. Forest World. 208p. S. & S./Atheneum. Aug. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781481490573.

Gr 4-7–A novel in verse told from two perspectives. Eleven-year-old Edver is reunited with his family in Cuba after the reestablishment of relations with the United States. After growing up with his mother in Miami, Edver is unaware that he has a 12-year-old sister, Luza, who has been living with his father and grandfather in the Cuban jungle. Edver finds that the meager standard of living he enjoyed in the United States is enviable in comparison with that of Cuba; Luza resents Edver’s apparent wealth. Engle’s focus is mainly on familial relationships but includes a rather minor environmental conflict: while trying to get the attention of their mother, a cryptozoologist, Edver and Luza unite temporarily to post on the Internet about the discovery of a new butterfly. A poacher who works as a “Human Vacuum Cleaner” profiting from endangered species soon appears in the forest. Although the poacher problem is tied up neatly by the book’s conclusion, the family issues mostly remain unsettled—a realistic, if unsatisfying, outcome. Edver and Luza are pleasingly realized with individual interests (online games and sculpture, respectively); the adult relationships, though, feel largely unexplored. VERDICT This well-timed and accessible work of eco-fiction should readily find its way into classrooms and libraries as an opening to learning more about the familial ties between the United States and one of its nearest neighbors.–Erin Reilly-Sanders, University of Wisconsin-Madison

This review was published in School Library Journal‘s August 2017 issue.

GARZA, Xavier. Maximilian and the Lucha Libre Club/Maximiliano y el club de lucha libre. illus. by Xavier Garza. 208p. (Max’s Lucha Libre Adventures: Bk. 3). Cinco Puntos. Nov. 2016. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781941026403; pap. $12.95. ISBN 9781941026410. BL

Gr 3-7 –Maximilian is back in this third book in the series. Wrestling with keeping his lucha libre life and his feelings for Cecilia, the girl of his dreams, a secret, Max doesn’t think his life can get any more complicated. When Paloma, the only friend who knows that Max’s uncle is the great Guardian Angel—the greatest luchador of all time—moves away, Max doesn’t know whom he will be able to talk to about lucha libre. He receives a ticket and backstage passes to attend the Big Brawl in Los Angeles and travels with his uncles and Vampiro Velasquez. He is quickly inducted into the Lucha Libre Club—a group for kids who are related to luchadores—which Paloma is a part of. With the help of Vampiro Velasquez, who provides valuable life lessons as well as instruction on wrestling techniques, the protagonist discovers what makes the Guardian Angel more than just a man in a mask. Written in English and Spanish, this story is filled with excitement and addresses the problems and everyday worries of kids like Max. Illustrations accompany each chapter, and all readers, including reluctant ones, will find something to interest them; the addition of the female luchadoras and their young relatives is a nice touch. Readers of all ages will discover wisdom within the story, especially in the character of Vampiro Velasquez, who reminds us that time passes for everyone. VERDICT Highly recommended, particularly for bilingual collections and where the author’s books are popular.–Selenia Paz, Helen Hall Library, League City, TX

This review was published in School Library Journal‘s May 2017 issue.

redstarMABRY, Samantha. All the Wind in the World. 272p. Algonquin. Oct. 2017. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781616206666.

Gr 9 Up –Mabry crafts a strong romantic arc set at The Real Marvelous, a maguey ranch rumored to be cursed in the magically realistic Southwest Texas desert. Sarah Jacqueline Crow and James Holt end up at the strange farm following a violent dust storm, and Sarah’s involvement in the accidental death of a maguey foreman elsewhere. Considered outlaws, the two perilously hide their identities and their passionate relationship, and with “hard hearts,” labor long hours to earn and steal their way to a hopeful future. James has the quick ability to win card games and the affections of unsuspecting women, which Sarah begrudgingly encourages as their ticket out of poverty. But will these “cousins” go too far at The Real Marvelous—James with the rich landowner’s sickly daughter and Sarah with the spoiled younger sister? This first-person narrative draws readers into Sarah’s memories and her passionate nature, which are her strengths and weaknesses. Additionally, the gritty lure of the harsh desert with its secrets and broken dreams is described in rich prose. This sophomore novel presents a fierce new world with high stakes, where complicated romantic relationships among various characters linger beyond the end of the book. VERDICT An excellent choice for all YA shelves.–Ruth Quiroa, National Louis University, Lisle, IL

This review was published in the School Library Journal August 2017 issue.

ya-hs-marquardt-radiusofusredstarMARQUARDT, Marie. The Radius of Us. 304p. St. Martin’s Griffin. Jan. 2017. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250096890.

Gr 9 Up –Seventeen-year-old Gretchen Asher’s life has not been the same since she was mugged in a parking lot one night. The traumatic incident propelled her into a state of panic, and she is unable to go to school, socialize, or interact deeply with her boyfriend, Adam. Months later, while babysitting her niece and nephew in a neighborhood park, Gretchen spots a boy who looks nearly identical to her attacker. She is thrust back into the heart of fear, unaware that the boy, Phoenix, is in the midst of his own struggles. An 18-year-old immigrant from El Salvador, he has just spent four months escorting his brother to the United States to flee gang violence and is in danger of being deported. When circumstances cause Gretchen and Phoenix to continue meeting, they form an unexpected bond. While facing court trials, identity issues, and racial stereotyping, the teens bolster each other’s courage. With the looming possibility of their permanent separation, the two must decide what is most important to them and what sacrifices are worth making. Tackling the issues of gang violence, immigration, mental health, and cultural bias, this is a compelling story that delivers profound messages through engaging, accessible prose. Both a page-turning romance and a comprehensive view of a young immigrant’s experience, this novel is sure to encourage empathy and perspective among high school students. VERDICT A must-have for all YA collections.–Karin Greenberg, Queens College, NY

This review was published in the School Library Journal December 2016 issue.

redstarMCLEMORE, Anna-Marie. Wild Beauty. 352p. Feiwel & Friends. Oct. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781250124555.

Gr 7 Up–Set in an undisclosed time period, this new magical realism story featuring characters of color across the gender and sexuality spectrum draws on Latin American culture and language. Relying on lyrical prose, McLemore weaves an intricate tale of family, love, loss, and flowers. The Nomeolvides women have lived on and tended the enchanted gardens of La Pradera for generations. They are also hiding a dangerous secret: when those in their family fall in love too deeply, their lovers suddenly vanish. When Estrella and her four cousins (the youngest generation of Nomeolvides women) realize they are all in love with the same girl, they offer a desperate prayer to the gardens to save Bay Briar from nothingness. However, instead of protecting Bay from disappearing, they conjure up a strange and mysterious boy who knows nothing about his past or even his identity. As Estrella helps Fel discover the truth of his history, the Nomeolvides women learn more and more about their family’s legendary curse and the terrifying power of La Pradera. While somewhat confusing at times, the leisurely plot flows smoothly and elegantly. The well-crafted characters add to the vibrant and magical tale that readers will not easily forget. VERDICT A solid, must-have addition to McLemore’s growing body of work, this fantastical tale will delight her fans and entice a new audience.–Ariel Birdoff, New York Public Library

This review was published in the School Library Journal July 2017 issue.

redstarOLDER, Daniel José. Shadowhouse Fall. 368p. (Shadowshaper Cypher: Bk. 2). Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine Bks. Sept. 2017. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780545952828. POP

Gr 7 Up–Sierra and her crew of shadowshapers are back for another adventure in this sequel to Shadowshaper. A mysterious card deck appears and, with it, a conflict between Shadow House and The House of Light arises. Sierra must act quickly to figure out whom she can trust while learning what it means to be a leader. She also begins a relationship with a new love interest. There is a satisfying conclusion, leaving threads of an open-ended mystery involving the Deck of Worlds. It will be exciting to see where this increasingly political urban fantasy will go next. Older has upped the ante with this second installment. This entry adds a layer of social activism that is refreshing and timely. The crew challenges their white AP history teacher about how she is approaching the topic of slavery. Many of the protagonists experience conflicts with the police and are able to resist. For a change of pace, those who enjoyed Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give may want to check out this fantasy title. In addition, it is good to see a sequel include a very realistic changing romantic landscape for the protagonist. VERDICT A worthy follow-up to Shadowshaper that fans will devour.–Kristin Anderson, Columbus Metropolitan Library System, OH

This review was published in the School Library Journal September 2017 issue.

redstarPÉREZ, Celia C. The First Rule of Punk. 336p. Viking. Aug. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780425290408.

Gr 3-6–A fun romp through the awkward years of middle school that examines themes of identity and culture. When Malu has to move away from her dad and everything she knows, she takes her love of punk music with her. Following the rules of punk, she embarks on a new school journey, full of misadventures and hilarious life lessons. Malu is happy not to fit in with the crowd yet cannot bring herself to tell her mom that her passion for punk is not a rebellious phase—it’s who she is. When classmates label Malu a coconut (brown on the outside and white on the inside), she is determined to prove to her school and herself that she is proud of her Mexican roots. With tenderness and humor, Pérez explores the joys and challenges of being biracial. Readers will connect with Malu, a strong protagonist who leaps off the page and whose zine-inspired artistry boldly illustrates how she deals with life. VERDICT Those who enjoy vivacious, plucky heroines, such as the protagonists of Brenda Woods’s The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond, Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich and Audrey Vernick’s Two Naomis, and Rebecca Stead’s Goodbye Stranger, will eagerly embrace Malu.–Jessica Bratt, Grand Rapids Public Library, MI

This review was published in the School Library Journal June 2017 issue.

REYNOLDS, Jason. Miles Morales: Spider-Man. 272p. Disney/Marvel. Aug. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781484787489. POP

Gr 9 Up–Miles Morales is the new Spider-Man in the novelization of the Marvel comic. As an Afro–Puerto Rican teen attending an elite boarding school in Brooklyn, Miles is not only fighting crime but also navigating a complicated adolescent world. He must work hard in his classes while trying to make a move on his beautiful activist classmate. His Korean American best friend wants Miles to use his superpowers to hustle on the streets. There’s also a racist teacher minimizing slavery in his history class. At home, Miles is coming to terms with the discovery of his recently dead uncle’s long-lost son who is writing him letters from juvenile hall. Miles is shouldered with an intense amount of responsibility; it’s no wonder his spidey-sense is on the fritz and his sleep is plagued by mysterious dreams. But when his dreamworld and reality begin to blend, the teen realizes that all parts of his life are connected and the mystery begins to unravel. He must not only fight the dark forces threatening his world and loved ones, but also the darkness within himself. This is not your typical superhero tie-in book. Reynolds has crafted a rich, developed portrait of complex teen life while addressing issues of racism in the modern world with his characteristic warmth and humorous touches. Give this to teens looking to make the leap from comics to novels, or any other readers interested in superhero action set in an urban landscape. VERDICT Recommended for all collections.–Emily Valente, Brooklyn Friends School

This review was published in School Library Journal‘s August 2017 issue.

the education of margotRIVERA, Lilliam. The Education of Margot Sanchez. 304p. S. & S. Feb. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481472111.
Gr 9 Up
–Margot is disappointed to be spending her summer working in her family’s Bronx-based chain of grocery stores, away from her elite prep school crowd. She is suffering the consequences after misappropriating her father’s credit cards to finance her wardrobe. She would much rather be partying with her friends and her crush in the Hamptons. Teens will recognize the obvious consequences of her decisions as she is rude to her family’s employees, rejects her childhood friend, steals beer from her family to impress her friends, and casually loses her virginity (to a guy who clearly doesn’t value her much) after she’s been drinking. Her attempts to redeem herself as she finally sees the error of her ways are effective, though, and over the course of the summer, Margot slowly learns the value of real friendship, navigates some family secrets, and begins to see her Puerto Rican heritage in a different light, culminating in an unsurprising but happy conclusion. VERDICT A fairly standard problem novel, but the realistic Latinx characters make this a welcome addition to YA shelves.–Kristin Anderson, Columbus Metropolitan Library System, OH

This review was published in School Library Journal‘s January 2017 issue.

redstarSÁNCHEZ, Erika L. I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter. 352p. Knopf. Oct. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781524700485.

Gr 10 Up–Fifteen-year-old outcast Julia Reyes longs to attend college in New York, in order to get away from the suffocating watch of her undocumented Mexican parents in Chicago. The unusual death of Julia’s older sister Olga—considered the perfect child by her family—only bolsters this desire, as her parents focus their attention even more strongly on their now only child. When Julia stumbles across unexpected items in Olga’s bedroom after the funeral, she sets off on a course to discover her siter’s secrets while trying to find some escape from her strict parents. Sánchez makes Julia’s unflinching candidness very clear from the start, with the opening sentence providing her stark description of Olga’s corpse. This attitude intermittently brings levity to heavy moments, but also heartbreak when the weight of it all comes crashing down. That honesty and heartbreak is skillfully woven throughout, from the authentic portrayal of sacrifices made and challenges faced by immigrants to the clash of traditional versus contemporary practices, and the struggle of first-generation Americans to balance their two cultures. The importance of language, a lens through which Latinxs are often viewed and sharply judged, is brilliantly highlighted through an ample but measured use of Spanish that is often defined in context without feeling forced or awkward. The author interweaves threads related to depression/anxiety, body image, sexuality, rape, suicide, abuse, and gang violence in both the U.S. and Mexico with nuance, while remaining true to the realities of those issues. VERDICT Like Isabel Quintero’s Gabi, a Girl in Pieces, sans the diary format, this novel richly explores coming-of-age topics; a timely and must-have account of survival in a culturally contentious world.–Alea Perez, Westmont Public Library, IL

This review was published in the School Library Journal September 2017 issue.

redstarSILVERA, Adam. They Both Die at the End. 384p. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Sept. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062457790.

Gr 9 Up–Everyone who is going to die on a given day gets a call to let them know; not the when, or the how, or the why, but just notification that they will die on that day. Mateo and Rufus each get that call and are facing their last day without a loved one. But there’s an app for that. Combining a well-realized alternative present with a lovely romance, Silvera’s latest delivers what readers want in a book about dying teens. There’s no avoiding the cliches that go along with the idea that an impending end makes life more meaningful, but recasting a Lurlene McDaniel–style doomed teen romance with Latinx queer boys and having the societal changes wink at those clichés softens them and makes a better ­storytelling device. The overarching structure of meaningful coincidences making a magical day in New York has its predecessors—Rachel Cohn and David Levithan’s Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist and Nicola Yoon’s The Sun Is Also a Star being prime examples—but this title is a deft exploration of that trope. Silvera continues to masterfully integrate diversity, disability, and young queer voices into an appealing story with a lot of heart. VERDICT While most of the elements and themes of this work are not new, they are combined, realized, and diversified expertly in this title. A must-have for YA shelves.–L. Lee Butler, Hart Middle School, Washington, DC

This review was published in the School Library Journal August 2017 issue.

redstarSTORK, Francisco X. Disappeared. 336p. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine Bks. Sept. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780 545944472.

Gr 8 Up –Sara, a reporter at her Mexican hometown, writes a column in the local newspaper detailing numerous cases of abducted young girls in Cuidad Juárez, including her best friend Linda. When the young woman receives a coded email message hinting at her friend’s whereabouts and captors, she investigates further and discovers how deeply the corruption and criminality runs in her city. Her brother, Emiliano, lives a normal life focusing on soccer, his crush Perla Rubi, and a budding artisanal crafts business. He is determined to rescue his mother and sister from the poverty and dangers around them, leading him to accept a lucrative but illicit business deal. Stork’s use of alternating perspectives provides insight into the siblings’ motivations, and establishes a strong sense of setting as the characters move through a variety of environments. Sara’s thread is fast-paced and thrusts the plot forward, while Emiliano’s moral and emotional struggles provide complexity. Once the siblings flee to the U.S. to save Sara from the criminals she exposes, her story line recedes and Emiliano becomes the focus. This novel touches on themes like the persecution of journalists, political corruption, and cyber investigations. VERDICT A timely and touching novel that will surely engross fans of true crime stories. This title would be a welcome addition to young adult collections.–Jessica Agudelo, New York Public Library

This review was published in the School Library Journal August 2017 issue.

Nonfiction

NF-MHS-Engle-Bravo!redstarENGLE, Margarita. Bravo!: Poems About Amazing Hispanics. illus. by Rafael López. 48p. Holt. Mar. 2017. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780805098761.

Gr 4-7–Engle highlights 18 Latinxs from a range of ethnic backgrounds and countries of origin, all of whom lived in what is now the United States or its territories. Each person made a positive impact on U.S. history, and although some are not well-known, their contributions warrant an important place in the U.S. collective cultural knowledge. Engle’s masterly first-person poems capture the essence of each individual, while notes about each figure at the end provide context to spur curiosity and further research. Additionally, the final celebratory poem features an additional 22 contemporary Latinxs in a crescendo to the present, ending with applause: “¡Bravo!” The pairing of these biographical poems with López’s distinctive artwork leaves a lasting visual impression, as the subjects, surrounded by images representing their vocations, look readers straight in the eye or are totally absorbed in their work. These full-page illustrations serve as bold counterparts to the poems. VERDICT Although lacking specific source notes for student readers and writers, this book is a welcome addition to schools and libraries, as it expands the canon of historically significant individuals in the United States in such a lyrical and aesthetically pleasing manner.–Ruth Quiroa, National Louis University, Chicago, IL

This review was published in the School Library Journal January 2017 issue.

redstarOTHEGUY, Emma. Martí’s Song for Freedom/Martí y sus versos por la libertad. illus. by Beatriz Vidal. 32p. bibliog. Lee & Low. May 2017. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9780892393756. BL

Gr 2-5–The life of poet, writer, and freedom fighter José Martí (1853–95) comes alive in this lyrical, bilingual retelling of his everlasting impact on the people of his native Cuba. Growing up, Martí was an admirer of nature and fell in love with the beauty of the Cuban countryside. As he traveled the landscape, he observed the cruel enslavement of the Cuban people on sugar plantations during the period of Spanish rule. When he saw the injustice of slavery in his homeland, he knew he had to fight for Cuba’s independence and the freedom of the island’s people. Inspired by the U.S. Civil War, and President Abraham Lincoln, Martí called others to action and was jailed by the government for doing so. But not even imprisonment could silence him. Martí traveled extensively throughout the world, spreading his message of social justice, freedom, and peace. During his exile from Cuba, he found inspiration in the natural beauty of the Catskill Mountains in New York. Here he wrote Versos sencillos, a collection of poems that came to define the struggle for Cuban independence. Otheguy pens this biography in a series of stanzas that mimic Martí’s poetry, weaving together his vision of hope for the Cuban people with rich illustrations that pay homage to the vivid hues of his native land. VERDICT A sensitive and poignant tribute to one of Latin America’s most important historical figures that will encourage readers of all ages to fight for freedom and peace.–­Natalie Romano, Denver Public Library

This review was published in the School Library Journal June 2017 issue.

RAMIREZ, Saul & John Seidlitz. The Champions’ Game. 160p. photos. Canter. May 2017. Tr $21.99. ISBN 9780997740240; pap. $14.99. ISBN 9780997740233. POP

Gr 7 Up–The true story of 12 Mexican American middle school chess champions from El Paso, TX, who competed at the national level in 2015, often up against more experienced, privileged teams. Many of these now champions had never encountered chess before joining the after-school club coached by their art teacher and coauthor of this book, Ramirez. During practices, Ramirez strove to make connections between the game and the students’ lives, hoping to impart life lessons as well as sound chess strategies. He reminded his students to “protect the queen” on the chessboard and the queens in their lives, he taught the importance of knowing when to sacrifice a small piece to save the overall game, and he drove home the lesson that in life, as well as in chess, you have to want what you’re going after. Teens will learn a lot about how the game is played from this read; however, the one too many inspirational platitudes may tire more sophisticated readers. VERDICT Purchase for collections looking for narrative nonfiction or schools where chess clubs thrive.–Leighanne Law, Scriber Lake High School, WA

This article was published in School Library Journal‘s August 2017 issue.

redstarTONATIUH, Duncan. Danza!: Amalia Hernández and El Ballet Folklórico de México. illus. by Duncan Tonatiuh. 32p. bibliog. glossary. index. Abrams. Aug. 2017. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781419725326.

Gr 3 Up–Amalia “Ami” Hernández (1917–2000) didn’t expect to break with tradition. It was assumed that perhaps she would become a schoolteacher like her mother. But when she saw dancers in a town square while on vacation with her family, she knew what she wanted to be. Her parents nurtured her love of dance, and she benefited from studying under some of the world’s best ballerinas and teachers. Always disciplined in her practice and technique, Hernández became a seasoned dancer and later a teacher and choreographer. She was inspired by the fusion of modern ballet and the traditional dances of her native Mexico. Drawing on her knowledge of indigenous danzas, as well as art, music, and architecture, she established a truly unique concept: el ballet folklórico. Hernández and her fellow dancers gave wildly successful performances throughout Mexico that motivated her to create her own dance company, El Ballet Folklórico de México. Traveling first in Mexico and then around the globe, the company became the face of innovative and artistic modern Mexican dance for the whole world to admire. Tonatiuh’s Mixtec-inspired illustrations capture the movement and vibrancy of El Ballet Folklórico and pay homage to the artistic vision of one of the world’s most beloved dancers. VERDICT Part biography and part homage to the history of Mexican dance, this essential, first-ever children’s biography of Amalia Hernández is a vivid celebration of Mexican culture, art, and life and a timely release in anticipation of the 100th anniversary of Hernández’s birth.–Natalie Romano, Denver Public Library

This review was published in the School Library Journal September 2017 issue.

redstarWEATHERFORD, Carole Boston. Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library. illus. by Eric Velasquez. 48p. bibliog. chron. notes. Candlewick. Sept. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763680466.

Gr 3-6–Born in 1874, Afro-Puerto Rican Arturo Schomburg’s sense of wonder was stoked early on by listening to el lector, who read aloud from newspapers and novels to the cigar workers Schomburg kept company. When a teacher asserted that “Africa’s sons and daughters” had no history or heroes worth noting, it sparked Schomburg’s lifelong quest to uncover his people’s stories, “correcting history for generations to come.” He immigrated to New York in 1891, and though stymied in his hopes to pursue higher education, began amassing a collection of Africana books and art. Through text and art, Weatherford and Velasquez craft a winning portrait of both collector and his collection. Oversize oil-on-watercolor paintings accompany each page of text: one arresting image finds young Schomburg immersed in a book, with a portrait of Benjamin Bannecker hanging above his shoulder. Velasquez captures Schomburg’s proud bearing and intent focus. His research led to writers and poets, including Frederick Douglass and poet Phillis Wheatley; revolutionaries like Toussaint Louverture; and luminaries whose “African heritage had been whitewashed,” including John James Audubon and Ludwig van Beethoven. By day, Schomburg worked as a mailroom clerk, but his collecting and scholarship introduced him to members of the Harlem Renaissance, such as Langston Hughes and Countee Cullen. Schomburg’s collection was donated to the New York Public Library and now boasts over 10 million items. VERDICT This excellent work of history illuminates Schomburg and his legendary collection for a new generation—it belongs in all public and school libraries.–Marilyn Taniguchi, Beverly Hills Public Library, CA

This review was published in the School Library Journal August 2017 issue.

Professional Reading

1605-Profess-CLARK_Multicultural-LiteratureredstarCLARK, Ellen Riojas, Belinda Bustes Flores, Howard L. Smith, & Daniel Alejandro González. Multicultural Literature for Latino Bilingual Children: Their Words, Their Worlds. 368p. bibliog. index. Rowman & Littlefield. Nov. 2015. Tr $85. ISBN 9781475814910; pap. $44. ISBN 9781475814927; ebk. $43.99. ISBN 9781475814934.

A comprehensive professional development resource that centers on Latino children’s literature and its inclusion and use in school settings. Divided into five parts and 16 chapters, the volume captures the significance of Latino children’s books, their impact on bicultural and bilingual children, and the approaches that educators must take to use these materials critically. Themes such as bilingual learners, selection criteria, transnationalism, counternarratives, and digital literacies are broadly presented, as well as the importance of challenging tokenism and stereotypes and incorporating Latino children’s books in language arts, social studies, science, and math curricula. Each chapter includes a theoretical framework, an application of theory section, and references, discussion questions, activities, and further professional reading. Introductory lists of Latino children’s books, titles in Spanish for children, and online resources are appended. This work positions this literature in a sociocultural, historical, and political context that successfully brings theories to praxis and always encourages educators to keep in mind the bicultural and bilingual young readers of these books. A great companion to Dana L. Fox and Kathy G. Short’s Stories Matter: The Complexity of Cultural Authenticity in Children’s Literature and the works by theorist and educator Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings. VERDICT An important volume for a variety of audiences: educators—including those teaching non-English speakers—education and library school professors and students, book reviewers, and librarians.–Sujei Lugo, Boston Public Library, MA

This review was published in School Library Journal‘s May 2016 issue.

CULHAM, Ruth. Dream Wakers: Mentor Texts That Celebrate Latino Culture. 162p. appendix. bibliog. illus. Stenhouse. Sept. 2016. pap. $38.60. ISBN 9781625311115.
Writing workshop guru Culham showcases 116 diverse mentor texts within her well-established framework of the “6+1” writing traits. She uses the analogy of guests at a dinner party to explain the importance and interdependence of ideas, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, and convention—her six traits of wonderful writers—and has compiled a well-curated compendium of recent and classic picture books about Latino culture(s) by (mostly) Latino authors and illustrators. There are few chapter books; a fifth of the materials are nonfiction. Culham offers a short synopsis of each title and a unique writing (or otherwise creative) extension activity. Readers will appreciate interviews with seasoned writers, including Alma Flor Ada and Duncan Tonatiuh, and new authors such as Monica Brown, who speak about their journeys and the need for Latino voices in children’s literature. There is an informative introduction on diversity in literature, and the appendix sheds light on Culham’s selection process and explains her criteria, developed by experts such as Jamie Naidoo and Louise Derman-Sparks. There is also a handy chart for identifying the type of book (bilingual, English with Spanish words, English only), the highlighted trait, and the genre. VERDICT Great for collection development, cultural literacy, and lessons about a writer’s craft. Educators who work with students from second through sixth grade will find this volume highly useful.–Sara Lissa Paulson, City-As-School High School, New York City

This review was published in School Library Journal‘s February 2017 issue.

profreading-naido-onceuponacuentoredstarNAIDOO, Jamie Campbell & Katie Scherrer. Once upon a Cuento: Bilingual Storytimes in English and Spanish. 136p. further reading. index. ALA Editions. May 2016. pap. $48. ISBN 9780838914113.

This thorough introduction not only gives guidance on how to organize and conduct a bilingual storytime but also details how to do effective outreach to Latinx communities. The book is half manual and half ready-to-use bilingual programs for toddlers, preschoolers, and mixed-age and family groups. The thematic, language-rich plans include songs, finger plays, and extension activities and revolve around titles written by Spanish and Latin American authors and representative of Latino cultures. The how-to section on outreach is chock-full of practical advice on programming and book and app selections. The authors feature real-life examples of librarians visiting community organizations and meeting trusted members of Latinx communities in order to communicate the library’s mission. The authors emphasize the importance of “[embedding] the library as a valued and trusted community service.” Included are literacy maxims in both languages and myths surrounding second language learning. Practical information on how to find and select a bilingual partner and how librarians who are not bilingual can run such programs give this text a greater readership. Much of the advice can be applied to any language group, and an extensive resource list is included. VERDICT Essential for both public and school librarians who serve the many diverse ELL populations living in the United States.–Sara Lissa Paulson, City-As-School High School, New York City

This review was published in the School Library Journal November 2016 issue.

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Della Farrell About Della Farrell

Della Farrell is an Assistant Editor at School Library Journal and Editor of Series Made Simple

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Comments

  1. A.J. Wallace says:

    Wonderful list! Thank you!

  2. Vicki Reutter says:

    Thanks, Della, for a super list! Passing on to all my ELL and Spanish teacher friends.

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