January 27, 2011

Introducing a Teacher and a Writer

Let me introduce you to two new friends, both bright and talented Latinas. I enjoyed lunch with each of them while we were at NCTE in Orlando last year. First, congratulations to Dr. Carol Brochín Ceballos for recently receiving the Outstanding University English Language Arts Educator Award from the Texas Council of Teachers of English Language Arts. Yea, Carol! Carol is a faculty member in the English Department at UT El Paso, the department I studied in for my Bachelors and Masters degrees. The program she's in didn't exist when I was a student in my home city. How the campus has changed, and Carol is a wonderful addition. Carol and I share the pleasure and perspectives of being from the Texas border.

Now let me introduce you to a new writer from Florida, Christina Díaz Gonzalez, who has published her first book, The Red Umbrella. How exciting! Her book is published by Knopf, a division of Random House that has been very supportive of my work including my work on Día. Christina, a lawyer, is teaching me about the Cuban experience in the U.S., especially in Florida. I'm wishing Christina a long and rewarding writing life.

1. Tell us about yourself.
CDG: I am the author of The Red Umbrella, a young adult novel that is loosely based on my parents’ and mother-in-law’s experience in coming to the U.S. from Cuba through the historic Operation Pedro Pan (the largest exodus of unaccompanied minors in the Western hemisphere---over 14,000 Cuban children were sent to the US by themselves during 1960-62). Having my debut novel published was a dream come true. I remember getting the call from my editor at Random House and how I literally did a "happy dance" when I realized people everywhere would be reading what I wrote. What made it made even more special was the fact that this book was a tribute to what my parents and the over 14,000 Cuban children experienced during Operation Pedro Pan. I was going to get to tell a version of the immigrant story and showcase that incredible spirit of American generosity. I couldn't have asked for more!

2. Do you think of yourself as creative?
CDG: This is an interesting question because I’ve never considered myself to be creative…I was just a girl with a very vivid imagination who loved to read and write. However, the more I think about it, I suppose all writers are creative… so yes, I guess I am creative!

3. How do you nurture your creativity?
CDG: I am inspired by so many things. Sometimes it’s art, music, books, movies, tv or just observing the world around me. I try to stay open to all ideas…wherever they come from.

4. What are your challenges in your creativity practices? Is fear an element?
CDG: Oh my, fear is ALWAYS something to be reckoned with and overcome. Self-doubt tries to rear its ugly head while I’m writing and it is a battle to ignore it. Then, when the book is done, there are the nagging questions of whether others will love it. I’ve found that the only way I can move forward is to focus on the story itself and trust that others will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing it.
5. Do you have a space that helps you be more creative?
CDG: I don’t have one particular spot for creativity. It all depends on the book I’m writing. It seems that certain books call for me to be in a bright, sunny spot and other require a more gloomy setting.

6. How do you find time to be creative; to develop your creative life? Do you set aside a regular time each day or go on a retreat, etc?
CDG: I am always thinking of different stories and scenes for the book I may be writing, but I sometimes have to force myself to set aside time to put it all down on paper (or in my case type it on my laptop) because life (and laundry) seem to get in the way. Thankfully, I have a critique partner (similar to a gym partner) and we check-in with each other to make sure the writing gets done!

January 22, 2011

Pura Belpré and Américas Children's Book Awards

The most recent issue of the enewsletter, NoveList School News, focuses on the theme of multicultural literature and includes an interview with Jamie Campbell Naidoo, Ph.D., a professor in the School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Alabama, about the Pura Belpré  and Américas Children's Book Awards. He has served on both book award committees. Here's a list of Pat's books that have won these awards.

2010 Américas Commended List
2010 Belpré Illustrator Medal Book
1996 Américas Commended List

2006 Belpré Illustrator Medal Book
2006 Belpré Author Honor Book
2010 Belpré Illustrator Honor Book
2010 Américas Commended List

1997 Américas Award 
Commended Title

2008 Américas Award for Children’s Literature

January 13, 2011

15 Día Nuggets: #6 What Every Día Advocate Needs to Know and #8 Children's Books About Sharing Bookjoy

Today, we're posting two more Día Nuggets! All available Nuggets are on my site, and you can also download a Nugget packet.

If you visit this blog or my web site, you know that April 2011, we’re celebrating Día’s 15th Anniversary. My web team and I were so pleased at comments about our first Díapalooza last April that we’re having a second Díapalooza in 2011. To assist those of you planning Día celebrations at your schools, libraries, etc., we’re sharing 15 Día Nuggets, 15 lists of 15 items to assist you in your planning. During Díapalooza 2011, we’ll showcase the 15 Día Dynamos, 15 Mora Award winners and the 15 Día Nuggets, etc. Send us your I-días!

15 Día Nuggets for Día’s 15th Anniversary
Nugget #6 What Every  Día Advocate Needs to Know

1. Día is a daily commitment to link all children to books, languages and cultures with annual, culminating celebrations in April.

2. Día honors both children and the power and pleasure of books.

3. Día enhances communities by supporting families and literacy.

4. Your effective advocacy requires vision and revision.

5. Advocacy is incredibly hard work requiring enthusiastic, reliable allies.

6. Parents are essential as valued members of your literacy team.

7. Growing the Día concept in your community and nationally requires optimism, energy, creativity, action, and collaboration.

8. Forming new partnerships requires patience and consistency.

9. Planning a Día celebration need not involve a large budget.

10. Many models (large and small) and suggestions are available on the Web.

11. Experienced celebration planners welcome your questions.

12. Día = Diversity in Action. (Coined by North Carolina librarians.)

13. Día needs visibility to reach its potential in our democracy. Publicize your celebrations, write articles for professional journals, use social networking options, volunteer to speak at conferences, etc.

14. Sharing bookjoy is fun, rewarding and important.

15. Día needs you and your unique talents.

Nugget #8 Children's Books About Sharing Bookjoy

1. Amadi's Snowman by Katia Novet Saint-Lot, illustrated by Dimitrea Tokunbo (Tilbury House)
2. Best Place to Read by Debbie Bertram and Susan Bloom, illustrated by Michael Garland (Random House)
3. Book! By Kristine O’Connell George, illustrated by Maggie Smith (Clarion)
4. Book Fair Day by Lynn Plourde, illustrated by Thor Wickstrom (Penguin)
5. Book Fiesta! Celebrate Children's Day, Book Day/ Celebremos El día de los niños, El día de los libros by Pat Mora, illustrated by Rafael López (HarperCollins)
6. A Library for Juana: The World of Sor Juana Inés by Pat Mora, illustrated by Beatriz Vidal (Knopf)
7. Lola Loves Stories and Lola at the Library by Anna McQuinn, illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw (Charlesbridge)
8. Miss Brooks Loves Books! (and I don’t) by Barbara Bottner, illustrated by Michael Emberley (Random House)
9. Reading Grows written and photographed by Ellen B. Senisi (Albert Whitman)
10. Reading Makes You Feel Good by Todd Parr, illustrated by Todd Parr (Little Brown)
11. Richard Wright and the Library Card by William Miller, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie (Lee & Low)
12. Storyteller’s Candle/La velita de los cuentos by Lucia Gonzalez, illustrated by Lulu Delacre (Children’s Book Press)
13. Tomás and the Library Lady by Pat Mora, illustrated by Raul Colón (Knopf)
14. Waiting for the Biblioburro by Monica Brown, illustrated by John Parra (Tricycle)
15. Yasmin's Hammer by Ann Malaspina, illustrated by Doug Chayka (Lee & Low)

January 11, 2011

NYT Article to Ponder

I so admire the words and work of Nicholas Kristof. When I speak around our country, a land of significant economic disparities, I often say that children are sometimes proud of speaking Spanish related to the economic level of their families. Non-Latino children in private schools brag to me about speaking Spanish. Some Latino children whose families are struggling to survive in our country wonder whether to admit that they are bilingual. Sad irony. Let me know what you think of Kristof’s op-ed piece “Primero Hay Que Aprender Español. Ranhou Zai Xue Zhongwen.”


New Contest for Bilingual Publishing

Ediciones Monarcas—a new, not-for-profit publisher of bilingual (Spanish-English) books for children—announces the Infinity Auto Insurance Leer Conmigo Award in Children’s Literature. Each month they will award a $1,000 prize and publish the best submission received. A contest website is coming soon. For now, you can read guidelines and more information here.

January 6, 2011

A Día Dynamo for the New Year

I am so grateful for Lydia Breiseth, manager of Colorín Colorado, who has been a loyal and creative Día supporter for years. She’s our only Dynamo who works in the world of media, and I’m hoping that she’ll teach us all. In your communities and nationally, how do we form lasting partnerships with those in the TV, radio, Web, and print media spheres who can be Día advocates? I finally had the pleasure of meeting Lydia last fall. She’ll soon post the interview that took place when we met. She’s fabulous!

I. When and how did you become interested in sharing bookjoy?
LB: I was an avid reader as a child, partly because I was the youngest in my family and had lots of people to read to me! Whenever my oldest sister arrived home from college, the first thing she would do was drop her bags on the floor and curl up with me to read on our green couch in the living room.

Now in my work at Colorín Colorado, I have the great privilege to recommend children’s books that reflect a wide variety of cultures and experiences.

2. How did you first learn about Día and what has been your experience with Día?
LB: I first learned of Día when I came to Colorín Colorado, and every year I track Día events around the country. It has been wonderful to see Día spread like wildfire as more communities look for ways to bring Latino families together around reading.

Día is great for all libraries because it gives educators and librarians who may be new to working with Latinos a model that can serve as a multicultural/multilingual bridge. It also encourages librarians to take a fresh look at their bilingual/Spanish-language books, resources, and literacy programs.

3.What are your hopes for Día 2011, Día’s15th Anniversary?
LB: I hope that it brings a renewed sense of focus to the importance of serving immigrant/bilingual families at the library. The library may be the most important – and only – link that our families have to their community and ESL classes, as well as to the importance of reading and sharing books.

4. What helpful tip(s) do you have for those organizing a Día event for the first time?
LB: The most successful Día events are those that embrace everyone and match the community and its needs! It’s ok to:
1) start small
2) ask community members for input
3) remember that not all Día events will look the same!

5.What is your favorite example of Bookjoy as either a child or an adult?
LB: When I was an ESL teacher in Ecuador, I decided that my intermediate adult students would read Charlotte’s Web. It was challenging with words like “trough” and “gosling!” My students treated me to a picnic shortly before I left Ecuador, and as we waited for the bus on our way, we saw an indigenous woman herding some geese and goslings down the street. One of my students looked at me and said with a grin, “Terrific, terrific, terrific!”

After all of our struggles with the book, it was so wonderful to know that the humor and joy of the story had still reached my students!

6. What are you reading now?
LB: I recently finished Miracles on Maple Hill by Virginia Sorensen, which won the 1957 Newbery Medal. Sorensen’s exquisite descriptions of Pennsylvania’s changing seasons and the magic of making maple syrup struck a chord with me since I helped with the sugaring at a farm camp in a similar setting where I grew up in Pennsylvania.

The book also captures the pain and confusion of a young girl coming to grips with the ways her father has changed after returning from war (World War II). Even though the book is more than 50 years old, her emotions and those of her family ring as true today as they ever have, and they may provide an important bridge for military families who are adjusting to big changes.

(View a 2007 video interview with Pat on Colorín Colorado. Interview conducted by David Meissner.)