2020 Reading Rock Stars and Real Reads returns to Dallas-Fort Worth

We’re excited to return to the Dallas/Fort Worth area with our Reading Rock Stars program! We’re bringing nine celebrated children’s authors and illustrators to six Title I elementary schools, where we will give each student their very own autographed book, as well as a set of all books for the school library—a total of 3,150 books! We’ll also be visiting one high school with our Real Reads program, where we’ll give 115 books to students.

The Texas Book Festival’s Reading Rock Stars literacy program brings books to life for children in Title I schools by inviting authors and illustrators into classrooms with entertaining presentations that inspire students to read, write, and create. Thanks to generous support from sponsors—including H-E-B: Tournament of Champions, Central Market, The Miles Foundation, The Ryan Foundation, and The Sid W. Richardson Foundation—the Texas Book Festival gives each student an autographed copy of their author’s book and provides the school library with a new set of books by the visiting Reading Rock Stars authors. After each presentation, the author personally hands an autographed copy of their book to each student.

Similar to Reading Rock Stars, Real Reads aims to inspire the love of reading in Texas middle and high school students from underserved groups. The program gives space for Real Reads students to read and talk about books that speak to challenges affecting their lives, whether it’s discrimination, mental health, family relations, or identity. With the help of the schools’ teachers and mentors, we guide the conversation to focus on their experiences as students and teens in 2020 and help prepare what they will share with the author in their private session. The author session not only focuses on writing craft and storytelling, but also gives students a forum to share their concerns and triumphs, and the opportunity to hear the author’s personal story of overcoming their own struggles.

This year’s Reading Rock Stars and Real Reads DFW authors include:

Julissa Arce

Julissa will be giving students a copy of Someone Like Me, the true story of Arce’s childhood as an undocumented immigrant in Texas. Arce will also present her book for the Real Reads program at a DFW high school, where we’ll be giving 115 books to students, all made possible by the AT&T Foundation.

Julissa is a best-selling author of My (Underground) American Dream. She was named one of People en Español’s 25 Most Powerful Women of 2017. She is a leading voice in the fight for social justice, immigrant rights and education equality. Her second book, “Someone Like Me,” was her first YA book and was published in September 2018.

Julissa is a contributor for Crooked Media, CNBC, and one of the hosts of Crooked Conversations. Her book, My (Underground) American Dream is currently being developed as a television series at Twentieth Century Fox Television with producer and actor America Ferrera.

Her commitment to education for all young people led her to co-create the Ascend Educational Fund (AEF) where she serves as chairwoman of the board. AEF is a college scholarship and mentorship program for immigrant students in New York City, regardless of their ethnicity, national original or immigration status. Since its founding in 2012, AEF has awarded over $320,000 in college scholarships.

About Someone Like Me:

Born in the picturesque town of Taxco, Mexico, Julissa Arce was left behind for months at a time with her two sisters, a nanny, and her grandmother while her parents worked tirelessly in the United States in hopes of building a home and providing a better life for their children. That is, until her parents brought Julissa to Texas to live with them. From then on, Julissa secretly lived as an undocumented immigrant, went on to become a scholarship winner and an honors college graduate, and climbed the ladder to become a vice president at Goldman Sachs.

This moving, at times heartbreaking, but always inspiring story will show young readers that anything is possible. Julissa’s story provides a deep look into the little-understood world of a new generation of undocumented immigrants in the United States today–kids who live next door, sit next to you in class, or may even be one of your best friends.

Vanessa Brantley Newton

Vanessa’s children’s book Just Like Me highlights short stories celebrating girls of all backgrounds, cultures, and beyond. 

Vanessa is a self-taught illustrator, doll maker, and crafter who studied fashion illustration at the Fashion Institute of Technology and later children’s book illustration at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. She is the author and illustrator of Grandma’s Purse and has illustrated numerous children’s books. She lives in Charlotte, North Carolina with her husband and daughter.

About Just Like Me:

An ode to the girl with scrapes on her knees and flowers in her hair, and every girl in between, this exquisite treasury will appeal to readers of Dear Girl and I Am Enough and have kids poring over it to find a poem that’s just for them.

From Vanessa Brantley-Newton, the author of Grandma’s Purse, comes a collection of poetry filled with engaging mini-stories about girls of all kinds: girls who feel happy, sad, scared, powerful; girls who love their bodies and girls who don’t; country girls, city girls; girls who love their mother and girls who wish they had a father. With bright portraits in Vanessa’s signature style of vibrant colors and unique patterns and fabrics, this book invites readers to find themselves and each other within its pages.

Kat Zhang

Kat’s book Amy Wu & the Perfect Bao tells the story of the fierce and determined Amy Wu, who is on a mission to make the perfect bao.

Kat spent most of her childhood tramping through a world woven from her favorite stories and games. When she and her best friend weren’t riding magic horses or talking to trees, they were writing adaptations of plays for their stuffed animals (what would The Wizard of Oz have been like if the Cowardly Lion were replaced by a Loquacious Lamb?). This may or may not explain many of Kat’s quirks today. By the age of twelve, Kat had started her first novel and begun plans for her life as a Real Live Author (she was rather more confident at twelve than she is even now). Said plans didn’t come into fruition until seven years later, when her agent sold her Young Adult trilogy, The Hybrid Chronicles, to HarperCollins. The series, about a parallel universe where everyone is born with two souls, concluded in 2014. She has also published two Middle Grade novels with Simon & Schuster. The first, The Emperor’s Riddle, is about hidden treasure, lost aunts, and China. The second, The Memory of Forgotten Things, is about grief, solar eclipses, and misfit children. She also has two picture books, Amy Wu & the Perfect Bao and Amy Wu & the Patchwork Dragon, releasing in 2019 and 2021.

About Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao:

Meet the funny, fierce, and fearless Amy Wu, who is determined to make a perfect bao bun today. Can she rise to the occasion? Amy loves to make bao with her family. But it takes skill to make the bao taste and look delicious. And her bao keep coming out all wrong. Then she has an idea that may give her a second chance…Will Amy ever make the perfect bao?

Naibe Reynoso

Naibe’s book Be Bold, Be Brave highlights 11 Latina women who were successful in the fields of medicine, science, sports, politics, and more.

Naibe, a multiple-Emmy and AP Award-winning journalist, has been working in front of and behind the camera for more than 20 years. She has worked and contributed to various regional, national and international networks including KTLA, France 24, Univision Network, Reelz Channel, CNN en Español, the Biography Channel, Fox News Latino, Larry King’s ORA TV, and has even filled in as a co-host on ABC’s “The View”.

In 2018 she created Con Todo Press, a publishing company that creates books to amplify the voices of underrepresented communities. Her first children’s book, Be Bold, Be Brave: 11 Latinas who made U.S. History, highlights 11 women who excelled in medicine, science, sports, the arts, journalism and politics. She lives in her native Los Angeles with her husband, her daughter and son.

Naibe Reynoso aims to shine a light on heroes from our community. From activist Dolores Huerta, to Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Although Latinos are over 18% of the population, only 2% of books were written by Latinos according to the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC). At Con Todo Press, we aim to bridge that gap, so children can learn about heroes from their own community.

About Be Bold! Be Brave!: 

Be Bold! Be Brave! 11 Latinas who made U.S. History, Sé Audaz! Sé Valiente!: 11 Latinas que hicieron historia en los Estados Unidos is a bilingual book that highlights 11 Latinas who excelled in various fields including medicine, science, sports, art and politics. By presenting the true biographical stories of these outstanding Latinas in rhyming verses, young readers will easily follow their journey to success. Some of the women highlighted include Antonia Novello (first female Surgeon General in the U.S.), Ellen Ochoa (first Latina to go to space), Sonia Sotomayor (first Latina Supreme Court Justice,) Rita Moreno (first Latina to win an Oscar), Selena, and Pura Belpre (first Latina to incorporate and promote bilingual literacy in Public Libraries).

Raquel Ortiz

Raquel’s book When Julia Danced Bomba tells the story of a girl who wants to be a great dancer but she feels she can’t get anything right. Then, when she feels the beat of the drums, she loses herself in the music.

Raquel was born and raised in Lorain, Ohio. She is the author of two other bilingual picture books: Sofi and the Magic, Musical Mural / Sofi y el mágico mural musical (Arte Público Press, 2015) and Sofi Paints Her Dreams / Sofi pinta sus sueños (Piñata Books, 2019). She has worked at The Brooklyn Museum, the Allen Memorial Art Museum and El Museo del Barrio. Currently, she creates educational material for the Puerto Rican Heritage Cultural Ambassadors Program at the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College in New York City.

About When Julia Danced Bomba:

Introducing children—and adults!—to the Afro-Latino tradition of bomba music and dancing, author and educator Raquel M. Ortiz shares another story for children ages 5-9 about her rich Puerto Rican heritage. With lively illustrations by Flor de Vita that aptly express Julia’s frustration, fear and joy, this book will help children understand that practicing—whether dance steps, dribbling a ball or playing a musical instrument—yields results!

Lamar Giles

Lamar will present The Last-Last Day of Summer, the story of two boys who face off with a mysterious man who freezes time right before the first day of school.

Lamar is a two-time Edgar Award-nominated author and has published three young adult novels. He is the co-founder of We Need Diverse Books. He lives in Harrisonburg, Virginia, and he has two novels forthcoming in 2020.

About The Last-Last Day of Summer:

Otto and Sheed are the local sleuths in their zany Virginia town, masters of unraveling mischief using their unmatched powers of deduction. And as the summer winds down and the first day of school looms, the boys are craving just a little bit more time for fun, even as they bicker over what kind of fun they want to have. That is, until a mysterious man appears with a camera that literally freezes time. Now, with the help of some very strange people and even stranger creatures, Otto and Sheed will have to put aside their differences to save their town—and each other—before time stops for good.

Mac Barnett and Greg Pizzoli

Mac Barnett and Greg Pizzoli will share Jack Blasts Off, the story of a dog and a rabbit who were sent to space by a cranky old lady.

Mac is the New York Times bestselling author of more than forty books, including Sam and Dave Dig a Hole, Extra Yarn, and the Mac B., Kid Spy series. His books have won numerous prizes, including three E.B. White Read-Aloud Awards, two Caldecott Honors, and the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award. Mac lives in Oakland, California.

Greg is an author, illustrator, and printmaker. His first picture book, The Watermelon Seed, won the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award, and his book Good Night Owl was a Geisel Honor. His Viking nonfiction picture book Tricky Vic was a New York Times Best Illustrated of 2015. He lives in Philadelphia.

About Jack Blasts Off!: 

From New York Times bestselling author Mac Barnett and Geisel Award-winning illustrator Greg Pizzoli, an uproarious early reader series about a mischievous rabbit, a cranky old lady, and a lovable dog.

When the Lady is mad at Jack, she decides to send him and Rex on a one-way trip to outer space. While she enjoys some rare peace and quiet, Jack and Rex get into trouble, resulting in their exile to the dark side of the moon. After an alien chase and some snacks, Jack and Rex get blasted home to Earth. But will the Lady take naughty Jack back?

Duncan Tonatiuh

Duncan’s book The Princess and the Warrior reimagines one of Mexico’s cherished legends.

Pura Belpré winner Duncan is a Mexican American illustrator and author. His critically acclaimed works include Undocumented, Danza!, Soldier for Equality, Separate Is Never Equal, and many more. He graduated from Parsons The New School of Design. His style is inspired by ancient Mexican art, especially the Mixtec codex. Duncan splits his time between Mexico and the U.S.

About The Princess and the Warrior:

Award-winning author Duncan Tonatiuh reimagines one of Mexico’s cherished legends. Princess Izta had many wealthy suitors but dismissed them all. When a mere warrior, Popoca, promised to be true to her and stay always by her side, Izta fell in love. The emperor promised Popoca if he could defeat their enemy Jaguar Claw, then Popoca and Izta could wed. When Popoca was near to defeating Jaguar Claw, his opponent sent a messenger to Izta saying Popoca was dead. Izta fell into a deep sleep and, upon his return, even Popoca could not wake her. As promised Popoca stayed by her side. So two volcanoes were formed: Iztaccíhuatl, who continues to sleep, and Popocatépetl, who spews ash and smoke, trying to wake his love.

Traci Sorrell

Traci Sorrell’s Indian No More shares the story of a little girl growing up on a reservation and her family, who are thrust out of their tribe by the government.

Traci writes fiction and nonfiction books as well as poems for children. Her lyrical story in verse, At the Mountain’s Base, celebrates the bonds of family and the history of history-making women pilots, including Millie Rexroat (Oglala Lakota). We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga, her Sibert Honor, Boston Globe-Horn Book Picture Book Honor, and Orbis Pictus Honor–award-winning nonfiction picture book, received starred reviews from Kirkus Reviews, School Library Journal, The Horn Book and Shelf Awareness. A former federal Indian law attorney and policy advocate, she is an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation and lives in northeastern Oklahoma, where her tribe is located.

The late Charlene Willing McManis (1953-2018) was born in Portland, Oregon and grew up in Los Angeles. She was of Umpqua tribal heritage and enrolled in the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde. Charlene served in the U.S. Navy and later received her Bachelor’s degree in Native American Education. She lived with her family in Vermont and served on that state’s Commission on Native American Affairs. In 2016, Charlene received a mentorship with award-winning poet and author Margarita Engle through We Need Diverse Books. That manuscript became this novel, which is based on her family’s experiences after their tribe was terminated in 1954. She passed away in 2018, knowing that her friend Traci Sorell would complete the revisions Charlene was unable to finish.

About Indian No More:

Regina Petit’s family has always been Umpqua, and living on the Grand Ronde Tribe’s reservation is all ten-year-old Regina has ever known. Her biggest worry is that Sasquatch may actually exist out in the forest. But when the federal government enacts a law that says Regina’s tribe no longer exists, Regina becomes “Indian no more” overnight–even though she lives with her tribe and practices tribal customs, and even though her ancestors were Indian for countless generations. Now that they’ve been forced from their homeland, Regina’s father signs the family up for the federal Indian Relocation Program and moves them to Los Angeles. Regina finds a whole new world in her neighborhood on 58th Place. She’s never met kids of other races, and they’ve never met a real Indian. For the first time in her life, Regina comes face to face with the viciousness of racism, personally and toward her new friends.

Meanwhile, her father believes that if he works hard, their family will be treated just like white Americans. But it’s not that easy. It’s 1957 during the Civil Rights era, and the family struggles without their tribal community and land. At least Regina has her grandmother, Chich, and her stories. At least they are all together. In this moving middle-grade novel drawing upon Umpqua author Charlene Willing McManis’s own tribal history, Regina must find out: Who is Regina Petit? Is she Indian, American, or both? And will she and her family ever be okay?

Stay tuned to TBF’s Instagram for a behind-the-scenes look at our visit to these DFW schools on February 7 and 8!