Thank you, Reading Rock Stars Houston!

We feel extra fortunate for the opportunity to have virtually visited elementary schools in Houston for our Reading Rock Stars program last week. Houston is our last rock star stop for the 2020-21 school year and we want to thank librarians and library specialists in Aldine ISD and Houston ISD for their leadership and kind collaboration. Thank you for making us feel like part of your community.

Thank you, authors and illustrators, for participating in multiple programs this school year: Chris Barton, Shanda McCloskey, Anika Fajardo, David Bowles, Raúl The Third, Isabel Quintero, Zeke Peña, Kelly Starling Lyons, Christina Soontornvat, and Lee Bryd! This has been a wonderful experience for our Reading Rock Stars across Texas. We also want to welcome El’s Mirror by Ellison and Bavu Blakes to our Reading Rock Stars family!  You filled our Reading Rock Stars with aspirations and encouraged them to continue to grow their creativity and craft. We will not forget that you acknowledged their voices, brilliance, and all-around amazingness.

Thank you to all our generous sponsors, including, H-E-B Tournament of Champions, Texas Cultural Trust, and Albert & Ethel Herzstein Charitable Foundation.

 

¡Gracias, Reading Rock Stars Rio Grande Valley!

¡Mil gracias, Rio Grande Valley! We feel very lucky for the opportunity to have virtually visited elementary schools in Mission, Edinburg, Pharr, and Weslaco in our beautiful Rio Grande Valley for our Reading Rock Stars program last week. Students got to meet authors and illustrators: Rebecca Gomez, Elisa Chavarri, Michael Genhart, David Bowles, Raúl The Third, Isabel Quintero, Zeke Peña, Jon Scieszka, and Steven Weinberg.

We would like to first thank our librarians at elementary schools: Hurla Midkiff, Bryan, Guillermo Flores, E.B. Guerra, César Chávez, and Dr. R.E. Margo. Despite the many challenges of this school year, librarians invited us back on campus with open arms and led the way in bringing a virtual and engaging Reading Rock Stars program to their students. ¡Gracias!

Thank you to all of our authors and illustrators for highlighting the community cultural wealth of South Texas and its bilingual and bicultural excellence. We loved going to the market with Federico, listening to accordion music with Abuelo and Opa, experiencing Mayan Mexico with Sayam, joining Lupe and friends on a lowrider adventure, cruising on a motorcycle with Daisy Ramona, and especially traveling to outer space with the Astro-nuts. Your love for reading and illustration shined over our reading rock stars!

Thank you to all our generous sponsors, including UT Rio Grande Valley, H-E-B Tournament of Champions, Texas Cultural Trust, and Fox Pest Control. Our Reading Rock Stars program in the Rio Grande Valley is definitely a yearly highlight and we truly hope to return in person in 2022. Stop by the Reading Rock Stars resource center for fun educational activities!

 

Thank you, Reading Rock Stars Dallas & Fort Worth!

By Josephine Yi, School & Community Programs Intern

Last week, we made some exciting virtual visits to elementary schools in Dallas and Fort Worth for our Reading Rock Stars program. Students got to meet authors and illustrators: Kelly Starling Lyons, Cozbi Cabrera, Monica Brown, Sili Recio, Don Tate, Isabel Quintero, Zeke Peña, and Jarrett and Jerome Pumphrey. These storytellers shared their personal narratives and valuable advice for our future authors and illustrators. 

Kelly Starling Lyons (author of Dream Builder: The Story of Architect Philip Freelon) described her experience growing up as a young girl reading books: “Reading was like dreaming… I liked books about everything: fairies, astronauts, folktales, fables. But I realized what I was missing in these books was myself.” She reminded our Reading Rock Stars that their voices matter and prompted them to work hard, use their imagination, and have faith in themselves. Don Tate (author and illustrator of William Still and His Freedom Stories: The Father of the Underground Railroad) walked us through how he illustrated his own books and let us in on his writing process. His books celebrate many different black historical figures and he shared the secret to becoming a great illustrator- practice! Don encouraged our Reading Rock Stars by saying “use your special language, it’s the personality you leave on each page.” Cozbi Cabrera (author and illustrator of Me and Mama) began her conversation with our Reading Rock Stars by asking them to join her in singing Good Morning to You and engaged them in an interactive read-aloud. Her mindful communication with students acknowledged their curiosity and agency. 

Thank you to all of our authors and illustrators in Dallas and Fort Worth for speaking to the importance of remembering, honoring, and uplifting our communities, the heroes in our own personal lives, and the ones who have fought for racial equity throughout history. This Black History Month, one way we can honor black achievement is by exploring the virtual exhibits currently on display at the National Museum of African American History and Culture! You can also join the celebration by sharing these activity choice boards with kids in your community. 

Reading Rock Stars DFW, Choice Boards

We also want to say thank you to librarians at our six participating schools. We see your hard work and feel proud to be part of your team. Can’t wait to be back on your campus next year! Thank you to all our generous sponsors, including H-E-B Tournament of Champions, Texas Cultural Trust, The Miles Foundation, Thomas M., Helen McKee & John P. Ryan Foundation, and the Sid W. Richardson Foundation.

Get to know the Reading Rock Stars Houston authors and illustrators

On March 10, the Texas Book Festival returns to Houston to visit four Title I elementary schools as part of the Festival’s annual Reading Rock Stars program. Throughout the day, eleven nationally-acclaimed children’s authors and illustrators will visit each school and present to students, a culmination of weeks of each school’s preparation for the program. Additionally, TBF will gift each student a copy of the visiting author or illustrator’s book.

TBF will donate 1,945 books to classrooms. With this latest round of Reading Rock Stars, the Texas Book Festival will have given more than 119,800 books to students in Title I schools across Texas since the program’s inception.

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 and the Albert and Ethel Herzstein Charitable Foundation—the Texas Book Festival gives each student an autographed copy of their author or illustrator’[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 or illustrator personally hands an autographed copy of their book to each student.

Get to know the authors coming to RRS Houston: 

Jacqueline Alcántara

Jacqueline Alcántara is a freelance illustrator and artist spending her days drawing, writing and globe trotting with her dog Possum. She is fueled by dance music, carbs and coffee. Jacqueline studied Secondary Art Education and taught high school art and photography before transitioning to illustration.

Her experience working with children has led her to focusing on children’s literature and specifically in pursuit of projects featuring a diverse main character. She won the 2016 “We Need Diverse Books Campaign” Mentorship Award and is excited to be working to promote inclusiveness and diversity in children’s literature and the illustration field.

Her first book “The Field” (written by Baptiste Paul, published by North South Books ) received 3 starred reviews and won Jacqueline the Sonia Lynn Sadler Award in 2018. Her second book, “Freedom Soup” (written by Tami Charles, published by Candlewick Press) received 4 starred reviews and was a Junior Library Guild, Indiebound and Amazon selection in 2019.

In addition to the children’s illustration field, Jacqueline has worked with other clients including NPR, The Chicago Reader, The Chicago Foundation for Women, The Southern Poverty Law Center, Elle Decor, and University of Chicago creating illustrations for a range of editorial and promotional projects. She has a never ending interest in learning new skills and taking on new challenges.

About Freedom Soup:

Join the celebration in the kitchen as a family makes their traditional New Year’s soup — and shares the story of how Haitian independence came to be.

The shake-shake of maracas vibrates down to my toes.
Ti Gran’s feet tap-tap to the rhythm.

Every year, Haitians all over the world ring in the new year by eating a special soup, a tradition dating back to the Haitian Revolution. This year, Ti Gran is teaching Belle how to make the soup — Freedom Soup — just like she was taught when she was a little girl. Together, they dance and clap as they prepare the holiday feast, and Ti Gran tells Belle about the history of the soup, the history of Belle’s family, and the history of Haiti, where Belle’s family is from. In this celebration of cultural traditions passed from one generation to the next, Jacqueline Alcántara’s lush illustrations bring to life both Belle’s story and the story of the Haitian Revolution. Tami Charles’s lyrical text, as accessible as it is sensory, makes for a tale that readers will enjoy to the last drop.

Varsha Bajaj

My story begins in Mumbai, India. My slice of Mumbai in the early 1960s was a rambling house built in the 1930s surrounded by coconut, guava and beetle nut trees. I was raised in a Maharashtrian, joint family; my father’s parents and his sister lived with us.

My father and grandfather were perfumers and sampling strips of sandalwood and jasmine were always being sniffed and perfected. Making perfumes became a part of my imaginative play. Didn’t everyone make perfumes of dirt, crushed flowers and pebbles? I grew up reading cross culturally. We were exposed to various children’s series written by British author Enid Blyton. These were stories set in far away, unseen, magical England. They were tales of boarding schools ,vacations in a caravan and exotic foods like crumpets.

There were no explanations or author’s notes. Enid Blyton probably did not realize that her books were being read by millions of non British children in Her Majesty’s ex colonies. At times we were puzzled. My sister and I tried to figure out the meaning of “blancmange”. Using context clues we guessed that it was some kind of slippery British dessert. I also read plenty of Nancy Drew and Hardy Boy series. I was also bitten by the travel bug; I just did not know it then!

My grandfather influenced my reading choices as I got older. He introduced me to Jane Austen, and P.G. Wodehouse. On my own I discovered American romance novels!

Growing up I wanted to be a journalist and then an Indian classical singer. The worst case of dust and other allergies soon torpedoed that dream. My choice of profession crystallized after meeting an inspiring psychology teacher in tenth grade, Mrs. Krishnaswamy.

On September 13th, 1986, I came to America as a graduate student. I was young, naive, and idealistic. I arrived at Lambert international Airport in St. Louis with two suitcases, a few dollars and dreams. I was to be met by a representative in the Foreign Student’s Office. After waiting for someone to show up for twenty interminably long minutes, I dug out some quarters (kept in case of an emergency that I hoped wouldn’t happen) and read strange directions to make a call to the International student office. About an hour later a student walked up to me and asked, “Varsha?”

I blinked my tears away and nodded.

“Welcome to America,” he said.

We drove into Illinois in uncomfortable silence. His limited English made conversation almost impossible.

I felt a frightening loneliness. Everyone I knew and loved was a world away. I stared through the window at the alien surroundings whizzing past me on the people less highway. Then I read, “Mississippi River.”

It spoke to me. The Mississippi was where Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn played. I had visited that river before. I started to babble about Mark Twain and Tom Sawyer. My companion looked at me as if I was demented and drove a little faster. But my fear had decreased, and my mouth was a little less dry.

That day Mark Twain made a girl from India feel less alone, and a lot less scared. Such is the power of stories. Western writers have invited me into their world. My adjustment to this country and culture was facilitated by my knowledge of the language and my awareness of the culture through books, movies and music and by the warmth and welcoming attitude of its people.

After a dozen intermediate years in which I got a Masters degree, worked as a Counselor, got married, had two children and became a citizen, I started writing. It was 1999, two years after my daughter was born; my son was five and I had fallen in love with the picture book.

And I continue to write today…

About Count Me In:

Karina knows hate crimes happen everywhere . . . but she never imagined she’d face one herself.

Karina isn’t friends with Chris, the boy next door. Why would she want to be, when the guys he hangs out with act like a pack of rude laughing hyenas? But when her grandfather starts tutoring Chris and the three of them begin spending time together, she’s happy to discover that Chris is not at all like she expected him to be. He actually has a mind of his own and is thoughtful and funny. Becoming friends with him is one of the big surprises of her middle school life.

Then something unthinkable happens – a stranger assaults them, targeting her Indian American grandfather, who gets badly injured. Karina and Chris are devastated but vow not to let hate win.

When Karina’s moving social media posts about the attack go viral and the press descends, she and Chris have to decide how they will use their newfound fame. It’s intimidating to speak out – but how can they not?

Varsha Bajaj’s compelling story celebrates finding one’s voice in tough times, and a community rallying to support its people.

Alana Mendoza Dusan

Alana Mendoza Dusan was a Division 1 softball player at Oregon State University. She currently teaches high school English and lives in Bend, Oregon, with her husband and two children.

About There’s No Base Like Home:

This will be twelve-year-old Sophia Maria Garcia’s best year ever: she’s trying out for the same championship softball team her sister played on at her age, and she’s starting middle school. New school, new team, new Sophia!

But all does not go according to plan. Sophia does not make the Waves softball team and her best friend is suddenly more interested in boys than Sophia. As the middle school blues set in, and her family is pulled in different directions, Sophia must reach deep down and find a little UMPH—the difference between being good and great—to figure out her own place, on and off the field.

ESPN Major League Baseball analyst and two-time Olympic medalist Jessica Mendoza teams up with her sister Alana Mendoza Dusan for their first highly-illustrated novel for young readers, based on their own childhood softball adventures.

Tonya Engel

Tonya Engel, a self-taught artist, was born in Houston, Texas. Her work is heavily influenced by folk artists of the Deep South as well as contemporary Masters: Marc Chagall, Frida Kahlo, Romare Beardon and Gustav Klimpt. Her style engages figurative form and stirs in a mix of vivid color, symbolism and narrative.

About Rise! From Caged Bird to Poet of the People, Maya Angelou:

Writer, activist, trolley car conductor, dancer, mother, and humanitarian–Maya Angelou’s life was marked by transformation and perseverance. In this comprehensive picture-book biography geared towards older readers, Bethany Hegedus lyrically traces Maya’s life from her early days in Stamps, Arkansas, through her work as a freedom fighter to her triumphant rise as a poet of the people.

A foreword by Dr. Angelou’s grandson Colin Johnson describes how a love of literature and poetry helped young Maya overcome childhood trauma and turn adversity into triumph. Coupled with Tonya Engel’s metaphorical and emotive illustrations, this biography beautifully conveys the heartaches and successes of this truly phenomenal woman, and offers a powerful tribute to the written word.

James Luna

James Luna is the author of four books, all published by Arte Publico Press/Pinata Books: The Runaway Piggy/El Cochinito Fugitivo, A Mummy in Her Backpack/Una momia en su mochila, The Place Where You Live/El lugar donde vives, and Growing Up on the Playground/Nuestro Patio De Recreo. Piggy was awarded the 2012 Tejas Star Award as chosen by the students of the Rio Grande Valley of Texas.

About Growing Up on the Playground//Nuestro Patio De Recreo:

“On Ana’s first day of kindergarten, the slide stood like a mountain.” The other kids in her class encourage her to glide “down, down, down, to the bottom and her new friends.” Young readers will relate to these elementary school children playing outside. In first grade, Ana meets Karina, who becomes her best friend. Together, they swing higher and higher as they try to kick the sky! In second grade, Ana and her friends dangle like monkeys, eat pretend bananas and call out, “Ooo, ooo, ooo! Can you do what we do?” As they grow, the kids learn to play new games on the playground: basketball, soccer and even handball. Acclaimed children’s book author James Luna uses short, simple text and active words to depict children at play. They swing and hang, dribble and shoot, pass and kick, laugh and learn. And when they get to sixth grade, they have to say good-bye to their school’s playground. But someday they will return!

Kekla Magoon

Kekla Magoon is the author of nine novels, including The Rock and the River, How It Went Down, X: A Novel (with Ilyasah Shabazz), and the Robyn Hoodlum Adventure series.

She has received an NAACP Image Award, the John Steptoe New Talent Award, two Coretta Scott King Honors, The Walter Award Honor, the In the Margins Award, and been long listed for the National Book Award. She also writes non-fiction on historical topics.

Kekla conducts school and library visits nationwide and serves on the Writers’ Council for the National Writing Project. Kekla holds a B.A. from Northwestern University and an M.F.A. in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts, where she now serves on faculty.

About The Season of Styx Malone:

Caleb Franklin and his big brother, Bobby Gene, have the whole summer ahead of them to explore the woods behind their house in Sutton, Indiana. Caleb longs to venture beyond their small town, but their dad likes the family to stay close to home.

Then Caleb and Bobby Gene meet new neighbor Styx Malone. Styx is sixteen, and he oozes cool. He promises Caleb and Bobby Gene a summer of adventures, but soon the brothers find themselves in over their heads. Styx has secrets—secrets so big they could ruin everything.

In this madcap, heartwarming, one-thing-leads-to-another adventure, friendships are forged, loyalties are tested…and miracles just might be possible.

Anna Meriano

Anna Meriano grew up in Houston and graduated from Rice University with a degree in English, and earned her MFA in creative writing with an emphasis in writing for children from the New School in New York. There she met CAKE Literary founders Dhonielle Clayton and Sona Charaipotra, who started her on the Love Sugar Magic journey. Anna has written three Love Sugar Magic books.

About Love Sugar Magic: A Dash of Trouble:

Leonora Logroño’s family owns the most beloved bakery in Rose Hill, Texas, spending their days conjuring delicious cookies and cakes for any occasion. And no occasion is more important than the annual Dia de los Muertos festival.

Leo hopes that this might be the year that she gets to help prepare for the big celebration—but, once again, she is told she’s too young. Sneaking out of school and down to the bakery, she discovers that her mother, aunt, and four older sisters have in fact been keeping a big secret: they’re brujas—witches of Mexican ancestry—who pour a little bit of sweet magic into everything that they bake.

Leo knows that she has magical ability as well and is more determined than ever to join the family business—even if she can’t let her mama and hermanas know about it yet.

And when her best friend, Caroline, has a problem that needs solving, Leo has the perfect opportunity to try out her craft. It’s just one little spell, after all…what could possibly go wrong?

Debut author Anna Meriano brings us the first book in a delightful new series filled to the brim with amor, azúcar, y magia.

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!

Adam Rex 

Adam Rex is the New York Times bestselling author and illustrator of Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich. His other books include The True Meaning of Smekday, which was made into the hit animated movie Home; Moonday; and School’s First Day of School, illustrated by Christian Robinson. He also illustrated the Brixton Brothers series, Billy Twitters and His Blue Whale Problem, Chloe and the Lion, and How This Book Was Made, all by Mac Barnett, and Chu’s Day, by Neil Gaiman. He lives in Tucson, Arizona.

About Pluto Gets the Call:

Pluto gets a call from Earth telling him he isn’t a planet anymore, so he sets out on a journey through the solar system to find out why in this funny and fact-filled romp that’s perfect for fans of The Scrambled States of America.

Pluto loves being a planet. That is, until the day he gets a call from some Earth scientists telling him he isn’t a planet anymore! You probably wanted to meet a real planet, huh? So, Pluto takes the reader on a hilarious and informative journey through the solar system to introduce the other planets and commiserate about his situation along the way. Younger readers will be so busy laughing over Pluto’s interactions with the other planets, asteroids, moons, and even the sun, they won’t even realize just how much they’re learning about our solar system!

Naibe Reynoso

Naibe Reynoso, 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).

Eric Velasquez

Illustrator Eric Velasquez, is an award-winning illustrator and author-illustrator whose honors include the Pura Belpré Award, the Carter G. Woodson Book Award, the Coretta Scot King award, theJohn Steptoe Award for New Talent, and the NAACP Image Award. The son of Afro Puerto Rican parents who encouraged music and storytelling, Eric grew up in Harlem, New York. As a child, he loved superheroes, comics, drawing, and his grandmother, much like Ramsey in Octopus Stew. He teaches book illustration at FIT (The Fashion Institute of Technology) and lives in Hartsdale, New York.

About Octopus Stew:

What do you do when an octopus captures Grandma? Put on your superhero cape and rescue her! Two stories in one from award-winning Afro-Latino artist Eric Velasquez.

The octopus Grandma is cooking has grown to titanic proportions. “¡Tenga cuidado!” Ramsey shouts. “Be careful!” But it’s too late. The octopus traps Grandma!

Ramsey uses both art and intellect to free his beloved abuela.

Then the story takes a surprising twist. And it can be read two ways. Open the fold-out pages to find Ramsey telling a story to his family. Keep the pages folded, and Ramsey’s octopus adventure is real.

This beautifully illustrated picture book, drawn from the author’s childhood memories, celebrates creativity, heroism, family, grandmothers, grandsons, Puerto Rican food, Latinx culture and more.

With an author’s note and the Velasquez family recipe for Octopus Stew!

 

Get to know the Reading Rock Stars authors visiting Rio Grande Valley schools

On February 27 and 28, the Texas Book Festival returns to the Rio Grande Valley to visit six Title I elementary schools as part of the Festival’s annual Reading Rock Stars program. Throughout the two days, nine nationally-acclaimed children’s authors will visit each school and present to students, a culmination of weeks of each school’s preparation for the program. Additionally, TBF will gift each student a copy of the visiting author’s book.

TBF will donate 3,915 books to classrooms at Hurla M. Midkiff Elementary School, Bryan Elementary School, Guillermo Flores Elementary School, Enedina B. Guerra Elementary School, Cesar Chavez Elementary School, and Rudy Silva Elementary School.

With this latest round of Reading Rock Stars, the Texas Book Festival will have given more than 117,900 books to students in Title I schools across Texas since the program’s inception.

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 and the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley—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.

Get to know the authors coming to RRS RGV this week: 

Carolyn Dee Flores

Carolyn Dee Flores is the illustrator of several books, including The Amazing Watercolor Fish/El Asombroso Pez Acuarela, A Surprise for Teresita / Una sorpresa para Teresita (Piñata Books, 2016); Dale, dale, dale: Una fiesta de números / Hit It, Hit It, Hit It: A Fiesta of Numbers (Piñata Books, 2014) and Canta, Rana, canta / Sing, Froggie, Sing (Piñata Books, 2013). A member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, she lives in San Antonio, Texas.

About The Amazing Watercolor Fish/El Asombroso Pez Acuarela:

A lonely pet fish longs to know what exists in the world beyond her bowl. “I wish I could see over there / Behind the wall, / Behind the chair.” She imagines a giant tree, a wooly goat, and a purple sea. She wonders if there could be someone out there who looks like her. So, she leans close to the glass and hears some fish-like cries! “Hello? Is someone there?” she hears. “Are you a bird? / Are you a bee? Or are you a fish with fins like me?” She realizes there’s another fish close by and his name is Mike! When Mike asks what her world is like, the amazing watercolor fish has a great idea. “I ll show Mike what I think could be!” Using watercolors, she paints a picture of a world with trees and swirling rainbows. Every day she paints more, “birds that swim, / ships with wings, / and books that do all sorts of things!” Then Mike uses his paint to illustrate more “than just the water and the door.” In this fun, bilingual picture book with a lyrical Spanish translation by former Texas Poet Laureate Carmen Tafolla, two pet fish imagine a beautiful, mysterious world beyond their bowls. Children ages 4-8 will love following the progression of Carolyn Dee Flores’ gorgeous illustrations from black and white to full color as the fish become friends. Kids will be inspired to imagine and maybe even paint or write about a world beyond the one they know.

Naibe Reynoso

Naibe Reynoso, 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!

Sharon Robinson

Sharon Robinson is the educational consultant for Major League Baseball. She manages Breaking Barriers: In Sports, In Life a baseball-themed national character education curriculum that helps empower students to face obstacles in their lives. The program includes a national essay contest for students in grades 4-9 and throughout MLB’s RBI program. Each year, thousands of students write an essay about how they used the values demonstrated by Jackie Robinson to overcome their challenges. Essay winners are celebrated in their schools and in Major League ballparks. Since 1997, the program has reached over 22 million students and 2.9 million educators. Ms. Robinson is also the author of many works of fiction and nonfiction. She has written several widely praised books about her father, baseball legend Jackie Robinson, including Jackie’s Nine: Jackie Robinson’s Values to Live By, Promises to Keep: How Jackie Robinson Changed America, Jackie Robinson: American Hero (children’s biography), and picture books Testing the Ice, illustrated by Kadir Nelson and Jackie’s Gift: A True Story of Christmas, Hanukkah, illustrated by EB Lewis. Sharon’s other books include novels: Safe at Home and Slam Dunk! In January 2014, Under The Same Sun, illustrated by AG Ford, will be published by Scholastic.

About A Child of the Dream:

In January 1963, Sharon Robinson turns thirteen the night before George Wallace declares on national television “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever” in his inauguration speech as governor of Alabama. It is the beginning of a year that will change the course of American history.

As the daughter of baseball legend Jackie Robinson, Sharon has opportunities that most people would never dream of experiencing. Her family hosts multiple fund-raisers at their home in Connecticut for the work that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is doing. Sharon sees her first concert after going backstage at the Apollo Theater. And her whole family attends the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

But things don’t always feel easy for Sharon. She is one of the only Black children in her wealthy Connecticut neighborhood. Her older brother, Jackie Robinson Jr., is having a hard time trying to live up to his father’s famous name, causing some rifts in the family. And Sharon feels isolated-struggling to find her role in the civil rights movement that is taking place across the country.

This is the story of how one girl finds her voice in the fight for justice and equality.

James Luna

James Luna is the author of four books, all published by Arte Publico Press/Pinata Books: The Runaway Piggy/El Cochinito Fugitivo, A Mummy in Her Backpack/Una momia en su mochila, The Place Where You Live/El lugar donde vives, and Growing Up on the Playground/Nuestro Patio De Recreo. Piggy was awarded the 2012 Tejas Star Award as chosen by the students of the Rio Grande Valley of Texas.

About Growing Up on the Playground//Nuestro Patio De Recreo:

“On Ana’s first day of kindergarten, the slide stood like a mountain.” The other kids in her class encourage her to glide “down, down, down, to the bottom and her new friends.” Young readers will relate to these elementary school children playing outside. In first grade, Ana meets Karina, who becomes her best friend. Together, they swing higher and higher as they try to kick the sky! In second grade, Ana and her friends dangle like monkeys, eat pretend bananas and call out, “Ooo, ooo, ooo! Can you do what we do?” As they grow, the kids learn to play new games on the playground: basketball, soccer and even handball. Acclaimed children’s book author James Luna uses short, simple text and active words to depict children at play. They swing and hang, dribble and shoot, pass and kick, laugh and learn. And when they get to sixth grade, they have to say good-bye to their school’s playground. But someday they will return!

Anna Meriano

Anna Meriano grew up in Houston and graduated from Rice University with a degree in English, and earned her MFA in creative writing with an emphasis in writing for children from the New School in New York. There she met CAKE Literary founders Dhonielle Clayton and Sona Charaipotra, who started her on the Love Sugar Magic journey. Anna has written three Love Sugar Magic books.

About Love Sugar Magic: A Dash of Trouble:

Leonora Logroño’s family owns the most beloved bakery in Rose Hill, Texas, spending their days conjuring delicious cookies and cakes for any occasion. And no occasion is more important than the annual Dia de los Muertos festival.

Leo hopes that this might be the year that she gets to help prepare for the big celebration—but, once again, she is told she’s too young. Sneaking out of school and down to the bakery, she discovers that her mother, aunt, and four older sisters have in fact been keeping a big secret: they’re brujas—witches of Mexican ancestry—who pour a little bit of sweet magic into everything that they bake.

Leo knows that she has magical ability as well and is more determined than ever to join the family business—even if she can’t let her mama and hermanas know about it yet.

And when her best friend, Caroline, has a problem that needs solving, Leo has the perfect opportunity to try out her craft. It’s just one little spell, after all…what could possibly go wrong?

Debut author Anna Meriano brings us the first book in a delightful new series filled to the brim with amor, azúcar, y magia.

René Colato Laínez​

Known as “the teacher full of stories,” René Colato Laínez is the Salvadoran author of several bilingual picture books including I Am René, the Boy/Soy René, el niño (Piñata Books), Waiting for Papá/Esperando a papá (Piñata Books), Playing Lotería/ El juego de la lotería (Luna Rising). I Am René, the Boy received the Latino Book Award for “Best Bilingual Children’s Book”. Playing Lotería was named a “Best Children’s Book” by Críticas magazine and the New Mexico Book Award “Best Children’s Book”. Playing Lotería and I Am René have both been nominated for the Tejas Star Book Award—the K-6 bilingual counterpart to the Texas Bluebonnet Award.

About My Shoes and I:

A timely and inspiring story. Mario is leaving his home in El Salvador. With his father by his side, he is going north to join his mother, who lives in the United States. She has sent Mario a new pair of shoes. He will need good shoes because the journey north will be long and hard. He and his father will cross the borders of three countries. They will walk for miles, ride buses, climb mountains, and cross a river. Mario has faith in his shoes. He believes they will take him anywhere. On this day, they will take him to the United States, where his family will be reunited.

Bethany Hegedus

Bethany Hegedus’ children’s picture books include the award-winning Grandfather Gandhi and Be the Change: A Grandfather Gandhi Story, both co-written with Arun Gandhi (grandson of Mahatma Gandhi), as well Alabama Spitfire: The Story of Harper Lee and To Kill a MockingbirdRise!: From Caged Bird to Poet of the People: Dr. Maya Angelou, and the forthcoming Hard Work But It’s Worth It: The Life of Jimmy Carter. Her books have been included in numerous “best of” lists such as A Mighty Girl’s Best Books of 2018 and Kirkus’ Best Books of the Year. A former educator, Bethany is an in-demand keynote speaker, workshop leader, and mentor who speaks and teaches across the country about writing, creativity, resilience, and privilege. She is also the Founder and Creative Director of The Writing Barn in Austin, Texas and host of the popular Courage to Create podcast. She graduated from the Vermont College of Fine Arts with an MFA program in Writing for Children & Young Adults.

About Rise!: From Caged Bird to Poet of the People: Dr. Maya Angelou:

Writer, activist, trolley car conductor, dancer, mother, and humanitarianMaya Angelou’s life was marked by transformation and perseverance. In this comprehensive picture-book biography geared towards older readers, Bethany Hegedus lyrically traces Maya’s life from her early days in Stamps, Arkansas through her work as a freedom fighter to her triumphant rise as a poet of the people.

A foreword by Angelou’s grandson, Colin A. Johnson, describes how a love of literature and poetry helped young Maya overcome childhood trauma and turn adversity into triumph. Coupled with Tonya Engel’s metaphorical and emotive illustrations, this biography beautifully conveys the heartaches and successes of this truly phenomenal woman, and is a powerful tribute to the written word.

David Bowles

David Bowles is a Mexican-American author from south Texas, where he teaches at the University of Texas Río Grande Valley. He has written several titles, most notably The Smoking Mirror (Pura Belpré Honor Book) and They Call Me Güero (Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award, Claudia Lewis Award for Excellence in Poetry, Pura Belpré Honor Book, Walter Dean Myers Honor Book).

His work has also been published in multiple anthologies, plus venues such as Asymptote, Strange Horizons, Apex Magazine, Metamorphoses, Rattle, Translation Review, and the Journal of Children’s Literature.

In 2017, David was inducted into the Texas Institute of Letters.

About They Call Me Güero: A Border Kid’s Poems:

Twelve-year-old Güero is Mexican American, at home with Spanish or English and on both sides of the river. He’s starting 7th grade with a woke English teacher who knows how to make poetry cool.

In Spanish, “Güero” is a nickname for guys with pale skin, Latino or Anglo. But make no mistake: our red-headed, freckled hero is puro mexicano, like Canelo Álvarez, the Mexican boxer. Güero is also a nerd–reader, gamer, musician–who runs with a squad of misfits like him, Los Bobbys. Sure, they get in trouble like anybody else, and like other middle-school boys, they discover girls. Watch out for Joanna! She’s tough as nails.

But trusting in his family’s traditions, his accordion and his bookworm squad, he faces seventh grade with book smarts and a big heart. Life is tough for a border kid, but Güero has figured out how to cope.

He writes poetry.

 

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! 

Reading Rock Stars Dallas-Fort Worth

It’s finally time for Reading Rock Stars Dallas-Fort Worth!

We’re so excited to return to Thomas Tolbert Elementary in Dallas on February 8, and also thrilled to announce we will be visiting Rosemont Elementary in Fort Worth on February 9 for the first time!

Whenever we bring a new school into the Reading Rock Stars family, we look for schools which are passionate about reading and ready for the exciting challenge of hosting three author visits in one day. Schools apply for the program, highlighting how their team plans to get their students excited to meet authors, and how they want to use Reading Rock Stars to start new reading initiatives.

In conjunction with Reading Rock Stars, Rosemont Elementary is launching their “Celebrity Readers” program. Members of the community will visit classrooms to read their favorite books and speak to students about why they love to read. The team at Texas Book Festival is happy to provide the very first celebrity readers (and Rock Stars): Vanessa Brantley-Newton, Roda Ahmed, and John August! Vanessa Brantley-Newton and Roda Ahmed will also visit Thomas Tolbert Elementary with veteran Reading Rock Stars author Mac Barnett, who will visit with 4th and 5th grade.

Learn more about our Reading Rock Stars authors and check out their books below!

 

Born and raised in Boulder, Colorado, John August earned a degree in journalism from Drake University and an MFA in film from USC. As a screenwriter, his credits include Big FishCharlie’s AngelsCharlie and the Chocolate FactoryCorpse Bride, and Frankenweenie. His books include Arlo Finch in the Valley of Fire.In addition to his film career, he hosts a popular weekly podcast, Scriptnotes, with Craig Mazin. He also created the Writer Emergency Pack, an educational storytelling tool that was distributed to over 2,000 classrooms in partnership with nonprofit literacy groups like 826LA and NaNoWriMo. John and his family live in Los Angeles.

John’s book: Arlo Finch in the Valley of Fire 

 

Roda Ahmed is a Norwegian author and columnist born in Hargeisa, Somalia. Roda is the bestselling author of Forberedelsen (The Preparations). Mae Among the Stars is her first children’s book. She speaks five languages: Somali, Arabic, Norwegian, English, and French. Roda lives in LA with her husband and two children.

Roda’s book: Mae Among the Stars 

 

Vanessa Brantley-Newton is a self-taught illustrator, doll maker, and crafter who studied fashion illustration at FIT and children’s book illustration at the School of Visual Arts in New York.  She is the author and illustrator of Let Freedom Sing and Don’t Let Auntie Mabel Bless the Table and has illustrated numerous children’s books including Mary Had A Little Glam by Tammi Sauer, One Love and  Vanessa currently makes her nest in Charlotte, North Carolina with her husband, daughter, and cat.

 

Vanessa’s book: Grandma’s Purse 

 

 

Mac Barnett is a New York Times-bestselling author whose books for children have sold more than one million copies in the United States and have been translated into over 30 languages. His picture books include two Caldecott-Honor-winning collaborations with Jon Klassen: Sam & Dave Dig a Hole, which also won the E.B White Read-Aloud Award, and Extra Yarn, which won both the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award and the E.B. White Read-Aloud Award. Leo: A Ghost Story, illustrated by Christian Robinson, and The Skunk, illustrated by Patrick McDonnell, were named two of the Ten Best Illustrated Books of 2015 by The New York Times. Mac’s novels include the Brixton Brothers mysteries and  The Terrible Two series. He lives in Oakland, California.

Mac’s book: The Terrible Two Go Wild 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Announcing Reading Rock Stars in Dallas

We’re so excited here at the Texas Book Festival to expand our Reading Rock Stars youth literacy program to another Texas city this year—Dallas! It’s been quite the ride putting it all together. Since Dallas is the city our co-founder, Laura Bush, calls home, she’s been an important part of the process of selecting the school and will be joining us there to present her latest book for children, Our Great Big Backyard.

Our Outreach Coordinator, Lea, is here to tell us more about what all goes into building a Reading Rock Stars school partnership.

 

Finding a school:

There’s a lot that goes into finding a school to partner with for our Reading Rock Stars program. Do they have a librarian? Is the school leader open to exploring new programs? Is there capacity? What is the need in the community? Reading Rock Stars, while a fantastic program that gets books into the hands of kids, often asks a lot of time-strapped teachers and librarians: they work hard to get their students excited with decorations and contests while implementing unique Texas Book Festival curriculum for each author and book.

I partnered with the Laura Bush Foundation for America’s Libraries to find a school that was up for the challenge in an area that needed books. We looked for former recipients of the Laura Bush Foundation for America’s Libraries grant and for librarians who were trying new things to get their students excited about reading.

The stars aligned for Reading Rock Stars Dallas with Thomas Tolbert Elementary. Lead by Principal LaKeisha Smith, Tolbert serves a diverse community of students. 57% of Tolbert’s students identify as Hispanic, 41% as African American and 2% as other. 95% of students receive free or reduced priced lunch and 39% have Limited English Proficiency. Tolbert’s librarian, Angela Morris-Watts has been tirelessly dedicated to curating a collection of books that are culturally relevant and that kids cannot wait to read.

 

The authors:

For Dallas, I wanted the authors to reflect the school population, while also providing a platform to talk about a relevant theme as a school. What came of my intention is a Reading Rock Stars day about community. Each grade level has been given the opportunity to talk and read about different types of community: the one where you live, the one where you and animals live, and then the one you share as a country.

 

James Luna, The Place Where You Live

James Luna is a veteran Reading Rock Star. His bilingual book, The Place Where You Live, introduces the concept of community to kindergarten and first graders through describing different things that happen, “Here in the place you live.” Students spend two months leading up to his visit learning about different jobs in their communities and building dioramas of their neighborhoods.

 

 

Hena Khan, Amina’s Voice

Hena Khan’s book Amina’s Voice introduces the concept of the community of the United States of America. The main character, Amina, and her best friend, Soojin, struggle with what makes them American. Is it a name? Is it the food that they eat? When Soojin decides to change her name to something more “American”, students are faced with the question of what makes someone an American? I won’t give anything away, but readers see what a strong community does when faced with tragedy. Classes spent time talking about what makes their school community strong and supportive while delving into the concept of identity.

 

 

 

 

Laura Bush, Our Great Big Backyard 

Former First Lady Laura Bush wrote a wonderful book about family and “our great big backyard” with her daughter, Jenna Bush Hager. In the story, a family is heading on a road trip to some of our country’s national parks that the eldest daughter is not excited about. As she gets to spend more time with her family and the great outdoors she ends up having a great time. The main character learns about her family and brings back her newly found love of nature to her community of friends. Students were able to learn about the parks’ different ecosystem communities while also experiencing time outside and with each other.

 

 

 

I am so excited that we’re bringing Reading Rock Stars into Dallas. There’s nothing better than the look on a child’s face when an author hands them their very own signed copy of a book.  I’m looking forward to sharing pictures with you and continuing to expand programming across Texas!

Reading Rock Stars Makes a Difference

“This has truly been the most amazing experience we have EVER had at our school. It is such an inspiring event for the students AND the teachers/staff. The best part of the program is the excitement for reading that it gives the students. The free books are great but if they aren’t excited about reading then the books won’t get read. We will never forget what the Texas Book Festival and Reading Rock Stars has done for our school, students and community. THANK YOU!” – Librarian at Smith Elementary

Reading Rock Stars brings books and authors to Title I elementary schools in Austin, Dallas, Houston, and the Rio Grande Valley. The selected Reading Rock Stars Title I schools have an average student population with 90% low-income rate, 50% English Language Learners, and in Austin only 45% have books at home. Supporting public education through literature is our way of supporting Texas children and the communities we live in, and Reading Rock Stars continues because of the generous support from those who believe in the impact of books.

What happens during one super fun day with a student’s new favorite author?

Amazing children’s authors like Juana Medina, Wade Smith, Jon Scieszka, Monica Brown, and Carmen Tafolla love the program, and put all their enthusiasm, talent, and conviction into each and every presentation.

RRS author collage

Every student at the school gets a signed, hardcover copy of the author’s book, given to them by the author. During Reading Rock Stars in Houston, every single kindergartner hugged author Donna Janell Bowman after she gave them a copy of “Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World About Kindness.”

RRS authors giving books

The kids get to take that book home, take off the book jacket, write their name in the book, and share it with their siblings. This may be the very first book of their own, or even the first book in their home. A 2010 study by the World Inequality Study found that, “Regardless of how many books the family already has, each addition to a home library helps the children get a little farther in school,” they report. “But the gains are not equally great across the entire range. Having books in the home has a greater impact on children from the least-educated families. It is at the bottom, where books are rare, that each additional book matters most.”

RRS kids with books

The Texas Book Festival commits to each school for three years, so the libraries receive sets of all the books, the students build their own personal libraries, and the excitement for books and learning is set in motion. Reading Rock Stars is made possible through the tireless work of school librarians, teachers, and volunteers. We are able to buy books and secure phenomenal children’s authors through the financial support of donors.