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, 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’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 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 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 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’ 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 Mockingbird, Rise!: 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 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.