Tag Archives: Hispanic Americans

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo. March 6, 2018. HarperTeen, 357 p. ISBN: 9780062662804.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 800.

A young girl in Harlem discovers slam poetry as a way to understand her mother’s religion and her own relationship to the world. Debut novel of renowned slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo.

Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.

But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself.

So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out, much less speak her words out loud. But still, she can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.

Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Strong sexual themes, Drug dealing, Marijuana, Corporal punishment

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (November 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 5))
Grades 9-12. This coming-of-age story from the streets of Harlem centers on Xiomara Barista, a teenage poet seeking to express herself. X has loved writing down her thoughts from an early age. Unfortunately, she doesn’t get to share them with her family, due to her mother’s strict dedication to making sure X is focused on being a good Catholic girl. When X starts questioning her faith and realizes her brother is hiding his own secrets from their mother, she starts figuring out how she can stand up for herself and her beliefs. The story, though centered around the family drama, explores other poignant themes facing girls today, diving into human sexuality, the psychological impacts of going through an early puberty, and how girls have to fend off advances from men—as well as the slut-shaming stigma that simultaneously can come from women. Ultimately, though, this is a powerful, heartwarming tale of a girl not afraid to reach out and figure out her place in the world.

Kirkus Reviews starred (January 15, 2018)
Poetry helps first-generation Dominican-American teen Xiomara Batista come into her own.Fifteen-year old Xiomara (“See-oh-MAH-ruh,” as she constantly instructs teachers on the first day of school) is used to standing out: she’s tall with “a little too much body for a young girl.” Street harassed by both boys and grown men and just plain harassed by girls, she copes with her fists. In this novel in verse, Acevedo examines the toxicity of the “strong black woman” trope, highlighting the ways Xiomara’s seeming unbreakability doesn’t allow space for her humanity. The only place Xiomara feels like herself and heard is in her poetry—and later with her love interest, Aman (a Trinidadian immigrant who, refreshingly, is a couple inches shorter than her). At church and at home, she’s stifled by her intensely Catholic mother’s rules and fear of sexuality. Her present-but-absent father and even her brother, Twin (yes, her actual twin), are both emotionally unavailable. Though she finds support in a dedicated teacher, in Aman, and in a poetry club and spoken-word competition, it’s Xiomara herself who finally gathers the resources she needs to solve her problems. The happy ending is not a neat one, making it both realistic and satisfying. Themes as diverse as growing up first-generation American, Latinx culture, sizeism, music, burgeoning sexuality, and the power of the written and spoken word are all explored with nuance. Poignant and real, beautiful and intense, this story of a girl struggling to define herself is as powerful as Xiomara’s name: “one who is ready for war.” (Verse fiction. 14-18)

About the Author

Elizabeth Acevedo is the youngest child and only daughter of Dominican immigrants. She holds a BA in Performing Arts from the George Washington University and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Maryland. With over fourteen years of performance poetry experience, Acevedo is a National Poetry Slam Champion, Cave Canem Fellow, CantoMundo Fellow, and participant of the Callaloo Writer’s Workshop. She has two collections of poetry, Beastgirl & Other Origin Myths (YesYes Books, 2016) and winner of the 2016 Berkshire Prize, Medusa Reads La Negra’s Palm (Tupelo Press, forthcoming). The Poet X is her debut novel.

She lives with her partner in Washington, DC.. Her website is www.acevedowrites.com.

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Stef Soto, la Reina del Taco (Stef Soto, Taco Queen) by Jennifer Torres

Stef Soto, la Reina del Taco (Stef Soto, Taco Queen) by Jennifer Torres. February 27, 2018. HarperCollins Espanol, 176 p. ISBN: 9781418597863.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 5.8; Lexile: 780.

Estefania “Stef” Soto just wants to be a typical seventh grader. She wants to have friends. She wants to fit in, and she wants a bit of independence from her overprotective immigrant parents. Stef knows enough not to expect to be able to take a city bus to school, the way her former friend Julia does, but even a school bus is deemed too risky by her parents. Her papi insists on picking her up every day in Tia Perla, his beat-up taco truck. Each day, he asks, “¿Aprendiste algo?” (Did you learn something?) Then they find a spot for her father to drum up business while Stef does her homework. Deep down, she’s proud of her parents and knows they are working hard to provide for her, but she’s also resentful of the ease with which some of her classmates, especially Julia, get things—like tickets to see Vivian Vega in concert. Even if she could earn the money for tickets, she knows her parents would never let her go. This earnest debut features a relatable narrator, stalwart friends, and caring parents who are working hard and struggling. (Spanish Language Version)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (November 1, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 5))
Grades 3-6. Stef Soto is tired of feeling babied by her parents, and she’s especially tired of being known as the Taco Queen because of her dad’s food truck, called Tía Perla. She wants them to give her a little more freedom, but she’s having trouble working out how to prove she’s mature enough. When her family’s livelihood is threatened by new food truck codes, Stef wants to speak out in defense of Tía Perla, but she’s not quite sure where to begin. This cheery, relatable story features short and sweet chapters with plenty of Spanish words and phrases sprinkled in and a cheer-worthy main character in Stef, a happy, funny girl who adores art above all. It’s her outlet for everything she feels, and when she finally realizes how her love of art can help her parents’ business, she also learns how to better communicate her feelings and needs. While the tone here is often lighthearted, this will also be relevant to any kid whose parents have moved to another country to seek a better life.

Horn Book Magazine (July/August, 2017)
Estefania “Stef” Soto wants nothing more than for her parents to stop treating her like she’s a little kid. That means letting her walk home from school alone instead of having her dad pick her up in her family’s unsightly food truck, Tía Perla (which ex-best friend Julia Sandoval has convinced her makes her smell like tacos). It also means allowing her to go to the Viviana Vega concert that everyone in the entire world is attending. When new regulations threaten to shut down her father’s business, Stef thinks it isn’t the worst thing in the world. No Tía Perla means no food truck waiting for her after school and maybe even some freedom from her overprotective parents. But when a power failure almost ruins the school’s fundraiser, Stef realizes that Tía Perla might not put such a cramp in her style after all. Torres perfectly captures what it’s like to be a young person seeking independence and learning about responsibility. She breathes life into the old food truck, which becomes another character. We meet her in the school parking lot: “Tía Perla, huffing and wheezing and looking a little bit grubby no matter how clean she actually is.” Young readers will feel a kinship with Stef as she struggles to spread her wings in this engaging and relatable middle-grade novel about growing up. celia c. pérez

About the Author

Jennifer works at the Universidad del Pacífico where she leads a campaign to promote early literacy. Before joining the university team, Jennifer worked as a reporter for the newspaper Record, covering issues of education, children and families, and continues to write for local and national magazines. Originally from southern California, she has lived in the Central Valley for the past 10 years with her husband, David, and daughters Alice and Soledad.

Her website is jenntorres.com

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La Sombrilla Roja (The Red Umbrella) by Christina Diaz Gonzalez

La Sombrilla Roja by Christina Diaz Gonzalez. September 26, 2017.  Gables Publishing, 300 p. ISBN: 9780999214602.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 3.8; Lexile: 590.

(Spanish version of the award-winning novel, The Red Umbrella)

In 1961, two years after the Cuban Communist revolution, LucIa Alvarez continues to live a normal teenage life, dreaming of parties and her first crush. But things in her country are changing. Freedoms are being stripped away. Neighbors disappear. Her friends feel like strangers. And her family is being watched.

As the revolution’s impact becomes more oppressive, LucIa’s parents make the heart-wrenching decision to send her and her little brother to the United States–through a secret, clandestine movement to save the children.

Arriving in the United States, LucIa is eventually sent to live with well-meaning strangers in Nebraska, but she struggles to adapt to a new country, a new language, a new way of life. And what of her old life? Will she ever see her parents, friends, or country again? And if she does, will she still be the same girl?

Based on the real events of Operation Pedro Pan where over 14,000 Cuban children were sent to the U.S. in the two year period between 1960-1962 and the author’s own family experience, this novel depicts the pain of losing one’s homeland and showcases the generosity of the American spirit.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Mild language, Violence, Mild sexual themes

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (August 2010 (Online))
Grades 6-10. When Castro comes to power, teenage Lucía wants nothing to do with the revolution; she is more worried about what to wear to the school dance. Then she witnesses the horrifying public hanging of her father’s boss, and her parents send her and her little brother, Frank, to safety in the U.S., where a church places them with a kind foster home in Nebraska. Based on the author’s parents’ story, Gonzalez’s first novel captures the heart-wrenching, personal drama of family separation. At the start of each chapter, a brief newspaper headline gives a glimpse into Cuban politics and history, but the core of Lucía’s first-person narrative is her emotional upheaval as she cares for Frank and tries to fit into her eighth-grade class, where everything is strange and different. The characters, including the loving, imperfect adults, are authentic, and teens will recognize Lucía’s rebellious moments, which sometimes get ugly, as well as her anguish over costly long-distance calls “home” and her hope for reunion with her family.

Kirkus Reviews (April 15, 2010)
This is the story of Lucía, a Cuban girl who, at the age of 14, leaves her hometown of Puerto Mijares and flies to the United States from Havana with her little brother, Frankie, but without their parents. After arriving at a temporary shelter, they are soon transferred to the Baxters’ home in Nebraska. Through Lucía’s captivating voice, readers travel in time to the year 1961, when members of the Cuban bourgeoisie witnessed the drastic transformation of their society into a communist system. While Lucía’s best friend, Ivette, and her secret sweetheart, Manuel, embrace the revolution and become, with their parents’ support, “brigadistas,” Lucía’s parents, a banker and a housewife, refuse to accept the changes imposed by the new government and make the heartbreaking and, for the times, shocking decision to send their daughter and son to a foreign country, without knowing if they would be able to see them again. Gonzalez enters the literary scene with this exceptional historical novel that portrays the beginning of the Cuban exodus. (Historical fiction. 10 & up)

About the Author

Christina Diaz Gonzalez is the award-winning author of several books including The Red Umbrella, A Thunderous Whisper, Moving Target, Return Fire, and an upcoming book in the Spirit Animals: Fall of the Beasts series. Christina’s books have received numerous honors and recognitions with publications such as Publisher’s Weekly, The Miami Herald, School Library Journal, and The Washington Post calling her novels engrossing, compelling, and inspirational.

Christina currently lives in Miami, Florida with her husband, sons, and a dog that can open doors.  Her website is www.christinagonzalez.com.

Teacher Resources

The Red Umbrella Educator’s Guide

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They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera. September 5, 2017. HarperTeen, 368 p. ISBN: 9780062457790.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 870.

Adam Silvera reminds us that there’s no life without death and no love without loss in this devastating yet uplifting story about two people whose lives change over the course of one unforgettable day.

On September 5, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to give them some bad news: They’re going to die today. Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but, for different reasons, they’re both looking to make a new friend on their End Day. The good news: There’s an app for that. It’s called the Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure—to live a lifetime in a single day.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Mild sexual themes, Gun violence

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist starred (July 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 21))
Grades 9-12. Imagine a world in which everyone who is about to die receives the shocking news in advance by phone, and you have the premise of the wildly imaginative new novel by Silvera. Eighteen-year-old Mateo receives such a phone call at 12:22 a.m., while 17-year-old Rufus receives his at 1:05. Both boys, who are initially strangers to each other, now have one thing in common: they will be dead in 24 hours or less. Alone and desperately lonely, the two find each other by using an app called Last Friend. At first dubious, they begin a cautious friendship, which they describe in their respective first-person voices in alternating chapters. The ingenious plot of this character-driven novel charts the evolution of their relationship as it deepens into something more than simple friendship. Silvera does a remarkable job of inviting empathy for his irresistible coprotagonists. As the clock continues to tick the minutes away, their story becomes invested with urgency and escalating suspense. Will they really die? Perhaps, but, ultimately, it is not death but life that is the focus of this extraordinary and unforgettable novel.

Kirkus Reviews starred (June 15, 2017)
What would you do with one day left to live?In an alternate present, a company named Death-Cast calls Deckers—people who will die within the coming day—to inform them of their impending deaths, though not how they will happen. The End Day call comes for two teenagers living in New York City: Puerto Rican Mateo and bisexual Cuban-American foster kid Rufus. Rufus needs company after a violent act puts cops on his tail and lands his friends in jail; Mateo wants someone to push him past his comfort zone after a lifetime of playing it safe. The two meet through Last Friend, an app that connects lonely Deckers (one of many ways in which Death-Cast influences social media). Mateo and Rufus set out to seize the day together in their final hours, during which their deepening friendship blossoms into something more. Present-tense chapters, short and time-stamped, primarily feature the protagonists’ distinctive first-person narrations. Fleeting third-person chapters give windows into the lives of other characters they encounter, underscoring how even a tiny action can change the course of someone else’s life. It’s another standout from Silvera (History Is All You Left Me, 2017, etc.), who here grapples gracefully with heavy questions about death and the meaning of a life well-lived. Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises. (Speculative fiction. 13-adult).

About the Author

Adam Silvera was born and raised in the Bronx. He has worked in the publishing industry as a children’s bookseller, marketing assistant at a literary development company, and book reviewer of children’s and young adult novels. His debut novel, More Happy Than Not, received multiple starred reviews and is a New York Times bestseller, and Adam was selected as a Publishers Weekly Flying Start. He writes full-time in New York City and is tall for no reason.

His website is www.adamsilvera.com.

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Us, In Progress by Lulu Delacre

Us, In Progress by Lulu Delacre. August 29, 2017. HarperCollins, 256 p. ISBN: 9780062392145.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 3.2; Lexile: 740.

Acclaimed author and Pura Belpré Award honoree Lulu Delacre’s beautifully illustrated collection of twelve short stories is a groundbreaking look at the diverse Latinos who live in the United States.

In this book, you will meet many young Latinos living in the United States, from a young girl whose day at her father’s burrito truck surprises her to two sisters working together to change the older sister’s immigration status, and more.

Turn the pages to experience life through the eyes of these boys and girls whose families originally hail from many different countries; see their hardships, celebrate their victories, and come away with a better understanding of what it means to be Latino in the U.S. today.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Mild language, Discrimination, Violence, Prejudice

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (July 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 21))
Grades 3-7. Three-time Pura Belpré Award honoree Delacre offers up 12 short stories, beautifully written with candor, honesty, and perfect brevity, that explore what it means to be a Latinx in the U.S. today. These finely wrought and uniformly well-written stories, many based on true incidents, portray the wide range of cultural and geographic diversity within the Latinx community. They feature both male and female main characters and cover topics such as police abuse, the prevalence of prediabetes in the Latinx population, and the misconception that all Latinos are dark-skinned and poor. Many of the stories deal with community dynamics—how an unassuming member can make an indelible impression, Saturday school language classes, and bullying and family dysfunction—while others address larger social issues, such as guardianship related to deportation and immigration, unaccompanied minors crossing borders, and the 2012 DREAM Act. Delacre illustrates as well, providing a gorgeous mixed-media portrait of each story’s main character, and a glossary of Spanish words and phrases, organized by story, concludes the book. Delacre’s lyrical writing perfectly expresses what the characters are experiencing, and each story’s ending is honest and satisfying, if sometimes open-ended—much like real life. A collection not to be missed.

Horn Book Magazine (September/October, 2017)
This collection opens with “The Attack,” an all-too-timely account of a young Latino man with a disability being mistreated by the police. The twelve tales are all based on true events, appended with notes that explain where Delacre first learned of them and citing the article that informed each piece. The deliberate voice and close focus on each fictionalized protagonist turns each headline into a relatable story. At the beginning of each tale, Delacre includes intricate mixed-media character portraits, purposely unfinished, pencil drawings layered between pierced rice paper and incorporating newspaper clippings from her original sources. She also pairs each story with a refran; these sayings are translated in the back matter, which also includes a glossary of Spanish terms. The collection presents stories about health (in “Selfie,” Marla attempts to improve her pre-diabetic condition through cycling); about young people feeling shame over their parents’ jobs (“Burrito Man”); parents being deported (“Band-Aid”); and siblings who are undocumented (“The Secret”). In contrast, in “90,000 Children,” a twelve-year-old Latino boy aspires to be a Border Patrol agent. Delacre’s collection challenges existing misconceptions by giving readers an intimate and varied look into what it is like to be young and Latino in the United States today. sonia alejandra rodriguez

About the Author

Three-time Pura Belpré Award honoree Lulu Delacre has been writing and illustrating children’s books since 1980. Born and raised in Puerto Rico to Argentinean parents, Delacre says her Latino heritage and her life experiences inform her work. Her 37 titles include Us, In Progress: Short Stories About Young LatinosArroz con Leche: Popular Songs and Rhymes from Latin America, a Horn Book Fanfare Book in print for over 25 years; and Salsa Stories, an IRA Outstanding International Book. Her latest picture book ¡Olinguito, de la A a la Z! Descubriendo el bosque nublado; Olinguito, from A to Z! Unveiling the Cloud Forest has received 20 awards and honors including an NCTE Orbis Pictus Honor and an ALA Notable for All Ages. Delacre has lectured internationally and served as a juror for the National Book Awards. She has exhibited at The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art; The Original Art Show at the Society of Illustrators in New York; the Museum of Art of Puerto Rico and the Museum of Ponce in Puerto Rico among other venues.

Her website is www.luludelacre.com

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The First Rule of Punk by Celia Perez

The First Rule of Punk by Celia Perez. August 22, 2017. Viking Books for Young Readers, 336 p. ISBN: 9780425290408.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.2; Lexile: 670.

From debut author and longtime zine-maker Celia C. Perez, The First Rule of Punk is a wry and heartfelt exploration of friendship, finding your place, and learning to rock out like no one’s watching.

There are no shortcuts to surviving your first day at a new school–you can’t fix it with duct tape like you would your Chuck Taylors. On Day One, twelve-year-old Malu (Maria Luisa, if you want to annoy her) inadvertently upsets Posada Middle School’s queen bee, violates the school’s dress code with her punk rock look, and disappoints her college-professor mom in the process. Her dad, who now lives a thousand miles away, says things will get better as long as she remembers the first rule of punk: be yourself.

The real Malu loves rock music, skateboarding, zines, and Soyrizo (hold the cilantro, please). And when she assembles a group of like-minded misfits at school and starts a band, Malu finally begins to feel at home. She’ll do anything to preserve this, which includes standing up to an anti-punk school administration to fight for her right to express herself!

Black and white illustrations and collage art throughout make The First Rule of Punk a perfect pick for fans of books like Roller Girl and online magazines like Rookie.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (September 15, 2017 (Online))
Grades 4-7. In her story of seventh-grader Malú, debut author Pérez harnesses the spirit of School of Rock and gives it a punk rock spin. Malú isn’t happy about her recent move to Chicago, because it meant leaving her dad (her parents are amicably divorced) and his record store behind. She tries to assume a brave punk attitude, but she can’t help being anxious on her first day of school, especially when she gets on the wrong side of the class mean girl. When Malú learns about the upcoming Fall Fiesta talent show, she decides to form a band, with the hopes of finding “her people” in the process. While this plan hits a few snags, it results in friendships and a Mexican punk mentor. Like any good riot grrrl, Malú finds a creative outlet in making zines, several of which appear in the novel and call attention to Malú’s passions, heritage (she is half Mexican), and private concerns. Pérez delivers an upbeat story of being true to yourself and your beliefs, that tweens will rally behind.

Kirkus Reviews starred (June 15, 2017)
Malú wants to be totally punk at her new middle school, but her Mexican-American mother would prefer she learn to be a proper señorita. Twelve-year-old María Luisa O’Neill-Morales, aka Malú, loves punk-rock music, hanging out at her father’s indie record store, and making zines. She doesn’t love moving from her home in Gainesville, Florida, to Chicago for her professor mother’s two-year appointment at a university. Although she loves both of her amicably divorced parents, Malú—who favors Chuck Taylors and music T’s—feels closer to her laid-back, artsy white father than her supportive but critical academic mother, whom she calls “SuperMexican.” At Malú’s new majority-Latino school, she quickly makes an enemy of beautiful Selena, who calls her a “coconut” (brown on the outside, white on the inside) and warns her about falling in with the class “weirdos.” Malú does befriend the school misfits (one activist white girl and two fellow “coconuts”) and enlists them to form a band to play a punk song at the Fall Fiesta. Middle-grade readers will appreciate the examples of Malú’s zines and artwork, which delightfully convey her journey of self-discovery. The author surrounds the feisty protagonist with a trio of older women (including her mom, her best friend Joe’s tattooed, punk-loving mother, and his humorous Abuela) who help her embrace being Mexican and punk. A charming debut about a thoughtful, creative preteen connecting to both halves of her identity. (Fiction. 9-13)

About the Author

Celia C. Pérez has been making zines inspired by punk and her love of writing for longer than some of you have been alive. Her favorite zine supplies are a long-arm stapler, glue sticks, and watercolor pencils. She still listens to punk music, and she’ll never stop picking cilantro out of her food at restaurants. Originally from Miami, Florida, Celia lives in Chicago with her family and works as a community college librarian. She owns two sets of worry dolls because you can never have too many. The First Rule of Punk is her first book for young readers.

Her website is celiacperez.com

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Disappeared by Francisco X. Stork

Disappeared by Francisco X. Stork. September 26, 2017. Arthur A. Levine Books, 329 p. ISBN: 9780545944472.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 710.

Four months ago: Sara Zapata’s best friend disappeared, kidnapped by the web of criminals who terrorize Juàrez.

Four weeks ago: Her brother, Emiliano, fell in love with Perla Rubi, a girl whose family is as rich as her name.

Four hours ago: Sara received a death threat…and her first clue her friend’s location.

Four minutes ago: Emiliano was offered a way into Perla Rubi’s world—if he betrays his own.

In the next four days, Sara and Emiliano will each face impossible choices, between life and justice, friends and family, truth and love. But when the criminals come after Sara, only one path remains for both the siblings: the way across the desert to the United States.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence, Mild sexual themes, Drugs, Criminal culture

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (August 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 22))
Grades 10-12. As a reporter for El Sol newspaper in Juárez, Mexico, Sara tirelessly writes reports on las desaparecidas—girls who suddenly vanish from their homes. It’s more than just a job: her best friend, Linda, disappeared several months ago. Meanwhile, her younger brother, Emiliano, is hard at work earning what he can from small jobs to help support Sara and their mother. When an opportunity arises to increase his family’s finances, he jumps at the chance, only to find out that his dreams of a better life lay in the town’s most lucrative industry—the drug trade. Both siblings find out how much danger they are in when Sara receives threats on her life that may involve Emiliano’s potential business partners. Together, the siblings flee to safety toward the U.S. border. The plight of las desaparecidas is all too real for girls all over Mexico, and Stork does not shy away from the facts of human trafficking, the drug industry, and the senseless violence that accompanies them. Stork uses parallel story lines to flesh out the two protagonists and then slowly brings them together to a harrowing climax. Not only does this result in a riveting story, it also highlights the harsh complexity of young Mexicans’ lives. Readers will find this thrilling as well as eye-opening.

Horn Book Magazine (September/October, 2017)
Sara Zapata’s best friend is missing. Kidnapped. Sara, a rising-star reporter at Juarez, Mexico’s El Sol newspaper, is determined to find her and shine a light on Juarez’s missing and murdered girls, the Desaparacidas. Sara tells her boss Felipe, “Someone has to keep the memory of these girls alive…If we don’t care about them, then who will?” But as she unearths the State Police’s deep connection to sex slavery, she receives a death threat that puts her family in danger. Her younger brother Emiliano is an entrepreneur on the cusp of success; he’s finally making connections to make a better life for their family and be considered worthy of his wealthy girlfriend. Unlike his father, he doesn’t plan to leave his family behind and move to the United States. But when the lines between right and wrong blur, who can you trust? How do you keep your soul while trying to survive? This emotional thriller–which takes place over the course of seven harrowing days and includes betrayal, desperate escapes, and a perilous trek across the desert to cross the border into the U.S.–tackles these questions and more. In chapters that alternate between Sara’s and Emiliano’s perspectives, Stork beautifully explores the strong ties to one’s home along with the darker pervasiveness of Juarez’s corruption (“this city is like a spiderweb. Every thread is connected directly or indirectly to every other thread”); the lure of power; and the strength necessary to dream, hope, and make positive change in such crushingly dangerous and difficult circumstances. alia jones

About the Author

Francisco X. Stork was born in Mexico. He moved to El Paso Texas with his adoptive father and mother when he was nine. He attended Spring Hill College, Harvard University and Columbia Law School. He worked as an attorney for thirty-three years before retiring in 2015. He is married and has two grown children and two beautiful granddaughters. He loves to discover new books and authors. His favorite books are those where the author’s soul touches his. He does not read reviews to his books so you should feel free to write whatever you want. Also, he is genuinely interested in learning about books and life from his friends on this site. He would love it if you find his books worthy to be read, but that’s not why he wants to be your friend.

His website is www.franciscostork.com

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The Cholo Tree by Daniel Chacon

The Cholo Tree by Daniel Chacon.  March 31, 2017. Arte Publico Press, 24172 p. ISBN: 9781558858404.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 700.

“Do you know what a stereotype you are?” Jessica asks her son. “You’re the existential Chicano.” Fourteen-year-old Victor has just been released from the hospital; his chest is wrapped in bandages and his arm is in a sling. He has barely survived being shot, and his mother accuses him of being a cholo, something he denies.

She’s not the only adult that thinks he’s a gangbanger. His sociology teacher once sent him to a teach-in on gang violence. Victor’s philosophy is that everyone is racist. “They see a brown kid, they see a banger.” Even other kids think he’s in a gang, maybe because of the clothes he wears. The truth is, he loves death (metal, that is), reading books, drawing, the cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz and the Showtime series Weeds. He likes school and cooking. He knows what a double negative is!

But he can’t convince his mom that he’s not in a gang. And in spite of a genius girlfriend and an art teacher who mentors and encourages him to apply to art schools, Victor can’t seem to overcome society’s expectations for him.

In this compelling novel, renowned Chicano writer Daniel Chacon once again explores art, death, ethnicity and racism. Are Chicanos meant for meth houses instead of art schools? Are talented Chicanos never destined to study in Paris?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Mild language, Discrimination, Violence, Mild sexual themes, Drugs, Underage drinking, Criminal culture

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (April 1, 2017)
Boxed in by societal prejudices, a young Chicano struggles to find his identity.Split into two separate periods, Chacón’s insightful novel portrays the trials of Victor Reyes, a death metal–loving, artistic teen who’s seemingly ill-fated in life. In the book’s first half, 14-year-old Victor recovers from a shooting—he was dead for a hair over 2 minutes—that leaves him with a fuzzy memory. Almost everyone, including his mom, believes he’s a cholo, a gangbanger destined for trouble. Though Victor tries his best to mend his relationship with his mom, he frequently ends up in incriminating situations. Meanwhile, Victor meets and falls for a feisty part-Mexican, part-Indian girl. The story moves at a meandering pace, which Chacón uses to sketch in disjointed details. Victor’s first-person narration doesn’t stand out in any particular way, but each of the diverse supporting characters features a distinct, if stereotypical, voice to fill in that void. The novel’s second half focuses on 17-year-old Victor, a senior succeeding in school and love. A supportive teacher helps him refine his artistic goals, pushing him to apply for art school. But Victor’s anger and past won’t let him go, and soon he’s knee-deep in the cholo life. Overall, the author employs a well-worn redemption arc, and the often clunky, self-conscious narration doesn’t really help to make it feel fresh: “They looked sort of geeky cool, like journalism students, the kind of kids that YA novels are written about.” A well-meaning, awkward cautionary tale. (Fiction. 14-18)

School Library Journal Xpress (July 1, 2017)
Gr 8 Up-This collection of short stories captures the liminal spaces inhabited by Victor Reyes Jr., a Mexican American/Chicano Fresno teenager who is caught between the dangerous allure of the streets and his creative aspirations. At times, the choice between becoming another “cholo” stereotype and going down another path eludes Victor. The gravity of the streets often proves to be beyond Victor’s control. For example, the chain of events that lead to Victor being shot-and, as a result, dead for 2.2 minutes before regaining life-start from adolescent posturing over girls. Victor and his buddy Equis scrap with a group of boys who are part of a gang and have access to guns. Though Victor is an ordinary witty, imaginative teenager with a knack for drawing, at times he seeks danger. Freddy, an older friend who witnessed Victor’s shooting, invites him to tour Fresno City College. A love interest, along with Victor’s teacher Mr. Garcia, offers him outlets and spaces for his intelligence and artistic talents. Chacón breathes life into Victor in these scenes, and the youth becomes someone to root for. After multiple disappointments, Victor sinks headlong into street life and starts seeing the elusive ghosts of living-dead people and reckons with a past that seems to transcend him. He cannot shake off the doomed destiny of gang life. Chacón has written a classic and powerful underdog story about a brown teen building the self-efficacy to see his worth and achieve his dream. VERDICT Recommended for high school classroom libraries and YA collections; will appeal to reluctant readers.-Lettycia Terrones, Los Angeles Public Library

About the Author

Daniel Chacon is author of five books of fiction and editor of A Jury of Trees, the posthumous poems of Andrés Montoya. He is co-editor with Mimi Gladstein of The Last Supper of Chicano Heroes: The Selected Works of José Antonio Burciaga.

Chacon is recipient of the Pen Oakland Fiction Award, a Chris Isherwood Foundation Grant, the Hudson Book Prize, and The American book Award.

Her website is www.danielchacon.net

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Shadowhouse Fall by Daniel José Older

Shadowhouse Fall by Daniel José Older. September 12, 2017. Arthur A. Levine Books, 368 p. ISBN: 9780545952828.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 670.

Shadowhouse rising

Sierra and her friends love their new lives as shadowshapers, making art and creating change with the spirits of Brooklyn. Then Sierra receives a strange card depicting a beast called the Hound of Light—an image from the enigmatic, influential Deck of Worlds. The Deck tracks the players and powers of all the magical houses in the city, and when the real Hound begins to stalk Sierra through the streets, the shadowshapers know their next battle has arrived.

Worlds in revolution

Sierra and Shadowhouse have been thrust into an ancient struggle with enemies old and new—a struggle they didn’t want, but are determined to win. Revolution is brewing in the real world as well, as the shadowshapers lead the fight against systems that oppress their community. To protect her family and friends in every sphere, Sierra must take down the Hound and master the Deck of Worlds…or else she could lose all the things that matter most.

Part of Series: The Shadowshaper Cipher (Book 2)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Racism, Confrontations with police

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (August 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 22))
Grades 8-11. With the same keen eye for the power of art and a sly commentary on the insidious nature of racism and white supremacy—as well as a deft handle on zippy teenage banter and cinematic pacing—Older delivers a fantastic follow-up to his best-selling Shadowshaper (2015), which not only intensifies the stakes of the first book but also expands the scope of his well-wrought, vivid world building. When Sierra receives a creepy card and a dire warning about coming conflict, at first she thinks nothing of it. But that card is part of the enigmatic Deck of Worlds, which reveals the four major houses locked in an age-old power struggle. Unbeknownst to Sierra, she and her shadowshapers are one of those houses, and other houses are in hot pursuit of their power. Older deepens the mythology of shadowshaping in this installment, subtly showcasing how cultural heritage, even the trauma of ancestors, can become a power to wield rather than a burden to bear, not to mention how the history of colonization bleeds into contemporary culture. Plenty of elements have a ripped-from-the-headlines feel, but Older expertly integrates those moments into the wider story and keeps the narrative solidly on Sierra and her quest. The expanding cast of well-rounded characters, clearly choreographed action, and foreshadowing of installments to come will have fantasy fans eagerly awaiting more of this dynamic, smart series.

Kirkus Reviews starred (July 15, 2017)
Sierra and the shadowshapers are back in this sequel to Shadowshaper (2015).A few months after the close of Shadowshaper, Nuyorican Sierra Santiago has grown in her shadowshaping powers but feels overwhelmed by her new role as Lucera, head of Shadowhouse. One night in Prospect Park, a girl from school attempts to give Sierra a creepy playing card from the Deck of Worlds, warning Sierra that the Deck is in play again and the Sorrows (who tried to wipe out the shadowshapers in the last book) are out to get them once more. Meanwhile, Older paints a compelling picture of contemporary life for black and brown teens in cities: Afro-Latinx Sierra and her friends deal with police harassment and brutality, both on the streets of Bed-Stuy and at school, themes that feel especially timely and relevant. When Sierra learns the Sorrows want her to join them in order to complete their magic, she must take a dangerous chance in order to protect herself and those that she loves. Older excels at crafting teen dialogue that feels authentic, and props to everyone involved for not othering the Spanish language. This second volume features a tighter plot and smoother pacing than the first, and the ending will leave readers eagerly awaiting the further adventures of Sierra and her friends. Lit. (Urban fantasy. 14-adult)

About the Author

Daniel José Older is the New York Times bestselling author of the Young Adult series the Shadowshaper Cypher (Scholastic), the Bone Street Rumba urban fantasy series (Penguin), and the upcoming Middle Grade sci-fi adventure Flood City (Scholastic). He won the International Latino Book Award and has been nominated for the Kirkus Prize, the Mythopoeic Award, the Locus Award, the Andre Norton Award, and yes, the World Fantasy Award. Shadowshaper was named one of Esquire’s 80 Books Every Person Should Read.

His website is www.danieljoseolder.net

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The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. March 7, 2017. Clarion Books, 464 p. ISBN: 9780544586505.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 450.

The first day of senior year:

Everything is about to change. Until this moment, Sal has always been certain of his place with his adoptive gay father and their loving Mexican-American family. But now his own history unexpectedly haunts him, and life-altering events force him and his best friend, Samantha, to confront issues of faith, loss, and grief.

Suddenly Sal is throwing punches, questioning everything, and discovering that he no longer knows who he really is—but if Sal’s not who he thought he was, who is he?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Underage drinking; Mention of drug use

 

Video Review

Reviews

Booklist (November 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 6))
Grades 9-11. Seventeen-year-old Sal has had both bad luck and great luck with family. His mother died when he was three, but she ensured he would be adopted by her best friend, Vicente, a loving gay man who brings with him a large, welcoming Mexican American family. He has also been blessed with his best friend, Sam, a girl with mother issues. Sal has mostly led a tranquil life, but his senior year turns out to contain unexpected upsets and sorrows, though also deeper chances to understand love. Sáenz presents readers with several beautifully drawn relationships, especially that of Sal and his grandmother, who is dying of cancer—there is richness even in their silences. There are also some wonderful moments between father and son, though Vicente’s perfection as a parent can defy belief (not surprisingly, he’s compared to Atticus Finch). There are times when the story is weighed down by repetitive conversations, but there are numerous heartfelt moments as well. Sal is one of those characters you wonder about after the book is closed. Maybe Sáenz will tell us more.

Horn Book Magazine (March/April, 2017)
Seventeen-year-old Salvador has always been close to his single, gay, adoptive father; his loving grandmother, Mima; his extended Mexican American family; and his loyal best friend, Samantha. After getting into two fistfights at the start of senior year, Sal finds that he’s “starting to ask myself a lot of questions that I never used to ask. I used to be okay with everything, and now I was going around hitting people.” Things get more complicated after Mima’s cancer returns, Sam loses her mother in a car accident (and moves in with Sal and his father), and Dad reconnects with an old flame and begins dating again. As mild-mannered, self-effacing Sal narrates his story, readers gradually come to feel the profound importance of family and friends, the dignity and worth of the human spirit, and the transcendent power of love. Saenz’s distinctive prose style is lyrical and philosophical: “Salvie, I have a theory that you can’t sell yourself on an application form because you don’t believe there’s much to sell. You tell yourself that you’re just this ordinary guy…There’s nothing ordinary about you. Nothing ordinary at all.” jonathan hunt

About the Author

Benjamin Alire Sáenz was born in 1954 in his grandmother’s house in Old Picacho, a small farming village in the outskirts of Las Cruces, New Mexico in 1954. He was the fourth of seven children and was raised on a small farm near Mesilla Park. Later, when the family lost the farm, his father went back to his former occupation—being a cement finisher. His mother worked as a cleaning woman and a factory worker. During his youth, he worked at various jobs—painting apartments, roofing houses, picking onions, and working for a janitorial service. He graduated from high school in 1972, and went on to college and became something of a world traveler. He studied philosophy and theology in Europe for four years and spent a summer in Tanzania. He eventually became a writer and professor and moved back to the border—the only place where he feels he truly belongs. He is an associate professor in the MFA creative writing program at the University of Texas at El Paso, the only bilingual creative writing program in the country. Ben Sáenz considers himself a fronterizo, a person of the border. He is also a visual artist and has been involved as a political and cultural activist throughout his life. Benjamin Sáenz­ is a novelist, poet, essayist and writer of children’s books.

His website is http://faculty.utep.edu/Default.aspx?alias=faculty.utep.edu/bsaenz.

Teacher Resources

The Inexplicable Logic of My Life Discussion Questions

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