New Book: Vincent Ventura and the Mystery of the Chupacabras by Xavier Garza

This looks like a great new bilingual book for children.

ISBN: 978-1-55885-869-5

Publication Date: October 31, 2018

Bind: Trade Paperback

Pages: 64

Award-winning author returns with thrilling new bilingual series for intermediate readers!

When stray dogs start disappearing from the neighborhood, Vincent’s dad thinks that maybe the Animal Control Department is finally doing its job. But then, Mrs. Rangel’s celebrity chihuahua Chato, who appeared in television commercials promoting tacos, disappears. And Mrs. García’s weiner dog and Mrs. West’s poodle go missing. Everyone in the neighborhood is puzzled, but Vincent Ventura has a theory.

The disappearances started when Mr. Calaveras moved into the house at 666 Duende Street, which is rumored to be haunted. Vincent knows he’s not the harmless but grumpy guy that everyone else sees. He’s convinced the old man is behind the rash of missing dogs. In fact, Vincent is sure he’s a monster, a blood-sucking beast known as el chupacabras!

Vincent enlists the aid of his cousin Michelle, the smartest student at their school, and her twin brother Bobby to spy on the suspected killer. Vincent Ventura, monster fighter extraordinaire, is determined to catch him in the act, even if it puts them all in danger! Accompanied by the author’s dramatic black and white illustrations, this exciting short novel for ages 8 – 12 will introduce Latino creepy creatures to a new generation of readers.



“Older middle-grade readers will find these Latin American horror stories deliciously short but spooky.”—Kirkus Reviews on The Donkey Lady Fights La Llorona and Other Stories / La señora Asno se enfrenta a la Llorona y otros cuentos

“With its quick pace, humor and endearing characters, this is sure to turn more kids into lucha libre fans.”—Booklist on Maximillian & the Mystery of the Guardian Angel

XAVIER GARZA is the author of numerous books for kids, including The Donkey Lady Fights La Llorona and Other Stories / La señora Asno se enfrenta a la Llorona y otros cuentos (Piñata Books, 2015), Maximilian and the Lucha Libre Club (Cinco Puntos Press, 2016) and Kid Cyclone Fights the Devil and Other Stories / Kid Ciclón se enfrenta a El Diablo y otras historias (Piñata Books, 2010). He lives with his family in San Antonio, Texas.


New Book: They Call Me Güero by David Bowles

Check out this new book by David Bowles with AMAZING illustrations by Zeke Peña.


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.

DAVID BOWLES grew up and lives in the Río Grande Valley of South Texas. A many-faceted writer and scholar, he’s the author of Feathered Serpent, Dark Heart of Sky: Myths of Mexico.His middle-grade fantasy The Smoking Mirror was selected as a 2016 Pura Belpré Author Honor by the American Library Association.

Islandborn Is More Than Just A Children’s Book–It’s ‘the Book of Our Childhoods’

Original post by Christina Miranda found here:

Last month, Junot Díaz resurfaced with his new book Islandborn; this time, however, his targeted audience is below the age of ten. Islandborn serves as more than just a story about finding one’s origin, it brings recognition to a real history while directing it towards children—something long overdue.

Islandborn tells the story of Lola, who is assigned to draw a picture of where her family is from, but comes to a standstill when she realizes that she has no memory of her home in the Dominican Republic. As she talks to her elders, she begins to imagine what the island might be like based on their descriptions alone. Immersed in a vibrant family and culture, she is also taught the harsh realities that have affected the island, including national disasters and the thirty year dictatorship of former Dominican Republic president Rafael Trujillo, presented in the book as the Monster.

On Díaz’s book tour, he took the time to sit down with Latinx Spaces to discuss his new book and the progress and acceptance he hopes it will bring to readers both young and adult. Here is an excerpt of our conversation:

How difficult is writing a children’s book compared to writing a novel or story collection?

It took just as long to get the idea. The execution was shorter. It still took an incredibly long time: again, I feel perhaps someone else would be able to knock these things out a lot faster, that’s my fantasy. It hasn’t been true for me, I’m very very slow, but it’s true that once I finally got the idea I was able to execute it. The problem was that I spent hundreds of pages getting the idea. If anyone out there is an artist and requires consolation, just reflect somewhat on my embarrassing career and I think that that will at least give you some encouragement.

In a New York Times article you mention that this book, which you wrote for your goddaughters, took you almost 20 years to write. How do your goddaughters like the book as adults?
It’s hard to say because I always feel it’s impolite to speak for other people in that way. They’ve told me that it meant the world to them, but it’s for them to say. In a way, I think that it’s hard to communicate what books do for us. Especially if they work well. A part of me is hoping that there is nothing that they can say immediately because it speaks to a book that’s doing its work when it takes you a long time to get your arms around it.

You don’t shy away from serious issues like racial identity and political corruption in history, unlike most children’s books. Why did you decide to mix it in this type of storyline?

Because that is the book of our childhoods as people of color. As immigrants. As people who were captured and forced to be slaves. This is a book that has many traumas in them. If we are only going to write children’s books, comprised of fictions of innocence, we will, by that very act, erase ourselves. And therefore I did not want my community or myself to be erased.

“What we’ve always wanted from everyone, whether it is inside or outside of our community, is to understand at the most profound level how human we are, and how deserving we are of sympathy and love, which is something that society spend an enormous amount of energy denying.”

I come from difficult struggles, I come from savage histories, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I don’t feel less of a human, I’m not less joyous, and less alive to the possibilities of the world. I feel that this is a culture that pushes us towards a false pretend happiness so that we can’t achieve real, organic happiness. And I would argue that real organic happiness for communities like ours is to be able to live with all the troubles that we have endured, and yet, to feel an endless, generative love towards ourselves, our community, and the world.

On top of that children live their lives beset by horrors. Why are children so interested in monster stories? Why are children interested in scary stories? Because they know how scary this darn world is. There’s nothing about that book that would even compare to a day in the life of the average, loved, stable, well-taken care of child. Their lives are so full of fears, uncertainty, and threats. Children are vulnerable. They understand vulnerability and they understand overcoming fears. The only person who want these narratives of innocence are more or less adults. Adults who I think want to maintain their own innocence around children, and around larger social questions.

In today’s social environment, people of color are not getting the voice that they deserve. Do you think it will be harder for people in literature to receive that voice? Do they have more work ahead of them? Or do you think there will be more of a push, that it will be easier?
Well I think we have so many writers and artists of color who are doing this work. I’m not some innovation. I’m part of a long, long train of people who are doing this work. When you look at our field, I’m sort of a special cupcake that appears every now and then on the menu. But the truth of it is that there are all these people in the field who’ve been in the trenches doing all this remarkable work.

So many of our people are in children’s literature making organizations, making communities. You think about the work Julia Alvarez who’s been working in children’s literature for a long time. You think about Edwidge Danticat, you think about Jacqueline Woodson, you think about Yuyi Morales, you think about in the Chicanolands Pat Mora. You think about the stuff that Arte Público has done.

I mean, my God, would we as a community have survived our childhoods if it wasn’t for something like Arte Público doing this work for us when we were all being erased? And so we’re in there and now I feel like finally the numbers are turning, and our awareness, and our refusal to live in this just unbearable white world is also turning.

That is the book of our childhoods as people of color. As immigrants. As people who were captured and forced to be slaves. This is a book that has many traumas in them. If we are only going to write children’s books, comprised of fictions of innocence, we will, by that very act, erase ourselves.”

What do you hope that non-children and adults of color will take away from this book?

What we’ve always wanted from everyone, whether it is inside or outside of our community, is to understand at the most profound level how human we are, and how deserving we are of sympathy and love, which is something that society spend an enormous amount of energy denying. And often we ourselves don’t give our communities sympathy or love. It’s a lesson we could all benefit from.

Where do you see children’s literature going in the next ten years?

I would argue that it has become very difficult to sell books. One can say that YA is blowing up, sure, but it’s mostly cannibalizing the adult market. Fiction numbers have dropped across the board. We’re in a tough situation in literary culture. Sorry if I’m a standard Asian-American kid, or if I’m a standard Latinx kid, there’s more that speaks to me online than there often is in literature, and I understand that.

We also live in a culture where no one is encouraged to preserve contemplative spaces. Which means that it’s harder to read. Despite these conditions, there’s no question we continue to maintain a robust literary culture even as it’s under assault. We’ll see. Hopefully we will be able to stop the crease and begin to some ways feel stronger, reach more readers, and hopefully the culture might slow down and give more space for things like reading.

Do you think you’ll write something like this again someday?

I’ve already written another book, so we’ll see. It’ll get to the artist soon – probably a year, year and a half. Now it’s time to get back to my novel. It’s been fun.

Junot Díaz’s Islandborn is in bookstores now from Dial Books for Young Readers.

Book rev. of Greña / Crazy Hair by Kianny Antigua

Gerald A. Padilla provides this book review for Check it out here:—grentildeacrazy-hair–latino-book-review.html


An endearing story about a young girl and her curly hair. Greña / Crazy Hair is a short yet empowering, bilingual, children’s book that addresses multiple themes of self-esteem and family love for parents and children to enjoy.

The energetic, curly haired girl, Kiara, teaches us how beautiful, strong, enigmatic and free her hair is, as she demonstrates its beauty and uniqueness through various positive activities. In this story, we witness a girl who embraces her appearance, giving a valuable example for the children of today.

The author, Kianny N. Angtigua has a clear goal in mind—that is to create culturally relevant children’s literature with strong and loving characters. Meanwhile, the illustrator, Vanessa Balleza, fills the pages with soft, fun and distinctive illustrations that will surely paint a smile on the readers face. 

Kianny N. Antigua (San Francisco de Macorís, Dominican Republic) is a Spanish Lecturer and writer. She has published Mía y el regalo de Guaguau / Mía and the Gift from Guaguau (C. Lit. 2017), Caléndula (Novel, 2016), among others. She received the XV Concurso Nacional de Cuento Sociedad Cultural Alianza Cibaeña, 2016 and the Premio Letras de Ultramar, Children’s Lit., 2015. Some of her stories have been translated to Italian, French and English.

Greña / Crazy Hair is a publication by Kianny N. Antigua. Click here to purchase.  

Junot Diaz coming to Austin

Wednesday, April 4th at 6:30 pm

speaking & signing

More information here:


  • The speaking portion of this event is free & open to the public.
  • Tickets are required to join the signing line. 
  • Tickets are only available with the purchase of a copy of Islandborn from BookPeople.
  • Books & tickets are now available to pre-order. Purchasing a book online automatically assigns you a ticket for the signing. There is no separate “ticket” item to add to your cart.
  • Tickets are lettered. The line for the signing will form according to ticket letter after the author speaks.
  • Keep checking this page for further guidelines as the event date approaches.

If you cannot make it to the event, you can still order a signed copy! Simply add the book to your cart and indicate SIGNED COPY. We ship all over the world!


Every kid in Lola’s school was from somewhere else.

Hers was a school of faraway places.

So when Lola’s teacher asks the students to draw a picture of where their families immigrated from, all the kids are excited. Except Lola. She can’t remember The Island—she left when she was just a baby. But with the help of her family and friends, and their memories—joyous, fantastical, heartbreaking, and frightening—Lola’s imagination takes her on an extraordinary journey back to The Island. As she draws closer to the heart of her family’s story, Lola comes to understand the truth of her abuela’s words: “Just because you don’t remember a place doesn’t mean it’s not in you.”

In Junot Diaz’s ‘Islandborn,’ A Curious Child Re-Creates Her Dominican Roots

Original post by Steve Inskeep and the actual interview can be found here:
Junot Díaz wanted to write a children’s book for more than 20 years. In the meantime, he wrote several grown-up books, including The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao, which won a Pulitzer Prize in 2008. He also won a MacArthur “Genius” Grant, among other accolades.

Now he has finished that children’s book. Islandborn is about a curious, Afro-Caribbean girl named Lola.

“She is an immigrant who came over so young, she has no memories of the land that she left behind,” Díaz says. “And of course she is surrounded by a community that talks endlessly about the island.”

She’s about 6 years old, the age Díaz was when he and his family fled to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic, which was torn apart by the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo. Islandborn, illustrated by Leo Espinosa, follows Lola’s quest to find out about the mysterious nation.

Interview Highlights

On what inspires Lola to find out more about the Dominican Republic

A teacher, you know, Ms. Obi, challenges them to draw a picture of their first home because Lola is in a school called “the school of faraway places,” and all the children in her school are immigrants. But Lola, of course, doesn’t have any memories. And so she and her teacher start devising a way that she be able to find a way to draw a picture by talking to and reaching out to the people around her who do remember.

On how she begins to reconstruct the island

Well, she gets into dialogue. I think what’s interesting is that the — often the questions of young people, you know, in some ways, they create an invitation for older people who have spent a lot of time sustaining certain kinds of silences. You know, if you’re in a family that has silences, a young person can sort of zero in on them and say, “Hey. Whatever happened to X?” Or “What is Y about?” She, in her very innocent and curious and energetic way, creates an opportunity for the community to have a reckoning with some of the history which it’s attempting to distance or disavow.

Mrs. Bernard, who sells Lola empanadas after school, says the thing she remembers most about “the Island” is the music.

Courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers

On how older people explain Trujillo’s dictatorship to her

Well, you know, one thing is sure is that there’s a number of tactics. You have some folks trying to discourage her, other folks trying to shut the door, but her persistence wins the day. And eventually someone sits down with her — Mr. Mir — and explains to her in highly metaphorical language, but I think [in] more honest and some ways more impactful than if he’d given her just a clinical description of it.

On describing Trujillo as a “monster” and the line “That’s why we’re all here.”

When we look at the discourses around immigration, it’s always this deficit model: “We didn’t have anything at home” or “We had less at home, and so we came here for more opportunities.” OK, that’s very, very comforting. There’s also the fact a lot of people come because political realities have uprooted them, have driven them from their homes.

Mr. Mir tells Lola of the brave people who fought “the monster,” referencing Trujillo’s dictatorship.

Courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers

On Trujillo’s dictatorship

I think he’s like most authoritarian, near-totalitarian dictators. There was no safety for people or families. Today, you could be walking down the street, and somebody who had Trujillo’s ear would want your house, and the next thing you know, you would be out of it. There was constant murder, constant torture. This was also a racial dictatorship, a violently Jim Crow-type dictatorship where people of dark skin, their lives were made much more difficult than the light-skinned people. It was a very bad period.

On how much Lola understands about the Dominican Republic by the end of the book

I would argue that young people are far more sophisticated than any adult gives them credit for. Adults are always imagining children to be less sophisticated than they really are. Lola, I think, is sophisticated. I think, as we see in the book, that she’s taken Mr. Mir’s story about this political monstrosity that’s seized her island to heart. It allows her, in some ways, to connect to her family more deeply and to herself, and ultimately leaves her far more — at least in my mind — leaves her in a better place than she was when she started.

Catherine Whelan and Jessica Smith produced and edited this interview for broadcast. Sydnee Monday adapted it for the Web.

Pura Belpré Award Winners 2018


The award is named after Pura Belpré, the first Latina librarian at the New York Public Library. The Pura Belpré Award, established in 1996, is presented annually to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth. It is co-sponsored by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), and REFORMA, the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-Speaking, an ALA affiliate.


2018 Author Award Winner  

Lucky Broken Girl, by Ruth Behar. Published by Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC

In Lucky Broken Girl, fifth-grader Ruthie Mizrahi, newly arrived to the United States from Cuba in the 1960’s, is confined to a full-body cast after a life-changing accident. Surrounded by her Cuban-Jewish family and a diverse group of neighbors, Ruthie finds strength and courage to heal and grow. The book was published byNancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

“Ruth Behar draws from her childhood experience to tell a story that celebrates Latinx experience while affirming the resilience of children facing both universal and specific challenges,”said Pura Belpré Award Committee Chair Alicia K. Long.

2018 llustrator Award Winner

La Princesa and the Pea, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal, written by Susan Middleton Elya, and published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC

La Princesa and the Pea is a tale set amid guinea pigs, stone arches, and fuzzy indigenous Peruvian textiles. Juana Martinez-Neal’s mischievous characters play out the classic princess-and-the-pea tale—with a twist. Cultural elements inspired by the Peruvian village of Huilloc and the Colca Canyon add vibrancy and playfulness in Martinez-Neal’s acrylic and colored pencil illustrations.

“Martinez-Neal’s masterful character and setting design, along with her incorporation of Peruvian cultural elements, make this book exquisite and unmatched,” said Pura Belpré Award Committee Chair Alicia K. Long.

2018 Author Honor Books

The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora, by Pablo Cartaya. Published by Viking, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC

In The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora, Arturo spends the summer working at his beloved Abuela’s Cuban restaurant in a Miami neighborhood. When Arturo learns of a greedy land developer’s plans to tear down the building, he enlists the help of his friends to save the restaurant. This humorous coming-of-age tale celebrates family, music and poetry, and embraces failure as a springboard to growth.

The First Rule of Punk, by Celia C. Pérez. Published by Viking, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC

12-year-old Malú O’Neill-Morales is biracial, Latinx, and punk. Tasked with being a “señorita,”she instead follows the first rule of punk: “Be Yourself.” Malú creates zines about her inner thoughts while navigating a new school where she’s not seen as Latinx enough, starting a punk band along the way.

2018 Illustrator Honor Books

All Around Us, illustrated by Adriana M. Garcia, written by Xelena González, and published by Cinco Puntos Press

The cycle of life is explored through the eyes of a grandfather and his granddaughter, in the Mestizo tradition. Vivid digital images use colorful contours and vibrant color to depict visible and invisible circles in everyday life.

Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos, illustrated by John Parra, written by Monica Brown, and published by NorthSouth Books, Inc., an imprint of NordSüd Verlag AG

The connections between Frida Kahlo and her xoloitzcuintles, monkeys, turkeys, and other pets are palpable in John Parra’s warm, expressive acrylic illustrations. Details of Mexican folk art ground the story as facial and body expressions from Frida and animalitos reinforce their relationship, showing how Frida was comforted and inspired by her pets and how her personality was shaped by and reflected in them.

Junot Díaz Draws from Immigrant Experience in Debut Children’s Book

original post by Alex Green for Publishers Weekly found here:

The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, among other acclaimed books for adults, is finally ending what he calls “the epoch of disappointment” by publishing his first children’s book, Islandborn (Dial, Mar. 13).

“If you’re a writer and you have young people in your life,” Junot Díaz told PW, “they naturally demand that you write them books.” For years, Díaz had nothing to share with his goddaughters, nieces, and nephews. “I always had the sense that they thought I was something of a fraud,” he said.

Now all of that is about to change with his latest effort: a picture book, illustrated by Leo Espinosa, which tells the story of Lola, an immigrant from the Island, who is growing up in New York City. When her teacher asks the class to draw a picture of where they’re from, Lola can’t remember the Island. So she interviews the people in her neighborhood to find out about it.

For Díaz, the story reflects the Dominican expat community in the U.S. that surrounds him. “I have a lot of young people in my life whose parents are immigrants, and they may have come over when they were really young. They don’t have the memories of their place, yet they live surrounded by it,” he said.

Childhood Inspiration

Díaz also drew on his own experiences emigrating to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic as a child. Even though he was a voracious reader, he said that he still felt “stigmatized as being behind and remedial.” That only made him read more.

Díaz was aided by his school librarian, who he sought out relentlessly for recommendations, starting with picture books. “I burned a hole through a lot of Richard Scarry books, because you don’t need English to read them,” Díaz said. Within a few years, he was reading chapter books and soon fell in love with Richard Adams’s Watership Down, which he still reads once a year.

Within the plot of the fable-like story, he said, he sees a very real political tale. “These rabbits seek a new life across the countryside after their home is destroyed by developers.” Yet Díaz says the book’s capacity to draw his imagination is what brings him back to it year after year. “It’s hopeful and it’s a consolation to imagine small defenseless animals running the universe.”

In many ways, his views on Watership Down speak to Díaz’s upbringing as a whole, and its effect on his writing today. “When you grow up poor or ‘other’ in this society, it feels deeply dystopic,” he noted. “Your greatest weapon is imagination.”

Despite his affinity for the artistic style of the 1970s picture books that he discovered when he immigrated to New York, Díaz said he was always disappointed that people of color were not reflected in them. In writing Islandborn, he said, “I wanted a book about Dominicans and Caribbeans in that style.”

Working with Espinosa gave him the opportunity to achieve that—and to boost his confidence about writing for young readers. “It’s intimidating to write a picture book. The level of quality is so damn high,” said Díaz. “There is nothing better in the world than [to work with] somebody who is so talented they can make your ass look good.”

Just to be safe, Díaz tested drafts of the book out with friends and their children before submitting them to his editor at Dial, Namrata Tripathi. At times, he says, the children’s honesty could be brutal. “If you think wannabe writers have no filter on Twitter, try young readers when they’re staring you in the face.” But the truth was what he needed to create a book he felt could satisfy a larger reading audience. In the end, he said that sharing drafts of the book with six-year olds “was the only thing I could do.”

Despite his initial intimidation, Díaz has signed on to write another children’s book for Dial. A notoriously painstaking writer, he joked that he should have it ready for publication “in under 18 years.”

Islandborn by Junot Díaz, illus. by Leo Espinosa. Dial, $17.99 Mar. 13 ISBN 978-0-7352-2986-0

Remezcla’s “These Were the Best Books From Latin American & Latino Authors in 2017”

The end of a year usually means a lot of lists…This is a good one by Alejandra Oliva for Remezcla:

So many of the books published by Latino authors this year seemed to be working in response to our burning dumpster fire of a political climate. Valeria Luiselli’s Tell Me How it Ends and Javier Zamora’s Unaccompanied dealt directly with the child migrant crisis and the violence and injustice of borders through non-fiction and poetry, respectively. Carmen Maria Machado, Cristina Rivera Garza, and Mariana Enriquez all used horror story tropes to deal with the real-life horror of violence against women; Samanta Schweblin and Juan Villoro do the same with environmental issues. We also were lucky enough to get straight-up radical joy and sorrow from poets like Melissa Lozada-Oliva, and Marcela Huerta and memoirist Miryam Gurba.

These books are all worth a read, whether to transport you to a totally different world, like the California gold rush in In the Distance or a Brooklyn suffused with old magic in Shadowhouse Fall, or to engage with the world and see it all the more clearly, no matter how difficult the looking may be.

Without further ado, here’s a list of 15 unmissable books from 2017.

‘Tell Me How It Ends’ by Valeria Luiselli (Coffee House)

Hands down the most important book of the year, Luiselli’s non-fiction account of her work with undocumented child migrants is loosely based around the questionnaire they are asked to fill out to apply for asylum, and woven through with her own experiences traversing the bureaucracies of American immigration. Tell Me How It Ends leaves the question of its title urgently unanswered, and lights a fire under the reader to get them involved.

‘Unaccompanied’ by Javier Zamora (Copper Canyon Press)

This book and Luiselli’s make perfect companions – where Luiselli focuses on the systemic and overwhelming nature of child migration, Zamora takes us into the the intimacies of the experience. Born in El Salvador, Zamora crossed the border to rejoin his parents in California at the age of 9. Unaccompanied is the story of that journey, told through poems that expand details to the size of the Sonora, from cooking with his grandmother, to the thirst that accompanies you through the desert.

‘In the Distance’ by Hernan Diaz (Coffee House Press)

This is a wild, sprawling novel about the American West and the inside of one man’s head. Hakan is a Swedish immigrant stranded in California during the gold rush with no money and no English, desperately trying to reach his brother in New York. Diaz writes the experience of being a stranger as well as anyone (there’s a full page of “English” as Hakan hears it that is perfect), and In the Distancedeals beautifully with the endless expanse of a country, and the claustrophobic space of a mind after trauma. Diaz’s book is a brilliant, brainy adventure story that will stay with you long after you read the last page.

‘Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos,’ written by Monica Brown and Illustrated by John Parra (NorthSouth Books)

A gorgeous, lovingly illustrated picture book about Frida Kahlo, and all the animals that she had as pets and that recur in her art. It reflects cleverly back on Frida’s art by talking about all the different ways she embodied her animals – she loved dressing herself in colors like her parrot, and was independent like her cats –  thereby keeping Frida’s biography light for younger readers.

‘The Iliac Crest’ by Cristina Rivera Garza, translated by Sarah Booker (Feminist Press)

This creepy feminist ghost story has it all: Hitchcockian body-doubles, the ghost of forgotten Mexican writer Amparo Davila, a lonely asylum by the sea, a slow descent into madness. Written as a response to the rising tide of femicide throughout Latin America, The Iliac Crest uses these horror-movie tropes to deal with topics of female erasure, violence, and borders. This book is unsettling and strange and so, so good.

‘Shadowhouse Fall’ by Daniel José Older (Arthur A. Levine)

The second book in DJO’s Shadowhunter YA seriesShadowhouse Fall brings us right back to Sierra’s old-world-magic inflected Brooklyn, where an epic battle between good and evil rages across Prospect Park and into Flatbush. Older has a sharp ear for the way teens talk, a fierce commitment to bringing real-world issues like police brutality and colonialism to bear on his magical Brooklyn, and masterful command of both white-knuckle adventure pacing and cute-as-hell teen romance.

‘Peluda’ by Melissa Lozada-Oliva (Button Poetry)

“Maybe someday i’ll actually be chill / like the white girls, the ones who don’t shave / for political reason, the ones who took / an entire election cycle to grow / out a tuft of armpit hair.” I laughed out loud on the train at this line in Melissa Lozada-Oliva’s Peluda. You might recognize her from some of her slam poetry videos – “Like, Totally, Whatever” has over 750,000 views on YouTube alone. Lozada-Oliva’s first book, Peluda, is what it says on the tin: a book about body hair, and families and girlhood, and it will make you laugh and then break your heart.

‘Kingdom Cons’ by Yuri Herrera, translated by Lisa Dillman (And Other Stories)

The third part of the loosely-connected trilogy of life on the border that also includes Signs Preceeding the End of the World, and The Transmigration of BodiesKingdom Cons is, at least on the surface, about a bard, a singer of narco-corridos for The King. Going deeper, Herrera’s recurring themes begin cropping up: a single person, in the midst of a violent, chaotic environment, searching for some form of tenderness. As always, Herrera, in collaboration with his translator, Lisa Dillman, capture and create a language all their own.

‘Mean’ by Myriam Gurba (Emily Books/Coffee House)

Mean somehow manages to be a hilarious book about sexual assault, trauma, and hauntedness. Gurba is a mean, queer Chicana growing up in a mostly-white town in California. Mean is her coming-of-age story, and covers everything from the disappointment of white people food to the joys of skipping school. Further, her joyous reclamation of meanness, of bitchiness, her insistence on it as her holy mission is delightful. A mishmash of wildly diverging references, from Michael Jackson to Walter Benjamin, Cindi Lauper to girl saints, Gurba’s book is an utterly unique exploration of girlhood, trauma, and growing up.

‘Her Body and Other Parties’ by Carmen Maria Machado (Graywolf)

If you haven’t heard of Carmen Maria Machado’s book at this point in the year, you must have been living under a rock. Her debut collection of short stories hit the National Book Award longlist before it even came out, and made it to the shortlist a few weeks later. Since then, it’s made dozens of best-of lists, and praise has been heaped on it from all directions. The. Hype. Is. Real. Machado’s postapocalyptic/horror/sci-fi-ish/incredible short stories are meant to worm into the darkest parts of your brain and stay there – especially the opener, “The Husband Stitch.” If you remember the I-Can-Read classic, “The Green Ribbon,” you know there’s an absolutely bone-chilling story coming.

‘Tropico’ by Marcela Huerta (Metatron)

A book of poetry and prose that spiral around violence, a difficult father, being the child of immigrants, girlhood, and memory. The title poem, “Tropico,” tells the story of Huerta’s parents immigration from Chile through a Rollercoaster-Tycoon-style computer game about dictatorships – a brilliant mashup of old world and new. Huerta’s writing is by turns tough and tender, but always brilliant and startling and emotionally astute.

‘Things We Lost in the Fire’ by Mariana Enríquez, translated by Megan McDowell (Riverhead)

A series of deeply Argentine short stories, circling around real-life news items like addiction epidemics and illegal abortions. Standout stories include “The Intoxicated Years,” a story of drugs and female friendship told in a haunting, Greek-chorus style, and “Adela’s House,” an absolutely terrifying story I won’t say any more about for fear of spoiling it.

‘Fever Dream’ by Samanta Schweblin, translated by Megan McDowell (Riverhead)

Both this book and Things We Lost in the Fire have a lot in common. Both are by Argentine women, were published by the same house, and translated by the same person, and both had the power to keep me awake at night. However, Fever Dream is totally and completely its own nightmare. Similar to the work of authors like Jeff VanderMeer, a completely calm and quiet narrator slowly and methodically describes increasingly disturbing events, all leading to a meditation on toxins, mother’s love, and the destruction of the earth.

“I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter” by Erika L. Sánchez (Knopf Books for Young Readers)

15-year-old Julia’s life starts to spin out of control when her perfect older sister, Olga, dies. What follows is a pitch-perfect account of what it is like to be a Mexican daughter who doesn’t want to stay acomodadita at home, who longs for bigger things than what she finds in the neighborhood, who carries family secrets. Julia’s anger and sadness and confusion and joy all got to my slightly-older imperfect Mexican daughter self. A perfect gift either for the best teen you know, or for yourself.

“The Revolutionaries Try Again” by Mauro Javier Cardenas (Coffee House)

This debut novel from Ecuadorian author Mauro Javier Cardenas is a dizzying, fractured narrative of Ecuadorian politics, failed insurrection, failed ambition, and failed friendship. The book centers on a group of friends from the same Catholic school as they grow up and change themselves and their country. The book’s style can be tricky – the story is told through fragments – of school stories, of lives, of sentences, of words, even, and circles back on itself time and time again, but the end product is a brilliant constellation of ambition, friendship, and the responsibilities we have to the place we were born.

New book: La Nochebuena: A Christmas Story

Original post by Rene Colato Lainez found here:

Written by Antonio Sacre

Illustrated by Angela Dominguez

Age Range: 5 – 7 years

Grade Level: Preschool – 3

Hardcover: 32 pages

Publisher: Harry N. Abrams

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0810989670

ISBN-13: 978-0810989672

Nina is visiting her grandmother in Miami for Christmas. Usually she spends it in snowy New England with her mother and her family, but this year is different. She isn’t certain what to make of a hot and humid holiday, until she learns the traditions of her father’s side of the family from her Cuban grandmother. She helps prepare for the evening and takes part in all their traditions—the intricate cooking for the feast, the dancing, the music, and the gathering of relatives and neighbors. It all comes together for a Noche Buena that Nina will never forget.

Antonio Sacre and Angela Dominguez have created a wonderful story that everyone who celebrates Christmas will enjoy. The book includes a glossary of Spanish words.


Dominguez’s bright acrylics convey calm and joy, while Sacre’s visceral prose captures the voice of a child gaining assurance, as well as the kindness and mutual respect of a loving extended family. –Publisher Weekly

A warm bit of holiday diversity. Diane Olivo-Posner, Los Angeles Public Library – School Library Journal

A memorable celebration, equally suited to reading alone or aloud, and rich in joyful, intimate family feeling. Grades 2-4. –John Peters- Booklist


Antonio Sacre is a Cuban-American writer, storyteller, and performance artist. He lives in Los Angeles. Visit him online at

Angela Dominguez was born in Mexico City and lives in northern California. She illustrated Ava Tree and the Wishes Three and Carmen Learns English. Visit her online at