SLJ Review of the Day by Betsy Bird

I’ll admit I’m still pretty new to writing for children, but when I first stepped into it a few years ago, one of the first names I heard over and over again was Betsy Bird. She’s a children’s librarian and she reviews kid lit. Then, I heard her speak at a writing conference I attended in Virginia last year, and I knew why she was such a big deal. She’s a woman with a genuine and contagious passion for children’s literature who knows her stuff inside out and outside down and up. Last month, she wrote a review of Lucía the Luchadora on her blog hosted on the School Library Journal’s website. If I told you I got a little emotional when reading the review I’d be lying.

I had a torrent of feels.

Because reading reviews is a new thing for me, and it’s not quite like sitting at a parent-teacher conference and listening to the teacher give you feedback on your child. And Lucía is kinda like my child. Or like the feedback your writing critique partners give you. It’s more like Ultimate Feedback, because your book has been written and is out there, and can’t be changed. It’s done.

And those feels I had, well, they went beyond the book because when Betsy Bird reviews a book she’s putting it in a wider context. She starts this review by talking about an experience she had as a librarian where kids were looking for books on lucha libre, and she didn’t have anything to offer them because those books are few and far between. I have a deep respect for young readers and the sorts of stories they crave and deserve, and I’m thankful to Ms. Bird for making her review of this book about them, too.

It’s a long and thorough-as-can-be review, which also blew me away. Here are some of the highlights:

And then, this year, I saw Lucia the Luchadora and something in me broke wide open. Cleverly equating luchadoras with superheroes while tackling issues of sexism and cultural assumptions head on, this is the book that gave my 5-year-old daughter the idea to create her own luchadora outfits in fine and fancy style. Literally inspirational.

Of course, it’s not as if the North American market is positively overflowing with Latino-American picture books. In spite of the existence of the Pura Belpre Awards for Latino/Latina writers and illustrators, a study conducted by the CCBC in 2015 found that only 2.5% of picture books published contained characters with Latinx backgrounds. Garza’s choice to make the book culturally appropriate AND massively appealing in its subject matter is remarkable. We hear a lot about kids needing more diverse books and this is very true. But we additionally need more fun diverse books, and “Lucia” fits that need perfectly.

This is a book that positively sizzles on the page. Much of the credit of this sizzling action goes to Ms. Garza, author extraordinaire. Right from the start she’s acting on some pretty classic comic book tropes. Onomatopoetic words appear beside Lucia as she goes “POW” and “BAM” like a classy episode of the classic Batman and Robin television show from the 60s.

And did I mention the endpapers? Boy, you know I like a book when I start waxing eloquent on endpapers. The first ones you see display testimonial images to both Lucia’s abuela’s life (wedding photos, pictures of her cat, icons of Mary, lighted candles) and her loves (El Santo, her luchadora mask, etc.).

Children’s librarians are hemmed in by the constraints of the publishing industry. If they don’t make ’em, we can’t buy ’em. That’s why a book like Lucia the Luchadora is so important. Funny, exciting, and truly beautiful, this book is good for what ails you. Kids will eat it up with a spoon but beware. After reading this book they may want to know even MORE about luchadores and luchadoras. You better get ready to answer their questions. I suggest you bone up on your reading now. Start with this book. You hardly find one better.

 

Interview with Houston Chronicle

While I was in Texas a few weeks ago on book tour, I talked with the Houston Chronicle about Lucía, writing and why I made the leap from journalism to writing for children. You can read the story here. Here’s some of what we talked about:

Garza, who has a background in journalism and writing, said she wanted to write her first picture book for kids like her — and for kids like her daughters. “I was looking for something I wasn’t finding,” she said: picture books that featured kids who looked like her kids.

Just a few years ago, a study by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center study revealed that only about 3 percent of kids’ books are by or about Latinos. “Animals and trucks are more widely represented in children’s books than Latinos,” Garza said. So she wrote “Lucía the Luchadora,” hoping to make a small dent in that statistic.

Of course, that’s not the only reason I decided to write for children, but it’s the one that gives me the greatest feeling of urgency in doing so. Below is a graphic of that study referenced in the article. Looking at those figures should give everyone – parents, educators, writers, librarians, bookstore owners, book buyers, the publishing industry – a sense of urgency.

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SLJ Starred Review for Lucía the Luchadora

The School Library Journal, the premiere publication for librarians and information specialists who work with children and teens, has given Lucía the Luchadora a Starred Review. And their verdict:

A shining debut outing for author and illustrator, this endearing and humorous title is sure to put a bit of KA-POW into storytimes! A must-have.

Wowzies. Danke. Actually, when I read the story aloud at a story time, I have the kids yell out back to me the KA-POWs and BAMs after I say them, and sometimes I have them give me a superhero pose while they say it. I call it a lucha libre warm up. It seems to make the kids hold their head up a little more, puff their chest out a bit more. Seeing this has made me think of Amy Cuddy’s TED talk on how body language shapes who you are:

Body language affects how others see us, but it may also change how we see ourselves. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy shows how “power posing” — standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don’t feel confident — can affect testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain, and might even have an impact on our chances for success.

For girls and boys, striking superhero poses while yelling out KA-POW and BAM isn’t just fun. I think it can actually go a long way in helping them find the hero and the courage and confidence they all have within.

 

Author Interview with La Casa Azul Bookstore

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I did an author Q&A with La Casa Azul Bookstore recently. They do this great Author Profile series of Latinx writers and artists who have upcoming books. It’s a weekly series that comes through their newsletter – so sign up for it!

 

Q&A with Colorín Colorado: Encouraging Little Girls to Be Fearless

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I did this Q & A with Colorín Colorado recently where I talked about the inspiration behind my book Lucía the Luchadora, my childhood memories of lucha libre, and why this story was meant to be a picture book. Check it out.

While you’re on their website, you should also check out the terrific booklists they’ve created for children and young adults – all celebrating a wide range of cultures, languages, perspectives and experiences. Basically, books that represent my every day world and experience. Yes, yes and yes!

Colorín Colorado is really a gem of a website, full of resources for educators, families and students who are English language learners (ELLs) in grades preK-12. They are an educational service of WETA, the local PBS station in Washington, DC, and are supported by the American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association. So of course, they also have great booklists for educators who work with ELLs.

Ah, I can’t get enough of booklists. Thanks Colorín Colorado for the great questions.

 

 

Curriculum Guide download for Lucía the Luchadora

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CLICK ON IMAGE TO DOWNLOAD PDF

I love teachers. Literally love them. My mother and father were both teachers. I’ve got SIL’s who are teachers, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends who are teachers. I was even a teacher for a short time in between college and graduate school, many, many years ago. Educators are close to my heart, and there’s nothing I love more than seeing – no, feeling – that spark in a classroom that happens when good teaching is at work. It’s like magic, beautiful magic.

So when Lucía the Luchadora got close to the printing phase, I started thinking about creating a curriculum guide to go with the book. I turned to an education expert – well, she’s actually a good friend of mine – my comadre Giselle and asked if she knew anyone who could create a guide. OF COURSE! she said enthusiastically, and put me in touch straight away with Becky Palacios, teacher extraordinaire, whom I had met a few years ago. Becky, ahem, Dr. Rebecca Palacios, was a preschool teacher for over thirty years in Corpus Christi, Texas, which is a city not far from where I grew up (also home of Selena!!!). She’s a mover-and-shaker kind of educator, and in 2014 she was inducted into the National Teachers Hall of Fame. Becky is a real life luchadora!

The curriculum guide Becky created to go with Lucía the Luchadora is nothing short of awesome. Its filled with questions, lessons, ideas, and conversation starters for the classroom. It can be used for little ones and older students. And my favorite part is that it also includes lessons for English language learners.

I hope this curriculum guide inspires educators to make magic, beautiful magic in their classrooms. I’d love to hear from teachers all about it. Send me a message on Twitter anytime!

Lucía the Luchadora an Amazon Editor’s Pick for Best Books of the Month for March

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Thrilled that the editors at Amazon.com have selected Lucía the Luchadora as one of six Best Books of the Month for March for picture books ages 3-5. Look at it, right next to Mac Barnett and R.J. Palacio books!!!!!

**faints**

 

 

Kirkus Starred Review for Lucía the Luchadora

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Kirkus has given Lucía the Luchadora a Starred Review! Here’s an excerpt:

Garza shines in her children’s debut. The text bursts with infectious energy and Lucía’s endearing personality … Likewise, Bermudez’s colorful, buoyant illustrations radiate pure joy. Nifty text placement, variations in type color, and use of sound effects add to this delightful package, making it a joy for readers to root for this plucky young girl. A KA-POW kind of wonderful.

The entire review can be found here.

Got my Lucía the Luchadora Advance Copy!

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And here she is, the long-awaited arrival: 1.2 lbs., 32 pages and full of spunk and splendor!

As my editor told me when she first saw the book, the photo doesn’t do this cover justice. It really is a beautiful and striking cover, and the colors just pop. I can’t wait to display this on my picture frame floating bookshelves in my office. Lucía’s illustrator Alyssa Bermudez and the whole team at POW! Kids did an outstanding job. BRAVO!

In other good news, the release date for the book has been moved up to March 7 instead of April. It’s available for pre-order now.

There’s also now an official Lucía the Luchadora Facebook fan page where we’ll list any events or info related to the book. Give it a Like! And let us know on the FB page if you have a local bookstore that you think should carry this little lucha libre libro (say that five times really fast!), and we’ll reach out to them.

Lucía the Luchadora Cover

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The cover to Lucía the Luchadora has been released, and isn’t it a beauty?! The book’s amazing illustrator Alyssa Bermudez has been hard at work these past few months on the art, and I’ve gotta say, it’s been super cool to watch the story come to life. Can’t wait for it to be out in the world.

The book is set to be released April 11, 2017, but is already available for pre-order.