Posts Tagged #WNDB

The Latinx Kidlit Book Festival

We Need Diverse MG

Artwork by Aixa Perz-Prado

Here at WE NEED DIVERSE MG, we are super excited about the Latinx Kidlit Book Festival coming up in less than two weeks. The virtual festival runs from December 4 to 5, 2020, and was created by a collective of women and non-binary Latinx kdilit writers called Las Musas.  Many of us know Las Musas for their support of aspiring Latinx creators and for their beautiful books.

Who Will Be There?

I was lucky to be able to talk to Mayra Cuevas, Ismee Williams and Alex Villasante who headed up the Latinx Kidlit Book Festival steering committee.

latinx organizers

APP: Congratulations on the exciting Latinx Kidlit Book Festival! Can you tell me about some of what we can expect at the online event?

MAYRA: We have an incredible lineup! Over 150 authors and illustrators representing a wide and diverse range of experiences and ties to Latin America. Their work includes picture books, middle grade and young adult novels, graphic novels, comic books and poetry. We wanted the panel topics to cover themes that are important to the Latinx community in a way that is accessible to everyone.

ALEX: We have amazing, award-winning Middle Grade authors in our lineup, like National Book Award-finalist Ibi Zoboi, author of MY LIFE AS AN ICE CREAM SANDWICH. We also have Meg Medina, author of Newbery Award winner, MERCI SUÁREZ CHANGES GEARS. And Rebecca Barcárcel, author of the Pura Belpré Honor Book, THE OTHER HALF OF HAPPY. Other notable MG authors include Margarita Engle, Monica Brown, Lilliam Rivera, Daniel José Older and Yamile Saied Méndez—just to name a few!

ISMEE: We also will have interactive events, including a poetry slam, illustrator draw off’s, a graphic novel/cartooning panel including Raúl the Third and Axur Eneas. And even a few music and dance interludes.

Coming Together to Celebrate Latinx Creators

APP: That sounds like so much fun! I am a huge fan of many of those authors and look forward to getting to know more of them through the festival. I know that so many Latinx creators are eagerly anticipating this event. Can you tell me what sparked the idea for the festival?

MAYRA: Both Ismee and I have books that came out early in the pandemic. We quickly had to pivot to all virtual events. In May we were invited to participate at the Everywhere Book Festival, led by three amazing authors, Christina Soontornvat, Ellen Oh and Melanie Conklin. We wondered what it would be like to have a similar event for the Latinx community. We wanted to create a space where book lovers everywhere could come together to celebrate Latinx authors, illustrators and their books. Thanks to the help of Las Musas Books members, dozens of volunteers, sponsors and community partners the dream quickly became a reality.

latinx festival coming soon

APP: It is truly incredible how quickly you were able to put this festival together, and in the midst of a pandemic! What was your vision for the project, and what challenges did you face?

ISMEE: We created the Latinx Kidlit Book Festival because we want to give back to those who have been hard hit by the pandemic: students, educators and parents. We want to give the gift of story and art to any child and family who is able to tune in–and not just Latinx families but all families. We hope to provide a virtual field trip experience for classrooms, with programming that spans from pre-K through 12th grade, including picture books, middle grade, graphic novels, poetry and young adult.

Resources for Teachers and Students

latinx student teacher graphic

APP: That sounds great! I hope many teachers are able to take advantage of everything the Latinx Kidlit Book Festival has to offer. Tell me about your resources for educators.

ISMEE: Educator guides for specific festival books are located on our website for easy access and download under the Educator Tab. We also created, with the help of wonderful volunteers, two festival educator guides, one for elementary and one for secondary school students. These Latinx Kidlit Book Festival Educator Guides will allow teachers to bring the festival into the classroom so students may learn about festival authors, illustrators and their works.

We also have a number of author and illustrator Flipgrid introduction videos available to assist students. Answer questions are found in the educator guides. Finally, we are encouraging all students to submit their own questions for our festival participants ahead of time. We want kids and teens to feel engaged and to know that we value them and their own creativity and curiosity! To make it even more exciting, we are offering book giveaways (a huge thank you goes out to all the publishers who generously have donated cartons of books)! If a student’s question is selected for use in the festival, that student will be entered into a drawing to win a set of books for their entire classroom. Winners will be announced during the festival, so be sure to tune in!

Latinx Kidlit Festival Partners and Sponsors

call for kids questions

APP: That really sounds like a lot of fun for the kids! What about your partners and sponsors? How have they contributed to this project?

ALEX: With the Latinx Kidlit Book Festival we wanted to create a network of support in the community. We knew that some would be able to support us financially and some would not.

A Community Partner, like Miami Book Fair, The Highlights Foundation or Latinx In Kidlit, can use their social media reach to get our message to as many readers, educators and kids as possible. They also help by giving us a team of amazing volunteers who work so hard to help us get everything in place.

We’re 100% volunteer run, so that’s a huge benefit! Sponsors, like Penguin, Harper Collins, and Macmillan play a very special role. Their financial support helps fund tools for the festival, like professional producers and real-time transcription and captioning. We’re also so fortunate to have sponsors like SCBWI and NCTE – organizations that support writers and educators and see the value of putting capital behind Latinx creators. Because, at the end of the day, supporting this festival sends a message of solidarity with the Latinx community and marginalized voices. It says—loud and muy claro—Latinx creators, books and art are worthy of investment.

Success and Suerte

APP: Clarisimo! Beyond the obvious,  what are your hopes for the festival? What does success look like?

MAYRA: We want kids, educators and book lovers everywhere to come together to celebrate the voice and talent of Latinx authors and illustrators. Ultimately, we want to create an infinite bookshelf for our community, in which there is room for countless stories. We want stories that portray the complexities of our world, and illuminate profound moments of loss and grief. We also want stories that celebrate the love and joy in all the things we hold dear.

ISMEE: We want to showcase the beauty in the wide diversity of Latinx identities that encompasses multiple races, traditions, and countries of origin. We also want to emphasize that Latinx stories are not just for the Latinx community. A good story speaks to the larger human experience and will resonate with readers no matter their backgrounds. I see this festival as an opportunity not only for the Latinx kidlit book community to come together but for all lovers of kidlit to join in the celebration of story and diversity and life.

Latinx Kidlit Book Festival

APP: I couldn’t agree with your more. Representation matters and the wide diversity of what it means to be Latinx is keenly felt by so many of us. I know that as a young Latinx immigrant from Argentina, I certainly searched for someone like me in my books. Unfortunately, I was never able to find characters that represented my experience. I am so happy that little Latinxers today are able to see more of themselves and their families in children’s literature! Thank you so much for sharing this event with us and we hope that many of our readers will be in attendance.

And now, how about a giveaway? The Latinx Kidlit Book Festival organizers have kindly donated some awesome giveaways! Like, retweet and follow @LatinxKidLitBF and @MIxedUpFiles on twitter for a chance to win! Two winners will be chosen, US only, please.

Prizes: A copy of The Other Half of Happy by Rebecca Balcárcel & Into the Tall, Tall Grass by Loriel Ryon!


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A Second Life for the Hannah West books by Linda Johns (And a Giveaway)

Have you ever searched for a well-loved book, only to find that it was out of print? Several years ago, former librarian and bookseller Nancy Pearl decided to do something about that by giving a few of her favorite books a second life.

The former Executive Director of the Washington Center for the Book, regular commentator on NPR’s “Morning Edition,” and author of Book Lust to Go, Book Crush, and more, created Book Lust Rediscoveries, a series of reprints for adults. Out of that program, grew Book Crush Rediscoveries, specifically for kids.

This month we’re celebrating the rediscovery of books by our own MUF contributor, Linda Johns: Hannah West: Sleuth in Training and Hannah West: Sleuth on the Trail.












First, here’s a little bit about Nancy Pearl’s Book Crush Rediscoveries:

MUF: Why did you feel there was a need for such a series of reprints?

NP: I’ve always felt that there were so many wonderful books (both for adults and children) that have gone out of print and I wanted new generations of readers to discover them and enjoy them as much as I had.

MUF: How many books have been given a second life through Book Crush Rediscoveries?

NP: There will be eleven books total. The last one, coming out this September, is Bonny Becker’s The Christmas Crocodile, which is wonderfully illustrated by David Small.

MUF: How many books do you do per year?

NP: Unfortunately, the publication of Bonny’s book brings the project to an end. It’s a bigger job than you might think to do reprints of older titles, because first you have to find who owns the copyright and then track them down. It takes the skills of a detective to do this, involving reading everything from obituaries to Facebook posts. One of my former students at the University of Michigan tracked down eleven of the twelve authors for the adult series—he was terrific at it. I ended up doing most of the searching for the children’s series. I remember trying to find the heirs of Carol Ryrie Brink (author of Caddie Woodlawn as well as the three books I wanted to reprint). This involved calling a county museum in Idaho in the hope that they happened to have some contact information for her heirs. And then you have to hope that they’re interested in having the book reprinted—the authors of at least two of the books I wanted to reprint didn’t want to be part of the project for various reasons.

MUF: What made you decide that a book needed to be back in print?

NP: Really, my only criteria for what books to include were how much I loved them—how much I loved reading them to my own daughters and granddaughters (using my own, well-read copies) and, years ago, recommending them to children when I was a children’s librarian.

Thank you so much, Nancy, for dropping by and for your contribution to literature for adults and children.

Click here to find the eleven titles in the Nancy Pearl Book Crush Rediscoveries series.

Now let’s hear from Linda Johns on the rediscovery of Hannah West:

MUF: First, congratulations that your Hannah West books are back in print. How long had they been out of print?

LJ: Thank you! There were four books in the series, first published by Penguin’s Puffin/Sleuth imprint. They’ve been out of print for three to four years. Nancy Pearl’s Book Crush Rediscoveries program (Two Lions Publishing) bundled two titles into one book (there are now two books, rather than four) and gave them new titles and cover art to differentiate them from the originals.

MUF: Your books are about a girl detective. What were your influences when writing them?

LJ: I’m a big mystery lover (my all-time favorite is The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin), and I’m also completely in love with my town (Seattle) and its many distinct neighborhoods. I wanted to find a plot structure that would allow my character, Hannah, to explore new neighborhoods and solve a mystery or two along the way. Combining those two elements led to making Hannah and her mom professional house sitters.

MUF: Was the character of Hannah based on anyone in particular?

LJ: I based the character of Hannah on one of my favorite girls, who happens to have been born in China and adopted by an American family. I didn’t know of any books at that time with a main character who was Chinese-born and adopted as a baby and brought to the US. In fact, there were very few books that represented the people I know and see every day. We have obviously been in need of more diversity in children’s books, and I’m happy to see that the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign is bringing that message to a large audience.

MUF: Did you have to make any changes in the novels to reflect modern day technology or anything else?

LJ: We left the novels as they were, with another round of copy editing and proofreading. They were published pre-iPhone era, but Hannah does have a cell phone for emergencies since she’s a latch-key kid, and she moves so often. Lack of technology in a story makes crime solving a bit more difficult for the detective—and a lot more fun for the writer.

MUF: What has Nancy Pearl’s Book Crush Rediscoveries publishing program meant to you as a writer and a librarian?

LJ: This is just one more way—a quite substantial way—that the wonderful Nancy Pearl advocates for readers. It isn’t a gimmick or bestseller status that will connect a reader with a book; it’s getting the right book at the right time. A book needs to be in print and available for that book match to occur.

Thanks so much , Linda, for taking the time out to tell us about your books. Readers can learn more about Linda, her books, and her book recommendations here.


Linda is offering one lucky reader, who leaves a comment, a chance to win signed paperbacks of Hannah West: Sleuth in Training and Hannah West: Sleuth on the Trail. Comment before Tuesday, January 26, 2016, at midnight to be eligible for the raffle.

Dorian Cirrone has written several books for children and teens. Her middle-grade novel, The First Last Day, which takes place on the New Jersey Shore, will be published in June 2016 by S&S/Aladdin. You can find her on Facebook and on Twitter as @DorianCirrone. She gives writing tips and does occasional giveaways on her blog at:




A Chat (& a Giveaway!) with Tracey Baptiste about her new book, The Jumbies

Tracey Baptiste has written numerous nonfiction books for children and the YA novel Angel’s Grace. The Jumbies, a creepy tale that captures the spirit and folklore of Baptiste’s native Trinidad, is her first middle-grade novel. Tracy took time out to chat with us about telling the stories from her childhood, writing for the middle-grade audience, and books from her childhood that inspired her.

JA: Tracey, you’ve written for both middle-grade and the young- adult audiences. Can you tell us a little bit about how the process differs between middle-grade and YA? Do you prefer writing for one audience over the other?

TB: My first novel, Angel’s Grace, was billed as YA, but the protagonist, Grace, was only thirteen, just two years older than Corinne in The Jumbies. I actually think my wheelhouse is in younger teens and tweens, and the process of writing for both is the same for me: hard. But I do think about the difference in age for one reading audience over another. For instance, there is a scene in The Jumbies where Severine eats a creature in the forest. My editor and I had some back and forth over making sure this wasn’t too scary, but I thought there were scarier bits, like the centipedes that run all over Severine’s body. Crawly bugs seem much more frightening to me than a wriggly snack. But maybe it’s just me. I’m working on something now that seems like it should be for an older audience because of the themes, but I like the protagonist as a twelve year old. I’ll have to see how this one shakes out and what my editor and agent have to say when it’s in good enough shape to show them.

A photo of Tracey Baptiste

Photo credit: Latifah Abdur Photography

JA: You’ve written a lot of non-fiction. How does that research process differ from the research process for fiction?

TB: Nonfiction is definitely a different approach. First of all, it’s a relief to have all or most of the facts before I start. With fiction there’s a lot of groping around in the dark trying to figure it out. It’s exciting to get my hands on facts and then turn them into a narrative, and researching can be exhilarating when you find a piece of information that makes the rest of the pieces you found click together. The trick with nonfiction, though, is choosing how to shape the narrative while still presenting a balanced and unbiased viewpoint. When I research for fiction, usually the entire story is written, and there are these holes with weird notes to myself like: find out if tuba players have any slang they use among themselves.

JA: I read another interview in which you said you’d worked on The Jumbies for more than ten years. Can you talk about how you persevered through rewriting (to make it “more epic”), receiving rejections by the first few editors who saw it, and making an agency change? You never gave up, and I know I’m not the only one who is so glad you didn’t!

TB: Well thanks!

I’ve come to realize that part of my process is working on something for a while and then putting it away for a longer while, and then coming back to it. I am not a fast writer and I tend to work on multiple projects at a time. But getting The Jumbies into the hands of the right editor really was a long slog. I wish I could say I handled all the uncertainty with bravery and grace, but alas, I was pretty miserable for long periods and it definitely extended the length of time that I wasn’t writing. I think at one point I quit writing for over a year. But this story kept pulling me back in. I also have to credit my husband and my mom for their unwavering support. After a rejection, I would turn them for encouragement, and then I’d look at the story again and think about what didn’t work, and what could be bigger and better. As far the direction I was given to make it more epic, I just kept thinking about how far I could push things. How hard could I make this on Corinne? How far could she go to save everyone?

When I made the decision to leave my previous agency, it was just about the working relationship. I learned a lot of things about my needs as a writer between my first novel and my second. And what I needed was an agent who was also a writer, and understood what I was dealing with. I found that in Marie Lamba, and it’s a great working relationship with the added bonus that we like each other outside of work as well.

A photo of Tracey Baptiste's book, The Jumbies

JA: What advice do you have for teachers and librarians who want to tie The Jumbies in to a larger unit on folk tales or Caribbean culture?

TB: It’s important to know more about the culture of jumbies, and for that I’ve made a “field guide” which is available on the Algonquin YR site. Jumbie stories were part of everyday conversations when I was growing up. I still don’t answer when I hear my name called at night. I ask if someone is calling me even though I’m too old now to be snatched up by a jumbie. It’s just habit. The other thing to realize is the Caribbean, and Trinidad in particular, has a very rich literary history. I grew up reading novels written by people in my own culture, so teachers and librarians may also want to offer some titles like Herbert de Lisser’s The White Witch of Rosehall or Jean D’Costa’s Escape to Last Man Peak, or my favorite, V. S. Naipaul’s Miguel Street. All of these were required reading when I was at school.

JA: Have your children been to Trinidad? Have you shared the stories of your childhood with them and what do they think? Do they like scary stories?

TB: Yes! They go to Trinidad often and they complain when they don’t get a chance to go (like last summer when they complained EVERY SINGLE DAY). Both my husband and I are from Trinidad so there is plenty of family for them to visit over the summer. I am sure the family keeps them well entertained with stories from when their dad and I were kids. I hope they do like scary stories because The Jumbies is now required reading at my house.

JA: What are you working on next?

TB: I’m working on a story about a future society that has too much technology for their own good. I’m also working on two picture books, one about an unlikely superhero and another about a kid visiting with her grandfather.

JA: What other middle-grade books are on your bookshelf at present? Any recent favorites that you can recommend?

I have Kat Yeh’s The Truth About Twinkie Pie, which my daughter read and loved but I haven’t had a chance to read yet. I also have C. Taylor Butler’s The Lost Tribes, which I’m planning to read aloud to both of the kids, and Ramin Ganeshram’s Stir It Up, which was released back in 2011, but I haven’t gotten to it yet. (I’m also a slow reader, it seems!)

MG books on a shelf

A peek at Tracey’s bookshelf!

Thank you for spending time with From the Mixed-Up Files, Tracey, and best of luck with The Jumbies!

Readers, leave a comment below with your favorite spooky story to win a copy of The Jumbies!