“Olinguito, from A to Z! /Olinguito, de la A a la Z!” Lulu Delacre

Rated 5 stars ***** 2016. Illustrated by Lulu Delacre. Children’s Book Press (Lee & Low). IncludOlinguitofromAtoZOlinguitoDelaAalaZes descriptive narratives on the Discovery of the Olinguito, The Cloud Forest and The Illustrations. Also includes ways readers can become explorers within the pages of the book as well as through online activities. The book also includes a detailed Glossary of scientific names of plants and animals in the cloud forest, complete with illustrations of each one, a list of More Helpful Words, and a detailed list of the Author’s Sources.

This amazingly detailed, well-researched and beautifully illustrated bilingual picture book for older and younger readers is more than an A to Z book of plants and animals found in the Ecuadorian Andes cloud forest. Used in conjunction with the very detailed Glossary, each page unveils unique and varied life forms found in this fascinating cloud forest.

Readers will learn about unusual creatures such as the tanager, quetzal, barbet and, of course, the olinguito. Not to be outdone, reading about vegetation with interesting sounding names like the Bomarea flower, passiflora, wax palm and epiphytes will also pique their curiosity. Each page contains rich stores of knowledge waiting to be explored. Each of the more than 40 plants and animals in the book have a story to tell, and can easily become extensive research projects for its elementary and middle school readers.

Well known author and illustrator Lulu Delacre has outdone herself with her latest book. I expect “Olinguito, from A to Z! /Olinguito, de la A a la Z!” will create quite a stir at next year’s American Library Association’s Youth Media Awards. I consider it a candidate for the Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award, as well as for the Pura Belpré Author Award. Remember that you read it first here!

Highly recommended for ages 7-14.


“The Lightning Dreamer: Cuba’s Greatest Abolitionist” Margarita Engle

Rated 3 stars *** 2013. Harcourt (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). 182 pp. (Includes Historical Background, Historical Note, The Writing of Gertrudis Gomez de Avellaneda, and References). Winner of the 2014 Pura Belpre Author Honor award.

TheLightningDreamerGertrudis, known as Tula, lived during a time in Cuba’s history when it was ruled by Spain, slaves abounded, women didn’t have any rights and those having thoughts of independence were severely punished. From an early age, Tula believed in emancipation for slaves and women, feeling the magic of books and words flowing from within while being denied their solace because she was a woman.

Undeterred by her mother’s anger and ridicule Tula found ways to release the words and injustice felt in her soul by writing poems she was forced to burn and telling tales to orphans which contained hidden meanings. At the age of 15, she refused an arranged marriage, thus finding a freedom of choice denied to other females.

Through her trademark style of writing in verse, Engle tells Tula’s story through her own voice and those who knew her. In the “Historical Note” section, readers learn more of Tula’s struggles in her personal life and how she influenced her world through her thoughts on women and slavery.

By bringing Tula’s story to light, Engle has enabled readers learn of this brave and outspoken woman at the forefront of equal rights who would otherwise have been relegated to historical footnotes.

Recommended for ages 12-16.

“Yaqui Delgado wants to kick your ass” Meg Medina

Rated 5 stars ***** 2014. Candlewick Press. 260 pp.

YaquiDelgadoWantsToKickYourAssThis book won the 2014 “Pura Belpre” Author award and, once you read this powerful story, you will see why it was a wonderful choice. Don’t be turned off by the title, as the power of those 7 words tell a story of its own.

Piddy Sanchez is about to turn 16, but, as far as she’s concerned, her life is over. It’s bad enough her best friend Mitzi moved out of their Queens neighborhood all the way to Long Island but now her mother decided to move too – right at the beginning of her sophomore year. Piddy was a top student with plans to go to college and study elephants, but now has to leave her friends and start all over at a school where she doesn’t know anyone.

After just five weeks, Piddy gets the news that someone named Yaqui Delgado wants to kick her ass. Piddy is puzzled since she doesn’t even know her, but soon Yaqui becomes her worse nightmare. Yaqui and her group of Latina girls don’t like Piddy because she’s white (even though she’s Cuban), shakes her butt too much (Piddy didn’t even think she had a butt), and she talked to Yaqui’s boyfriend (two boys whistled at her one morning at school, so Piddy guesses that must have somehow counted as talking.)

Through the constant bullying Piddy refuses to tell any adult what is happening, as she’s afraid of being labeled a “narc.” She tries to change her outward appearance, argues with her mother, and her grades start to fall. After being savagely beaten she starts cutting school with Joey, a troubled boy from her old neighborhood. Piddy’s and Joey’s lives are held in stark contrast, yet hold great similarities, as both struggle to live in a world that’s forced them to grow up before their time.

Feeling abandoned by the father she never knew, misunderstood by her mother, and adrift in a sea of confusion, Piddy is filled with questions. Should she let herself turn into the same type of Latina girl as Yaqui and her friends, forsaking her own goals for college? Would it be better to run away and drop out of school? Should she turn her back on her music, and her culture to reinvent herself?

Medina has crafted a novel of family, love, strong Latina women, and courage. Similar to a character in Laurie Halse Anderson’s wonderful novel “Speak,” Medina shows the inward power and strength that comes from speaking about injustice. I wish someone had shown me how to speak of my injustices while suffering through bullying from grades 3-10, and I sincerely hope Medina’s readers will gain strength from Piddy’s story to speak about their own.

Highly recommended for ages 14 and older.


ALA Award Winners

What an exciting day!! I am reporting to you “live” from Seattle with the winners. There are tons of awards given out, so I’m just going to report on the ones represented by the books I review = YALSA’s Printz award (best teen book), the Pura Belpré Award (best book written by a Latino for a Latino audience) and the Coretta Scott King Award (best book written for African Americans by an African American. You can see the entire list on the American Library Association’s webpage.

The Michael L. Printz winner was “In Darkness” by Nick Lake.

The Printz Honor winners were: “Aristotle and Dante discover the secrets of the universe” by Benjamin Alire Saenz, “Code Name Verity” by Elizabeth Wein, “Dodger” by Terry Pratchett, and “The White Bicycle” by Beverley Brenna.

The Pura Belpré  winner was: “Aristotle and Dante discover the secrets of the universe” by Benjamin Alire Saenz (do you see a trend here? This book went on to also win the Stonewall Book Award.) It’s on my “to read” list.

The Pura Belpré Honor winner was: “The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano” by Sonia Manzano. (I had predicted back in August that this would win an award, it was THAT good!)

The Coretta Scott King Author Award was “Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men who changed America” by Andrea Davis Pinkney.

The Coretta Scott King Honor winners were: “Each Kindness” by Jacqueline Woodson, and “No Crystal Stair: A Documentary Novel of the life and work of Lewis Michaux, Harlem Bookseller” by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson.

Time to go get these books at your Public Library!