Monday, June 25, 2018

Book of the Week: Julián Is a Mermaid

Julián Is a Mermaid

by Jessica Love
Published by Candlewick Press, 2018
40 pages
ISBN: 978-0-7636-9045-8)

Ages 3-8

Riding the train on their way home from the swimming pool, Julián and his abuela see women clad in elegant, mint-green dresses trailing tail fins: mermaids. Wide-eyed Julián drifts into a fantasy: submerged in water, his hair lengthens as he sheds his tank top and shorts before being swept up in a stream of sea creatures. He discovers a tail where his legs had been, and accepts a coral necklace from a large, blue fish to complete the look. Once they’re home, while Abuela takes a bath Julián removes his clothing, tucks fern leaves and flowers into a headband, and kneels on the vanity to apply lipstick. From the gauzy window curtain he fashions a tail and strikes a pose—only to be discovered by a towel-wrapped Abuela, who promptly walks away. After a moment of apprehension, Julián’s relief is palpable when Abuela, dressed in blue, returns to present him with a beaded coral necklace. Without a word, she takes Julián’s hand and leads him to the mermaid parade, where they join in the celebration. A soft, colorful palette and gorgeous watercolor and ink illustrations on brown paper realistically portray bodies of all different sizes in this touching story of an abuela’s love and acceptance of her gender-creative grandchild. (MCT) ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, June 18, 2018

Book of the Week: The Book of Pearl

The Book of Pearl

by Timothée de Fombelle
Translated by Sarah Ardizzone and
    Sam Gordon from the French
Published by U.S. edition: Candlewick Press, 2018
355 pages
ISBN: 978-0-7636-9126-4

Age 12 and older

A young prince, Ilian, in love with a fairy, is banished to another world--our world, in late 1930s France. A Jewish couple, the Pearls, take in the homeless young man who appears outside their Paris shop. He becomes like a son to them. When French officials don’t believe the Pearl’s late son is dead, the exiled prince takes the place of Joshua Pearl and joins the French army. As time passes and his losses in this world mount, the prince’s/Joshua’s driving passion becomes tracking down relics from the place he came from as proof that the world of stories is real in hopes they will help him find his way back. This astonishing work moves between our world and Prince Ilian’s, and between present and past in both places. It includes the story of Olia, the fairy in love with the prince, also banished to our world but who agreed never to let Ilian know she was there in exchange for his life. And it includes the story of a heartsick French teenager who has a memorable encounter with the eccentric, middle-aged Joshua Pearl and grows up to become the masterful teller of this tale, one he finds it impossible to believe even as he is telling it. This extraordinary account of love and exile, cruelty and kindness, loss and longing honors the power of story to hold it all, and all of us, in place. ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, June 11, 2018

Book of the Week: Puddin'


by Julie Murphy
Published by Balzar + Bray / HarperCollins, 2018
448 pages
ISBN: 978-0-06-241838-8

Age 12 and older

Summer may be months away, but Millie Michalchuk is planning ahead: This year she’s applying for broadcast journalism camp. Millie is fat, and she’s comfortable with it—unlike her mother, who persistently fills the fridge with diet foods and can’t believe Millie doesn’t want to spend another summer at Daisy Ranch Weight Loss Camp; or classmate Callie Reyes, who treats Millie with contempt. Callie is co-assistant captain of the school’s highly accomplished competitive dance team. When a local gym is forced to withdraw funding for the team, Callie and her teammates retaliate by vandalizing the gym, where Millie happens to work. Millie identifies Callie in the security footage, and Callie takes the fall for the team, agreeing to pay off the damages by working at the gym for free. Outgoing and forgiving, Millie befriends a suddenly friendless and dance team-less Callie, even inviting her for weekly sleepovers with her friends, and seeking Callie’s advice on making a move with her crush, Malik. Biracial Callie, who feels alone both at school and at home, where she is the only brown Latina living with her white mom, stepdad, and little sister, begrudgingly finds herself enjoying Millie’s company. This funny and endearing companion novel to Dumplin’ (2015) champions young women in all their glorious flaws and complexities. Fat or thin, bubbly or cynical, asexual or boy crazy, the important thing is to support one another. (MCT) ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, June 4, 2018

Book of the Week: On the Other Side of the Garden

On the Other Side of the Garden

by Jairo Buitrago
Illustrated by Rafael Yockteng
Translated by from the Spanish by
    Elisa Amado 
Groundwood Books / House of Anansi Press,  
54 pages
ISBN: 978-1-55498-983-6

Ages 4-7

On her first night at her grandmother’s house in the country, Isabel is lonely and uncertain. She doesn’t know her grandmother and she doesn’t know how long her father will be gone. Then an owl, a frog and a mouse appear at the window lead her out into the moonlit yard. The owl is a gentle caretaker, the frog forthright and full of questions, the mouse shy and hoping for a snack. They tell her about her grandmother, who is kind, and perhaps a little lonely, too. She tells them about her mother, who lives in another country and writes her letters, and her dad, who is looking for work. The dark night eventually becomes a bright morning, and waiting for Isabel back at the house is her grandmother, offering matter-of-fact reassurance. The warm colors and rounded shapes of the three animals against the dark-sky pages, the small moments of humor throughout the striking digital illustrations reminiscent of pen-and-ink, and the brightening palette mirroring Latina Isabel’s shifting outlook all contribute to the sense of comfort this picture book provides. ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Friday, June 1, 2018

A Closer Look at 2017 Latinx #OwnVoices Books

With the ever-growing call for #OwnVoices books in youth publishing, we delved deeper into the CCBC's 2017 diversity stats, with a particular focus on 2017 #OwnVoices books. We started by examining the African/African American stats; in this post, we take a look at the Latinx #OwnVoices books and consider creator roles, book type, and countries and cultures that are represented.

First, a bit of background: To compile the CCBC diversity stats, we consider the race/heritage of primary characters, and of secondary characters who appear throughout the story and have a strong bearing on the plot. Consider, for example, Jason Reynolds's Miles Morales: Spider-Man. The primary character, Miles, is Afro-Latino, so this book belongs in both the African/African American and Latinx categories. Miles's Korean American best friend, Ganke, is a signficant secondary character, so this book is also included in the Asian Pacific/Asian Pacific American category.

For picture books, we also note the number of times a character appears in the illustrations. For instance, if a book with a white primary character has an African American secondary character who only appears on 3 out of the 32 pages, it is unlikely that we will count that book in the African/African American category.

Apart from characters, we consider other significant content. If a book is set in Tanzania, for instance, it is included in the African/African American category. Likewise, a Mexican folk tale with animal characters would be included in the Latinx category, and possibly, depending on the origin of the tale, in First/Native Nations.

Each book is, of course, different, and the process is somewhat subjective. We always consider characters and content within the context of each individual book, and we strive for consistency in our counting.

As of our most recent count, we received a total of 216 books with significant Latinx characters and/or content published in 217. Of these, 73 are #OwnVoices, meaning that they have at least one author and/or illustrator who is Latinx.

Creator Roles

Of the 73 #OwnVoices books, 38 are illustrated. Of these 38 illustrated books:

  • 11 have a Latinx author and a non-Latinx illustrator
  • 5 have a non-Latinx author with a Latinx illustrator
  • 21 have both Latinx authors and illustrators

Of the 73 #OwnVoices books:

  • 68 have Latinx authors
  • 26 have Latinx illustrators

Type of Book

Of the 73 #OwnVoices books:
  • 25 are picture books
  • 36 are fiction
  • 12 are nonfiction

Percentage of #OwnVoices in Countries/Cultures Represented

Below is a list of countries/cultures represented in the books received by the CCBC. The percentage is the number of #OwnVoices books out of the total number of books representing that country. For example, we received a total of 34 books about Mexican Americans. 16 of those (47.06%) were #OwnVoices (OV).

We recognize that everyone living in the Américas is American. For the sake of clarity, we will specify various Latinx peoples living in the United States by using the word "American", e.g. Venezuelan American indicates a character or book creator of Venezuelan descent in the United States. 

  • Unspecified/General Latinx topic: 14 of 26 (53.85% OV)
  • Unspecified Latinx in the United States: 13 of 77 (16.88% OV)
  • Argentinian American: 0 of 1
  • Brazilian American: 0 of 2
  • Colombian American: 1 of 3 (33.33% OV)
  • Cuban American: 5 of 5 (100% OV)
  • Dominican American: 1 of 2 (50% OV)
  • Mexican American: 16 of 34 (47.06% OV)
  • Nicaraguan American: 1 of 1 (100% OV)
  • Peruvian American: 1 of 2 (50% OV)
  • Puerto Rican American: 3 of 8 (37.5% OV)
  • Salvadoran American: 1 of 1 (100% OV)
  • Trinidadian American: 2 of 3 (66.67% OV)
  • Venezuelan American: 0 of 1
  • South American (Unspecified or multiple countries): 0 of 1
  • Colombian: 0 of 1
  • Dominican: 0 of 1
  • Unspecified Latinx in Canada: 0 of 4
  • Jamaican Canadian: 1 of 1 (100% OV)
  • Mexican Canadian: 0 of 1
  • Latin American (Unspecified country): 0 of 4
  • Belizean: 0 of 1
  • Bermudan: 1 of 1 (100% OV)
  • Bolivian: 0 of 1
  • Brazilian: 1 of 5 (20% OV)
  • Caribbean (unspecified location): 0 of 1
  • Chilean: 2 of 2 (100% OV)
  • Colombian: 1 of 1 (100% OV)
  • Costa Rican: 0 of 2
  • Cuban: 3 of 7 (42.86% OV)
  • Ecuadorian: 0 of 1
  • Salvadoran: 0 of 1
  • Haitian: 1 of 1 (100% OV)
  • Jamaican: 1 of 5 (20% OV)
  • Mexican: 4 of 7 (57.14% OV)
  • St. Lucian: 0 of 1
  • Peruvian: 0 of 2
  • Brazilian British: 0 of 1


Our observations of books with Latinx content and characters are similar to those of books with African/American content or characters. First, books written by non-Latinx authors often include a diverse, ensemble cast that includes one or two Latinx characters. This happens most often in fiction (e.g. Well, That Was Awkward by Rachel Vail; The Unlikelies by Carrie Firestone), and especially in chapter book series (e.g. "Girls Who Code" series by various authors; "The Hidden World of Changers" series by H.K. Varian).

Picture books written and/or illustrated by Latinxs more often include culturally specific details (e.g. Rudas: Niño's Horrendous Hermanitas by Yuyi Morales) than do picture books by non-Latinx authors and/or illustrators.

The percentage of picture books with Latinx content and/or characters that are #OwnVoices is quite high. Out of 28 picture books about Latinxs, 25 of those (89.29%) are #OwnVoices. Conversely, the percentage of fiction that is #OwnVoices is low: only 36 out of 156 (23.08%).

Nonfiction about particular locations, which often includes series or "formula" nonfiction, is more often written by non-Latinx authors than by Latinx authors (e.g. Let's Explore Cuba by Walt K. Moon). Nonfiction written by Latinxs is often about historical or contemporary Latinx people (e.g. Bravo! Poems About Amazing Hispanics by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Rafael López; Martí's Song for Freedom/Martí y sus versos por la libertad by Emma Otheguy, illustrated by Beatriz Vidal; Danza! Amalia Hernandez and El Ballet Folklórico de México by Duncan Tonatiuh).

We'll continue our examination of #OwnVoices books here on the CCBC blog over the next couple of weeks by looking at the First/Native Nations and Asian Pacific/Asian Pacific American books we received in 2017.

Last updated 6/11/2018