Join us in celebrating THE GHOSTS OF RANCHO ESPANTO book birthday! We sat down with Musa Adrianna Cuevas to learn all about the inspiration behind this book.
But first, a little bit about this middle grade novel:
Rafa would rather live in the world of The Forgotten Age, his favorite role-playing game, than face his father’s increasing restrictions and his mother’s fading presence. But when Rafa and his friends decide to take the game out into the real world and steal their school cafeteria's slushie machine, his dad concocts a punishment Rafa never could’ve imagined―a month working on a ranch in New Mexico, far away from his friends, their game, and his mom’s quesitos in Miami. Life at Rancho Espanto isn’t as bad as Rafa initially expected, mostly due to Jennie, a new friend with similarly strong snack opinions, and Marcus, the veteran barn manager who's not as gruff as he appears. But when Rafa's work at the ranch is inexplicably sabotaged by a man who may not be what he seems, Rafa and Jennie explore what's behind the strange events at Rancho Espanto―and discover that the greatest mystery may have been with Rafa all along.
How would you describe your main character? Why did you create your character that way?
Rafa Alvarez is a pessimistic, anxious 12-year-old who always assumes the worst is going to happen. He has very strong opinions about food and processes the world through the lens of his favorite role playing game, The Forgotten Age. Of all the characters I’ve created, he’s probably the one most similar to me. I guess the adage of ‘write what you know’ is true!
Where did you get the idea to write this particular story?
In 2019, my sister invited me to volunteer at a ranch in northern New Mexico where she was going to work as an emergency wilderness medic. I lived in a run-down trailer with alarming orange shag carpet and got to spend my time sorting through boxes of book donations that all had cockroaches in the bottom. But as I worked there, I learned the history of the ranch and found that it was filled with ghost stories, monsters, and intrigue- the perfect place to set a story!
What is the most important lesson you have learned as a writer until now?
Writing for a middle grade audience involves dealing with a lot of gatekeepers- teachers, librarians, and parents. Although these people do incredible work getting books into the hands of young readers that need them, there is a temptation as an author to write with these gatekeepers in mind instead of your true audience, kids! Whenever I sit down to craft a new story or when I'm deep in the fifteenth round of revision on a book, I always try to remember the excited faces of the students I see at school visits. Their passions, humor, and the issues they face should always be what guides my story.
What comes next for you as an author?
My next book, Mari and the Curse of El Cocodrilo (Harper Collins) will be released on October 3rd. Not only does this book have one of my favorite covers ever, illustrated by Valentino Lasso, I’m incredibly excited about this story because, much like The Ghosts of Rancho Espanto, it deals with a Cuban-American main character solving a mystery, facing incredible odds, and saving the day. With this book, I lean into my love of spooky stories and horror… all to prepare my audience for my middle grade that will publish next year that may or may not have zombies. Spoiler alert- it has zombies. Lots of them.
What books are on your to-be-read list?
Any day now, my tbr pile is going to topple over and crush me. My tombstone will read Here lies an author who didn’t have enough time to read. But there are several books in that pile that I’m super excited about reading. The first one is Saving Chupie by Amparo Ortiz and illustrated by Ronnie Garcia. I love graphic novels and this one is filled with a fun, vibrant main character and a creature who may not be as scary as they seem. I also can’t wait for the next book in Nina Moreno’s Maggie Diaz series, Pack Your Bags, Maggie Diaz. Maggie is a character that I wish I’d had when I was younger because I relate to her so much and these books are so real and fun. Finally, on the young adult side, I’m excited to read Vanessa Montalban’s A Tall Dark Trouble. Magical Cuban sisters solving mysteries of both their past and present, all while being cursed in love? Sign me up!
Adrianna Cuevas is the author of the Pura Belpre honor book The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez, Cuba in My Pocket, The Ghosts of Rancho Espanto, and Mari and the Curse of El Cocodrilo. She is a first-generation Cuban-American originally from Miami, Florida. A former Spanish and ESOL teacher, Adrianna currently resides in Austin, Texas with her husband and son. When not working with TOEFL students, wrangling multiple pets including an axolotl, and practicing fencing with her son, she is writing her next middle grade novel.
Join us in celebrating WINGS IN THE WILD book birthday!
We sat down with award-winning Musa Margarita Engle to learn all about the inspiration behind this book.
But first, a little bit about Wings in the Wild, this inspiring romantic contemporary novel-in-verse that tells the story of two teens fighting for climate action and human rights:
Winged beings are meant to be free. And so are artists, but the Cuban government has criminalized any art that doesn’t meet their approval. Soleida and her parents protest this injustice with their secret sculpture garden of chained birds. Then a hurricane exposes the illegal art, and her parents are arrested.
Soleida escapes to Central America alone, joining the thousands of Cuban refugees stranded in Costa Rica while seeking asylum elsewhere. There she meets Dariel, a Cuban American boy whose enigmatic music enchants birds and animals—and Soleida.
Together they work to protect the environment and bring attention to the imprisoned artists in Cuba. Soon they discover that love isn’t about falling—it’s about soaring together to new heights. But wings can be fragile, and Soleida and Dariel come from different worlds. They are fighting for a better future—and the chance to be together.
Join us in celebrating MANOLO & the UNICORN book birthday! We sat down with Jackie Azúa to learn all about the inspiration behind this book co-authored with Jonah Kramer.
But first, a little bit about this picture book:
To Manolo the world is a magical place—a place where he searches for the most magical creature of all: a unicorn. Manolo loves unicorns. When the Wild Animal Parade is announced at school, and Manolo declares that he will come as his favorite animal, his classmates say there is no such thing as unicorns, making the world feel ordinary. That is, until Manolo meets a real unicorn—wild and graceful—and discovers that the world is truly extraordinary.
Join us in celebrating Our Roof Is Blue (also in Spanish Nuestro Techo es Azul) book birthday! We sat down with Musa Sara E. Echenique to learn all about the inspiration behind this book.
But first, a little bit about Our Roof Is Blue.
Our Roof is Blue/Nuestro Techo Es Azul is a heartfelt story of resilience following two siblings who support each other as they recover and rebuild after Hurricane Maria destroys their home in Puerto Rico. Children’s Literature called it “a very real, emotional, and heartwarming book," and Kirkus noted that “healing, both physical and emotional, is eased through the power of story.
Join us in celebrating PLÁTANOS ARE LOVE book birthday! We sat down with Musa Alyssa Reynoso-Morris to learn all about the inspiration behind this book.
But first, a little bit about Plátanos Are Love:
A delicious picture book about the ways plantains shape Latinx culture, community, and family, told through a young girl’s experiences in the kitchen with her abuela.
Abuela says, “plátanos are love.”
I thought they were food.
But Abuela says they feed us in more ways than one.
With every pop of the tostones, mash of the mangú, and sizzle of the maduros, a little girl learns that plátanos are her history, they are her culture, and—most importantly—they are love.
Happy Book Birthday to Brazil!
Join us in celebrating Brazil's book birthday! We sat down with Musa Ana Siqueira to learn all about the inspiration behind this book.
But first, a little bit about BRAZIL.
Let's spend a day in Brazil! Ride the ônibus to the beach, drink sugar cane juice at the feira, and play capoeira. Brazilian author Ana Siquiera and illustrator Ana Matsusaki draw on their personal experiences living in Brazil to create this appealing board book as part of the Our World Series for very young readers.
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