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 THE ENCHANTED LIFE OF VALENTINA MEJIA book birthday! We sat down with debut Musa Alexandra Alessandri to learn all about the inspiration behind this book.
But first, a little bit about The Enchanted Life of Valentina Mejía:
Twelve-year-old Valentina wants to focus on drawing the real world around her and hopefully get into art school in Bogotá one day, but Papi has spent his life studying Colombia’s legendary creatures and searching for proof of their existence. So when Papi hears that a patasola—a vampire woman with one leg—has been sighted in the Andes, Valentina and her younger brother Julián get dragged along on another magical creature hunt.While they’re in the Andes, a powerful earthquake hits. Valentina and Julián fall through the earth…and find an alternate Colombia where, to Valentina’s shock, all the legends are real.
To get home, Valentina and Julián must make a treacherous journey to reach this land’s ruler: the madremonte, mother and protector of the earth. She controls the only portal back to the human world—but she absolutely hates humans, and she’ll do anything to defend her land.
Cover Reveal: Lourdes Heuer's translation of Martha Riva Palacio Obón's Secrets We Tell the Sea!
We are excited to share the stunning cover for Lourdes Heuer's translation of Martha Riva Palacio Obón's award-winning middle-grade novel about family, grief, and the sea. Secrets We Tell the Sea, published by Bloomsbury Children's Books, will be released on October 24, 2023.
But first, a little bit about the book:
The only good thing about Sofia's mom sending her to live with her abuela is that finally Sofia and the sea will meet face-to-face.
The sea has always called to Sofia. That's how she knows she’s a mermaid—that, and the fact that the ocean and its creatures are much easier to understand than people. Sofia longs to meet another mermaid, someone who understands her and the sea completely. And when she meets Luisa, it seems like she's found just that—until the sea betrays them both in one irreversible moment. Soon their town is overtaken by hurricanes and floods and emotions and questions so big Sofia doesn't know what to do with them. Like, how do you make friends with the sea again? And how do you calm the rough waters within yourself?
Lourdes Heuer is a children's book author, poet, translator, and college professor. Her debut picture book, On this Airplane, illustrated by Pura Belpré Award Honoree Sara Palacios, was selected in 2023 for Dolly Parton's Imagination Library. The first book in the Esme! early chapter book series, Esme's Birthday Conga Line, with art by #1 New York Times Bestselling illustrator Marissa Valdez, was named a 2022 Chicago Public Library Best Fiction Book for Younger Readers and one of Evanston Public Library's 101 Great Books for Kids of 2022.
The daughter of Cuban immigrants, Lourdes was born in Spain and immigrated to the United States in 1984. She currently resides in South Florida.
Find her on Instagram and Twitter.
Pre-order Secrets We Tell the Sea today!
Add Secrets We Tell the Sea to your Goodreads!
Introducing Sincerely Sicily!
Join us in celebrating SINCERELY SICILY'S book birthday! We sat down with debut Musa Tamika Burgess to learn all about the inspiration behind this book.
But first, a little bit about Sincerely Sicily:
From debut author Tamika Burgess comes the captivating and empowering story of Sicily Jordan--a Black Panamanian fashionista who rocks her braids with pride--who learns to use her voice and take pride in who she is while confronting prejudice in the most unexpected of places.
Staying quiet may no longer be an option, but that doesn't mean Sicily has the words to show the world just what it means to be a proud Black Panamanian either. Even though she hasn't written in her journal since her abuelo passed, it's time to pick up her pen again--but will it be enough to prove to herself and everyone else exactly who she is?
And now to our interview with Tamika!
Anika Fajardo: MEET ME HALFWAY
Today on the blog, we're here with an interview between Musa Rebecca Balcárcel and Musa Anika Fajardo, author of Meet Me Halfway.
About MEET ME HALFWAY:
When new classmates Mattie and Mercedes meet and realize they have the same Colombian dad, the two team up in a Parent Trap–inspired misadventure to meet him for the first time in this sharp and poignant middle grade novel about the bonds that make a family.
The offensive tradition? Teaching every 7th grader to square dance. Sounds innocent enough you say? Au contraire. While promenading and do-si-do-ing is fun to the grown-ups around her (in fact, Lupe’s mom remembers the moves and busts them out at the most embarrassing times), Lupe disagrees. Number one, square dancing isn’t cool. Number two, it’s not as athletic as climbing ropes or playing a sport. And what about the weird songs and lyrics? Lupe Wong is about to investigate!
Las Musas is thrilled to announce the cover reveal of Yamile Mendez's Shaking Up the House!
But first, a little about Shaking Up the House...
Ingrid and Winnie Lopez have lived there for eight years, but a new family is moving in, and the Lopez girls are determined to combine Ingrid’s comedic timing and Winnie’s quick thinking to give the new First Kids a proper White House welcome.
Skylar and Zora know a lot of things about the White House—Zora loves history, and Skylar’s thrilled to begin her new A-list lifestyle. What the sisters don’t know is that incoming presidents’ families are often pranked by the folks they’re replacing, and Ingrid and Winnie take that tradition very seriously.
When what is meant to be a friendly goof sets off an epic prank war, though, it’s only a matter of time before things spiral out of control. Can the four girls call a truce before an innocent trick sparks an international incident? Or will their battle go down in American history?
From acclaimed author Yamile Saied Mendez comes a laugh-a-minute friendship story full of hijinks, misunderstandings, and loads of glitter.
Coming January 5, 2021! Pre-order now!
And now, read an excerpt...
Las Musas wishes Kim Baker the happiest of book birthdays for her release of the middle-grade novel, The Water Bears.
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