Today we celebrate the book birthday of Countdown for Nochebuena. We sat down with Musa Adriana Hernández Bergstrom to learn all about the inspiration behind this book.
But first, a little bit about the book:
This charming, bouncy text that alternates between English and Spanish and counts holiday elements like dancers, singers, and special foods up to twelve—to midnight, when Christmas Eve turns to Christmas and presents are opened!—and back down again, pairs perfectly with its illustrative context clues. In this story, family members young and old are excited to gather in their best festive clothes to celebrate Nochebuena, a Christmas Eve celebration for Latine people around the world. Simple yet lyrical text inspired by the author-illustrator's Cuban American heritage combines with a warm art style perfect for celebrating the holiday.
What three words would you use to describe this book?
FESTIVE! INVITING! VIBRANT!
Where did you get the idea to write this particular story?
This is one of those stories that I’ve had percolating in my mind since I turned my attention to children’s books. Very similar to ABUELITA AND I MAKE FLAN, this story began with a list. The biggest difference was that FLAN turned into a story with a character arc and became more entrenched in culture as it went through the editing and revision process. COUNTDOWN FOR NOCHEBUENA started with dreaming of our childhood nochebuena parties at the houses of various cousins and parientes. I started listing the essence of those vignettes from my memory. There were so many to choose from. These parties were epic! Eventually I settled on a countdown format because it fit so well with us waiting for midnight to open presents.
What message are you hoping that readers will take away from this story?
I’m hoping that readers will see another point of view of what it means to be Latinx in the U.S. I’m hoping that COUNTDOWN FOR NOCHEBUENA offers another facet of complexity to the Latinx holiday traditions category. I hope, in its way, that it helps chip away at the idea that being Hispanic or Latinx is a monolithic experience. Lastly, I hope that COUNTDOWN FOR NOCHEBUENA helps young readers make connections with their own lives as they can see similarities and differences with their own holiday traditions.
What comes next for you as an author?
I have pitched several manuscript concepts to my editors, and I hope one of them takes off! I’m especially hoping a series for very young readers gets picked up since it features one of my favorite animals: the capybara! Crossing my fingers I get the chance to make that series.
What books are on your to-be-read list?
LA NOCHE BEFORE THREE KINGS DAY by Sheila Colón-Bagley
SUGAR PLUM BAKERS by Pat Tanumihardja
FELIZ NEW YEAR AVA GABRIELA by Alexandra Alessandri
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