Las Musas is celebrating the release of NoNieqa Ramos’s sophomore picture book Hair Story, illustrated by Keisha Morris!
Lorena Germán, cofounder of the groups #disrupttexts and Multicultural Classroom and author of The Anti-Racist Teacher: Reading Instruction Workbook and Textured Teaching: A Framework for Culturally Sustaining Practices, writes: “This gorgeous book is about more than hair. Hair becomes the vehicle for a conversation about identity, beauty standards, bias, relationships, self-love, and more. Ramos has created a picture book that touches upon identity as it is intertwined with other elements of life, all by celebrating hair types and styles.”
This is truth is carried in NoNieqa’s words and Keisha’s art. It’s a beautiful ode to Black and brown children, celebrating their hair and their identity and encouraging “young readers to embrace themselves just the way they are."-- Charlotte Offsay, author of The Big Beach Clean Up and How to Return a Monster. As Preciosa and Rudine embrace their natural hair, readers are invited to do the same.
For this blog post, Alexandra Alessandri interviews NoNieqa Ramos about her inspiration and process, but first, here’s a description of this stunning book:
With rhythmic, rhyming verse, this picture book follows two girls―one non-Black Puerto Rican, one Black―as they discover the stories their hair can tell.
Preciosa has hair that won’t stay straight, won’t be confined. Rudine’s hair resists rollers, flat irons, and rules. Together, the girls play hair salon! They take inspiration from their moms, their neighbors, their ancestors, and cultural icons. They discover that their hair holds roots of the past and threads of the future.
With rhythmic, rhyming verse and vibrant collage art, author NoNieqa Ramos and illustrator Keisha Morris follow two girls as they discover the stories hair can tell.
Today, we're sharing an interview between Musas Ana Siqueira and Gloria Amescua, to celebrate Gloria's debut picture book, Child of the Flower-Song People: Luz Jiménez, Daughter of the Nahua. Scroll on to learn more about Gloria's inspiration, future writing plans, and more!
Ana: Gloria, thanks for allowing me to read your wonderful book. What an inspirational story about being proud of your culture and showing the same to the world! I also love the lively illustrations by Duncan Tonatiuh.
First of all, can you tell us what inspired you to write about Luz Jiménez?
Gloria: Thank you for loving our book, Ana. I was inspired when I happened upon a pamphlet about Luz Jiménez and realized I had never thought about the models in paintings and their lives. As I read about her, I was amazed by her life and knew I had to write about her. She was an intelligent and curious little Nahua girl, who wanted to become a teacher, and though she had many struggles throughout her life, she became a very important link between the indigenous people of Mexico and the rest of the world. She came to represent the dignity of the native people in Mexico through the famous 20thth artists who painted her and the Náhuatl language she helped preserve with scholars as it was fading, becoming a teacher after all.
I connected with Luz on a very personal level. When the Mexican government made school mandatory, the indigenous students were shamed about their native language and clothing. The same shaming of Spanish in the US and punishment for speaking Spanish in school affected how I grew up.
Ana: And I have a question about your author’s note, you wrote her name was Julia Jiménez, but she’s known as Luz Jiménez. Do you know the reason for that?
To celebrate the book birthday of Alexandra Alessandri's Isabel and Her Colores Go to School, we're sharing this delightful interview between Musas Alexandra Alessandri and Terry Catasús Jennings. Scroll on to learn more about this adorable picture book!
Terry: Alexandra, I have to tell you, this brought back so many memories. I was twelve when I first came to the United States. But I was just like Isabel—drowning in the strange words that surrounded me. Can you tell us about your book?
Alexandra: Aw, I’m so glad it resonated with you, though I’m sorry you experienced this, too. Isabel and Her Colores Go to School is about a little girl who’s starting school, but while she’s excited about it, she’s also really nervous because she doesn’t speak English, which sounds strange to her. Isabel is also artistic and processes everything through color, and it’s this trait that ultimately allows her to bridge the language divide.
Terry: Your Colombian identity is very present in your writing, whether it’s your poems or your picture books. How has your Colombian identity shaped your writing?
Alexandra: My Colombian identity is definitely a huge part of my writing. I was born and raised in the U.S. in a Spanish-only household and with parents who made it very clear to me that I was 100% Colombian. But growing up straddling both cultures comes with a lot of figuring out how to be both and questioning whether you’re Colombian or American enough. When my dad passed away in 2008, I felt this sudden void. I mean, my mom is blessedly still alive and I still have this connection to Colombia through her and her side, but the loss of my dad sparked this intimate desire to really know Colombia and where/how I fit into the equation. I think this led naturally to writing as a way of reflecting and understanding what it mean to be Colombian and American, and how different this experience is between my mom, myself and my son. This spilled over into my poetry and my children’s books.
Terry: The idea of Isabel and Her Colores reminds me of Wassili Kandinski. He connected his art to sound. What was the inspiration for Isabel and Her Colores? When/how was the idea born?
Today, two Musas are sharing a book birthday for their spectacular books, BELLA'S RECIPE FOR SUCCESS and EL CUCUY IS SCARED, TOO! Scroll on to hear from these two talented authors — Ana Siqueira + Donna Barba Higuera — and learn more about their books!
Donna Barba Higuera: Thank you for talking with me today! And huge felicidades on your debut book! In your book Bella’s Recipe for Success, Bella compares herself to her older brother and sister and how they seem to master things she can’t. Are you speaking from experience? Did you experience this as a child?
Ana Siqueira: Hmm… Great question. Well, my older sister was the perfect one. She would never make a mistake. My older brother was a genius who wrote songs and was talented like my mother. My younger sister was super cute and funny and she was the spoiled one, right? So I was the middle one - rebellious and with disabilities (ADHD and dyslexia). I guess I never realized, but Bella, who was inspired by my daughter who always wanted to be the best and perfect, is also me. Hahaha. I never thought of it.
DBH: Your book is being released in a year and a time where so many kids feel like their lives are out of their own control. I know this wasn’t planned, but do you hope your book’s message of trying and trying again until you master something will resonate with kids?
This week we are so excited to sit down with debut Musa Monica Gomez-Hira and discuss her debut novel. Before we get started, a little bit about Monica’s debut Once Upon a Quinceañera:
Eighteen-year-old Carmen Aguilar missed graduating from her Miami high school by that much--one credit short after she overreacted to a teacher destroying her dream of becoming a video editor. She's relieved when a summer internship gives her another chance at her diploma. But instead of pushing papers, Carmen, the queen of screw-ups, finds herself dressing up as a Disney princess for children's parties.
When her company is hired to perform at her spoiled cousin's extravagant quinceañera, everyone fears Carmen will sabotage it. Her cousin Ariana was the reason Carmen's own coming-of-age celebration was canceled three years earlier, and the families haven't spoken since. This quince is an olive branch, an attempt to bring the families back together. Making matters worse is Carmen's new dance partner: Mauro Reyes, her most regrettable ex. Absence may have made him hotter, but it didn't make her fonder.
Still, Carmen is determined to leave the past in the past, even if late-night chats with Mauro stir up old feelings. She's even getting along with Ariana. As the quinceañera approaches, along with the end of the summer, Carmen must break the spell of past resentments if she wants her own happily ever after.
Okay, Monica let’s get to it!
We are excited to share the cover of author Laurenne Sala & illustrator Zara González Hoang’s new picture book, Mi Casa Is My Home, out from Candlewick on Sept 7th. The book stars Lucía who leads readers through her cozy house, introducing them to her favorite spots and her big, loud, beautiful familia. It is a charming Spanglish celebration of family life.
Laurenne’s sweet story, written in the perfect mix of Spanish and English is paired with Zara’s bright colors and warm details like lively plants and jars of habichuelas, which make the story and the characters feel relatable and fun.
The celebration of home in this bilingual picture book feels like an abrazo from your most favorite people, your familia. Mi Casa is My Home is available for preorder HERE!
All righty! Here it is. The beautiful cover of Mi Casa Is My Home, here for the first time ever out in the world and on the Las Musas blog. Illustrated by Zara González Hoang and designed by Hayley Parker.
To celebrate the reveal of the book’s adorable cover, Laurenne and Zara asked each other a few questions about their experiences working on the book and about the bits of themselves they brought to it.
ZARA: What inspired you to write Mi Casa?
LAURENNE: Growing up, I never really thought about my house so much, but a few years ago, my mom put my childhood home up for sale, and I became an emotional mess! I couldn’t imagine handing over a place full of so many memories! It was the first home I ever knew. Living there 18 years, it had become one of my best friends. We knew everything about each other. Thinking of all those wonderful memories inspired a poem. And when I rewrote it again in my preferred language, Spanglish, it worked even better.
What was it about Mi Casa that made you want to sign on to illustrate it?
ZARA: Oh everything! I remember when I got the manuscript I was actually working at my local library, and I was taking a break and happened to check my email on my phone and there was your manuscript in my inbox. I read it and it was like I was reading a story about my own family – which makes sense, now that I know you a bit better since we share so many similarities in our families and our backgrounds! I absolutely adored the story and felt so incredibly lucky to have been asked to illustrate it, I knew as soon as I read it the first time that this was a story I wanted to illustrate.
What is it like to write a story and send it off without having any clue how it will be illustrated? And what was it like to see the artwork for Mi Casa for the first time?
Las Musas wishes a happy book birthday to Hilda Eunice Burgos for the release of her picture book debut The Cot in the Living Room!
Sometimes, what we want most isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and the process of that discovery leads us to something better. In many ways, this is one of the themes in Hilda’s beautiful debut, but it’s more than that—it’s a story of family and community that shows that “beautifully captures the gifts we receive when we open our hearts to others.” (BookPage, starred review).
Alexandra Alessandri interviews Hilda about her inspiration and process, but first, here’s a description of this sweet book:
A young Dominican American girl in New York City moves from jealousy to empathy as her parents babysit children whose families work overnight shifts in this honest and warm picture book debut.
Night after night, a young girl watches her mami set up a cot in the living room for guests in their Washington Heights apartment, like Raquel (who's boring) and Edgardo (who gets crumbs everywhere). She resents that they get the entire living room with a view of the George Washington Bridge, while all she gets is a tiny bedroom with a view of her sister (who snores). Until one night when no one comes, and it's finally her chance! But as it turns out, sleeping on the cot in the living room isn't all she thought it would be.
With charming text by Hilda Eunice Burgos and whimsical illustrations by Gaby D'Alessandro, The Cot in the Living Room is a celebration of the ways a Dominican American community takes care of one another while showing young readers that sometimes the best way to be a better neighbor is by imagining how it feels to spend a night sleeping on someone else's pillow.
Alexandra Alessandri: I adored The Cot in the Living Room so much! It reminded me a lot of my own childhood, only in my case, I was sent to sleep in the sofa and our guests would take my room. I wasn’t too keen on that. I love the sense of community and how the young protagonist’s emotional arc shifts as she goes from jealousy to finally getting what she wants, and how that becomes the catalyst for her having empathy toward her recurring guests. It’s what allows her to grow and show empathy.
I’m always curious about the book’s origin story. How did The Cot in the Living Room come to be? Who or what inspired it?
Hilda Eunice Burgos: When I was a child, I had a stay-at-home mom who babysat a lot of neighborhood kids. Mostly the children came during the day, but a few had to stay overnight because of their parents’ work schedules. When I was very young, I resented them encroaching on my family’s space and time together. As I got a little older, I realized how lucky I was and how difficult it must be for these children to spend the night alone in a stranger’s home.
AA: I love that, and the sentiment definitely comes across here. The Cot in the Living Room is written in 1st person, and we don’t actually get the main character’s name. Can you tell us a little about that choice? Was this always the case or did this come through in revision?
Today we will be talking to Jackie Azua Kramer and Magdalena Mora about their upcoming book — I Wish You Knew — out May 25th!
Here’s a quick synopsis for I Wish You Knew/Ojala Supieras:
In I Wish You Knew a little girl’s father is deported. She wishes people knew how much she misses him and how it affects her at home and school. But with the help of her teacher, they start a sharing circle where she and her classmates share their challenges and by listening with compassion and kindness, together they all help each other.
Jackie, I read your arc and I love the story. It gave me goosebumps. Can you tell us about the inspiration for this story?
Jackie Azua Kramer: Thank you! I’m a big fan of Ted Talks and an educator shared how after feeling she was making little progress with her students, she asked them to complete the statement on a piece of paper, I wish my teacher knew... And she realized she couldn’t teach kids who felt sad, hungry, scared and angry. It started a movement #IWishMyTeacherKnew.
But the heart of Estrella’s story in I Wish You Knew was inspired by my father’s immigrant journey. The emotional cost he paid, and the courage it took, to leave his family and country to come to a new world with the hope of making a better life for himself like the father in I Wish You Knew.
Magdalena, I love your illustrations, especially the one where she is sitting on her Papi’s lap in a flower. What did you feel when you read this manuscript? Did you know right away you wanted to illustrate it?
Las Musas Books would like to extend the happiest book birthday wishes to What Will You Be?, written by Las Musas Madrina, Yamile Saied Méndez, and illustrated by Kate Alizadeh.
The cover is as beautiful as the message and lyrical text inside.
What will you be when you grow up?
A young girl dreams about all the endless possibilities, sparking a sense of wonder, curiosity, and growth. With her abuela’s loving guidance, she learns her potential is limitless.
Yamile Saied Méndez’s powerful, lyrical text and Kate Alizadeh’s colorful, stunning art are a radiant celebration of family, love, and community.
A Spanish-language edition, ¿Qué Serás?, is also available.
“Méndez and Alizadeh create a balance between the abstract and concrete by letting the child imagine the future but with Abuela’s guidance and support. A sweet read to share with loved ones.” -- Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Buy What Will You Be? today!
As traditionally published writers and/or illustrators, Las Musas are often asked about what resources are available for aspiring kidlit creators. From how to find an agent, to what makes a picture book a picture book, and most often, where do you start your journey!?
Or perhaps you're an editor or agent looking for Latinx illustrators or authors for a future project.
Not surprisingly there is already a growing ecosystem of authors, illustrators, agents, editors, bookstores, book bloggers, organizations and more (either Latinx focused or not) out in the world.
But sometimes searching for these resources can feel a bit daunting and frustrating on top of an already complex publishing world. While not exhaustive, we hope these categories and resources will serve as a jumping off point in whatever journey you're taking in the kidlit world.
If you would like to add yourself or someone to the list, you can do so via the submission form at the bottom of the index page.
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