In October 2018, the night before a caravan of fellow citizens planned to leave San Salvador for the United States, eminent author, poet, and humanitarian Jorge Argueta spoke with many of them who had gathered at the Plaza Divino Salvador del Mundo, a large public square in the city.
As someone who had fled El Salvador over 35 years ago, Argueta understood only too well why they had chosen to risk their lives and that of their children to undertake the arduous 2,500-mile journey. He listened to their stories, offered encouragement and support, and was no doubt profoundly moved by the hope they carried in their hearts: hope for a safe haven from gang violence, hope to escape the demoralizing cycle of poverty, hope for a chance to rebuild their lives with honest work, hope for better futures for their children, hope for kindness and compassion from the strangers they would meet along the way.
Inspired by these conversations, Argueta wrote a verse novel told in the voice of Misael Ramírez, a young asylum seeker who joined the caravan with his parents and brother Martín.
☕ CUPPA OF CHOICE: A good cup of instant Mexican coffee, not too strong, not too mild. With sprinkle of sweetener and a bit of cream. It will wake me up and give me the fortitude to sit down and write!
☕ FAVE FOODIE CHILDREN’S BOOK:Sip, Slurp, Soup, Soup, Caldo, Caldo, Caldo! by Diane Gonzalez Bertrand and Alex Pardo Delange (Piñata Books, 2008) is my favorite food related book because I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE a good bowl of caldo. Caldo has the power to warm even the coldest heart!
Today we’d like to extend our heartfelt congratulations to Laura Shovanon the official release of her first middle grade verse novel on April 12! Hooray for Laura!!
The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary (Wendy Lamb Books, 2016)is a captivating story told entirely through a series of poems written by one fifth grade class over the course of a year. We meet 18 diverse, distinctive, quirky, totally believable kids navigating the changes that come with friendships old and new, first crushes, and other relatable challenges such as divorce and stepfamilies, death and illness of family members, being the new kid, homelessness, assimilation and identity.
Though each has his/her own hopes, dreams, and concerns, these students form a special bond over one big change that affects them all: their beloved school is facing closure at the end of the year. Inspired by their teacher’s political activism in the 60’s, they are determined to make their voices heard to help save Emerson.
☕ CUPPA OF CHOICE: Café con leche (coffee with milk), made with a mixture of Cuban espresso (Café La Llave brand) and Italian roast (Starbucks brand). I love REALLY strong coffee, but I only drink it in the morning, so it doesn’t keep me awake at night. Maybe that’s why I do most of my writing early, before my brain runs out of caffeine.
* Cultural Note: many Latino children are introduced to café con leche at the age of two, so why aren’t there any children’s books about coffee? If I thought I could get it published, I would write one! My Abuelita (grandma) used to scold me for not serving my son coffee when he was little. She said, “¡Es un hombrecito, necesita su café!” (He’s a little man, he needs his coffee!)
☕☕ JUST ONE MORE SIP: Short poems related to the [above] photograph of myself drinking café con leche beside my father’s painting of my mother picking pomegranates. She was wearing sandals, but he left them out, and I have chosen to speculate about the reason.
each hot sip
of café con leche
traveling back to childhood
watching as grownups savor time
paints her harvesting pomegranates—
the reality of shoes
too modern for this lush garden
“Truth is so rare, it is delightful to tell it.” ~ Emily Dickinson
I’ve been curious about Emily Dickinson’s relationship with children ever since learning that she used to lower baskets of gingerbread to the neighborhood kids.
That’s why I loved Burleigh Mutén’s delightful verse novel Miss Emily (Candlewick, 2014). It gave me a good sense of how Dickinson might have interacted with four of the children in her life: her niece and nephew Mattie and Ned (who lived next door at the Evergreens), and the pastor’s kids Mac and Sally, who lived across the street.
This fun and suspenseful adventure, where Emily and the children disguise themselves as gypsies to catch a glimpse of the midnight circus train, is told from Mac’s point of view. It is clear the kids all adore Miss Emily and she, them, united as they are in imaginative play and a singular brand of friendship.
I’m so pleased Burleigh is here today to tell us more about writing and researching Miss Emily. I daresay “the children’s laughing goddess of plenty” herself would be quite pleased with this story, as it celebrates her fondness for children and the importance of remaining true to one’s inner child: therein lies the truth about who we really are and should always strive to be.
Look sharp! The circus train is here. All Aboard! 🙂