[Excerpt] Morning Star Horse/El caballo Lucero by Margarita Engle

Margarita Engle is well-known for her historical verse novels for young readers, all of which have garnered her numerous awards. In the wake of the recent US election, she penned a powerful personal essay citing the importance of bridging past and present as her motivation for writing about history. Her realistic fiction works have brought forgotten Cuban heroes like Juan Francisco Manzano and Millo Castro Zaldarriaga back from the margins of memory.

Now, Engle is adding fantasy to her oeuvre. Her forthcoming bilingual middle grade novel, Morning Star Horse/El caballo Lucero
, is a historical fantasy about Cuban children at San Diego’s Raja Yoga Academy. In these pages, Engle shines a light on the much overlooked true story of the late-twentieth-century Lomaland Theosophical community which recruited uneducated Cuban children for its experimental school, including the "famous eleven" Cuban child detainees at Ellis Island. Engle, who was born and lives in the United States but spent childhood summers with relatives in Cuba, also draws on her childhood love of horses and folklore. Scheduled for January 2017, the book will be published by HBE Publishing, based in the author's hometown of Clovis, California and described by Engle as an "innovative small publisher." Here is the description from the book's jacket:
"When Mamacita chose to call me Estrellita, / it was her way of imagining a little bit / of starlight, deep down in that cavern / where only rare streaks of day or night / could reach--now, Lucero and I will be / Morning Star and Little Star, / a lit-from-within racing team!" A young girl stricken with rickets and her mother face the aftermath of the Spanish-American War, the challenges of a new century and innovative teachers. Dreams realized and dreams crushed exploring the freedoms only a magical horse can offer. Award winning author Margarita Engle brings a tale of history mixed with a touch of fantasy.
Engle is an Anansesem advisory board member and we are thrilled to exclusively share this excerpt from the book's opening.

Morning Star Horse/El caballo Lucero

© HBE Publishing 2017
Translated by Alexis Romany

About the Author

Margarita Engle is the Cuban-American author of The Surrender Tree, which received the first Newbery Honor ever awarded to a Latino. Her other verse novels have received the PEN USA Award, and multiple Pura Belpré and Américas Awards. Her verse memoir, Enchanted Air, is a Pura Belpré winner and YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award finalist. Books for younger children include Drum Dream Girl, The Sky Painter and Mountain Dog. Her 2016 books are Lion Island: Cuba’s Warrior of Words, a young adult verse novel about Antonio Chuffat, a hero of the Chinese- African freedom struggle in 19th century Cuba (Atheneum), and Morning Star Horse/El Caballo Lucero, a bilingual, magic realistic middle grade historical verse novel (HBE Publishers). She lives in central California with her husband and his wilderness search and rescue dog.

[Featured Illustrators] Jeunanne Alkins

Jeunanne Alkins' first picturebook project, Ready. SET...HATCH!
, merges art, storytelling, and environmental awareness. The book is both written and illustrated by Alkins, and was self-published through her design studio, ESPjr, in 2014. She markets the book toward toddlers but it's a story for all ages.

Hatch is a competitive little leatherback turtle. He and his tiny hatchling brothers and sisters are racing wildly to crack out of their eggs and be first to the sea. Crisis arises as the nearby river breaks its banks, flooding the nest. Narrated by Hatch, this charming story teaches the young turtles a lesson about teamwork - they discover that unless they work together, no one will get out of the crumbling mess!

All of the illustrations were digitally created using Adobe Illustrator. The muted palette of earthy tones centers the natural world and the minimalist imagery makes the turtle world larger-than-life. Alkins shared a bit about her process:

The illustration “Mummy arrived in the Caribbean” uses a turtle’s-eye-view angle to put toddlers in the driver’s seat as the majestic mother leatherback scans the beach. I remember the first time seeing the leatherbacks lay under the glow of the moonlight. It was slow at first but finally one emerged, climbing slowly up the steep beach. As we took our gaze off of her, they started coming out in droves. It was such a surreal experience and we felt like we were in a scene from Jurassic Park. I definitely recommend it for everyone’s bucket list.

In the “Scrambling towards the sea” illustration, readers get right into the action with the mass of turtles racing across the surface of the sand towards the sea. Anyone who has witnessed turtle hatchlings emerging from their nest can attest to the melee depicted in this scene.

With the turn of a page, the “Wait, wait, Nooooo” illustration turns up the drama from zero to one hundred. This is probably my favourite part of the book when I’m doing readings with little kids who are usually on the edge of their seats and wide-eyed. I can’t help feeling really grateful that I am able to hold their attention.  

Mummy arrived in the Caribbean

Scrambling towards the sea

Wait, wait, Nooooo

Thousands of miles

Alkins on what Caribbean children's illustration means to her:

I enjoy the openness of Caribbean children’s illustration - from hand drawn, to collage, to digital, the types of lines, colour palettes, quirkiness and techniques – there are so many different approaches, but once done well, they work. I love that elements of the artist’s voice are reflected in the work.


Jeunanne Alkins is a creative director from Trinidad and Tobago. Her studio (Everything Slight Pepper) accolades include multiple design, ideation and entrepreneurial awards. She is also the author, illustrator and self-publisher of her debut title, Ready. SET...HATCH! Currently she is working with her team on a picturebook called The Most Magnificent which focuses on the built heritage of the Caribbean, and on an adventure-travel cartoon and comic series called Bim and Bam. She is passionate about edutainment and the difference design can make in how children learn.

View more of Jeunanne's work here:


Bougainvillea Girl

Iguana by Merry Phillips

Flowers, get your bougainvillea flowers!
Fresh from me mammy garden!
Pink and orange, purple and white;
what a very lovely sight!
Me special Grenadian flower it is,
growing on me mammy bushes.
She backyard full up ah dese,
a special treat for de honey bees.
See how I nice with me bright pink flowers
blessed by de hot sun and July showers?
Make nice centrepiece for your tables and dem,
to put in your hat or give all you friends!
Bougainvilleas for you?

About the Author

Fidelia Fisher has loved reading and writing since her childhood and always dreamed of one day being a great writer. She is a primary school teacher and the author of the 2016 picturebook, Shaka the Nutmeg Seed, as well as some poetry and short stories. She has been recognized by the Grenada Union of Teachers for her writing. Her inspiration is her son, Kriston, and her love of literacy. She currently lives with her family in the quiet village of Pomme Rose, in the lovely spice isle of Grenada.

About the Illustrator

Merry Phillips has a B.A. in Fine Art from Capital University and an M.A. in Art History and Library Science from Kent State University. She taught art for three years to junior high school students in Nassau, Bahamas and for 27 years she taught art to both elementary and high school students in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, and was also a high school and elementary school librarian. She taught watercolour and basic drawing at the University of the Virgin Islands. She owns a small Christmas Ornaments company in St. Thomas. Now retired, she is currently an aspiring children's book author.

[Fiction] Pitch Match Madness

It was only one week before the great annual Pomme Rose Pitch Match began at the St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Primary School and Sue-ki Thomas was staring out her classroom window chewing on a pencil, bursting with excitement. She could not wait to have fun playing marbles and eating coconut fudge and chip-chip with her friends.

But the most important part of the festival for Sue-ki was the Pitch Match Marble Madness contest. The overall winner got to take home this year’s trophy and one thousand dollars. Sue-ki gleefully shook her pocket filled with exactly twelve marbles, already knowing what she would do with the money: take a long, amazing trip around her home island of Grenada and visit Carriacou and Petit Martinique to see some of her relatives and friends. Oh, how thrilled she was to be able to participate for a chance to win!

Just then, Sue-ki saw her best friend, Jimbo, walking into the school yard. She smiled and waved wildly at him to get his attention.

“Aye Jimbo, wah go?” she said, giving him a high-five and thumbing her small nose.

“I dey cool,” Jimbo mirrored Sue-ki’s actions, then sat on her desk. He flung his book bag on an empty chair. “What’s de latest?”

“Ah get true nuh,” she shouted. “Ah get true wit de Pitch Match competition boy!”

Jimbo gave her double high-fives. “Woyyyeee! Dey yuh bad! We go mash dem up!”

“Yeah boy we go… wait, wait, WE?” Sue-ki paused with her hands in mid-air. “What yuh mean ‘we’?”

“Ah make it too gyal,” Jimbo smiled, although it took him a great deal of effort.

Sue-ki frowned, gave it some thought, then seemed to be okay with the idea of competing with - no against - her best friend.

“Ok boss, well good luck! That prize money is mine!” she grinned, rubbing her hands together. They both laughed.


That evening, Jimbo and Sue-ki walked along their usual path to go home, huge grins on their faces. Their pockets were jingling with new marbles which they had won in a long after-school game with a few of their friends.

“Yuh ent see de size of Marlon taw? Dat likkle ting wasn’t winnin’ nuttin!” Sue-ki boasted.

Jimbo laughed. “How he go win when yuh usin’ de gugurt to take all de marbles! Is like ah bomb drop every time!” They cackled gleefully.

 Jimbo was sweating a lot and Sue-ki asked him if he wanted to rest a while but he shook his head.

“Ah ent find yuh lookin’ too hot nuh Jim,” Sue-ki frowned.

“I good man, jus’ ah likkle cold ah ketchin. Maybe ah play too much marble too.”

Sue-ki chuckled. “Ah hear yuh.”

Sue-ki waved good-bye to Jimbo as he entered his house, then she continued on her way home. It was getting a little dark by the time she got there. Sue-ki’s mother was looking out the window with a serious expression on her face. Sue-ki’s steps slowed. She snuck around to the back and entered quietly through the kitchen. As she turned the corner towards the stairs, she walked straight into her mother. Sharon did not look pleased. She grabbed Sue-ki’s arm.

“What ah tell yuh about dis marble playing after school Susan?” The belt came down on her bottom. Sue-ki took her licks like a professional. She was used to coming home late and taking her punishment. Her mother was never upset for long anyway.

Later, after a supper of sardines and homemade bread with hot cocoa tea, Susan laid her collection of fifty-four marbles on her bed. Some were beat-up from months of hard work while others were glossy and smooth. But Sue-ki cherished the worn ones most. She picked up each one with thumb and forefinger and carefully inspected it. Only her best marbles would work for the competition. She carefully aimed the marble at her closet and fired. Pow! What an amazing sound! Sue-ki went to sleep with a smile on her face and the sound of her mother’s laughter from the kitchen.


Sue-ki went to school alone the next morning. Jimbo claimed he would be late as he had to tie out two more goats than usual. So she joined Mario and the others in the school yard to warm up. As the bell rang and she walked to class, Sue-ki couldn’t help but wonder where Jimbo was.

After school, Sue-ki dashed up the hill towards Jimbo’s house. As she walked into the yard, she saw Jimbo playing marbles with his little cousin Tiger. Sue-ki ran up to him.

“Aye, wah do yuh today boy? I dey lookin’ out fuh yuh in school.” Sue-ki dropped to the ground and watched Tiger take careful aim with her taw.

“Mammy say she din have money today to sen’ me.” Whack! Two marbles flew out of the ring. Sue-ki gave Tiger a high-five.

“Ok. Well we jus revise some Maths and Science ‘cause it have test tomorrow, yuh hear? I goin’ home early ‘cause Mammy done beat me ahready.” They gave each other a bounce and pinched their noses.


The rest of the week flew by and before long, the week of the match had arrived. As Sue-ki was leaving the house, her mother kissed her good-bye and wished her luck.

“Gee dem licks Susie!” She gave Sue-ki a squeeze.

Sue-ki met Jimbo at school. She had to remind herself that they were competing against each other today.

“Yuh ready Sue-ki?” he asked her.

“Yeah I ready man Jim.” The two friends shook hands solemnly. “May de best player win.”

A voice over the loudspeakers in front of the school suddenly boomed out: “Welcome to the annual Pomme Rose Pitch Match!”

Sue-ki whistled loudly as she clapped, along with the other competitors.  She was pleased to see that the marble contest drew the largest crowd.

The first round of competition began. Sue-ki was in a separate group from Jimbo, to her relief. As the game began, she kissed her lucky marble, Destroyer. Game on!

Sue-ki started with an impressive hit, knocking out three marbles. The others looked at each other worriedly as she took her next turn, hitting marble after marble. Each of the other players only managed to hit one marble out of the ring. Sue-ki made sure no one else had a chance. The whistle blew. She had won her match!

Sue-ki punched the air with glee. “Yeah man!”

A minute later, she heard three more whistles. More matches were won. As Sue-ki headed for Jimbo’s circle, a huge cheer went up from the crowd gathered there, then the whistle blew. Sue-ki hoped Jimbo wasn’t too disappointed. Big Mouth Mikey was in that match and he was really good. So it was to her complete surprise - and slight disappointment - that Jimbo was grinning, his fist filled with marbles. He ran up to Sue-ki and gave her a playful punch on the shoulder.

“Gyal ah knock out all dem marble nuh! Watch ting!” He shoved the marbles under her nose.

Sue-ki high-fived his other hand unenthusiastically. “Nice man.”

“How much marble yuh get?” But Sue-ki had already walked towards another crowd where the final match was drawing to an end.

The next round began. Sue-ki was still in a separate group from her best friend, and she was determined to get more marbles than Jimbo. When the match began, she went first, having done better than the others in the previous match. In no time, the marbles were all hers. Smirking, she looked hastily around for Jimbo to show him her winnings, expecting him to be a little intimidated. Much to her surprise and annoyance, he gave her a huge grin and high-fived her three times.

“Dey yuh bad! Take it to dem Sue-ki!”

Frowning, Sue-ki grumbled under her breath, “Wait ‘til is yuh an’ me….”

In the final round, Jimbo started complaining about feeling dizzy but he made it through. Now the two best friends had to face off against each other. The crowd was tense. This was the match-up everyone had been waiting for! Sue-ki rubbed her hands in glee. It was time.

The match began and Sue-ki got to go first. From her pocket, she drew the largest gugurt anyone had ever seen. The crowd gasped. The spectators began to whisper. Some placed bets, sure that Sue-ki would win. They were even more sure when Jimbo showed them his little glass orb with a blue tear-shaped center.

One by one, the marbles got kicked out of the ring by the giant. Bruised and some even broken, they lay in the dust awaiting the results. Sue-ki had won! Jimbo and the crowd cheered as she walked up onto the stage to collect her prizes. Finally! Now she could plan her trip. Sue-ki grinned from ear to ear as she heaved her trophy triumphantly into the air. She scanned the crowd looking for Jimbo and saw him standing near the back, clapping feebly. He was not looking too well. She decided to wait until the next day to gloat over beating him.

At home, Sue-ki’s mother stared proudly at the trophy sitting on her living room centre table as Sue-ki fanned herself with the cheque.

“Ah so proud, baby! Now if yuh do so well in maths, I might think about giving you a computer.”

Sue-ki screamed and hugged her mother. Wait until Jimbo heard about this!


The next day was Saturday so Sue-ki woke late. She lay in bed listening to the sound of a dove cooing, mingled with the screech of a siren as an ambulance sped by. Soon she got tired of staying inside, so she bathed and dressed, hurriedly ate a cheese sandwich and some cocoa tea and set out for Jimbo’s house to show him her cheque.

As Sue-ki entered Jimbo’s yard, she noticed Ms. Margaret sweeping the verandah. She waved and went to meet her.

“Mawnin’ Miss Maggie. How yuh? Ah come by Jimbo. He dey?”

Ms. Margaret paused. “Sorry dear. Ambulance went wit’ James to de health centre in Belle Vue not too long ago. He didn’t wake dis mawnin.”

Fear crept up Sue-ki’s spine. She turned and ran all the way to Belle Vue almost two miles away. When she got there, the ambulance was about to leave to go to the hospital in St. George’s. Jimbo’s mother was sitting in the back holding Jimbo’s limp hand and crying. When she saw Sue-ki, she hugged her.

“What happen to Jimbo Miss Merle?” Sue-ki cried.

Sue-ki learnt that her friend needed a kidney transplant. Ms. Merle wiped a tear from the corner of her eye. “God only knows where we getting the money. Even with all my savings we don’t have enough─” She looked at Sue-Ki’s distraught face and stopped in mid-sentence. “But don’t worry chile, everything will work out.”

Without thinking twice, Sue-ki handed the cheque to Jimbo’s mother. “Here Miss Merle, you can have my prize money.”

Frowning, Jimbo’s mother began to protest. “Nuh Sue-ki, that is for your trip─”

“Me and Jim can go another time when he get well. Take it nuh.”

Jimbo’s mother stared at the cheque for a long moment then put it in her pocket. “Thank you so much Susan, bless you chile.”

They both hugged and cried, then Jimbo’s mother went with the ambulance. Sue-ki went home and told her mother everything that had happened.


A week after Jimbo’s surgery, the two friends were sitting in Sue-ki’s living room watching a local talk show, Chit-Chat with Lexann Fletcher.

Suddenly Jimbo yelped in excitement. “Look Suki! Yuh Mammy on the TV!”

Sue-ki leaned forward for a closer look as Jimbo turned up the volume. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing. It was true. Her mother’s face appeared in the television screen.

“Well, I am very proud of my child,” Sue-Ki’s mother said to Lexann Fletcher. “Susan did something very selfless and thoughtful. She wanted to go on a trip very badly, so she worked hard to win the prize money at a school competition.  Then she found out her best friend was really sick and needed surgery. Susan gave all of her prize money to pay his hospital bill. She didn’t think twice.”

“What a wonderful thing to do!” Lexann Flecther exclaimed, flashing her shiny smile. “We are so inspired by your daughter’s act of kindness that we would like to reward her. We are going to take Susan and her friend James on an all-expenses-paid trip to Carriacou and Petit Martinique! But that’s not all.” Lexann Flecther paused dramatically. “Thanks to our sponsors at The Computer Store Limited, Susan will be getting a laptop computer too!”

Sue-Ki didn’t hear what Lexann Fletcher said after that. She was in shock. Jimbo screamed as he hugged her. “Yeah man! We go have ah time!”

A wide grin broke out on Sue-ki’s face, then she remembered something. “Jimbo, yuh sure yuh feeling well enough to go on the trip?”

‘Yeah man Sue-ki. I good man. Ent I beat yuh in de marble game yesterday? And that was a killer match too!”

Sue-ki laughed. It was true. Jimbo really did seem to be getting back to his normal self. She had to admit her friend was as good a marble player as herself.

The two friends laughed some more as they planned their trip, and talked about all the sparkling new marbles they would buy in the toy shop in Petit Martinique.

About the Author

Fidelia Fisher has loved reading and writing since her childhood and always dreamed of one day being a great writer. She is a primary school teacher and the author of the 2016 picturebook, Shaka the Nutmeg Seed, as well as some poetry and short stories. She has been recognized by the Grenada Union of Teachers for her writing. Her inspiration is her son, Kriston, and her love of literacy. She currently lives with her family in the quiet village of Pomme Rose, in the lovely spice isle of Grenada.

Playground Tra-la-la

1. Hopscotch

Hopscotch, hopscotch,
up and down, from box to box.
Use a slipper and heave it high;
where it lands don’t step inside.
Hop over the slipper and then,
hop your way to the very end.
Should you finish each square that way,
you will have a winner’s pay.

2. Moral

Let us play some moral.
Inside some squares, bounce a ball.
Roll to the first and then inside,
bounce the ball that number of times.
Bounce your way to the very end
and then start all over again.
Should you complete each trip in style,
take a bow, you’re a winner, child!

3. Marbles

This is a verse filled with marbles,
dozens of balls as small as pebbles.
Draw a circle and that’s the ‘ring.’
Place some marbles and then begin.
Choose your ‘taw’, that’s your piece;
aim it at the marbles, don’t miss!
Pitch until the ring is clear.
If you collected the most, throw your hands in the air!

4. Pick-pick

This is a rhyme about pick-pick.
Gather some pebbles then take your pick!
Toss it in the air and before it lands,
grab as many as you can hold in your hand!
If the stone drops, it’s another’s turn;
if not keep going until the pebbles are done.
Once you are the person with the most stones,
Then guess what my friend? You won!

About the Author

Fidelia Fisher has loved reading and writing since her childhood and always dreamed of one day being a great writer. She is a primary school teacher and the author of the 2016 picturebook, Shaka the Nutmeg Seed, as well as some poetry and short stories. She has been recognized by the Grenada Union of Teachers for her writing. Her inspiration is her son, Kriston, and her love of literacy. She currently lives with her family in the quiet village of Pomme Rose, in the lovely spice isle of Grenada.

28 Surefire Ways to Keep your Children’s or YA Book on the Radar

Regardless of how well a book is written, critical praise doesn’t always translate into sales, and often even well-reviewed books disappear, out-of-print within a couple of years. No matter how much publicity and support your publisher offers, you are the best advocate for your book, and there are actions you can take to prolong its life in print.Perhaps you’re about to publish a first book and have no idea what to expect. Maybe you’re a seasoned pro looking for new ideas on promoting your books. Either way, here are some strategies to put your book over the top.
  1. Begin laying the groundwork for promotion six months before your book is published. Write a press release and e-mail it to newspapers and TV stations closer to the publication date along with a review or two if you have them. If newspapers have a lifestyle editor or a Sunday team reach out to them as well. Keep contacts lists of reporters and remember to invite them to signings and other events.
  1. Find a public relations ally. If you can’t hire one then barter. Find a friend or a student and offer to edit their writing for free in exchange for helping you with publicity. This may sound extreme, but book publicity can be grueling work and it helps so much to have a friend with a sense of humor who “gets it.”
  1. Use the internet; search engines are your friend. Research as much as you can and look at comments and reviews to find tips about sites you should be reading up on. Check out writing groups and ask for assistance or information on who can help you with your publishing journey.
  1. Make flyers and/or bookmarks. Start with 100 copies. You can leave stacks in bookstores, restaurants and libraries, or hand them out on school visits. Always be prepared with something to hand out.
  1. Set up a website where caregivers and children can write to you and learn more about the world of the book and what you do as an author. Peruse other author sites to get ideas.
  1. Update your website regularly. Offer creative writing ideas, story prompts and giveaways.
  1. Send out e-mail blasts as often as you feel comfortable, but don’t overdo it; three or four times a year is a good rule of thumb, and only if there are real updates. Be wary of e-mailing in bulk too often.
  1. Create your Facebook page long before the book is due. Post funny sayings, as well as other books, so that when your book is finally out, you will have a following that you can interact with. Don’t wait.
  1. Use the giveaway feature on the Goodreads and Booklikes websites. Readers all over the world will add your book to their shelf in hopes of winning a copy.
  1. Join a fiction writers or picturebook listserv or online group. There is Goodreads Lovers of Diversity and Folklore Group. Caribbean Writers, SCBWI Caribbean Chapters and SocaMom Book Club are all Facebook Groups you can request to join. Follow Anansesem Caribbean children’s literature ezine, Caribbean Books Foundation and Caribbean blogs. Look for blogs about the world of children’s literature. There are many great children’s and young adult (YA) book blogs. Reading one will lead you to many more. Children’s and YA book bloggers are the ones who keep your books alive so ask them to feature you. Send them your books to review and thank them. Only devote a little time each day to these blogs; you want to be protective of your writing time.
  1. Create your own book tour by visiting literary festivals. Tight budget? Lodge with friends and family or contact the SCBWI regional advisor in your area to see if a nearby member might have a guest room available. Make yourself available to promote your book with copies on hand. Rent the cheapest rental car and purchase airline tickets through inexpensive online travel sites.
  1. Visit bookstores before your book comes out—six months is a good rule of thumb. Set up e-mail correspondence with the store manager, or the person in charge of scheduling author visits or promotions. Set up dates for the book signings/writing workshops. If you just have a handful of review copies, make photocopies or send a .pdf to select book reviewers. This works especially well for regional newspapers or magazines. Smaller papers do a great job with author profiles and reviews if you let them know in time.
  1. E-mail bookstores with your information (book, website, jacket quotes) and offer them short writing workshops for kids instead of just traditional readings. Follow up those e-mails with store visits or phone calls. Be upbeat and professional even when clerks are –and some will be- indifferent. You will find the ones who “get you”, and as for the ones who don’t, move on with grace. Try to focus on the independent bookstores because they are the ones who will hand-sell your book and may have a small sitting for you to interact with children.
  1. Set up writing workshops for children in schools, libraries, bookstores and other settings where you will have a guaranteed audience of children. Lead children in writing their own stories and poems. Make sure art supplies are on hand so the kids can illustrate their creations, and offer to publish any stories that they e-mail you in a special section of your blog or website. Have the bookstore require the purchase of one of your books in lieu of a workshop attendance fee. Talk to the parents and teachers who attend. Networking can lead to artist residencies at schools and more school visits. Keep writing workshops high-energy to encourage more participation. Get kids excited through sincere praise and encouragement, and then up on their feet to read their poems or stories. With older kids and teen groups, smaller circles work best.
  1. Consider having a reading/book signing at a place other than a bookstore. Go to a pizza parlour, a fast food restaurant with a children’s area, a tea house or some other nontraditional place. A friend’s backyard or your own can work. Independent booksellers love to sell local books, and you’ll be able to woo more friends into coming and bringing their friends. If you have children, your children can run around and celebrate too. Hire or sponsor an up-and-coming musician for the gig and let them give out their cards or CD’s.
  1. Do as many free writing workshops as you feel you can at first. Do them for foster children, children in juvenile hall, children who are differently-abled and children who don’t often have a chance to meet with writers. Publish their stories on your blog if they want you to do so.
  1. Pitch workshops or classes to your library, universities or a school near you. It’s free advertising for you, your book and your class. You also get to meet wonderful students in your workshop.
  1. Set up a six- or ten-week writing workshop at a local library for teens or adults who want to write children’s stories. You will be able to charge a fee, of course, and the bookstore will advertise the class and your book on its website and in its newsletter.
  1. Support other authors. Show up at their signings and readings and buy their books. Host them in interviews on your website or blog, or simply mention their books in a short review. We’re all in this together, and the more we can reach out and support each other, the more we’ll get back.
  1. Send your press release to your alma mater. Offer to meet with students from your old high school or college to talk to them about writing.
  1. Write an essay for your alumni magazine about writing for kids, or about how you became a writer. You’ll get readers; universities like to hear about their graduates and their adventures. If a rural library asks you to donate books, say yes. Say yes as much as you can. Just do it. If you can’t do it all the time, that’s okay, but say yes whenever possible.
  1. Write an essay/op. ed. piece for a newspaper with a large readership. This will get your name out to more readers.
  1. Record your book at your local Braille Institute and offer to do a workshop for its summer reading program. You’ll meet amazing kids who are budding storytellers.
  1. Go to events. Go to SCBWI events or book festivals on your own dime at least once if you have a book coming out. If they cannot offer you a signing during the festival, still go to meet people. You will make connections you cannot make online.
  1. Find a local chapter of the SCBWI and offer to do a workshop on setting, plot, voice or anything else.
  1. Write thank-you notes to everyone: librarians, teachers, booksellers. Be appreciative. Don’t whine. Say “thank you.”
  1. Get a GPS navigation device. It really helps out there on the road. Remember, the more you give of yourself as an author, the more you will connect with your readers at every level.
  1. Keep writing. The more books you market the easier it becomes. Press on. Give yourself a break and time to be alone to write and just be, so you can gather the stamina needed to get out there again.

Adapted from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators' (SCBWI) tips.
The SCBWI Caribbean South ChapterThe SCBWI, a non-profit organization, is one of the largest existing organizations for writers and illustrators. It is the only professional organization specifically for individuals writing and illustrating for children and young adults in the fields of children’s literature, magazines, film, television, and multimedia. Its mission is “to support the creation and availability of quality children’s books around the world.” We accomplish this by fostering a vibrant community of individuals who bring books for young readers to the public including writers, illustrators, translators, editors, publishers, agents, librarians, educators, booksellers, bloggers, enthusiasts and others. We provide education and support for these individuals and the community through our awards, grants, programs and events. We strive to increase the quality and quantity of children’s books in the marketplace, and act as a consolidated voice for writers and illustrators of children's books worldwide. Membership in the SCBWI is open to anyone with an active interest in literature for young people. We welcome aspiring and published writers and illustrators, librarians, educators, artists, students, dramatists, musicians, filmmakers, and others. A passion for children’s literature is our number one criterion. There are two SCBWI regional chapters: Caribbean North and Caribbean South. Visit the website at www.scbwi.org for more information.

About the Author

Marsha Gomes Mckie is the Foundress of Caribbean Books Foundation, an online platform (www.caribbeanbooks.org) that connects the Caribbean community and diaspora through literature. She is the Regional Advisor for the Caribbean South Chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), an international NGO devoted to supporting children’s book creators. She is a published author of a line of children books, Aunty Marsha Children’s Books, which she both writes and illustrates. She also writes romance and folklore fantasy fiction. She is an artist, public relations innovator and avid Caribbean book reviewer. She is a member of The Writers Union of Trinidad and Tobago and Women in Art of Trinidad and Tobago.

[Book Review] Gone to Drift by Diana McCaulay

Diana McCaulay (Author)
Papillote Press, 2016
YA novel, ages 12 and up

The young adult novel Gone to Drift by Diana McCaulay presents the story of how truth is discovered through losses. Lloyd is a twelve-year-old Jamaican boy who loves his grandfather Maas Conrad. It has been two weeks since his grandfather left for a fishing expedition to Pedro Cays and while all the people in the community know there is something preventing Maas Conrad's return, only Lloyd is willing to find out the true reason.
Lloyd defies all odds to discover the mystery of his grandfather’s disappearance at sea, despite warnings from the adults that Maas Conrad may be gone for good. It is through this journey that the reader discovers the tangled lies that surround Lloyd’s family as he races against time to rescue his grandfather. The story is set in Jamaica, juxtaposing the richness of the Caribbean milieu with the universality of the challenges our globalized societies face.
The story unravels the events that led to Maas Conrad's disappearance in multiple voice narrative. The main narrative is told in third person point of view. It gives the reader a macroscopic view of the issues that lead to Maas Conrad's disappearance while fishing in Pedro Cays. Lloyd's quest to rescue Maas Conrad takes center stage while the discoveries of what really happened in this community unfolds through this point of view.
The story periodically switches to Maas Conrad's first person voice as he battles against the challenges of being stranded on a solitary island without water or food, and with an injury. This microscopic perspective opens the Caribbean world of Maas Conrad: his ancestral beliefs and the transformation his island has undergone due to illegal fishing, pollution and the tourist trade. Both narratives merge to give a richness of perspectives, ultimately suggesting that not only Maas Conrad has “gone to drift,” but many of the adults who are supposed to be guiding Lloyd into adulthood.
The livelihood of fishing is at the heart of Lloyd's community. His grandfather is a fisherman who comes from a long line of fishermen, each of whom experienced his people’s growing indifference to nature and the tragic consequences of such. Fishing reserves have been depleted causing a disruption in the economic stability of the community. Vernon Saunders, Lloyd's father, has not followed the fishermen's footsteps but has “gone to drift” in many ways, from abandoning his family to his collaboration in illegal dolphin fishing practices that go against moral values.
While the disappearance of Maas Conrad is the core of the plot of this novel, it is only the tip of the iceberg considering the complexity of the societal and environmental problems facing his community, and by extension the world. The illegal traffic of dolphins is not a situation unique to the Caribbean, but a global issue with serious implications. The individual’s quest for economic survival leads to morally and legally questionable decisions. Lloyd ends up in the middle of this battle and learns that many of the people he believed to be respectable hold secrets. The world as he knew it crumbles into dust as he tries to figure out what is really true.
The novel is a bildungsroman of our contemporary world. It is through the unveiling of painful truths─ about his parents, his community and his world─ that Lloyd is able to find the answers he is seeking. The story poses moral questions to the reader that are not easy to answer. Can an immoral decision be justified in the name of human survival? This is the question that is interwoven throughout the story as Lloyd meets the different characters that give him the missing pieces to the puzzle of Maas Conrad's disappearance. Through the eyes and worlds of Jules, Black Crab, Lloyd's mother, Vernon Saunders and Slowly, both Lloyd and the reader discover that the world is full of shades of gray. At the same time, the voice of Maas Conrad provides depth and wisdom for understanding how past events shape the world we live in.
As an educator, I celebrate the portrayal of the love between a grandchild and grandparent. In contemporary life, grandparents have had to break away from paradigms imposed by Western society. Many of our grandparents have very active roles in raising and protecting their grandchildren. These roles have been silenced for too long. It is time that literary works show how grandparents' legacies shape the roles the new generations undertake. Maas Conrad is the anchor and compass in Lloyd Saunders' life, guiding him into a world of truth.
Gone to Drift is a beautiful and profound realistic fiction novel full of suspense that keeps the reader turning pages to discover the cause of Maas Conrad's disappearance. At the same time, the ending leaves the reader in a labyrinth of emotions, wondering how Lloyd will now face his world. Lloyd understands that the price he paid to discover the truth is the loss of the world he once knew. The novel, which was the second prize winner of CODE's Burt Award for Caribbean Literature in 2015, is an ideal literary work for young adult readers to see that life is full of ambiguities and that the power of love can overcome what can appear to be insurmountable obstacles. Lloyd's determination showed how true love can be the strongest weapon of all.

About the Author

Dr. Carmen Milagros-Torres is an Associate Editor here at Anansesem. She is an English professor who teaches Children’s Literature (INGL 4326) and Literature for Adolescents (INGL 4327) at the University of Puerto Rico in Humacao, Puerto Rico. Her articles on Puerto Rican children’s literature have appeared in Bookbird: A Journal of International Children's Literature, PRTESOLGram and Caribbean Without Borders: Beyond the Can[n]on’s Range (Cambridge Scholars Publishing). She has presented her research on Afro-Puerto Rican children’s literature at various conferences and sits on the Board of Directors of the Puerto Rican English Writers Association.

[Book List] 2017 Releases- Caribbean Books for Children & YAs

It's never too late to start reading your world so if you want to discover the special universe of Caribbean children's and YA lit, our round-up of titles releasing this year is a good place to start. In keeping with our usual new year tradition (see our 2016 list here), we've compiled forthcoming titles for the young and young at heart written by Caribbean authors or with Caribbean protagonists.

The coming year will bring new books from Tracey Baptiste, Emma Otheguy, Ruth Behar, John Agard, Adam Silvera, Ismael Cala, Pablo Cartaya, James Edward English and Anansesem alumni Olive Senior, Nadia L. Hohn, Itah Sadu, Margarita Engle and Ibi Zoboi. Some are debut authors (like Haitian-American writer-to-watch Ibi Zoboi whose short story "The Little Golden Stone Man" appeared in our September 2011 issue) and some are seasoned writers who are breaking new ground (like Margarita Engle, who will cross over into the fantasy genre for the first time).

If we missed any books, please let us know in the comments section below. This list will be updated throughout the year as we discover new titles and book covers. These books are all available for pre-order in our bookstore. Happy reading!

*All book synopses from the publisher's website. Inclusion in the list below does not constitute an endorsement by Anansesem or its editors.

Shadowhouse Fall
by Daniel José Older
YA novel. Scholastic. Pub date: September 12, 2017


Sierra and her friends love their new lives as shadowshapers, making art and creating change with the spirits of Brooklyn. Then Sierra receives a strange card depicting a white beast called the Hound of Light -- an image from the enigmatic, influential Deck of Worlds. The Deck tracks the players and powers of all the magical houses in the city, and when the real Hound begins to stalk Sierra through the streets, the shadowshapers know their next battle has arrived.


Sierra and Shadowhouse have been thrust into an ancient struggle with enemies old and new -- a struggle they didn't want, but are determined to win. Revolution is brewing in the real world as well, as the shadowshapers join the fight against systems that oppress and incarcerate their community. To protect her family and friends in every sphere, Sierra must take down the Hound and master the Deck of Worlds ... or else she could lose everything that matters most.

Sebi and the Land of Cha Cha Cha / Sebi Y La Tierra Del Chachacha
by Roselyn Sanchez (Author), Eric Winter (Author) and Nivea Ortiz (Illustrator)
Picturebook. Celebra Young Readers/Penguin Random House. Pub date: September 5, 2017

From Devious Maids star Roselyn Sanchez and Witches of East End star Eric Winter comes a story about the joys of dance!

It is El Carnaval Latino and Sebi is really excited. She loves the colorful clothes, the lively music but most of all she loves the dance. Her mother says she is a bit too young to take dance lessons. But when a beautiful Cotorra bird flies by and invites her and her friend, Keeke to follow, they are led on an exciting adventure to an enchanted land where the dancing fun has just begun!

Perfect for young children who love to dance!

The Rainmaker Danced
by John Agard (Author) and Satoshi Kitamura (Illustrator)
Poetry. Hodder Children's Books. Pub date: October 5, 2017

A brand-new anthology of poems by winner of the Queens Medal and the Eleanor Farjeon Award, John Agard

Do triangles
ever get into a tangle
when their sides meet their angles?

In this brand new collection of poems, John Agard draws on themes from nature and science to identity and inclusion, to inspire every reader. Here, we become transported by words and form on a journey through past and present. We are invited to answer life's questions, while having a great deal of fun at the same time ...

Answers are folly
when questions are bliss?
Without questions, do I exist?

My Brigadista Year
by Katherine Patterson
YA novel. Candlewick. Pub date: October 10, 2017

In an engrossing historical novel, the Newbery Medal-winning author of Bridge to Terebithia follows a young Cuban teenager as she volunteers for Fidel Castro’s national literacy campaign and travels into the impoverished countryside to teach others how to read.

When thirteen-year-old Nora tells her parents that she wants to join Premier Castro’s army of young literacy teachers, her mother screeches to high heaven, and her father roars like a lion. Nora has barely been outside of Havana — why would she throw away her life in a remote shack with no electricity, sleeping on a hammock in somebody’s kitchen? But Nora is stubborn: didn’t her parents teach her to share what she has with someone in need? Surprisingly, Nora’s abuela takes her side, even as she makes Nora promise to come home if things get too hard. But how will Nora know for sure when that time has come?

Shining light on a little-known moment in history, Katherine Paterson traces a young teen’s coming-of-age journey from a sheltered life to a singular mission: teaching fellow Cubans of all ages to read and write, while helping with the work of their daily lives and sharing the dangers posed by counterrevolutionaries hiding in the hills nearby. Inspired by true accounts, the novel includes an author’s note and a timeline of Cuban history.

Coming to England
by Floella Benjamin
Middle grade. Pan Macmillan; Reprint edition. Pub date: November 1, 2017

This edition of Floella Benjamin's classic memoir, includes a foreword by the author and some additional historical information. It is beautifully illustrated by Michael Frith, Floella Benjamin was just a young girl when she, her sister and two brothers arrived in England in 1960 to join their parents, whom they had not seen for fifteen months. They had left the island paradise of Trinidad to make a new home in London - part of a whole generation of West Indians who were encouraged to move to Britain and help rebuild the country after the Second World War. Reunited with their mother, Floella was too overwhelmed at first to care about the cold weather and the noise and dirt from the traffic. But, as her new life began, she was shocked and distressed by the rejection she experienced. She soon realized that the only way to survive was to work twice as hard and be twice as good as anyone else. This inspirational story is a powerful reminder that courage and determination can overcome adversity.

All the Way to Havana
by Margarita Engle (Author) and Mike Curato (Illustrator)
Picturebook. Henry Holt & Company. Pub date: August 29, 2017

So we purr, cara cara, and we glide, taka taka, and we zoom, zoom, ZOOM!

A family drives into the city of Havana to celebrate a cousin's first birthday. Before their journey, the boy helps his papa tune up their old car, Cara Cara, which has been in their family for many years. They drive along the sea wall, along the coast, past other colorful old cars. The sounds of the city are rich—the putt putts and honks and bumpety bumps of other cars chorus through the streets. A rich celebration of the culture of the Cuban people, their resourcefulness and innovative spirit, and their joy.

American Street
by Ibi Zoboi
YA novel. HarperCollins. Pub date: March 23, 2017

American Street is an evocative and powerful coming-of-age story perfect for fans of Everything, Everything; Bone Gap; and All American Boys. In this stunning debut novel, Pushcart-nominated author Ibi Zoboi draws on her own experience as a young Haitian immigrant, infusing this lyrical exploration of America with magical realism and vodou culture.

On the corner of American Street and Joy Road, Fabiola Toussaint thought she would finally find une belle vie—a good life. But after they leave Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Fabiola’s mother is detained by U.S. immigration, leaving Fabiola to navigate her loud American cousins, Chantal, Donna, and Princess; the grittiness of Detroit’s west side; a new school; and a surprising romance, all on her own.

Just as she finds her footing in this strange new world, a dangerous proposition presents itself, and Fabiola soon realizes that freedom comes at a cost. Trapped at the crossroads of an impossible choice, will she pay the price for the American dream?

Bravo!: Poems About Amazing Hispanics
by Margarita Engle (Author) and Rafael López (Illustrator)
Picturebook. Henry Holt and Co. Pub date: March 14, 2017

Musician, botanist, baseball player, pilot―the Latinos featured in this collection come from many different countries and from many different backgrounds. Celebrate their accomplishments and their contributions to a collective history and a community that continues to evolve and thrive today!

Biographical poems include: Aida de Acosta, Arnold Rojas, Baruj Benacerraf, César Chávez, Fabiola Cabeza de Baca, Félix Varela, George Meléndez, José Martí, Juan de Miralles, Juana Briones, Julia de Burgos, Louis Agassiz Fuertes, Paulina Pedroso, Pura Belpré, Roberto Clemente, Tito Puente, Ynes Mexia, Tomás Rivera

Lucky Broken Girl
by Ruth Behar
Middle grade novel. Nancy Paulsen Books. Pub date: April 11, 2017

In this unforgettable multicultural coming-of-age narrative—based on the author’s childhood in the 1960s—a young Cuban-Jewish immigrant girl is adjusting to her new life in New York City when her American dream is suddenly derailed. Ruthie’s plight will intrigue readers, and her powerful story of strength and resilience, full of color, light, and poignancy, will stay with them for a long time.

Ruthie Mizrahi and her family recently emigrated from Castro’s Cuba to New York City. Just when she’s finally beginning to gain confidence in her mastery of English—and enjoying her reign as her neighborhood’s hopscotch queen—a horrific car accident leaves her in a body cast and confined her to her bed for a long recovery. As Ruthie’s world shrinks because of her inability to move, her powers of observation and her heart grow larger and she comes to understand how fragile life is, how vulnerable we all are as human beings, and how friends, neighbors, and the power of the arts can sweeten even the worst of times.

The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora
by Pablo Cartaya
Middle grade novel. Viking Books for Young Readers. Pub date: May 16, 2017

Save the restaurant. Save the town. Get the girl. Make Abuela proud. Can thirteen-year-old Arturo Zamora do it all or is he in for a BIG, EPIC FAIL?

For Arturo, summetime in Miami means playing basketball until dark, sipping mango smoothies, and keeping cool under banyan trees. And maybe a few shifts as junior lunchtime dishwasher at Abuela’s restaurant. Maybe. But this summer also includes Carmen, a cute girl who moves into Arturo’s apartment complex and turns his stomach into a deep fryer. He almost doesn’t notice the smarmy land developer who rolls into town and threatens to change it. Arturo refuses to let his family and community go down without a fight, and as he schemes with Carmen, Arturo discovers the power of poetry and protest through untold family stories and the work of José Martí.

Funny and poignant, The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora is the vibrant story of a family, a striking portrait of a town, and one boy’s quest to save both, perfect for fans of Rita Williams-Garcia.

The Education of Margot Sanchez
by Lilliam Rivera
YA novel. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. Pub date: February 21, 2017

Pretty in Pink comes to the South Bronx in this bold and romantic coming-of-age novel about dysfunctional families, good and bad choices, and finding the courage to question everything you ever thought you wanted—from debut author Lilliam Rivera.

Things/People Margot Hates:
Mami, for destroying her social life
Papi, for allowing Junior to become a Neanderthal
Junior, for becoming a Neanderthal
The supermarket
Everyone else

After “borrowing” her father’s credit card to finance a more stylish wardrobe, Margot Sanchez suddenly finds herself grounded. And by grounded, she means working as an indentured servant in her family’s struggling grocery store to pay off her debts.

With each order of deli meat she slices, Margot can feel her carefully cultivated prep school reputation slipping through her fingers, and she’s willing to do anything to get out of this punishment. Lie, cheat, and maybe even steal…

Margot’s invitation to the ultimate beach party is within reach and she has no intention of letting her family’s drama or Moises—the admittedly good looking but outspoken boy from the neighborhood—keep her from her goal.

The Magic Piñata/La Piñata Mágica
by Ismael Cala (Author) and Yunior Suárez (Illustrator)
Picturebook. HarperCollins Español. Pub date: January 24, 2017

After his successful children's book, Ser Como el Bambu/Be Like The Bamboo, the bestselling author Ismael Cala has once again reached young audiences with The Magic Piñata/La Piñata Mágica.

The story -- which is bilingual and illustrated -- tells the story of Alex, a boy who is about to celebrate his birthday, but has to learn an important lesson about selfishness.

Through its pages, illustrated in full color by Yunior Suárez, The Magic Piñata/La Piñata Mágica draws its young readers into the world of its protagonist, whose parents are preparing a wonderful birthday party with a great big piñata, inviting children from the little town of Tepoztlán where Alex lives, to attend.

During the party, Alex discovers that he must share whatever tumbles out of the piñata with others, and this bothers him. From now on, he decides, he will ask his parents to celebrate his birthday a little differently: with two piñatas, one for his friends and one for him alone.

They Both Die at the End
by Adam Silvera
YA novel. HarperCollins. Pub date: September 5, 2017

When Mateo receives the dreaded call from Death-Cast, informing him that today will be his last, he doesn't know where to begin. Quiet and shy, Mateo is devastated at the thought of leaving behind his hospitalised father, and his best friend and her baby girl. But he knows that he has to make the most of this day, it's his last chance to get out there and make an impression.

Rufus is busy beating up his ex-girlfriend's new boyfriend when he gets the call. Having lost his entire family, Rufus is no stranger to Death-Cast. Not that it makes it any easier. With bridges to mend, the police searching for him and the angry new boyfriend on his tail, it's time to run. Isolated and scared, the boys reach out to each other, and what follows is a day of living life to the full. Though neither of them had expected that this would involve falling in love...Another beautiful, heartbreaking and life-affirming book from the brilliant Adam Silvera, author of More Happy Than Not and History Is All You Left Me.

The Rise of the Jumbies
by Tracey Baptiste
Middle grade novel. Algonquin Young Readers. Pub date: September 19, 2017

Corinne LaMer defeated the wicked jumbie Severine months ago, but things haven't exactly gone back to normal in her Caribbean island home. Everyone knows Corinne is half-jumbie, and many of her neighbors treat her with mistrust. When local children begin to go missing, snatched from the beach and vanishing into wells, suspicious eyes turn to Corinne.

To rescue the missing children and clear her own name, Corinne goes deep into the ocean to find Mama D Leau, the dangerous jumbie who rules the sea. But Mama D Leau s help comes with a price. Corinne and her friends Dru, Bouki, and Malik must travel with mermaids across the ocean to the shores of Ghana to fetch a powerful object for Mama D Leau. The only thing more perilous than Corinne s adventures across the sea is the foe that waits for her back home.

With its action-packed storytelling, diverse characters, and inventive twists on Caribbean and West African mythology and fairy tales, The Rise of the Jumbies will appeal to readers of A Snicker of Magic, Crenshaw, and The Girl Who Drank the Moon.

Forest World
by Margarita Engle
Middle grade verse novel. Atheneum Books for Young Readers. Pub date: August 2017

From award-winning author Margarita Engle comes a lively middle grade novel in verse that tells the story of a Cuban-American boy who visits his family’s village in Cuba for the first time— and meets a sister he didn’t know he had.

Edver isn’t happy about being shipped off to Cuba to visit the father he barely knows. The island is a place that no one in Miami ever mentions without a sigh, but travel laws have suddenly changed, and now it’s a lot easier for divided families to be reunited. Technology in Cuba hasn’t caught up with the times, though, and Edver is expecting a long, boring summer.

He was NOT expecting to meet a sister he didn’t know he had. Luza is a year older and excited to see her little brother, until she realizes what a spoiled American he is. Looking for something—anything—they might have in common, the siblings sneak onto the Internet, despite it being forbidden in Cuba, and make up a fake butterfly. Maybe now their cryptozoologist mother will come to visit. But their message is intercepted by a dangerous poacher, and suddenly much more than their family is at stake. Edver and Luza have to find a way to overcome their differences to save the Cuban jungle that they both have grown to love.

Rooting for Rafael Rosales
by Kurtis Scaletta
Middle grade novel. Albert Whitman & Company. Pub date: April 25, 2017

Rafael has dreams. Every chance he gets he plays in the street games trying to build his skills, get noticed by scouts, and—someday—play Major League Baseball. Maya has worries. The bees are dying all over the world, and the company her father works for is responsible, making products that harm the environment. Follow Rafael and Maya in a story that shifts back and forth in time and place, from Rafael’s neighborhood in the Dominican Republic to present-day Minnesota, where Maya and her sister are following Rafael’s first year in the minor leagues. In their own ways, Maya and Rafael search for hope, face difficult choices, and learn a secret—the same secret—that forever changes how they see the world.

Who Was Fidel Castro?
by Sarah Fabiny (Author) and Ted Hammond (Illustrator)
Middle grade biography. Grosset & Dunlap. Pub date: August 22, 2017

When Fidel Castro died on November 25, 2016, many people around the world responded with mixed emotions. Learn all about the man who shaped Cuba for more than half a decade.

After overthrowing Fulgencia Batista in 1959, Fidel Castro became the leader of an island country only ninety miles away from Florida. While in power, Castro outlasted ten US presidents and turned the small nation into a one-party state with influence over the entire world. Called a leader by some and a dictator by others, Castro defined not one but several eras in world politics.

Who Was Bob Marley?
by Katie Ellison (Author) and Gregory Copeland (Illustrator)
Middle grade biography. Grosset & Dunlap. Pub date: June 6, 2017

Get Up, Stand Up! for the king of reggae music!

Bob Marley was a reggae superstar who is considered to be one of the most influential musicians of all time. Born in rural Jamaica, this musician and songwriter began his career with his band, The Wailing Wailers, in 1963. The Wailers went on to spread the gospel of reggae music around the globe. Bob's distinctive style and dedication to his Rastafari beliefs became a rallying cry for the poor and disenfranchised the world over and led to a hugely successful solo career. After his death in 1981, Bob Marley became a symbol of Jamaican culture and identity. His greatest-hits album, Legend, remains the best-selling reggae album of all time. Who Was Bob Marley? tells the story of how a man with humble roots became an international icon.

This title in the New York Times best-selling series contains eighty illustrations that help bring the story to life.

Tales from the Caribbean
by Trish Cooke (Author)
Middle grade anthology. Puffin Classics. Pub date: 03 August, 2017

A collection of favourite tales gathered from the many different islands of the Caribbean, one of the world's richest sources of traditional storytelling. From the very first Kingfisher to Anansi the Spider Man, these lively retellings full of humour and pathos, are beautifully retold by Trish Cooke.

The book includes endnotes with a glossary, additional information as well as ideas for activities that children can do to explore the stories further.

Plus Don't Miss These Titles from Indie Publishers!

Greetings, Leroy
by Itah Sadu (Author) and Alix Delinois (Illustrator)
Picturebook. Groundwood Books. Pub date: May 1, 2017

The first day at a new school is nerve-wracking enough, never mind when it’s in a new country! In this lively picture book from award-winning storyteller Itah Sadu, Roy realizes he may come to love his new home in Canada as much as he loves his old home in Jamaica.

Written as an email to a friend back home, this picture book tells the story of Roy, whose family has just moved to Canada from Jamaica. His new home is different from his old home – in Canada, even the sun feels cold! His nerves ease, though, as welcome reminders of home follow him through his day. His neighbor gives him a button as a gift for his first day of school. The principal tells him about the soccer team and his new class makes him feel welcome.

Everything is looking up until Roy goes to show his classmates his new button and he can’t find it! He rushes back to the principal’s office where they look up and down and all around for the button. Thanks to his powers of observation, Roy finds it in an unexpected place and is able to show it to his new friends. The friendly people he meets, and their shared love of Bob Marley, make for a good start at his new school. By the end of the day, Roy is happy to find a piece of his old home in his new home.

Sadu captures the voice of a young boy in a new country in this story about finding a new home while still staying proud of where you’re from. Harlem-based artist Alix Delinois shows the joy of making new friends with his vibrant, layered paintings.

The Shameless Shenanigans of Míster Malo / Las terribles travesuras de Mister Malo: The Mister Malo Series / Serie Mister Malo
by Alidis Vicente (Author) and Carolina Villarroel (Translator)
Middle grade novel. Pinata Books. Pub date: October 31, 2017

During the school day, Lance García looks like a typical fourth-grader at Oakland Elementary School. But after school, dressed in disguise—black jacket, black baseball cap and dark, cool sunglasses with tiny, rectangular mirrors so he can see who’s behind him—he checks the mailbox labeled “Malo Mail.” No one realizes that he is the infamous Mister Malo, righter of wrongs, punisher of bullies.

There’s an interesting plea for help in the mailbox. Isabella Santos spread a rumor that Madeline Wilson farted on the playground, and now everyone makes farting noises when she walks by. No one will talk to her, and a group of boys in particular are making her life miserable. Madeline offers Mister Malo a large box of tropical-flavored fruit snacks if he’ll teach Isabella a lesson. Soon Lance is busy plotting the perfect revenge. He wants to rehabilitate the bullies and help them realize how hurtful their actions are. What will be the best tactic to convince Isabella that being laughed at and picked on is no fun?

But Mister Malo’s scheme doesn’t go exactly as planned, forcing him to think outside of the box. Meanwhile, Lance has to deal with his own problem in the form of his difficult cousin, Manuel. This entertaining bilingual “flip” book will resonate with kids ages 8-12 in its examination of popularity on the school grounds and dealing with troublemakers.

Miguel's Brave Knight: Young Cervantes and his Dream of Don Quixote
by Margarita Engle (Author) and Raúl Colón (Illustrator)
Picturebook. Peachtree Publishers. Pub date: October 2017

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra finds refuge from his difficult childhood by imagining the adventures of a brave but clumsy knight.

This fictionalized first-person biography in verse of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra follows the early years of the child who grows up to pen Don Quixote, the first modern novel. The son of a gambling, vagabond barber-surgeon, Miguel looks to his own imagination for an escape from his family's troubles and finds comfort in his colorful daydreams. At a time when access to books is limited and imaginative books are considered evil, Miguel is inspired by storytellers and wandering actors who perform during festivals. He longs to tell stories of his own. When Miguel is nineteen, four of his poems are published, launching the career of one of the greatest writers in the Spanish language.

Award-winning author Margarita Engle's distinctive picture book depiction of the childhood of the father of the modern novel, told in a series of free verse poems, is enhanced by Raúl Colón's stunning illustrations. Backmatter includes a note from both the author and illustrator as well as additional information on Cervantes and his novel Don Quixote.

Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library
by Carole Boston Weatherford (Author) and Eric Velasquez (Illustrator)
Picturebook. Candlewick Press. Pub date: September 12, 2017

In luminous paintings and arresting poems, two of children’s literature’s top African-American scholars track Arturo Schomburg’s quest to correct history.

Where is our historian to give us our side? Arturo asked.

Amid the scholars, poets, authors, and artists of the Harlem Renaissance stood an Afro–Puerto Rican named Arturo Schomburg. This law clerk’s life’s passion was to collect books, letters, music, and art from Africa and the African diaspora and bring to light the achievements of people of African descent through the ages. When Schomburg’s collection became so big it began to overflow his house (and his wife threatened to mutiny), he turned to the New York Public Library, where he created and curated a collection that was the cornerstone of a new Negro Division. A century later, his groundbreaking collection, known as the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, has become a beacon to scholars all over the world.

Dreams Beyond the Shore
by Tamika Gibson
YA novel. Blue Banyan Books. Pub date: June 2017

Seventeen-year-old Chelsea Marchand was pretty satisfied with her life. Until recently. Willing to play the dutiful daughter as her father’s bid to become Prime Minister of their island home brings her family into intense public scrutiny, Chelsea is swept along by the strong tidal wave of politics and becomes increasingly disturbed by her father’s duplicity. She finds a reprieve when she meets Kyron, a kindred spirit encased in low riding blue jeans. The two share a bond as he too struggles to get beyond his father’s shadow.

But when Chelsea discovers an even darker more sinister side to her father’s world, a discovery that makes her question the man he is and the woman she wants to be, she must decide how much of her own dreams she is willing to compromise to make her father’s come true. But can she find the strength to stand up to her father and chart her own journey?

Tamika Gibson serves up a fascinating and stirring debut novel about growing up and accepting who you are, regardless of who your parents may be. Buoyed by the rhythms, heat and lyrical lilt of contemporary Trinidad and Tobago, Dreams Beyond the Shore is a heartwarming story declaring that decisions matter far more than destiny.

Dreams Beyond the Shore won first prize in the 2016 Burt Award for Caribbean Literature.

by Florenz Webbe Maxwell
YA novel. Blue Banyan Books. Pub date: June 2017

A week ago, Desma Johnson had only two things on her mind – in exactly eight days, she would be sixteen years old and to top it off she was in line for a top scholarship, bringing her one step closer to her dreams. Life was perfect and nothing would get in the way of her birthday plans. But it’s 1959 and the secret Progressive League has just announced a boycott of all cinemas in Bermuda in order to end racial segregation.

As anxieties around the boycott build Desma becomes increasingly aware of the racial tensions casting a dire shadow over the island. Neighbours she once thought were friendly and supportive show another side. So, Desma must learn that change is never easy, and even when others expect small things from black girls, she has the right to dream big.

In this startling debut, Florenz Webbe Maxwell takes a little-known fact about Caribbean history and weaves an engaging tale that speaks eloquently to the contemporary experience. Girlcott takes you beyond the image of Bermuda as a piece of paradise and charts a narrative of resistance, hope and the importance of fighting for change.

Girlcott won 2nd Prize in the 2016 Burt Award for Caribbean Literature.

Under the Zaboca Tree
by Glynis Guevara
Middle grade to YA novel. Inanna Publications. Pub date: June 2017

At ten, Melody Sparks, better known as Baby Girl, is excited to move to the tropical island of Trinidad with her single-parent dad, but she silently longs for her mother, a woman she can’t recall ever meeting and doesn’t have a photo of. She fits in to her new life in Paradise Lane quite well: she loves her school and makes new friends. However, her longing for blood family remains strong. But Baby Girl is suddenly and unexpectedly uprooted from her comfortable life in Paradise Lane by and forced to reside in Flat Hill Village, a depressed, crime-ridden community. She struggles to adjust to life in this village with the help of new friends, Arlie, a village activist and Colm, a young man who mentors her to write poetry. When Baby Girl witnesses a serious crime, her father insists she move in with relatives she doesn’t know very well, where she ultimately uncovers the truth about her mother.

Under the Zaboca Tree is a contemporary coming of age novel that explores multiple issues including the challenges of being a motherless adolescent, searching for one’s identity, the unbreakable bonds of family, and the ability to adapt to difficult situations.

Rafi and Rosi Pirates
by Lulu Delacre (Author and Illustrator)
Chapter book. Lee and Low Books. Pub date: October 15, 2017

In this new book in the popular Dive Into Reading: Rafi and Rosi chapter book series, Rafi and his younger sister, Rosi, are excited to visit El Morro Fort, the four-hundred-year-old fortress that guards the entrance to San Juan harbor. At the fort they pretend to be pirates, engage in a fierce battle, and learn about Roberto Cofresi, Puerto Rico's most famous pirate. As they go deeper into the fort they discover a gleaming, hidden treasure--Spanish gold doubloons and silver pieces of eight--hidden in the inner reaches of the fort's kitchen. After turning over their discovery to the fort's museum, Rafi is ready to go back to Tia Ana's home, but Rosi wants to play hide-and-seek. And Rosi sees the perfect place to hide--in the stone sentry box that once housed the fort's lookout guards. Little does she know that the sentry box might be haunted!

Engaging and informative, the book is perfect for independent readers in grades 1 and 2. Children will enjoy joining Rafi and Rosi on their new adventures while they learn about Puerto Rico's history.

Martí's Song for Freedom/Martí y Sus Versos Por La Independencia
by Emma Otheguy (Author) and Beatriz Vidal (Illustrator)
Picturebook. Lee and Low Books. Pub date: April 1, 2017

A bilingual biography of José Martí, who dedicated his life to the promotion of liberty, the abolishment of slavery, political independence for Cuba, and intellectual independence from colonialism for all Latinos. Written in verse with excerpts from Mart's seminal work, Versos Sencillos.

Morning Star Horse / El Caballo Lucero
by Margarita Engle (Author), Alexis Romay (Translator) and Josiah Muster (Illustrator)
Middle grade verse novel. HBE Publishing . Pub date: January 30, 2017

"When Mamacita chose to call me Estrellita, / it was her way of imagining a little bit / of starlight, deep down in that cavern / where only rare streaks of day or night / could reach--now, Lucero and I will be / Morning Star and Little Star, / a lit-from-within racing team!"

A young girl stricken with rickets and her mother face the aftermath of the Spanish-American War, the challenges of a new century and innovative teachers. Dreams realized and dreams crushed exploring the freedoms only a magical horse can offer. Award winning author Margarita Engle brings a tale of history mixed with a touch of fantasy.

Malaika's Winter Carnival
by Nadia L. Hohn (Author) and Irene Luxbacher (Illustrator)
Picturebook. Groundwood Books. Pub date: September 5, 2017.

This follow-up to Malaika's Costume is an uplifting story about immigration, family and community.

An introduction to winter celebrations, and how children can maintain their own traditions while embracing new ones.

Curriculum tie-ins: social studies (family and community traditions).

Galia's Dad Is in a Wheelchair
by James Edward English (Author) and Teddy Keser Mombrun (Illustrator)
Picturebook. Texas Christian University Press. Pub date: January 31, 2017.

Galia is a young girl from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, who likes to ride her bike, dance, and spend time with her father, Gérald, who has muscular dystrophy and has been in a wheelchair since he was a young boy. Despite his disability, Gérald received a master’s degree from Harvard University, served as President Michel Martelly’s Secretary of State with the disability portfolio, and enjoys many of the same activities with his daughter as other dads.

During his five years in public office, Secretary Gérald Oriol Jr. recognized his country’s critical shortage of children’s literature, particularly related to disability, and encouraged his friend and adviser James English to create a children’s book for Haiti, which has an estimated one million persons with disabilities, a number that increased significantly following the 2010 earthquake.

Galia’s Dad Is in a Wheelchair aims to counter negative stereotypes and stigmas surrounding disability and is believed to be the only children’s book on the subject in Haiti available in Creole, French, and English. The book’s positive messages, which promote disability awareness and close parent-child relations, are universal and extend to general readers beyond the small Caribbean island nation.

Teddy Keser Mombrun, a political cartoonist for Haiti’s largest newspaper, Le Nouvelliste, used Haiti’s unique color palette and landscapes to create illustrations for the book.

Starring Carmen!
by Anika Denise (Author) and Lorena Alvarez (Illustrator)
Picturebook. Abrams. Pub date: 01 September, 2017

Meet Carmen! She LOVES the spotlight and applause. She's an actress, a singer, a dancer—a one-girl sensación! She exhausts her parents with her nightly performances and completely overshadows Eduardo, her adoring little brother. But when Eduardo shows his big sister how much he loves her in a way even Carmen can’t ignore, will Carmen realize that the stage is big enough for two?

Exuberant illustrations by Lorena Alvarez Gómez offer the perfect complement to Anika Denise’s warm, Spanish-sprinkled text in this celebration of theater, family, and imagination.

Mayanito's New Friends/ Los Nuevos Amigos De Mayanito
by Tato Laviera (Author) and Gabhor Utomo (Illustrator)
Picturebook. Pinata Books. Pub date: 31 October, 2017

From his perch high up on a mountaintop, a young Mayan prince watched as raindrops formed in the clouds below him. Suddenly, within each drop, there was a child! The raindrop children landed gently on the ground and Mayanito raced down the mountainside to play with them. They were from Mexico, Brazil, Jamaica and other countries in the Americas, but as the sun warmed the land, they evaporated and turned into flowers!

Mayanito was sad to lose his friends, so he decided to go find them. Thankfully, the animals of the jungle including Pablito the snake, Teresa the crocodile and Rafael the jaguar helped him. In this adventurous romp through the rainforest, monkeys pulled him from quicksand and carried him over a waterfall in a hammock made of vines! Riding on a flamingo s back, he landed in the village far below his mountaintop home and finally found his new friends. Together, they rode an inchworm train back up the mountain. And when Mayanito was named king, he declared all the children of the hemisphere members of his tribe!

Gabhor Utomo's gorgeous illustrations of the lush rainforest, its flora and fauna complement the boy s fantastical journey in this bilingual picture book for children ages 5-10. Parents and teachers will find this beautiful book provides a good introduction to basic concepts of jungle creatures, geography and even musical instruments from different regions.

Let's Explore Cuba
by Walt K. Moon (Author)
Nonfiction Picturebook. Lerner Publications. Pub date: 01 January, 2017

There are lots of different places to visit in the world! Have you ever been on an island? What would it be like to live on one? Take a trip to tropical Cuba and learn about the history and culture of this Caribbean country. Full-color photographs and carefully leveled text bring Cuba to life, while age-appropriate critical thinking questions introduce readers to nonfiction. It's almost like being on the beach yourself!

The Protector's Pledge
by Danielle Y. C. McClean
YA novel. CaribbeanReads. Pub date: May 4, 2017.

Award winning title: Third place in the 2016 Burt Award for Caribbean Literature.

A fast-paced adventure set deep in a Caribbean forest with a hero who must risk everything to save the forest and his village.

Twelve-year-old JV can't wait to spend his vacation exploring the Oscuros Forest. True, everyone in the village of Alcavere believes the Oscuros Forest is a place to be feared, inhabited by dangerous and magical beings. But JV is not afraid, even when his first trip into the forest brings him face-to-face with a mysterious creature.

Then the disappearance of one of their own shakes the village and JV joins the search. He finds himself deep in the Oscuros Forest on a rescue mission and committed to a promise, a promise which the Protectors of the forest insist he keeps no matter how dangerous things get.

Can JV complete his daring quest even as he uncovers in the process, a shocking secret that will force him to question everything he thought he knew?

Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure
by Joanne C. Hillhouse (Author) and Danielle Boodoo-Fortuné (Illustrator)
Picturebook. CaribbeanReads. Pub date: December 3, 2017


When an Arctic seal named Dolphin finds himself far from home in the warm Caribbean sea, he has to rely on new friends for help. Will he make his way back to his Arctic home?

The story of Dolphin, the Arctic Seal, was inspired by Wadadli, a young male hooded seal that left its home in the North Atlantic and found himself stranded in the Caribbean Sea just off of the island of Antigua. He was rescued by the Coast Guard of Antigua and Barbuda, and like Dolphin, the Arctic Seal, he was returned to his home by plane.

This book includes a short story and a puzzle.

Mamá Graciela's Secret
by Mayra Calvani (Author) and Sheila Fein (Illustrator)
Picturebook. MacLaren-Cochrane Publishing. Pub date: October 10, 2017

Mamá Gracíela’s TENDER, CRUNCHY, SPICY bacalaítos fritos are the best in town…

Local customers (including stray cats!) come from all over the island to enjoy her secret recipe. But when the Inspector discovers that Mamá secretly caters to so many cats and he threatens to close her tiny restaurant, Mamá must come up with a plan to save it—and all of the animals she loves.

Water in May
by Ismée Williams (Author)
YA novel. Harry N. Abrams. Pub date: September 12, 2017

Fifteen-year-old Mari Pujols believes that the baby she’s carrying will finally mean she’ll have a family member who will love her deeply and won’t ever leave her—not like her mama, who took off when she was eight; or her papi, who’s in jail; or her abuela, who wants as little to do with her as possible. But when doctors discover a potentially fatal heart defect in the fetus, Mari faces choices she never could have imagined.

Surrounded by her loyal girl crew, her off-and-on boyfriend, and a dedicated doctor, Mari navigates a decision that could emotionally cripple the bravest of women. But both Mari and the broken-hearted baby inside her are fighters; and it doesn’t take long to discover that this sick baby has the strength to heal an entire family.

Inspired by true events, this gorgeous debut has been called “heartfelt, heartbreaking and—yes!—even a little heart-healing, too” by bestselling YA novelist Carolyn Mackler.

About the Author

Summer Edward is the Editor-in-Chief here at Anansesem. Her writing and art have been published in various literary magazines and anthologies. Her home on the web is www.summeredward.com.

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