Me Llamo Gabriela/My Name Is Gabriela











Me Llamo Gabriela/My Name Is Gabriela
Author: Monica Brown
Illustrator: John Parra
Publisher: Luna Rising
ISBN-10: 0873588592
ISBN-13: 978-0873588591

This wonderful little tribute to Gabriela Mistral, the Chilean Nobel Prize winner for Literature and the first Latina to receive the award works on so many levels.

As a picture book, the illustrations by John Parra are simply beautiful. His almost etched looking feel to the pages give that unique Latino flair and flavor while his color palette brings a happy and joyful feel to the book.

As a history, the book is a wonderful way to introduce young children to important historical figures in a completely relatable way. The book opens telling about Gabriela and how she picked her own name because she liked the sound of it. Writen in the first person, Me Llamo Gabriela/My Name Is Gabriela draws in the young reader with its imaginative, day dreamy feel and a sense of play. My little granddaughter was captivated by the story of young Gabriela Mistral and how she realized her dreams and beyond. I could see that she was drinking in the story, seeing herself in Gabriela and imagining herself doing the same. Isn’t that what we want for our children? That they see themselves as strong and successful so that they can go out into that wide world with a strong sense of self and the belief that their dreams are possible? Monica Brown’s book does just that – it gives them a concrete example of someone who followed their dreams and made them happen.

On another very important level this book teaches the importance of literacy. It gives little Latinas a good look at an intelligent role model. People like Gabriela Mistral are people Latinas or Chicanas don’t always learn about till college. To have a young child’s picture book teaching about a Nobel Prize-winning author gives them a view that they as Latinas have value and much to contribute. That’s an extremely important view to have when you’re growing up. My Name is Gabriela is highly recommended.

Poetry Friday





Once again it is Poetry Friday and this week the round up is over at Two Writing Teachers. Thanks for hosting!

My contribution this week is a bit of one of my favorites, Borderlands by Gloria Anzaldua.

Gloria Evangelina Anzaldua was an amazing woman and my copy of This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color is almost worn thing from so much reading. Anzaldua remains one of my heroes. She fought racism, sexism and oppression and paved roads for Chicanas and women in general. She died in May of 2004 and the world is a lesser place without her.


To live in the borderlands means you
are neither hispana india negra espanola
ni gabacha, eres mestiza, mulata
, half-breed
caught in the crossfire between camps while carrying all five races
on your back
not knowing which side to turn to, run from;

To live in the Borderlands means knowing
that the indian in you, betrayed for 500 years,
is no longer speaking to you,
that mexicanas call you rajetas,
that denying the Anglo inside you
is as bad as having denied the Indian or Black;

To read the rest of Borderlands click here. To see the web altar and learn more about Gloria, click here.

National Book Award Nominees

Mischa Berlinski, Fieldwork (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
Lydia Davis, Varieties of Disturbance (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
Joshua Ferris, Then We Came to the End (Little, Brown)
Denis Johnson, Tree of Smoke (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
Jim Shepard, Like You’d Understand, Anyway (Knopf)

Edwidge Danticat, Brother, I’m Dying (Knopf)
Christopher Hitchens, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (Twelve/HBG USA)
Woody Holton, Unruly Americans and the Origins of the Constitution (Hill and Wang/FSG)
Arnold Rampersad, Ralph Ellison: A Biography (Knopf)
Tim Weiner, Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA (Doubleday)

Linda Gregerson, Magnetic North (Houghton Mifflin Company)
Robert Hass, Time and Materials (Ecco/HarperCollins)
David Kirby, The House on Boulevard St. (Louisiana State University Press)
Stanley Plumly, Old Heart (W.W. Norton)
Ellen Bryant Voigt, Messenger: New and Selected Poems 1976-2006 (Norton)

Young People’s Literature:
Sherman Alexie, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (Little, Brown)
Kathleen Duey, Skin Hunger: A Resurrection of Magic, Book One (Atheneum Books for Young Readers)
M. Sindy Felin, Touching Snow (Atheneum Books for Young Readers)
Brian Selznick, The Invention of Hugo Cabret (Scholastic Press)
Sara Zarr, Story of a Girl (Little, Brown)F

Poetry Friday




Poetry Friday is here! I feel like that needs to be shouted off rooftops this week for some reason. Could it be that I’ve been completely swept away by poetry all this week? I’m currently reading Marjorie Agosi­n’s phenomenal Among the Angels of Memory and I can’t think of anything else but the beautiful and powerfully evocative language. My review of it will be up this weekend, hopefully with some snippets of it). Head for the roundup over at Whimsy to see what other poetry you find.

I’ve also been reading two other powerful poets, Drive: The First Quartet by Lorna Dee Cervantes and Bent to the Earth, a favorite of mine by Blas Manuel de Luna (reviewed here). I’ve been assaulted by poetry, embraced by it, am breathing it this week.

Here’s a little portion of de Luna from The Sky Above Your Grave, his poem in honor of his brother.

If you could see through satin and wood and earth and bits of grass,
if you could see through the trees in winter
when their leaves are gone.
if, little brother, there were a way for the dead to see,
you would see all the ways the sky has to be beautiful.

Another portion of his poem Today

Today, where my mother works,
a young man,
no older than myself,
lost his hand
in a machine.
He screamed when his hand came off.
My mother told me
she could not get the scream
out of her head. All around them,
the pistachios, on the conveyor belt,
and on the ground, reddened.

Or perhaps a bit of his title poem for the collection Bent to the Earth

spun the five-year-old me awake
to immigration officers,
their batons already out,
already looking for the soft spots of the body,
to my mother being handcuffed
and dragged to a van, to my father
trying to show them our green cards.

They let us go. But Alvaro
was going back.
So was his brother Fernando.
So was his sister Sonia. Their mother
did not escape,
and so was going back. Their father
was somewhere in the field,
and was free. There were no great truths

revealed to me then. No wisdom
given to me by anyone. I was a child
who had seen what a piece of polished wood
could do to a face, who had seen his father
about to lose the one he loved, who had lost
some friends who would never return,
who, later that morning, bent
to the earth and went to work.

The 2007 Cybil Awards – Nominations are Open!







Okay I’m a day late. The Cybils officially opened up nominations in all categories yesterday. I’m just way behind schedule on lots of things. The good news is that I have the great honor to be returning as a panelist in the graphic novel category!

Check out the cool group I landed in this year, some are seasoned Cybilers and old pals from last year and some are new and very welcome names. Talk about traveling in fine company! I expect applause. I’m listening for it. Yay!!


Category Organizer: Sarah Stevenson (Reading YA: Readers’ Rants)

Nominating Panel:

Mary Lee Hahn (A Year of Reading)
Alyssa Feller (The Shady Glade)
Katie Zenke (Pixie Palace)
Elizabeth Jones
Gina Ruiz (AmoXcalli) – that’s me

Judging Panel:

David Elzey (The Excelsior File)
J.L. Bell (Oz and Ends)
Anna (TangognaT)
Snow Wildsmith (My Reading Project)
Angie Thompson (Angieville)

Don’t know what the Cybils are? Well then, head on over here to the Cybil’s official website to find out more.

Want to know more about the other categories besides Graphic Novels and who the people are for a particular genre? There are eight (8) genres covered. Head on over here.

Who won in 2006 you say? Well the nifty elves over the Cybils website have that too! See, it’s like magic.

Now for the juicy stuff – you can nominate any 2007 title in whatever genre you like here. Only one book per person in each category so be choosy. We’re really looking forward to reading and voting on your favorites!

Don’t forget to nominate your favorite books of 2007!

A Conversation with Ana Castillo


Ana Castillo is a celebrated poet, novelist, short story writer, and essayist. She is considered to be one of the leading voices to emerge from the Chicana experience. Castillo is an incredibly prolific author and poet whose work has been critically acclaimed and widely anthologized in the United States and abroad. She has long been an activist and feminist as well as a strong voice for social change.

Castillo’s books include the novel, The Mixquiahuala Letters (Bilingual Review Press, 1986; Doubleday, 1992), Sapogonia (Bilingual Review Press, 1990), So Far From God (Norton, 1993), Massacre of the Dreamers: Reflections on Mexican-Indian Women in the United States 500 Years After the Conquest (University of New Mexico, 1992) and I Ask the Impossible (Anchor Books, 2001).

Castillo has coordinated an anthology on la Virgen de Guadalupe entitled La Diosa de las Americas/Goddess of the Americas (Riverside/Putnam, 1996), Peel My Love Like an Onion (Doubleday) in 1999 and a children’s book My Daughter, My Son, The Eagle, The Dove. In 2005 she published a dramatic work Psst, I have something to tell you, mi amor (Wings Press) and most recently published her latest book The Guardians (Random House).

Born and raised in Chicago, Castillo currently lives in New Mexico, although she is currently teaching at MIT in Boston. The Ana Castillo website contains a complete bio and list of publications and awards.

For me personally, Ana Castillo is my hero, a role model and one of my favorite authors and poets. I’ve always admired her activism and her writing. Ms. Castillo very kindly took time out from her busy schedule at MIT to speak with me about her poetry, her books and her activism. I found her to be gracious, warm and brilliant. We had a lovely conversation and I gained both knowledge and inspiration from it.

GR: I loved your children’s coming of age book My Daughter, My Son, The Eagle, The Dove - do you ever think you will write another book for children?

AC: Well, it’s not always a matter of wanting to write something; sometimes it’s a matter of getting it published. That book didn’t do very well and is going out of print soon. I did write a book for babies from the huehuetlatolli but couldn’t find a publisher that was interested in taking it on.

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Poetry Friday – Round ‘em Up!

A little story tells a tale of flowers and song,
while Life longs for itself through a father’s eyes
and a daughter’s memories.
A swing in the air; nebulas, the universe locked in
While elsewhere there is tap dancing on the roof.
Greene connection with the dirt and grass,
Teeth, sneakers, foxes and rhyme.
A spiral of translucent words
Leads the brave poet past her fear.
Who but Martha spins her tales
Nearby, the autumn bonfires burn
As fairies dance for Michaelmas
and women, brave and daring leave fragments of themselves
but don’t riot.
Bright ladies with cold hands
Face it all alone
The resurrection fern of iron and wine
while the eyes of a hungry dog look on andGod takes time to write a book
in long low notes the path to peace.
A baby cries in a bed of roses
and the impression I get
here in Burma
is that nonsense makes sense as much sense say
as noodles for breakfast do or frogs singing lullabies in a swamp.
Joy such a small word for such a big thing
like geese flying at night beyond the face of fear – a blessing.
Promises on a hillside, the discovery of plums in an icebox
a summer rich oak under which, the degenerate sons
release their Greek and Latin to the brownish beetle
as the King Monarch watches intently and thinks on
the luscious, impeccable fruit of life.
The rabbit in the mirror stops to stare behind daylight
at an army of words
and cowboy poetry rounds up Poetry Friday.

Poetry Friday – Yikes I’m Hosting!

It’s been a tremendously busy week for me and an exciting one. I’ve interviewed Ana Castillo (what an amazing lady she is), I’ve been researching illustrators, preparing for the Cybils, talking my nice boss into giving Dana-Farber free banner advertising and picking out safe new car seats for my grandkids along with my everyday work madness. I almost clean forgot Poetry Friday which would have been terrible since (gulp) I’m hosting and rounding up.

In honor of Ana Castillo and Poetry Friday – here is the link to her speaking her seminal poem – Women Don’t Riot from her book I Ask the Impossible.

Women Don’t Riot

I hope I figured out Mr. Linky. I can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with for my first hosting Poetry Friday.

Please leave a comment after dropping your poem off with Mr. Linky. Happy Poetry Friday everyone!

Rainy Day Reading, Contemplating and Cooking

It rained all last night and off and on throughout the day. The grandkids and I were cheated out of our walk but we’re happy to have the rain here in sometimes too sunny California. My Grandma Lupe’s long-standing tradition was always to make either caldo de rez (beef and vegetable soup) or caldo de pollo (chicken soup) on the first rainy day. It’s a great tradition and I’ve done a darned good job in keeping it. My children always knew the first rainy day meant soup and some kind of baking and now my grandchildren are learning. Traditions are important to me.

It’s Saturday. If it had been a Saturday when I was growing up, I’d have been lying under piles of blankets smelling the morning baking my grandmother was doing, smelling chiles roasting, hearing my grandfather banging out tortillas with his big rolling pin. If I had been at my mom’s it would have been cartoons, cold cereal and a blanket on the couch. In my house now, Saturdays mean the grandkids are here. Cartoons? Once in a great while. I do work in animation… But mostly, Saturdays – rainy ones mean cuddling on the bean bags and reading stories. Today we read the first chapter of The Wind in the Willows. Isn’t that a great book?

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