The 2020 Latinx Kidlit Book Festival was officially held last Friday, December 4th and Saturday, December 5th. However, all of the #LKBF2020 video sessions are available on YouTube and will continue to be available indefinitely. Thank you to the festival organizers and sponsors!
The videos are organized by topics that will appeal to youth, educators, librarians, and readers of all ages. These are the sessions I have viewed so far: Español, Spanglish or Bilingual: The Use of Spanish in Latinx Kidlit; No Words: Storytelling Through Pictures; Magical Realism and Beyond; and Stronger Together: Social Justice in Young Adult Literature.
All of the sessions I’ve viewed have ended with questions submitted from young people. I appreciate this reader-centered addition to a virtual literature conference.
This is an important session for all librarians in terms of cultural insider perspectives on bilingual and single-language books for children and teens. These were the guiding questions for the session: Is there a “universal” Spanish? Is there an audience in the USA for Spanish-only books published in America? When does blending Spanish and English work? Is it ever hindering or confusing? What about italics for Spanish in an English text? Is there a time that is best to do dual versions, rather than having a bilingual book?
Author and educator Monica Brown (Lola Levine Is Not Mean) moderated the panel and contributed many insights from her professional and personal experience. Monica, whose mother was born in Peru, shared her connections to Peruvian culture, history, and language. She talked about working collaboratively with translators because her own Spanish is not quite proficient enough to support her writing in both languages. (The country/culture of origin of Spanish language translators is an important conversation for the future.)
Lulu Delacre (Luci Soars) is originally from Puerto Rico and has been writing in both English and Spanish for many years; she is also an illustrator. Lulu noted that when both languages are included side by side in a picturebook, it equalizes Spanish language and creates opportunities for speakers/readers of both languages to share the text.
René Colato Laínez (Telegramas) who came to the U.S. from El Salvador in 1985 talked about his experience as an immigrant without papers and how crossing borders influences his writing. He is also an educator of young children and considers their social-emotional needs in his books.
Mariana Llanos (Eunice and Kate) who was born in Peru shared the critical importance of bilingualism in her work and life. She noted that some adults who don’t speak a second language shy away from purchasing bilingual books because they can only read one of the languages in the book.
Natalia Sylvester (Running) who was also born in Peru associates Spanish language with “home” because her mother only allowed Spanish to be spoken in their U.S. home. Natalia talked about how there are commonalities among Spanish speakers and also how the language is different for each country or cultural group. She uses Spanglish in her young adult book because code switching captures the feelings of the characters and accurately represents the way people living in dual cultures talk. She wants to make readers feel “at home” in her books and in the beauty of language.
I learned from their discussion that there is no one opinion about whether or not to italicize non-English words and phrases in their books.
No Words: Storytelling Through Pictures
I was able to attend this session live. Wow! This group of illustrators had such fun sharing their work, their favorite art-making tools, and their illustration processes: Juana Medina (Juana & Lucas), Raúl the Third (Lowriders), Axur Eneas (Student Ambassador: The Missing Dragon), Carlos Aponte (Across the Bay) and Adriana Hernandez Bergstrom (Abuelita and I Make Flan).
Readers are lucky to have their creativity and expertise in making visual media to tell stories.
I especially loved the portion of this session where the moderator Adriana Hernandez Bergstrom read thoughtful questions kids submitted for these illustrators. Thank you to the children for their questions and the illustrators for their personal and often humorous responses!
Magical Realism and Beyond
In my reading of adult books, I have connected to magical realism, particularly in the works of Isabel Allende, Gabriel García Márquez, and Toni Morrison. This session attracted me because I am not as familiar with this literary style in books for children and young adults. Michelle Ruiz Keil (All of Us with Wings) moderated this session with Samantha Mabry (Tigers, Not Daughters), Guadalupe Garcia McCall (Shame the Stars), Daniel José Older (Shadowshaper Legacy), and Julio Anta (Frontera).
One thing I appreciated in this conversation was the distinction the authors made between magical realism and the supernatural. Their connections to family experiences of magical realism are not supernatural but rather the magic of “what is” (real). I resonate with that feeling and belief and look forward to reading the works of these authors.
Stronger Together: Social Justice in Young Adult Literature
Social justice and societal change in YA lit is a timely topic. This session was moderated by author and educator Jennifer De Leon (Don’t Ask Me When I’m From). The panel included Yamile Saied Méndez (Furia), Lilliam Rivera (Never Look Back), Lucas Rocha (Where We Go From Here), and Jenny Torres Sanchez (We Are Not From Here). Each author shared their inspirations for writing their most recent book.
One commonality among the intentions of these authors is to show the humanity of individuals and their struggles and to provide readers hope. As moderator-author Jenn De Leon noted, these authors dive deep into broad societal issues. They create stories that bring the power of being inside individual characters’ experiences to consider and wrestle with universal themes, feelings, hopes, and dreams – and to take action.
Promoting Latinx Authors and Illustrators
For the thirty-plus years I have been involved in the library and larger education worlds, we have been asking publishers for more diverse books for the children, teens, and families we serve. The underrepresentation of Latinx authors and illustrators has been alarming as the Latinx student population in our schools and country continue to grow at a faster rate than some other demographic groups.
The participants in the festival give those of us who share Latinx literature with young people hope that the future of publishing is bright for them–our readers and these authors and illustrators.
This festival demonstrates that Latinx book creators come from a wide range of cultures and countries. They remind us that there is no monolithic “Latinx” or “Hispanic” experience and that all voices are needed and welcome in order to represent and best serve readers.
Note: As I was listening, I looked up all of the authors’ and illustrators’ most recent books in our public library catalogue, requested the ones I could find, and suggested purchases of the others.
Thank you to the #LKBF2020 sponsors for supporting and promoting the work of these authors and illustrators. Let’s do our best as librarians to get their books into the hands of all young people and particularly to our youth whose life experiences appear less often in children’s and young adult literature.
It’s a matter of equity and social justice.
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