Finalist in International Latino Book Awards!

ilbaGrandfather Ratoncito Pérez, Miguel, Jenny Tooth Fairy and I will be attending the International Latino Awards Banquet in San Francisco June 27th. The three of us are excited silly to be finalists in their prestigious award.

In the past 16 years the Int’l Latino Book Awards has become the largest Latino literary and cultural awards in the USA. The 2014 honorees included authors Alma Flor Ada, Isabel Allende, Rudy Anaya, Mary J. Andrade, Edna Iturralde, all of whom are past ILBA Award Winners. Other honorees include Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, and celebrities like TV chef Pati Jinich, the late singer and actress Jenni Rivera, singer Linda Ronstadt, screenwriter Rick Najera, and TV personality Lilliana Vasquez. Winners were from across the USA and from 18 countries outside the USA. book.award

Enjoying The Girl of Fire and Thorns Fantasy Trilogy


Rousting myself to meet the Latin@s in Kid’s Literaturechallenge to share modern children’s literature with a Latin flavor, I find I’m overdue for my February book. To redeem myself, I’m reviewing the second and third books in Rae Carson’s Girl of Fire and Thorns Fantasy Trilogy in March.

The Crown of Embers,second in the trilogy, takes up magical Queen Elisa’s tale following her victory over the invading Animagi sorcerers. She has unexpectedly harnessed the power of her Godstone, but the perimeter of her city still burns and Inviernos seek to capture her to manipulate the power of her gift. Though I don’t find the second book in this enticing series as strong an allegory of faith as the first, the adventure is filled with religious imagery and extolment of Hispanic culture. The theme of the insecure girl maturing into a strong, resourceful woman continues. Fascinating characters, as multifaceted as Elisa’s shining Godstone, support her in her fast-paced adventures. Like Girl of Fire and Thorns, this is a one-night sort of novel. Once swept into this magical kingdom, the reader will have a difficult time closing the book until it’s finished.

Bitter Kingdom

The Bitter Kingdom, Rae Carson’s third book in the Girl of Fire and Thorns Fantasy Trilogy begins with Elisa journeying with trusted friends on a heroic quest. The supernaturally gifted queen travels deep into enemy territory to destroy the power source of Invierne sorcerers and save the man she loves.The unsure girl of Fire and Thorns has matured into a self-disciplined young woman with worldly wisdom and strength. Elisa leaves behind her once innocent spirituality. She becomes wily and adept at political intrigue, sensual and secure in her womanhood. She is no longer just the bearer of the Godstone, but an independent power in her own right. Although my least favorite of the trilogy, this story continues to entertain the reader with interesting characters and multiple plot twists.


Reading Challenge – January’s Book

The Girl of Fire & Thorns CoverThe minute I asked North Fork’s Sarah-the-Wonder-Librarian for Latin@ children’s books, she rushed to the fantasy shelves and pulled The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson. After reading the first lines in which sixteen-year-old Princess Elisa prays frantically for her chosen husband to be old, fat and ugly(!) I couldn’t put it down until I’d finished the final page.

This is the intriguing tale of a chosen one who happens to be a princess with such a muddled self image as to pray for an unattractive husband. Filled with magic, romance and derring-do, Fire and Thorns seems an allegory not unlike The Chronicles of Narna,  but for Catholics rather than Protestants. The images of faith mirror the passion, mystery and mysticism of Catholicism with the exception of Elisa’s somewhat startling conclusion on page 411, I didn’t need faith in God so much as I needed faith in myself . . . perhaps an editorial addition that doesn’t reflect the majority of Carson’s thought. Elisa does learn to have faith in herself as God’s chosen which she acquires along with the tools of self discipline and maturity in her faith. The Hispanic touches in costume and architecture are subtle and exquisite. Would I recommend this book? I’ve ordered the next two in Rae Carson’s series and can’t wait til they come!

Delightful Challenge for 2014

For years I’ve written children’s stories with a multicultural emphasis. Being uniquely American means sharing foods and customs from around the globe. A young man from Denmark who stayed with my family for a few weeks teased that Americans have no food of their own. They just try to make the foods from other countries. At the time, standing at the stove cooking for him, I was some miffed. I’ve since come to appreciate the thought. Helping children understand the culture of their family’s country of origin as well as the diverse cultures and customs of folks who share this continent with them is close to my heart. Today I’m offering a challenge from Latin@s in Kid’s Literature:


2014 Reading Challenge

A year ago, The New York Times wrote about the lack of Latin@ literature in classrooms, which leaves the youngest members of the largest ethnic or racial minority in the U.S. with little chance to “see themselves in books.” The School Library Journal countered that the literature is there but needs to be promoted.

We believe both statements and would like to see more all around, meaning: more Latin@ children’s literature on bookshelves and in libraries and classrooms, more titles by and for Latin@s on year-end “Best of” lists and best-seller lists, more people buying, reading, and writing about Latin@ children’s literature.

We cannot control publishing and marketing, but we can read and write about Latin@s in children’s literature. So, as the new year approaches, we invite you to participate in our 2014 Reading Challenge. This would be a great way to diversify your reading lists and support already established and emerging writers who include Latin@s in their books. One of the best ways to express that diversity in kid lit is important is to buy, read, and write about these titles.

Here are the Guidelines:

This challenge will run from January 1, 2014-December 31, 2014.

Anyone can join! You don’t have to be a book blogger. WordPress doesn’t accept anything that uses JavaScript, so we can’t use a linky list. If you want to participate: post somewhere that you are joining the 2014 Latin@s in Kid Lit Reading Challenge, sign up in the comments, and include a direct link to your announcement. Copy and paste our reading challenge logo onto your site. If you don’t have a site, you can spread the word on Facebook, Twitter, or any other way.

The goal is one book per month. You may post reviews on GoodReads (use a shelf dedicated to 2014 Latin@s in Kid Lit Reading Challenge), Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Facebook, or wherever else you post your reviews. Again, link back to the challenge. Each month, we will check up on participants, but you can also send a direct link to our email at: whenever you read and review a book. We will have a monthly round-up post that lists all reviews available online.

Cover for Grandfather Ratoncito Perez and the Apprentice Tooth Fairy!


Illustrator Fiona Hodgetts, Wolverhampton England, just completed the cover art for my latest mathematical adventure!

Teachers tell me they could use a picture book to help them teach children to count coins and the Hispanic tooth mouse Ratoncito Perez offered just the inspiration I needed. What would happen if an apprentice tooth fairy hadn’t learned her lessons well and her first “tooth exchange” turned into a disaster? You know coins can be heavy and Night Wind is a terrible bully! Grandfather Ratoncito Perez shares duties with tooth fairies in North America and such a fine, gentlemanly mouse will surely come to the young tooth fairy’s aide!





“Grandfather Ratoncito Perez and the Apprentice Tooth Fairy”, will be released in the spring of 2014.

Fractions for National Cookie Month!

In honor of National Cookie month, I’m sharing a tempting way to introduce the concept ofnobake fractions to your own personal teacher’s pets. In years past I brought an electric frying pan to class on the day I began my mathematics unit on fractions. After my class and I made the following recipe of No Bake Oatmeal Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies, we sat around eating cookies and considering how in the world a bigger number could mean a smaller amount. We poured colored water from smaller one-fourth, one-third and one-half cup containers into clear glass one cup containers. Then we all had another cookie. In my experience, children’s interest in fractions increases exponentially with practical (and yummy) real world cooking experience.


For children with allergies, I’ve included a no bake recipe without peanuts and dairy. For all cookie lovers everywhere I’m including a no-bake cookie website. Yea!






Tooth Fairy in a Jar?

My next mathematical adventure, “Grandfather Ratoncito Perez and the Apprentice Tooth Fairy,” stars a young tooth fairy learning to count change helped by the venerable Hispanic Tooth Mouse.  After reviewing sketches from four very different artists, my focus group of close friends and family chose Fiona Hodgetts from Wolverhampton, England. Fiona and I exchange lots of emails. Hers contain delightful sketches!Fiona Hogetts' Tooth Fairy sketche We’ve decided  just how our fairy should be dressed and just what species of mouse Fiona will use to illustrate a Tooth Mouse.

With all the thought given to fairies and make believe, this post bottle-fairieson (on Pinterest, Facebook & WordPress) caught my fancy. There’s some discussion on the net about whether the craft works as well as pictured. A YouTube video describes how to make the fairy jar with glow paint that won’t loose its sparkle. Which ever you choose, join me for a bit of ‘let’s pretend.’

My mom used to say children only remember what they learn in a ‘white heat.’ She referred to the necessity of making time for the pure ‘joy’ of learning. My graduate adviser referred to enriching teaching with ‘wonder.’ Of course there are concepts best taught by rote, but oh, there is room for celebrating the joy and wonder of this dear old earth! And, a bit of time for pretending. Fiona and I will add a lesson in counting change when our picture book comes out in 2014. For now, you might add a chemistry lesson on  chemiluminesence using the web resource


Get Ready For Geometry!

tangram quilt layout

Layout of Mrs. Pilegard’s Tangram Quilt

Readiness for Euclidean geometry can be gained by teaching intuitive geometry or by giving children an opportunity to build increasingly elaborate constructions with polygons (closed plane figures having three or more straight sides)
-Jerome S. Bruner , 1966

Many quilt blocks allow us to experience practical geometry in a special way. Boys and girls alike are enticed by the colors, textures and patterns of traditional quilts. Viewing, touching and talking about the triangles, squares and rhomboid parallelograms of the ancient Chinese tangram helps children make friends with the vocabulary and concepts they will need when they meet that old Greek Euclidean and his amazing geometry.

A while back my niece Marlene provided passage on a quilter’s cruise for me. Some gift, right? Classes were filled by the time I registered so before sailing I cut all the pieces for a tangram block quilt (green, yellow & red– see my quilt block layout above) to piece together by hand. When The Warlord’s Puzzle hit bookstore shelves, a master quilter in upstate New York designed this tangram block. For detailed instructions see Resources. Quilt block pieces may be enlarged to suit. During scheduled “Quilt at Sea” classes, I settled myself on a comfortable deck chair and stitched my tangram blocks. Passengers strolling by stopped to ask about my colorful project. I “just happened” to have a copy of The Warlord’s Puzzle and chatted about how touching, arranging, and sewing plane geometric figures helps prepare children to learn Euclidean geometry. During my seven day cruise I met lots of delightful people and was able to piece an entire lap-quilt top. Now I am hand-quilting the sandwich of quilt top, batting and backing. I find my bright handcraft perfect for the slow times at book signings–a fine conversation starter about picture book crafts and mathematics learning. If you choose, you’ll find this project perfect to share with your favorite kids–a fine conversation starter about squares, triangles, rhomboid parallelograms and practical geometry.


fan.tangram.quiltWhen I returned home from my cruise a fellow sailor/quilter emailed me this photo of the tangram quilt block she created from my pattern.