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Grateful for good news for Valentina!

I’m THRILLED to share that THE ENCHANTED LIFE OF VALENTINA MEJÍA has received its first trade review from Kirkus Reviews & it’s a 🌟!! 

"This fast-paced adventure set in a well-realized world will keep readers on their toes. Modern kids meet traditional tales with thrilling results."

–Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW.

❤️ I’m so grateful for this thoughtful review, which you can read fully here.

I’m also thrilled to share some blurbs by authors I admire so much, who had just the loveliest things to say about THE ENCHANTED LIFE OF VALENTINA MEJÍA!

“This non-stop adventure filled with mythological creatures and magical lands will excite readers and keep them turning the page.” Adrianna Cuevas, author of Pura Belpré Honor Book THE TOTAL ECLIPSE OF NESTOR LOPEZ and CUBA IN MY POCKET

“An absolute gem of a book that kept me on the edge of my seat. Readers will cheer this plucky Colombian girl as she navigates dangers, learns how the magical world connects to our own, and chooses kindness even at personal risk. The ending made my heart soar! Truly enchanting!” Rebecca Balcárcel, author of Pura Belpré Honor Book THE OTHER HALF OF HAPPY and SHINE ON, LUZ VÉLIZ!

“An exceptionally well-crafted story brimming with mythological creatures, captivating characters, and non-stop adventure. A wonderful book to be read by all!” Christina Diaz Gonzalez, Edgar award-winning author of CONCEALED.

“The Enchanted Life of Valentina Mejía is a fast-paced, epic adventure in a vivid, magical world. Readers will love rooting for Valentina to overcome her obstacles as they devour this enchanting tale.” Joy McCullough, award-winning author of A FIELD GUIDE TO GETTING LOST and ACROSS THE POND.

And the early reviews over on Goodreads are just as sweet! I’m so grateful for the love and good news for THE ENCHANTED LIFE OF VALENTINA MEJÍA. If you’d like to request an e-ARC of the book and leave a review, you can request in Netgalley and Edelweiss+!

THE ENCHANTED LIFE OF VALENTINA MEJÍA releases on 2.21.23 from Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster!

About the Book: Encanto meets The Chronicles of Narnia by way of Colombian folklore in this middle grade fantasy adventure. To save their father’s life, a brother and sister must journey across a land full of mythical creatures and find the most powerful and dangerous of them all: the madremonte. Cover by Dana San Mar. Design by Debra Sfetsios-Conover. Learn more about it, including where to preorder, here.

I’m so excited about the love this story is receiving, and I can’t wait for it to be out in the world! 🥰

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New books, coming 2024!

I get to keep writing books and sharing my stories with readers! I’m incredibly excited to share that in 2024, I’ll get to see two new stories released: the first is a new picture book and the second is a short story in verse in an YA anthology! There may or may not be a third book that has yet to be announced, too. So stay tune!

In the meantime, here are the announcements:

I can’t wait to share more about these stories!

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The Enchanted Life of Valentina Mejía has a cover!

Dana SanMar has created the most perfect cover for my debut MG The Enchanted Life of Valentina Mejía, which releases from Atheneum/Simon & Schuster on February 21, 2023! Isn’t it gorgeous?

Here’s a little about the book, from Simon & Schuster:

Encanto meets The Chronicles of Narnia in this middle grade fantasy adventure. To save their father’s life, a brother and sister must journey across a land full of mythical creatures and find the most powerful and dangerous of them all: the madremonte.

Twelve-year-old Valentina wants to focus on drawing the real world around her and hopefully get into art school in Bogotá one day, but Papi has spent his life studying Colombia’s legendary creatures and searching for proof of their existence. So when Papi hears that a patasola—a vampire woman with one leg—has been sighted in the Andes, Valentina and her younger brother Julián get dragged along on another magical creature hunt.

While they’re in the Andes, a powerful earthquake hits. Valentina and Julián fall through the earth…and find an alternate Colombia where, to Valentina’s shock, all the legends are real.

To get home, Valentina and Julián must make a treacherous journey to reach this land’s ruler: the madremonte, mother and protector of the earth. She controls the only portal back to the human world—but she absolutely hates humans, and she’ll do anything to defend her land.

You can read more about the book and my inspiration on the Las Musas blog!

Pre-order now wherever books are sold.
Add to your Goodreads.

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Catching up…

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? There’ve been many changes happening over on my side. This past August, I resigned from my full-time position as Associate Professor of English and transition to an adjunct role. I’ll still be teaching, but I’ll be doing so in a fully online, part-time capacity, which is the right move for my health and my family. Still, it’s been an interesting transition period. I’m still trying to find my new rhythm.

But it’s also been an exciting few months! On July 15, my second children’s book, Isabel and Her Colores Go to School, released!

It’s been received so wonderfully. It received a starred review from School Library Journal and it was even on TV, on NBC10’s Page Turner segment! You can find out all the love Isabel and Her Colores is receiving here. Illustrated by Courtney Dawson and published by Sleeping Bear Press, the story follows Isabel as she starts school without knowing how to speak English. Ultimately, her artistic personality and her love of colors allow her to bridge the language barrier and make friends. Isabel and Her Colores Go to School is a bilingual story, with the text on the page in both English and Spanish. I translated the story, and while it was challenging, I’m incredibly proud of how it turned out!

But that’s not all. I found out in May that Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela! was a finalist in the 2021 International Latino Book Awards, in the Mariposa Awards Best First Book Children & Youth category! The awards ceremonies are happening on October 16-17, when I’ll find out whether it won bronze, silver, or gold. There are so many incredible authors listed in these awards, and it’s exciting and an honor to be among them.

As if that wasn’t enough good news, the announcement for my debut middle grade novel went live! I get to continue publishing books for kids, this time for ages 8-12! The middle grade fantasy will follow twelve-year-old Valentina Mejía and her brother as they discover that all the legends from their dad’s stories are true in their attempt to get back home and save Papi.

It’s been an exciting summer full of change and possibility, and I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next. In the meantime, I’ll be in my editing and grading cave, doing the work. See you on the other side!

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Exciting News! – Not an April Fools Joke!

The last year has felt like a delicate balance between grief and joy. Some days feel like centuries, and some weeks like seconds. When the good news comes, there’s a moment of exhilaration before guilt settles in. It’s a weird balance.

Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela! has been out now for six months. What an incredible experience it’s been!

The last two weeks have seen some wonderful news. First, I received a notification that my debut, illustrated by Addy Rivera Sonda and published by Albert Whitman & Company, won the silver medal in the 2020 Florida Book Awards, Young Children’s Literature. What an incredible honor!

A dream come true!

From The Florida Book Awards website: “The Florida Book Awards, established in 2006, is an annual awards program that recognizes, honors and celebrates the literature by Florida authors and books about Florida published in the previous year.”

I’m especially excited because my friends Silvia Lopez and Marta Magellan won the gold and bronze medals, respectively, for their books Selena: Queen of Tejano Music and Dragonflies: Water Angels and Brilliant Bioindicators. Congratulations to all! (Once the list with all the winners is public, I’ll update this post with it.)

As if that wasn’t exciting enough, this week the cover reveal for my second book, Isabel and Her Colores Go to School, went live on the Las Musas blog! Go check it out–there’s a giveaway included! I’ll wait.

Isn’t she stunning?!

Isabel and Her Colores Go to School is beautifully illustrated by Courtney Dawson and will release this July 15, 2021 from Sleeping Bear Press as a bilingual, English/Spanish edition! I can’t wait to share her with readers.

You can pre-order a signed/personalized copy now from my local indie Books & Books; simply leave a note in the comments box when you pre-order. For more on Isabel, including other pre-order options, click here.

There are other exciting things happening, but I’ll have to wait they come to pass or until I can share them. In the meantime, I leave you with a wish: I hope you can find pockets of joy to cushion you against the grief and disappointment.

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Event Roundup – December 2020, January 2021

Whew! November has been a full month. I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to participate in a couple of wonderful events, including the 68th Annual Breakfast with the Authors and the 2020 NCTE Annual Convention. It was great meeting with students, teachers, and fellow authors!

This December, I’m looking forward to the Latinx Kidlit Book Festival will be held December 4-5, 2020. You can find me on the Picture Books with All the Feels! panel alongside Jacqueline Alcántara, Zara González Hoang, Laurenne Sala, and Ana Siqueira on Fri., 12/4/2020 at 1:00 pm EST, but there are other amazing sessions going on that weekend. I can’t wait!

I’ll also be saying good-bye to 2020 with my Año Viejo doll during two virtual storytime and Q&A events hosted by the Miami Dade Public Library System: Wed., 12/16/20 from 4-4:30 pm EST and Tue., 12/29 from 4-4:30 pm EST! Space is limited in and registration is required.

Then, on Wed., Jan. 13, 2021 @ 3:00 pm EST, I’ll be joining Zara González Hoang on a Las Musas Book Journeys Webinar! We’ll be starting the new year on the right foot and having a great conversation about all things picture books and publishing.

For more on these events, including how to register, visit my Author Visits & Events page!

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I’m officially a published author!

This comes a week late, but it’s been a whirlwind of a week! My debut children’s picture book Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela! illustrated by Addy Rivera Sonda, released on October 1st from Albert Whitman & Company–and the same day I received a beautiful review from School Library Journal. They wrote “This warm #OwnVoices look at Colombian traditions, including wearing yellow underwear and eating grapes for good luck, is both universal and deeply personal” and called my writing “atmospheric” and I pretty much died.

I didn’t have a formal launch, thanks to COVID, but I did get to do a Storytime launch through Books & Books on their Instagram Live! It was fun and I got to show off my own Año Viejo doll. Parents and teachers: Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela! has a Teacher’s Guide & Activity PDF you can download here, which includes how to make an Año Viejo for the new year!

On Friday, I also went to Books & Books to sign preorders and copies, and it was a dream come true. Everyone there was just absolutely lovely! There might still be some signed copies left, if you’re looking for one.

One of the coolest things so far, though, has been seeing the pictures of kids with the books, or hearing stories of how kids are connecting to Ava Gabriela’s story. THIS is why I write–for them. My heart is full.

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FELIZ NEW YEAR, AVA GABRIELA! earned a starred review!

I am so THRILLED and EXCITED to share that Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela! received a 🌟STARRED REVIEW🌟from Kirkus Reviews!! I am so grateful. Thank you! Read complete review here.

I can’t wait to share Ava’s story with everyone! It’s beautifully illustrated by Addy Rivera Sonda, and it’s the story about a shy little girl meeting her loud extended family at her Abuelita’s finca in the Colombian Andes, set against the backdrop of our NYE traditions and foods.

Feliz New Yea, Ava Gabriela! releases this October 1st from Albert Whitman & Company and is available for pre-order now wherever books are sold. Stay tuned for more on signed copies, virtual launch, pre-order campaign and goodies–and more!

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The Dream Weaver by Reina Luz Alegre–Out now!

Reviews and blurbs:
“Flavorful details, a quick-moving plot, and psychological depth bring this Cuban-American family to life. A treasure for any library.” —Rebecca Balcarcel (!)

“A heartwarming book about growing up, growing friendships, growing the bonds of family and culture, and growing dreams of your own.” —Aida Salazar (!)

“My twelve-year- old self would have loved a friend like her. When one girl’s voice gets louder, we all get stronger. Go Zoey!” —Doreen Cronin

“Alegre has written a warm, funny, empowering book that’s sure to appeal to fans of Meg Medina’s Merci Suarez Changes Gears or Pablo Cartaya’s The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora. Recommended for all collections.” —School Library Journal

“A heartfelt debut novel rooted in the importance of family ties, the bonds of friendship, and bowling.” —Kirkus

“A charming debut about grief, the bonds of family and friendship, and bowling.” —Booklist

About The Dream Weaver:
Twelve-year-old Zoey navigates the tricky waters of friendship while looking for a way to save her grandfather’s struggling business in this heartwarming, coming-of-age debut novel perfect for fans of Kristi Wientge, Donna Gephart, and Meg Medina.

Zoey comes from a family of dreamers. From start-up companies to selling motorcycles, her dad is constantly chasing jobs that never seem to work out. As for Zoey, she’s willing to go along with whatever grand plans her dad dreams up—even if it means never staying in one place long enough to make real friends. Her family being together is all that matters to her.

So Zoey’s world is turned upside down when Dad announces that he’s heading to a new job in New York City without her. Instead, Zoey and her older brother, José, will stay with their Poppy at the Jersey Shore. At first, Zoey feels as lost and alone as she did after her mami died. But soon she’s distracted by an even bigger problem: the bowling alley that Poppy has owned for decades is in danger of closing!

After befriending a group of kids practicing for a summer bowling tournament, Zoey hatches a grand plan of her own to save the bowling alley. It seems like she’s found the perfect way to weave everyone’s dreams together…until unexpected events turn Zoey’s plan into one giant nightmare. Now, with her new friends counting on her and her family’s happiness hanging in the balance, Zoey will have to decide what her dream is—and how hard she’s willing to fight for it.”

Simon & Schuster

My son (12yo) devoured The Dream Weaver and absolutely loved it! He loved everything about it, from the characters to the story to the name of the bowling alley, which reminded him of his teacher’s nickname.

After all the raving, I went in expecting an amazing read, and Alegre’s The Dream Weaver absolutely exceeded my expectations. In the book hangover that followed after I finished, I found myself incoherently repeating I LOVE THIS BOOK! It’s the type of story that sticks with you and begs to be reread.

I’m a sucker for family stories, as well as those about finding one’s identity, and this sweet, heartfelt MG delivered these themes beautifully. The scenes between Zoey and her grandfather were some of my favorite, though the scenes with her new friends were also sweet. Zoey is a wonderfully fleshed out character you can’t help but root for from the opening pages. In fact, Zoey reminded me so much of myself at that age.

This story is sure to resonate with readers!

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ARCs Are Here!

A few weeks ago, I received a wonderful surprise: hard-copy advance reader copies of my debut, illustrated by Addy Rivera Sonda (check out her gorgeous portfolio and you might just catch glimpses of Ava Gabriela!)

They’re absolutely beautiful, don’t you think?!

I also learned that the eARC is available through Edelweiss+, which means teachers and librarians will be able to view them!

It’s starting to feel real. In just under four months, Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela! will be out in the world. And while it’s both exciting and terrifying all the same, I just really hope readers will love her as much as I do.