Tag Archive: Children’s Books


“We had a room with some books but nobody ever went in there.” This is a quote from Alan Cohen, P.S. 69’s principal. Imagine being a student in NYC and not having access to a proper library? Many students in low income communities face this issue daily. Rooms that are dedicated to being libraries, are often  found bare and deserted due to low or no funding and lack of materials- mainly books. With the economy tumbling and still uncertain, many budgets for NYC public schools have put Libraries at the bottom of the list. It seems there just isn’t enough money to support a program that is so essential to students.

There may be hope! A foundation known as the Robin Hood Foundation is looking to change the direction and image of many poverty stricken NYC public schools. The foundation over the past nine years has been:

 “dedicated to fighting poverty in New York City, and the city’s schools administration have built, with the help of private donors, libraries in 62 schools in low-income neighborhoods.”

The Foundation has had such success that many of the libraries that have been built in these schools have been adorned by murals from famous artists. These libraries and pictures have transformed schools that once seemed headed in a one way direction with the students having no choice but to follow the same dooming direction.

Another example of this transformation is Public School 47, located in the Soundview section of the Bronx. The school is in need of space. So much so that the gym has been transformed into classrooms and administrative offices have been created from bathrooms. Yet with the help of the Robin Hood Foundation, the school now seems to have a promising future- thanks to the addition of the new library located on the second floor. The room is described as expanding in a somewhat magical way. Above all, the new library (home to roughly 7,000 books) is the first “proper” library that the school has had in many years. All thanks to the Robin Hood Foundation.

Please visit their site to learn more information about how their program works and how their efforts have helped to keep literature within the NYC public school system. Foundations such as this one and books such as A Very Smart Cat/ Una Gata Muy Inteligente, My Brain Won’t Float Away/ Mi Cerebro no Va a Salir Flotando, and A Caribbean Journey from A to Y (Read and Discover What Happened to the Z) aim to improve and inspire reading among young students and children.

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Campanita Books is happy to announce that A Caribbean Journey from A to Y (Read and Discover What Happened to the Z) Sold over 10,000 copies in December, and was selected as a  2008 Americas Award Commended Title.
 What’s so Special about this ABC? Read the following selected Reviews and Comments:

“This very original alphabet book gives brief descriptions of many aspects of the geography, animal species and history of the Caribbean. Even though a reader might consider an alphabet book as appropriate only for beginner readers, this one has so much information and poetic language, that older, more mature children will benefit from the information conveyed. Colorful and detailed naïve illustrations accompany the text. The best part of the book is finding out what the Z means to the Caribbean”. (gr K-4)
— 2008 Americas Award Commended Title

“A Caribbean Journey from A to Y, written by Mario Picayo and illustrated by Earleen Greiswold, describes insular portions of the Caribbean region in a manner that truly teaches and delights the child reader for whom the book is intended. Told as an account of the letters of the alphabet, the verbal side of the story engagingly caters to the child’s curiosity offering invaluable information about the flora, the fauna, the landscape, and the human populations of the region. Picayo delivers historical details throughout with beautiful simplicity, as in the explanation of “what happened to Z,” which alerts readers to the slavery period and the presence of Africans in the cultures of the region. With equal command of well chosen details, Griswold’s visual side of the story of Caribbean Journey from A to Y depicts the rural, the urban, the past, the present, tradition, and change without resorting to binaries, while giving women their due at the center of life in the Caribbean and suggesting the region’s racial and cultural diversity. The images and the words combine to disrupt many of the visual and discursive stereotypes that often recur in representations of the Caribbean. I can think of no better book for children to begin the life-long adventure of knowing the Caribbean”.
–Silvio Torres-Saillant. Author of An Intellectual History of the Caribbean

“Mr. Picayo, from his personal experiences, has compiled a fascinating collection of historical and natural facts.
All young people in our islands and elsewhere, would gain immense knowledge and enjoyment from the lively narrative and brilliant illustrations. A Caribbean Journey should be on everyone’s reading list.”  
–Prof. Roy L. Schneider, M.D., Former Governor, United States Virgin Islands

“Mario Picayo’s A Caribbean Journey from A to Y is a book sure to motivate kids to read it over and over. The illustrations and the artistic appeal of the book make it really stand out among other children’s books.”
–Glenn “Kwabena” Davis, Director of the V.I. Education Dept’s Culture Division

“From a Caribbean perspective, this book is relevant to children living in the Caribbean and also to those children living outside the region. A Caribbean Journey is a must have in every library, and great learning tool in which a person of any age could pick up and learn a thing or two.”
–Myron Jackson, Executive Director of the Virgin Islands Cultural Heritage Institute

“ A simple search in the Internet will tell us that few ABC book about the Caribbean exists. Another, more complex search allows us to see that these kinds of texts usually are limited to the normal experiences of a traditional US or European child. A Caribbean Journey from A to Y (Read and Discover What Happened to the Z), published by Campanita Books is an alternative to bigger publishers that don’t yet know the market or tastes of Latino and West Indian families nor take them into account in their marketing. This book is a learning experience on many levels, in terms of text and illustrations. The simple name of an island is made into new and valuable information to add to children’s vocabulary when we discover that “St.” means saint and that there is a big island that an astronaut comes from. In the illustrations we see people of all colours and sizes, carrying out different activities that are particular to the Caribbean. These are today’s natives, past natives, tourists and dozens of starting points for lessons on history, science music and vocabulary. But a child isn’t given a book only because of the lessons we can get them to learn. A book is an object that activates the imagination and transports them to other worlds. For a nine year old child, like mine, a book has to provide just the right details to fire his desires and passion. It could be the birds or the iguanas, the flags, the volcanoes the indigenous people or the yachts. A Caribbean Journey from A to Y (Read and Discover What Happened to the Z) has all of these and more. It’s written to entertain and educate and to leave us with more questions to answer. At the end, the Z surprises us with an invitation to make a leap across the Atlantic and continue the journey”.
–- Tanya Torres is a Puerto Rican artist, cultural activist and writer who lives in New York. In 2002 she was selected as one of the 50 Women of the Year by El Diario/La Prensa, New York’s oldest and most read Spanish language newspaper.

picture-9

 

A Caribbean Journey from A to Y (Read and Discover What Happened to the Z) 
ISBN: 978‐0‐9725611‐8‐1 Format: Hardcover Price: $19.95 Number of pages: 64  
Available at your favorite bookseller,
including Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com.

 

 

 

 

 

We just received this email from a very loyal fan (THANK YOU):

“Hi everyone,

A friend of mine just gave my little nieces a really good book and I want to recommend it to everybody as the perfect Holiday gift.  And, if you are from the Caribbean, or live in the Caribbean and have children, this book is a MUST.   I wish it had been around when I was growing up in St Thomas, Virgin Islands.

The name is A Caribbean Journey from A to Y (read and discover what happened to the Z).   It’s the best Caribbean children’sbook I hav e ever read.  It’s beautiful to look at with great drawings and the text is smart and funny, and teaches facts about the islands, but in a fun way.  The name of about every island is in it, the flags, a map, and it makes you feel good to be a Caribbean person. 

I am so pleased that this book is out, I bought five copies for some friends, and I am getting more for Christmas. You don’t even have to be a child to enjoy it. 

I can’t praise this book enough. Finally somebody wrote a children’s book for Caribbean children that will make them happy, will teach them and will make them proud of their heritage (read what the author did to the Z to understand what I mean), and it is a book of quality not some little flimsy paperback.  Hardcover, 64 pages in full color and it’s 19.95 (cheaper on Amazon.com). A bargain for such a nice book.

You will agree with me when you see it.  I bought it at  Amazon.com  [can also be bought through Editorial Campana] but I wish every island bookstore had it.  We got to spread the word because this book should be known and should be in our libraries and schools.”

 A Caribbean Journey from A to Y 
(Read and discover what happened to the Z)
By Mario Picayo 

Find more great titles available from Editorial Campana

Dec. 10, 2008- Thousands of copies of Campanita Book’s A Caribbean Journey from A to Y(read and discover what happened to the Z) were distributed to the children of the United States Virgin Islands this week by the First Lady of the Territory, Cecile de Jongh, by Santa Claus himself, and by many helping elves.

 snow   

The gift is extra special because A Caribbean Journey from A to Y (Read and Discover What Happened to the Z) was turned into a Special Edition just for this event!!!

 

The preface by de Jongh reads:
It is my great honor as First Lady of the United States Virgin Islands to join Mario Picayo and his many readers worldwide in celebrating the proud cultures of the Caribbean. A Caribbean Journey from A to Y is a wonderful expression of the diversity of the Caribbean peoples and their lifestyles. It takes us on a journey through the islands of the region and shares important and interesting facts about each location.

As you turn the pages, you will discover the many special places, foods, and experiences of the Caribbean. Truly a treasure all on its own, this delightful book is a journey to places near and far that we can all enjoy. It is a reminder of our shared ancestry and celebrates the similarities and differences of each of the islands and their people. Perhaps what we learn the most from this wonderful book is that we are all God’s children, each of us brothers and sisters in paradise.

As a Virgin Islander and as a passionate advocate for children and literacy, I am proud to join you on this educational journey through the Caribbean. Enjoy!

 

Go to EditorialCampana.com to read the press release. You can also go to The St.Thomas Source to read the article in it’s original format, written by Molly Morris.

There is still time to give one of Campanita’s books (or all of them) as a Holiday present!!!

Remember the book, “Goodnight Moon?” Written by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Clement Hurd in 1947, this book has become a bedtime classic for parents and children alike. It seems that the book has grown up… now known as “Goodnight Bush.” Or has it?

Actually, this new book is somewhat of a parody on the 1947 classic. Sure they share the same cover color scheme, and you may notice that there is similar language. After that though, the books prove to be two different pieces of literature. Clever tactic though to get people interested in this book isn’t it? “ I thought it was brilliant,” said Mr. Shandler (Little, Brown editor in chief), whose company also published the parody “Yiddish With Dick and Jane.”

This strategy may not be as smart as one would think. For example, as the article states, the parody, “Yiddish With Dick and Jane,” brought about questions and a lawsuit regarding trademark and copyright infringement. This parody-based book became quite popular and has even landed a space on youtube:

The author of this new book, “Goodnight Bush,” is hoping that the “fair use”  doctrine, will keep controversy at bay.

The publisher of “Goodnight Bush” is counting on the fair use doctrine, which allows limited amounts of copyrighted material to be used without permission. “Parody as fair use is a developing area of the law,” said Pamela Golinski, an entertainment lawyer in New York, “and as a result, whether a given parody merits the shield of the fair use doctrine is a complex question.”

Does it seem right that to some extent, some material may be reproduced to create a different version- thus creating a new book? It would seem hard to believe that a children’s classic bedtime story could be turned into a piece of literature with characters such as Osama bin Laden and George Bush filling the pages. Although such copyright and trademark questions have arisen before, we should be asking ourselves at what point do we use clever marketing strategies to promote books. Does “Goodnight Bush” cross the line? Should clearly adult books be allowed to parody children’s books?

The Very Smart Cat continues to work on her book (with help from Mario Picayo). She has been busy going around Catskill asking local businesses to advertise. She has had roughly 18 businesses decide to advertise (so far). This project, inspired by Mario’s daughter, Cristina Friedman-PIcayo, gives a more realistic feeling. As you will discover when you read this funny piece of children’s literature, there are three pages dedicated to classifieds (one ad that even puts the Very Smart Cat up for adoption- free!).

Besides making the book realistic, the concept behind this project is as follows: “The “ads” will be a permanent part of the book, so your “ad” will be seen locally, nationally and internationally for years to come!” Mario, his wife Carla, and Cristina went to local businesses in the Catskill area and asked if they would be interested in being a part of Catskill literary history by having an “ad” in the newest children’s book from Campanita Books titled A Very Smart Cat/ Una gata muy inteligente. The outcome was what we hoped. 

Mario is currently working with illustrator Yolanda V. Fondura to have the businesses ad’s inserted into the classifieds. When you read the book and see these ads, it will be as though you were looking at a real classified section. People will see that the very smart cat is is based on real life, They can even visit the businesses that are advertised in the book. This is where the book becomes interactive.

Besides the book being based on a real cat, that was rescued by animal lover Cristina and besides the fact that the farm is real, people will have the ability to visit many of the stores that the cat and Cristina have visited. Some of the stores that have decided to advertise in the book are located in Woodstock and Saugerties, NY. That is how successful this project was.

We’ll keep you updated (we are currently working on promoting the well being of cats around the nation with this book). June is national Adopt a Cat month. This book hopes to make people more aware of cats, the need to respect them, and to have fun while reading a wonderful book.

Just how real does the picture from the book look like the actual farm, Willow Bark Farms?

And don’t forget about the Very Smart Cat…

My Brain Won’t Float Away

Before I was a nanny, I worked with children with special needs.   One of my classes was the first autistic class to be mainstreamed in our school district.  What I took away from that experience was that children are basically more kind than cruel if they have information about being different.   When I read My Brain Won’t Float Away, I had to smile with the gentle humor the mother used to help her child understand her disability.  Children relate to blunt questions and quiet humor.  I think it helps them process their world better.  The reason we read to our children is to open up dialog whether it be about the monsters under the bed fears or dealing with emotions, it is our doorway to helping them to think out loud.   The book doesn’t talk down to children but rather lifts them up to a world they may know nothing about in simple words and story line.   I read extensively to all the children I mention and when I was given this book for an INA raffle, I admit, I read it first!   I knew if i didn’t win it in the raffle I would be online ordering it the next day!  Lucky for me, it was given to me as a Nanny of the Year present.  I will still have to order it as I know two children already who will love it.

A Caribbean Journey from A to Y

My speciality is as a traveling nanny so naturally this book with its bright colors caught my eye immediately.   I often judge books first by the illustrations as they are so important to jump starting a child’s desire to read a book.  The first thing I do is tell them the author and who drew the pictures.   A Caribbean Journey from A to Z was a delight to read as I have had many trips with children to the various islands.   Sometimes when I go to a new child they ask me where I have been and we look on the maps.  The map in this book is gorgeous and a wonderful page to use just by itself!   I love using fun books to teach children and this will definitely go into my nanny bag.  Our world is getting smaller and books that help define or arouse curiosity about a different culture are important.   This book would be the perfect jumping off place a children’s monthly theme in the playroom.  I was very curious as how they would use the letter Z and I thought the ending was just perfect!   You will have to read it yourself to see if you agree! 

 Donna Robinson, The Traveling Nanny & 2008 INA Nanny of the Year Recipient.

 

The winter 2008 edition of The Hydrocephalus Association newsletter wrote an article about Annette Perez and her new book. The article can be found at the following link (refer to page 22)  http://hydroassoc.org/docs/winter08news_email.pdf

 

The Hydrocephalus Association (http://hydroassoc.org/) is a great resource for anybody who has hydrocephalus or in one way or another is connected to hydrocephalus. Sadly, there does not seem to be a lot of information readily available regarding hydrocephalus. Although My Brain Wont Float Away does not answer all the questions, the book is a great reference for familiarizing oneself about the disability. Annette Perez is hoping that this book raises awareness in both adults and children, about hydrocephalus. My Brain Wont Float Away seems to be achieving that goal.

 

I realize the day has passed, but I had to post this.

St. Pat’s Day Cartoon

Annette Perez seems to be getting a lot of press lately, so I decided to post an interview with her from Editorial Campana’s website, about her bilingual children’s book My Brain Won’t Float Away/Mi cerebro no va a salir flotando. You can read the interview in it’s original context here or read it in Spanish here.

*In January, Annette’s book was chosen by the first lady of Puerto Rico to be given away as a gift to children at the Fiesta de Reyes, a celebration of Three King’s Day. Full article.
mbw3kingsgift

*Annette recently appeared on Despierta America, the largest morning news show in the nation for Spanish-speaking audiences. See the piece on YouTube or see it in one of my earlier posts.

*I just found out My Brain Won’t Float Away is currently in the #22 spot on Amazon.com for best-selling children’s books on disabilities. (And My Brain Won’t Float Away is the ONLY bilingual one on the list.)

*This weekend Annette will be appearing in television news again on Primer Impacto (First Impact).

This is one of my favorite interviews with an author.

Annette MBW cover

1. What inspired you to write My Brain Won’t Float Away?
I don’t think anything specific inspired me. When I started to write the book I was just looking for something to do with writing. I remember thinking of one or two sentences and writing them down, not expecting to do anything specific with what I had written. I have friends like Jacqueline Herranz-Brooks and Sonia Rivera-Valdés who encouraged me to write about my life. The idea of a children’s book began to take shape later.

2. Is it based on a true story? If so, tell us about it.
The story was based on a true story, but we played with many elements to make it fun. The character and story revolve around my own experience as a child growing up with hydrocephalus. I was almost a teenager when I was taught how to tie my shoelaces with one hand. In the book, we made that happened when I was eight. Until then, I had always relied on other people to tie my shoelaces for me.

3. Tell us about growing up with hydrocephalus, and the role that your parents, your school, and doctors/physical therapists played in helping you adjust and live with it.
Growing up with hydrocephalus was not easy. Outside of attending school, I was constantly going to visit doctors at different hospitals. At that time, I remember we visited doctors to find out what caused my disability. It wasn’t until later in my childhood that my mother looked into other facilities that could help me become more independent. The reason I received occupational and physical therapy at a local hospital (clinic) was because at that time (early 80’s) these services were not provided by schools.

My parents raised me in a very loving and nurturing environment. They raised me to be a very independent individual. According to my parents, my disability was not so severe. They knew I was capable of doing things independently, and that I would succeed in life.

4. What was then and what is now the biggest difficulty or difficulties of living with hydrocephalus?
I would have to say that, as a child, the biggest difficulty was having other children—and adults, as well—staring at me as if my condition were contagious or something. It was also hard for me to accept having to exercise to strengthen my weak hand. As an independent person, it has always been very difficult for me to do things that others tell me to do, especially when I am told to do something I do not like or want to do.

5. You are a college graduate and are studying to receive a Master’s degree. Is it hard for you to achieve these goals?
No, not really. I believe that the reason I graduated from college and am working towards obtaining a Master’s Degree has to do with my emotional growth. As I grew older, I realized how important it is to have an education. Having a disability was not going to stop me from furthering my education, or from doing anything else.

6. You seem to be an achiever. What motivates you?
As a “disabled” person, I have a need to accomplish as much as I can throughout my life. I guess you can say it’s the disability itself that gives me the motivation to achieve and succeed in any goals I may have.

7. Tell us a little about your parents.
My parents are both of Puerto Rican origin. They lived in New York City ever since they got married in the 1960’s. Out of the four children they had, I was the only one who was diagnosed with a disability. However, my parents raised me the same way that they did my siblings. Although my parents knew about the difficulties they had to face in certain situations, they never once doubted my capabilities. If anything, they refused to allow my so-called disability stop me from living like an independent individual. My parents were not going to allow my minor physical deformity stop me from living like any other “normal” child.

8. Why did you write the book?
As I would go to different bookstores and look through the children’s section for books on children with special needs, I noticed two things. One was that the section for books on children with special needs was very small. There would be at the most just one shelf of books. My second reason for writing the book is that I also noticed that out of the small selection of books about special needs, there were no books written about hydrocephalus.

9. What do you wish to achieve with My Brain Won’t Float Away?
With this book, I hope to raise some awareness in people, both adults and children. I want people to understand that just because some of us are different in certain ways it does not mean that as disabled people we don’t have feelings. Furthermore, by writing this book, I want to hopefully give some hope and awareness to those individuals who are living and dealing with a similar situation. One can accomplish many things even if having a disability is a part of your life. I hope this book shows people that a disability should not control their life. The individual controls his or her own life!

10. Can you explain to us where the title came from, and what it means?
The title came from the question that Annie (the main character in the book) asks her mother in the story “Is my brain going to float away?” It is based on the “common” definition of hydrocephalus, and is one of the contributions that Mario, my editor, made to the book. I told him the story about the time I actually asked my mother that same question, and he thought that it would make a great title for the book. You have to read the story to understand the meaning.

11. Why is it bilingual?
Campanita Books is committed to publishing books in English and Spanish, so as to make the book accessible to as many people as possible. I wrote the text in English, and Jacqueline Herranz-Brooks, translated it. I am bilingual, so wanting to do the book in English and Spanish made sense, and I am very happy that kids in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and the rest of Latin America will be able to read it, as well as children who read English.

12. How did you work with your editor?
My editor and I were in constant contact via e-mail. I can honestly say I stopped counting the e-mails, there were so many. We also spoke on the phone and got together in person whenever possible. He was instrumental in giving the book the shape it has, he found the core to my story and made it revolve around the one-handed shoe tying incident. He picked up little things in my conversations with him and would add them to the story, like the chocolate ice cream, the hand shaking with my therapists, and other little details. He helped me turn my idea into a book, and made many contributions to the final manuscript. We get along quite well, except that I am sure I drove him crazy with my questions and my wanting to know when the book was coming out. I had no idea how much work was involved in writing, editing, illustrating, and publishing a book.

13. How did you work with illustrator Yolanda Fundora?
I worked with Yolanda mostly through Mario, my editor. However, Yolanda and I would get together and speak via email, time permitting. She used actual photographs of me as a child, and also did some sketches of me for the illustrations. I also gave her a picture of my mother for the book. She worked with Mario and they would send me samples once in a while, but from the time I saw the first sketches I had no doubt that the book was going to be beautiful and that she was capturing the spirit of my text. I did not see the completed book until Yolanda was basically finished with the illustrations. I was happily surprised to see myself as a “character.”

14. Do you have plans for more books?
Eventually I would like to publish another book. However, for now I am extremely happy to have completed this one.