JUNE 28TH, 2012

Margarita Engle, Monica Brown, and Julie Paschkis win 2012 Américas Award

Monica Brown, author of “Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People” and illustrator Julie Paschkis, win the 2012 Américas Award along with Margarita Engle, author of “Hurricane Dancers: The First Caribbean Pirate Shipwreck.” Both books were selected for the 2012 award, given to books which engagingly portray Latin America, the Caribbean, or Latinos in the United States. The award links the Americas to reach beyond geographic borders, as well as multicultural-international boundaries, focusing instead upon cultural heritages within the hemisphere. The awards were announced today by the Consortium for Latin American Studies Programs (CLASP), during the Latin American Studies Association meeting held May 23 — 25 in San Francisco, CA.

The awards are administered by CLASP and coordinated by both Tulane University’s Stone Center for Latin American Studies and Vanderbilt University’s Center for Latin American Studies.

“Hurricane Dancers: The First Caribbean Pirate Shipwreck,” published by Henry Holt & Company, LLC is the story of a biracial, bilingual child named Quebrado, or “the broken one” told from multiple perspectives and in free verse poetry in this historical fiction text. Set during the early years of the Caribbean conquest (1509 or 1510), Quebrado reveals his own internal brokenness brought about by his Taíno mother’s death from a plague, the consequent abandonment of his Spanish father, followed by the capture of the powerful land owner-turned-pirate, Bernadino de Talavera. “This small text accurately portrays historical events and real people, while also presenting high interest themes in an accessible format. The multiple voices narrating the story allow readers to see inside the injustices and radically different perspectives of the time period, while the author’s notes link this story to her own family background, and provide important historical information and resources invaluable to teachers, librarians, and students alike” states chair of the committee, Ruth Quiroa.

Engle, recipient of the Américas Award in 2007 for “The Poet Slave of Cuba” and 2009 for “The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom” writes about young people who make “hopeful choices in situations that seemed hopeless” ( Her writing is inspired by her Cuban-American heritage and her love of tropical nature and writing.

“Pablo Neruda Poet of the People,” highlights the accomplishments of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. The book is published by Henry Holt and Company, LLC. Committee member Hope Crandall states that “Brown and Paschkis have created a paean to renowned Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. A warm, lyrical text is embedded in soothing, color-saturated pictures. Streams of words, to delight the eye and ear, infuse the illustrations with surprising gems of multilingual word associations…Both provide a child-friendly introduction to aspects of Neruda’s life and, most prominently, to his passions for the natural world and the social concerns of his times.” The book is a great resource for children in grades 2 through 5. Monica Brown, recipient of a 2004 Américas Award for “My Name is Celia/ Me llamo Celia” is inspired by her Peruvian-American heritage and desire to share Latino/a stories with children.

Julie Paschkis’ illustrations make this book a “visual and thematic stunner” ( Julie is the illustrator of several award-winning books, including “Night Garden: Poems from the World of Dreams” by Janet S. Wong, which was named a New York Times Best Illustrated Book; “Happy Adoption Day!” by John McCutcheon; and “Mrs. Chicken and the Hungry Crocodile” by Won-Ldy Paye and Margaret H. Lippert.

The Américas Committee selected two Honor Books; “Under the Mesquite” written by Guadalupe Garcia McCall published by Lee and Low books Inc. and “The Queen of Water” by Laura Resau and María Virginia Farinango published by Delacorte Press.

In “Under the Mesquite” Garcia McCall tells the story of high school student Lupita. Uprooted from her native Mexico, Lupita has to learn a new language and a new way of life in Texas. Currently a junior high-school English teacher, Mexican-born Garcia McCall immigrated to the United States at the age of six and grew up in a border town in Texas, which serves as the setting of her debut novel.

Laura Resau and María Virginia Farinango have written a beautiful memoir of a young Ecuadorean girl’s struggle to come to terms with her indigenous roots and the mestizo world into which she is thrown in “The Queen of Water.” Committee member, Barbara D’Ambruoso describes the story: “Taken to work as a care giver and servant for a mestizo family, she suffers abuse, humiliation, deceit, and manipulation, but eventually frees herself—only to realize that she has become a stranger to her birth culture, and is, in fact, embarrassed by it” (“Annotated Bibliographies”

One commended title was selected this year by the committee, “Sylvia & Aki” written by Winifred Conkling published by Tricycle Press. Conkling parallels the experiences of two girls, one a Japanese-American and the other a Mexican-American. Told through the eyes of two young girls, Sylvia and Aki shows how friendship, family, and community can cross all racial, ethnic, linguistic, and national boundaries.

Members of the 2012 Américas Award Selection Committee are: Chair Ruth Quiroa, National-Louis University, Chicago, IL; Hope Crandall, Washington Elementary Library, Woodburn, OR; Aaron Forbes, Morris Jeff Community School, New Orleans, LA; América Calderón, Teaching for Change, Washington, DC; and Barbara D’Ambruoso, Lauralton Hall, Orange, CT.

CLASP’s mission is to promote all facets of Latin American studies throughout the world. Its broad range of activities include the encouragement of research activities, funding of professional workshops, advancement of citizen outreach activities, and development of teaching aids for the classroom. For more information on the Américas Award, please visit the website, or LIKE us on Facebook at

Americas Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature Review Committee
  • Aaron Forbes (Morris Jeff Community School, LA)
  • América Calderón (Teaching for Change, Washington, DC)
  • Barbara D’Ambruoso (Lauralton Hall, CT)
  • Hope Crandall (Washington Elementary School, OR)
  • Ruth E. Quiroa, chairperson (National-Louis University, IL)

Award Coordinators
Denise Woltering Vargas
CLASP Committee on Teaching and Outreach
c/o The Stone Center for Latin American Studies, Tulane University
6801 Freret Ave.
New Orleans, LA 70118
504-862-3143 or

Claire González
CLASP Committee on Teaching and Outreach
c/o Center for Latin American Studies, Vanderbilt University
Station B VU Station B #351806
Nashville, TN 37235
615-322-2527 or