MAY 28TH, 2015

2015 Américas Award goes to Duncan Tonatiuh and Margarita Engle

For Immediate Release

Denise Woltering-Vargas (Tulane University or 504-862-3143) Jamie Lee Marks, (Vanderbilt University)
Coordinators, Américas Award – CLASP

May 28, 2015

2015 Américas Award goes to Duncan Tonatiuh and Margarita Engle

Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh is one of this year’s 2015 Américas Award winners. Margarita Engle, author of Silver People: Voices from the Panama Canal also wins this year’s 2015 Américas Award. 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 are administered by the Consortium of Latin American Studies Programs (CLASP) and coordinated by both Tulane University’s Stone Center for Latin American Studies and Vanderbilt University’s Center for Latin American Studies. Generous support is also provided by Florida International University, the University of Florida, University of New Mexico, Stanford University, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. and the University of Utah

Award Winners

Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation, published by Abrams Books is the story of a young girl and her family fighting for desegregation during a time of racial discrimination against Hispanics and minorities in general. Seven years before the landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education addressed segregation in schools throughout the country, the similarly significant but less known case of Mendez vs. Westminster School District challenged school segregation in California. Author and illustrator Duncan Tonatiuh has made this history available to young readers everywhere for the first time as he documents Sylvia Mendez and her family’s fight for desegregation through the book Separate is Never Equal. The text pays tribute to this historical moment of social justice and the people who made it happen by drawing on court testimonies and personal interviews to ensure authenticity and accuracy. An author’s note, glossary of legal terms, and bibliography complement the text and provide both younger and older readers with valuable resources for understanding the case’s development and its ongoing implications. In addition to the meticulous text, readers will enjoy Tonatiuh’s signature artistry as he draws upon Mesoamerican codices to create modern, multimedia collages of the Mendez family alongside people from their school, community, and trial. With this children’s book, Tonatiuh offers a significant contribution to US and Mexican-American histories. It would be a valuable asset to any elementary classroom or library. (Grades 1-6)

Silver People: Voices from the Panama Canal, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and written by Margarita Engle. With her characteristic economic yet moving verse Margarita Engle once again transports us to a world and time that few writers have explored, especially in the genre of children’s literature. Silver People tells the story of the building of the Panama Canal, which opened in 1914 and connected the two largest oceans in the world, while at the same time signaling America’s emergence as a global superpower. The canal was a miraculous engineering feat that created a path of water through a tropical jungle where a mountain once stood. Yet miracles often come with a steep price. Thousands of brown and black Caribbean Americans lost their lives, and those that survived were paid in silver, while their white counterparts earned gold. Engle gives these workers a voice, transporting us to the bottom of “serpentine cut” and describing the backbreaking labor required to accomplish it. We are also treated to the voices of the natural world that loudly or silently protest while their habitat is destroyed. This unique work and the apartheid-like inequality it portrays is a powerful contribution to Latino Children’s Literature. Once read, it’s accurate description of the construction of the “largest and most difficult engineering projects ever undertaken” will not be soon forgotten. (Grades 7 and up)

Honor Books

The Américas Committee selected two Honor Books; Migrant written by José Manuel Mateo and illustrated by Javier Martínez Pedro published by Abrams Books for Young Readers and Strike! The Farm Workers’ Fight for their Rights by Larry Dane Brimner published by Calkins Creek.

Commended Titles

Twelve commended titles were selected this year by the committee: A de Activista written by Martha González and illustrated by Innosanto Nagara, and published by Triangle Square; Abuelo by Arthur Dorros and illustrated by Raúl Colón, published by HarperCollins Publishers, Caminar by Skila Brown, published by Candlewick Press; Dalia’s Wondrous Hair/El Cabello Maravilloso de Dalia by Laura Lacámara, published by Piñata Books; Frida & Diego: Art, Love, Life by Catherine Reef, published by Houghton-Mifflin Harcourt; Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero, published by Cinco Puntos Press; Green is a Chile Pepper: a Book of Colors written by Roseanne Greenfield Thong and illustrated by John Parra, published by Chronicle Books; I Lived on Butterfly Hill by Marjorie Agosín, illustrations by Lee White (Atheneum Books for Young Readers); Letters from Heaven by Lydia Gil, published by Piñata Books; Low Riders in Space written by Cathy Camper and illustrated by Raúl the Third, published by Chronicle Books; Portraits of Hispanic American Heroes written by Juan Felipe Herrera and illustrated by Raúl Colón, published by Penguin Group; The Secret Side of Empty written by Maria E. Andreu, published by Running Press; T’was Nochebuena written by Roseanne Greenfield Thong, illustrated by Sara Palacios and published by Penguin Group.

Complete annotations of the Américas Award 2015 will be posted on the CLASP website soon.

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.

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For more information on the Américas Award make sure to go to the site.