2017-Amricas-Award-Winners-Announced-
MAY 1ST, 2017

2017 Américas Award Winners Announced

Susan Hood and Sally Wern Comport author and illustrator of Ada’s Violin and Alexandra Diaz, author of The Only Road win the 2017 Américas Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature.The award links the Americas by reaching beyond geographic borders and multicultural-international boundaries, focusing upon cultural heritages within the hemisphere.

Up to two annual book awards are given in recognition of U.S. published works that authentically and engagingly portray Latin America, the Caribbean, or Latinos in the United States. An additional two titles may be recognized as Honorable Mentions, along with a list of Commended Titles. Books are considered for their distinctive literary quality, cultural contextualization, integration of text and illustration, and potential for classroom use.

The announcement was made yesterday by the Consortium of Latin American Studies Programs (CLASP) during the Latin American Studies Association (LASA) meeting held April 29 – May 1, 2017 in Lima, Peru. Please watch the short video announcement. The award-winning authors will be recognized at a ceremony held September 22, 2017 during Hispanic Heritage Month, at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

Members of the 2017 Américas Award Selection Committee include David Campos of San Antonio, TX; Emily Chávez of Durham, NC; Denise Croker of Nashville, TN; Paula Mason of Waukesha, WI; and Maria Sheldon of Santa Fe, NM.

The awards are administered by the Consortium of Latin American Studies Programs (CLASP) and coordinated by Vanderbilt University Center for Latin American Studies and Tulane University Stone Center for Latin American Studies. Generous support is also provided by Florida International University, Stanford University, University of Florida, University of New Mexico, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and the University of Utah.

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 for professional workshops, advancement of citizen outreach activities, and development of teaching aids for the classroom. For complete annotations of all titles recognized by the Américas Award, as well as curricular resources for previous winning titles, visit www.claspprograms.org/americasaward. Follow the Américas Award on Facebook for current news and author highlights, and join the conversation using #AmericasAward17.

Award Winners

Ada’s Violin written by Susan Hood and illustrated by Sally Wern Comport. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2016. ISBN: 978-1481-430-951
The Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay has received international attention because of the extraordinary story of the children living in Cateura, home of the main garbage dump for the capital city of Asunciόn and how they became musicians using instruments made of recycled trash. Many of the townspeople work in the landfill earning as little as two dollars a day. Before the arrival of a consultant engineer to the landfill (Favio Chavez, who happened to be a musician), many of the children had no creative outlets and their futures seemed bleak. Ada’s Violin conveys the beautiful story of a young girl, Ada Rios, whose grandmother signs her up to learn how to play the violin through lessons given by Chavez. When there are more children interested in learning about music than there are instruments, Chavez turns to a local carpenter who begins to make instruments from recycled trash. At last, there are enough instruments for the children. Through diligent practice they develop the expertise to perform concerts for the local community. Their orchestra becomes so good, in fact, that they begin to perform in countries around the world. Coupled with magnificent illustrations, the author provides readers a background on the story, and website and videos links that teachers can use for extension activities, including a web address for how readers can help the orchestra. (Grades K-3)

The Only Road written by Alexandra Diaz. Simon & Schuster, 2016. ISBN: 978-1481457507
The Only Road describes the journey of a teenage boy, Jamie, and his cousin Angela traveling from their hometown in Guatemala to the United States. Author Alexandra Diaz illustrates the many obstacles, uncertainties, hopes, fears, and unexpected blessings that shape the teens’ migration in a way that is both honest and sensitive to its intended young adult audience. This is without a doubt an empathy-building novel. Being able to accompany the main characters through their harsh and humbling trek allows the reader to get a glimpse into what tens of thousands of Central American youth have experienced in recent years. The characters themselves also demonstrate a remarkable courage and humility, often observing the sacrifices that were made for them and acknowledging the even more dangerous and devastating hardships faced by others they meet along the way. Yet Jamie and Angela are not one-dimensional by any means; they are teenagers with human emotions, needs and curiosities. They struggle with each other and with themselves. The sensory-rich prose of this novel allows the reader to be right there with the characters—as they travel hidden in the back of a pickup truck, ride on the notorious bestia, sleep on the floor of a safe house and, through it all, keep going. Classroom discussion on important contemporary issues and universal questions is invited through the many moving events of this story, such as: What happens when life forces one to travel “the only road?” This book also contains a Spanish/English glossary and suggestions for further reading for youth and adults. (Grades 7-10)

Honorable Mention

Malaika’s Costume written by Nadia L. Hohn and illustrated by Irene Luxbacher. Groundwood Books, 2016. ISBN: 978-1554987542
In Nadia Hohn’s touching and timely picture book, we are introduced to Malaika, a young girl living at home with her Grandma in the Caribbean while her mother is working far away in icebox-like Canada to provide a better life for her family. Told in distinctive Caribbean patois, Malaika’s voice genuinely rings out to the reader, as she describes both her excitement about the upcoming Carnival celebrations, and her feelings of sadness and disappointment in missing her mother on this special holiday. Accompanied by colorful collage-style illustrations by Irene Luxbacher that bring Malaika’s island home alive, the reader is introduced to the costumes and characters of Carnival. There are also numerous significant visual details to catch a young reader’s eye, such as drawings presumably from Malaika herself that provide a window into her emotional state throughout the story. Moreover, Luxbacher does a magnificent job of displaying tender emotion in the expressions of Malaika and her Grandma, adding an even deeper richness to the story. We watch Malaika, with her Grandma’s support, transform an old dusty costume into a bright and beautiful peacock costume. In the process, we witness her emerge as a “shiny and proud and strong” version of herself in the Carnival parade. Hohn’s demonstrates a deft, expert touch in handling challenging topics such as family separation and immigration in a way that speaks sincerely to young readers while presenting a tale of vibrant strength, ingenuity and spirit. (Grades K-3)

The Distance Between Us written by Reyna Grande. Aladdin, Simon & Schuster, 2016. ISBN: 978-1481463713
This memoir is the story of Reyna Grande’s journey from childhood in Mexico to becoming an American college graduate and accomplished author. This story beautifully captures what children who are left behind in Mexico experience as they long to be reunited with their parents who–ironically–have left their homeland to make a better life for them. Grande gracefully reflects on the love she had for her father who had left his family to cross over to the U.S., and recalls the ocean of emotions she experienced when she came to learn that her mother, too, was leaving. She candidly describes how she and her siblings were left under the care of her paternal grandmother who was harsh, and treated them as a burden and nuisance rather than the loving grandchildren they were. Holding true to his promise, her father returns nearly eight years later to cross his children into the United States. Grande does not hold back describing the discord in her life living in Los Angeles under the household of a loving, albeit abusive father. Many readers will be able to identify with themes of the book: loving parents who want the best for their children but at costs that are severe; the struggle to fit in at school while being undocumented and not knowing English; and the power of perseverance despite setbacks that are seemingly unfair. This book proves an engaging read. Grande includes a variety of photos of her family and of important milestones which make the memoir all the more enduring. (Grades 5-9)

Commended Titles

Burn Baby Burn written by Meg Medina. Candlewick Press, 2016. ISBN: 978-0763674670

Juana & Lucas written by Juana Medina. Candlewick Press, 2016. ISBN: 978-0763672089

Lion Island written by Margarita Engle. Simon & Schuster, 2016. ISBN: 978-1481461122

Lowriders to the Center of the Earth written by Cathy Camper and illustrated by Raúl the Third. Chronicle Books, 2016. ISBN: 978-1452123431

Mamá the Alien / Mamá la extraterrestre written by René Colato Laínez and illustrated by Laura Lacámara. Children’s Book Press, Lee & Low Books, 2016. ISBN: 978-0892392988

Margarito’s Forest / El Bosque de Don Margarito written by Andy Carter and illustrated by Allison Havens. Hard Ball Press, 2016. ISBN: 978-0997979701

Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat written by Javaka Steptoe. Hachette Book Group, 2016. ISBN: 978-0316213882

Rainbow Weaver – Tejedora del arcoirís written by Linda Elovitz Marshall and illustrated by Elisa Chavarri. Children’s Book Press, Lee & Low Books, 2016. ISBN: 978-0892393749

Shame the Stars written by Guadalupe García McCall. Lee & Low Books, 2016. ISBN: 978-1620142783

Somos como las nubes / We are Like the Clouds written by Jorge Argueta and illustrated by Alfonso Ruano. Groundwood Books, 2016. ISBN: 978-1554988495

The Memory of Light written by Francisco X. Stork. Arthur A. Levine Books, Scholastic, 2016. ISBN: 978-0545474320

The Princess and the Warrior written Duncan Tonatiuh. Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2016. ISBN: 978-1419721304

The School the Aztec Eagles Built written by Dorinda Makanaōnalani Nicholson. Lee & Low Books, 2016. ISBN: 978-1600604409