Hallie Love is an award-winning scholar, screen writer, and author of Watakame's Journey, a magical blend of Huichol Indian legend and colorful yarn art, published by Clear Light Publishers in Santa Fe.

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Children's Book Publishing in the New Millennium: Compassionate Capitalism

A monthly spotlight on Children's Book Publishers who enrich their readers, their communities, and our World. This month: Arte Publico and Pinata Books.
This month we herald Arte P™blico Press, whose mission is the publication, promotion and dissemination of Latino literature. Arte P™blico and its imprint PiŅata Books for children and young adults promote understanding and respect for cultural diversity and provide encouragement and support for young people of Hispanic descent.

Established in 1979, Arte P™blico is the oldest and largest non-profit Hispanic press in the country, and is a leader in Hispanic literary creativity, arts, and culture. It is a program of the University of Houston, and has become the largest supplier of Hispanic literary texts for schools and universities to support general education, bilingual education, and ethnic and American studies. Arte P™blico is committed to reforming the national culture to more accurately include, value, and reflect Hispanic historical and contemporary contributions.

The Arte P™blico Press imprint for children and young adults, PiŅata Books, was established 1994 when the seed was planted by a deluge of parents, teachers, and librarians asking for books that accurately portray U.S. Hispanic culture. This need and demand encouraged the children's imprint, and a grant from the Mellon Foundation allowed the idea to become reality. PiŅata Books publishes ten titles each year, and focuses on bilingual books for children and entertaining novels for young adults. PiŅata has had particular success with its bilingual Spanish/English picture books for young readers and novels and short story collections for middle readers and young adults.

PiŅata Books fill a void in the market by providing Hispanic cultural literary works that have received awards such as the Patterson Prize for Young Adult Literature and the Skipping Stones Award. Many PiŅata Books have been named to recommended reading lists like the American Library Association's annual list of recommended reading for reluctant young adult readers; Quick Picks for Young Adults; The New York Public Library's Books for the Teen Age; and the Americas Award for Children's and Young Adult Literature. PiŅata receives support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Lilla Wallace-Readers Digest Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Arte P™blico Press' founder and director is Nicol·s Kanellos, who received his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and currently holds a tenured Full Professorship at the University of Houston. Kanellos knew that Hispanic writers were not being published by mainstream presses, so he created the press to provide a voice for writers of Hispanic descent and heritage, and as a national forum for Hispanic literature. In 1996 Kanellos was honored with an appointment to the Brown Foundation Inc. Chair in Spanish. In 1994 President Clinton appointed and the US Senate confirmed him to a six-year term on the National Council for the Humanities. Kanellos is also a Fellow of the Ford, Lilly and Gulbenkian Foundations and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

PiŅata Books authentically and realistically portray themes, characters and customs unique to U.S. Hispanic culture, and their impact shows. The books have inspired some surprisingly poignant and touching responses from young readers:

1. The Roosevelt High School Series by Gloria Velasquez:

Regarding PiŅata's Roosevelt High School Series by Gloria Velasquez, one student wrote that author Gloria Velasquez made her "feel proud of her Hispanic descent."

One of the books in the series is Tommy Stands Alone, about the difficult issue of a young man's struggle with his sexual orientation - a conflict made more difficult by his family's traditional Hispanic expectations. Teacher Loli de Llano, writes, "(It) has turned out to be very popular with both boys and girls...Gloria has definitely made some fans for life."

2. Rain of Gold by Victor Villasenor:

Senior Melissa Reynaga writes, "By reading Rain of Gold I now understand the struggle my grandparents and mother went through when they were coming from Zacatecas and Nayarit (during the Revolution) to Tijuana in train...Because of Rain of Gold I now believe more in miracles and that God is by your side no matter how bad you are living each day."

3. Across the Great River by Irene Beltran Hernandez:

From teacher Betty Van Viyt, "My seventh grade class...was so quiet in the room when they were reading, I had to make sure I wasn't dreaming. They loved your book-every one of them-even students who normally consider reading to be a torture instrument..."

The seventh grade students write: "It sounded like it could have really happened." "I think you should make a sequel." "When we were reading it in class I didn't ever want to stop and go to the next class." "I really like (reading your book) because when you are reading it makes you feel like you are the character in the story." "I am usually not a reader but when I discover there is a book as interesting as Across the Great River. I can't stop reading." "I liked the characters and how their personalities change..."

4. PiŅata author Pat Mora's poem "Elena:"

Several multi-cultural college students write about the poem, which focuses on an Hispanic mother who tries to learn English by herself.

From Gerardo Iraola, "I think everybody who has come to this country and has to learn English as a second language has had this kind of problem to communicate their ideas to somebody who speaks English. I remember when I first came to this country. It was kind of hard for me to communicate my ideas. I remember once was going to buy a sandwich prepared the way I wanted, but I couldn't speak English like I do now and I had to eat it the way the lady who was preparing the sandwiches wanted to prepare it."

From Edgar Najarro, "It made me remember my days when I couldn't speak English in this country. Sometimes I felt depressed."

A Korean student Ki Jong Son studying in America reflects about his uncle who immigrated 28 years ago from Korea. His adult children have jobs in America and don't have problems speaking English, but they do have many problems when they talk to Koreans-even their own relatives. There is a cultural gap. Ki Jong Son writes I was planning to study about 5 years and to work here for 10 years. But I changed my mind. After my studying, I'll go back to Korea. Because I don't want to be an Elena. I enjoyed your poem. And thank you for your help which contribute to changing my mind."

From Lina Toliou, "It is easy to feel the mother's feelings because of the way you have expressed them. It is amazing how bad people feel when they don't speak a language very well. It is embarrassing when they make fun of you, because you don't pronounce the words right. But the worst is when nobody can see you're trying, and they are negative about what you are doing. I can relate to Elena when she was trying to improve herself by learning English. When you have support and encouragement from family and friends it makes it easier. Without this kind of support, you lose confidence and think that you are not smart. It was really nice to work with my classmates on your poem."

Eva from Poland writes, I emigrated to United States when I was twenty. I could not speak English at all. I always tried to avoid Americans. Sometimes when people said something to me and I realized that they were asking me about something, I would shake my head as if I didn't know. The worst part of not knowing English was when people looked at me like I had something not right in my head. They usually left in silence and that was painful. After I read your poem I had a lot of reflections. My best reflection was that I am not the only one who had this kind of experience, an unpleasant one. (Your poem) touches the soul of every emigrant in the world...Your poem brought me all my bad memories, and reminded me all the reasons why I have to learn English. I thank you for that."

Dady Francis, a French-speaking student from Haiti, writes "Today is a great pleasure for me to write you this letter just to let you know that you are not the only one who have this problem...sometimes you hide yourself to pronounce the more difficult words. I do the same...I stay away from people to pronounce them softly...I am very happy to read the poem because it is such an encouraging lesson."

Atte Setty, an Hispanic writes,"I really feel a big identification with (your) poem in so many ways...So many times, like Elena, I felt dumb and unable to communicate myself...I want to tank you for write at poem like that. In it you explain at common problem not only for Spanish speakers but also with all people who immigrate to U.S.A."

Professor Janie Burkhaint at Norwalk Community-Technical College writes, "You can see that the theme really touched a chord with (my students.)"

5. Two Badges: The Lives of Mona Ruiz by Mona Ruiz with Geoff Boucher. This is an autobiographical account of how one woman found her way out of the world of gangs to achieve her dream of being a police officer:

Griselda Mariscal writes, "Your book has so many things in common with what's revolving around (my friend's) life at the time. He is trying to graduate...he has stopped living his thuggish ways...Many of his friends are either in prison or are daddies. There is certain part in the book that brought tears to his eyes. I want to make it aware to you that you have helped so many persons by sharing your life. You have become a big role model in my life an (my friend's.)

Milka Gonzales writes, "...your book made me realize that there is a wild world out there, and if you're not prepared for it you may lose. Have a goal and do everything you can to reach it is one of the major arms for success in life.

Carolina Aguilar writes, "I liked the book because it talked about the truth in life."

It's clear from all these moving and insightful responses from young readers that PiŅata Books truly accomplishes its mission and deserves high praise as a socially responsible children's book publisher.


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