Fitting In Is Hard to Do: Children’s Picture Book Wins Prize

HOUSTON, TXThe Poetry Center at Passaic County Community College in New Jersey has named Do I Belong Here? / ¿Es este mi lugar? (Piñata Books, 2023) the co-winner of the 2024 Paterson Prize for Books for Young People. Awarded to the most outstanding book for young people published in the previous year, the book tied for the prize in the Pre-K-Grade 3 category with Ted Kooser: More than a Local Wonder by Carla Ketner. It comes with a cash award.

Immigrant, educator and acclaimed Salvadoran-American author René Colato Laínez artfully explores the experiences of immigrant children in his award-winning book. An immigrant boy stands “in the middle of a whirlwind of children,” and wonders where he is supposed to go. Finally, a woman speaks to him in a language he doesn’t understand and takes him to his classroom. A boy named Carlos helps orient him, but later when he reads aloud, everyone laughs at him. And when he gets an “F” on an assignment, he is sure “I do not belong here.” But gradually the boy begins to learn English. He works hard. He always pays attention, finishes his homework and—most importantly—never gives up. As his grades improve and he make friends, he realizes, “I belong here.” And when he sees a girl looking lost, sure she doesn’t belong, he can say with certainty: “Not yet. But you will.”

In its starred review of the book, School Library Journal said, “VERDICT: A bilingual text that offers an empathetic look at how immigrant children start to learn little by little, and adapt to their surroundings and friends. Recommended for all shelves.”

René Colato Laínez is the author of numerous picture books for children, including My Shoes and I / Mis zapatos y yo (Piñata Books, 2019), Mamá the Alien / Mamá la extraterrestre (Lee & Low Books, 2016), From North to South / Del norte al sur (Children’s Book Press, 2013), René Has Two Last Names / René tiene dos apellidos (Arte Público Press, 2009) and I Am René, the Boy / Soy René, el niño (Arte Público Press, 2005). He is an elementary school teacher in Los Angeles, California.

Fabricio Vanden Broeck is a designer, illustrator, painter and professor of design at the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana-Azcapotzalco in Mexico City. He illustrated My Shoes and I / Mis zapatos y yo (Piñata Books, 2019).

Arte Público Press is the nation’s largest and most established publisher of contemporary and recovered literature by US Hispanic authors. Its imprint for children and young adults, Piñata Books, is dedicated to the authentic portrayal of the themes, languages, characters and customs of Hispanic culture in the United States. Books published under the imprint serve as a bridge connecting home and school to support family literacy and elementary education. Based at the University of Houston, Arte Público Press, Piñata Books and the Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage project provide the most widely recognized and extensive showcase for Hispanic literary arts and creativity.  For more information, please visit

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