Kids’ Book Exploring Latino Culinary Traditions Wins Award

HOUSTON, TX—A bilingual picture book introducing children to Hispanic cultural traditions, Josefina’s Habichuelas / Las habichuelas de Josefina (ISBN 978-1-55885-923-4, hardcover, $18.95), is the winner of the 2021 Salinas de Alba Award for Latino Children’s Literature. This charming story by Jasminne Mendez, published October 31, 2021, tells the story of a young girl whose mother challenges her to give up sweets during Lent. As a reward, Josefina’s mom promises to teach her how to cook habichuelas con dulce, or sweet cream beans, a traditional Dominican dessert eaten at Easter. Enlivened by Flor de Vita’s warm illustrations depicting an Afro-Latino, multigenerational family spending time together, the book will appeal to kids ages 4 to 8 who will enjoy testing the recipe—and eating the dessert—that appears in both English and Spanish!

In 2019, according to the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, only 225 of the 4,029 children’s books published were written by Latinos; only 235 were about Latinos. The SALINAS DE ALBA AWARD seeks to stimulate the work begun by Arte Público Press and its imprint, Piñata Books, which is dedicated to the publication of children’s and young adult literature that authentically and realistically portrays themes, characters and customs unique to US Hispanic culture. In addition to the publication of the book and royalties from sales, the winning author will receive a $5,000 prize. Submissions for the award are accepted year round. The winner will be announced shortly before the publication of the book.

This award is named after Hermila Lidia Salinas de Alba (1921-2017), a mother, grandmother and primary schoolteacher who loved children and reading. Born and raised in Piedras Negras, Mexico, Hermila was educated at the Escuela Normal in Saltillo, Coahuila, and taught at a primary school in Piedras Negras. She married Samuel Alba in 1943 and together they raised ten children. In addition to various business ventures in Piedras Negras, they pursued migrant farm work in Washington, Oregon, California and Idaho before settling in Salt Lake City, Utah. She stressed the importance of education and left a legacy of love and lifelong learning for her nine surviving children, 33 grandchildren, 42 great-grandchildren and two great-great grandchildren.

Jasminne Mendez is a Dominican-American poet, playwright and award-winning writer. She is the author of a memoir, Night-Blooming Jasmin(n)e: Personal Essays and Poetry (Arte Público, 2018), and a multi-genre memoir, Island of Dreams (2013), winner of an International Latino Book Award. Josefina’s Habichuelas / Las habichuelas de Josefina is her first picture book for children. She lives and works in Houston, Texas.

Flor de Vita, a native of Veracruz, Mexico, has illustrated two picture books: When Julia Danced Bomba / Cuando Julia bailaba bomba (Piñata Books, 2019) and Just One Itsy Bitsy Little Bite / Sólo una mordidita chiquitita (Piñata Books, 2018). A graduate of the Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey with a B.A. in Animation and Digital Art, she currently resides in Jalisco, Mexico.

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 from home to school to support family literacy and elementary school 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.

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