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Marti’s Song for Freedom, by Emma Otheguy

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Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2017 (1/27/18) is in its 5th year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in home and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators. 
For a third year in a row, I’m very excited to be participating in this exciting event! This time I’m reviewing three books, a middle-grade chapter book called Five Nations – Peace Day by Dani Dixon, The Crane Girl by Curtis Manley, and Marti’s Song for Freedom by Emma Otheguy.

About Marti’s Song for Freedom

Title: Marti’s Song for Freedom/Martí y sus Versos por la Libertad | Author: Emma Otheguy| Illustrator: Beatriz Vidal
Publisher: Lee & Low Books | Publication Date: July 17th, 2017
Genre: Picture Book | Number of Pages: 32

The Story

As a boy, José Martí was inspired by the natural world. He found freedom in the river that rushed to the sea and peace in the palmas reales that swayed in the wind. Freedom, he believed, was the inherent right of all men and women. But his home island of Cuba was colonized by Spain, and some of the people were enslaved by rich landowners. Enraged, Martí took up his pen and fought against this oppression through his writings. By age seventeen, he was declared an enemy of Spain and forced to leave his beloved island.

Written in verse, with excerpts from Marti’s seminal Versos Sencillos, this book is a beautiful biography. It also is a tribute to a brilliant poet and courageous fighter for freedom.

My Review

Marti’s Song for Freedom, written by Emma Otheguy and illustrated by Beatriz Vidal, is a wonderful picture biography book for children. The colorful drawings and beautiful written words give a perfect age-appropriate account on who this historical figure was and the importance of words to combat inequality, fight for our rights, and bring on change. This book brings about a wonderful message that all kids should to learn in this day and age: yhe pen is mightier than the sword. All powerful people know this; and this has brought censorship and persecution of intellectuals, reporters and poets throughout history.

Emma Otheguy mentions in her acknowledgements that she was inspired to write the book because her parents used to read to her La Edad de Oro, Martí’s poetry book for children. This really connected with me, as I read the same book as a child. My mother is a very strong woman who firmly believed in freedom, revolution, fighting for equality and people’s rights. Because of this, it was wonderful to read this book with my 9 year old daughter. We actually read it in Spanish, and when she couldn’t understand something, I would read the translation in the English section. I usually wing the translation on the fly, but it was very nice having the English version of the text right there, and with as good a flow and cadence as the Spanish version.

I also want to mention how beautiful and colorful Beatriz Vidal’s pictures are. They are the perfect compliment to this wonderfully written book. What stands out the most is the use of colors, and how they illustrate the emotional state of Martí in the different stages of his life.

Because of the strong message and tragic life of the poet, I believe this book is best for older elementary school aged children, as well as middle-graders. It most definitely will spark many questions and a much better comprehension of the difficult political times that we are now living in the US.

NOTE: I received a free copy of this book as part of the Multicultural Children’s Book Day reviewer effort, in exchange for my honest opinion.

About the Author

EMMA OTHEGUY is a children’s book author and a historian of Spain and colonial Latin America. She is a member of the Bank Street Writers Lab, and her short story “Fairies in Town” was awarded Magazine Merit Honors by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). Otheguy lives with her husband in New York City. This is her picture book debut. You can find her online at emmaotheguy.com

About the Illustrator

BEATRIZ VIDAL is an internationally known artist and a prize-winning illustrator of children’s books. Her most recent book for Wisdom Tales Press is Little Lek Longtail Learns to Sleep, which was written by Bette Killion. Little Lek Longtail was an award-winning Finalist in the 2016 USA “Best Book” Awards. For her first book for Wisdom Tales, Ms. Vidal had collaborated with author Alexis York Lumbard on the Wisdom Tales book Pine and the Winter Sparrow, a retelling of an American Indian tale. Pine and the Winter Sparrow won a Gold Medal in the “Illustration – Graphic” category of the 2015 Midwest Book Awards.

Among Ms. Vidal’s best-known previous books are the best- selling Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain, Rainbow Crow, The Legend of El Dorado, A Library for Juana” (winner of the prestigious Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award), Federico and the Magi’s Gift (which she both wrote and illustrated), A Gift of Gracias, and many others.  You can find more about her at beatrizvidal.com

 Current Sponsors:  MCBD 2018 is honored to have some amazing Sponsors on board.

2018 MCBD Medallion Sponsors

HONORARY: Children’s Book Council, Junior Library Guild

PLATINUM:Scholastic Book Clubs

GOLD:Audrey Press, Candlewick Press, Loving Lion Books, Second Story Press, Star Bright Books, Worldwide Buddies

SILVER:Capstone Publishing, Author Charlotte Riggle, Child’s Play USA, KidLit TV, Pack-n-Go Girls, Plum Street Press

BRONZE: Barefoot Books, Carole P. Roman, Charlesbridge Publishing, Dr. Crystal BoweGokul! World, Green Kids Club, Gwen Jackson, Jacqueline Woodson, Juan J. Guerra, Language Lizard, Lee & Low Books, RhymeTime Storybooks, Sanya Whittaker Gragg, TimTimTom Books, WaterBrook & Multnomah, Wisdom Tales Press

2018 Author Sponsors

Honorary Author Sponsors: Author/Illustrator Aram Kim and Author/Illustrator Juana Medina

Author Janet Balletta, Author Susan BernardoAuthor Carmen Bernier-Grand, Author Tasheba Berry-McLaren and Space2Launch, Bollywood Groove Books, Author Anne BroylesAuthor Kathleen Burkinshaw, Author Eugenia Chu, Author Lesa Cline-Ransome, Author Medeia Cohan and Shade 7 Publishing, Desi Babies, Author Dani Dixon and Tumble Creek Press, Author Judy Dodge Cummings, Author D.G. Driver, Author Nicole Fenner and Sister Girl Publishing, Debbi Michiko Florence, Author Josh Funk, Author Maria Gianferrari, Author Daphnie Glenn, Globe Smart Kids, Author Kimberly Gordon Biddle, Author Quentin Holmes, Author Esther Iverem, Jennifer Joseph: Alphabet Oddities, Author Kizzie Jones, Author Faith L Justice , Author P.J. LaRue and MysticPrincesses.com, Author Karen Leggett Abouraya, Author Sylvia Liu, Author Sherri Maret, Author Melissa Martin Ph.D., Author Lesli Mitchell, Pinky Mukhi and We Are One, Author Miranda Paul, Author Carlotta Penn, Real Dads Read, Greg Ransom, Author Sandra L. Richards, RealMVPKids Author Andrea Scott, Alva Sachs and Three Wishes Publishing, Shelly Bean the Sports QueenAuthor Sarah Stevenson, Author Gayle H. Swift Author Elsa Takaoka, Author Christine Taylor-Butler, Nicholette Thomas and  MFL Publishing  Author Andrea Y. Wang, Author Jane Whittingham  Author Natasha Yim

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team. They not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also works tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.

TWITTER PARTY Sponsored by Scholastic Book Clubs: MCBD’s super-popular (and crazy-fun) annual Twitter Party will be held 1/27/18 at 9:00pm.

Join the conversation and win one of 12-5 book bundles and one Grand Prize Book Bundle (12 books) that will be given away at the party! http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/twitter-party-great-conversations-fun-prizes-chance-readyourworld-1-27-18/

Free Multicultural Books for Teachers: http://bit.ly/1kGZrta

Free Empathy Classroom Kit for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians and Educators: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/teacher-classroom-empathy-kit/

Hashtag: Don’t forget to connect with us on social media and be sure and look for/use our official hashtag #ReadYourWorld.

About Erika

Worked in film and TV for several years before having my two wonderful children. Now I try to bring that creative input into my home to raise my kids. Hope you enjoy following this journey!
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  1. I think this book would be a good intro to Latin American poets!

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