Posted by: Kathy Temean | September 3, 2020

Book Giveaway: LUPE WONG WON’T DANCE by Donna Barba Higuera

Author Donna Barba Higuera’s debut middle grade book titled, LUPE WONG WON’T DANCE, published by Levine Querido, hits book shelves on September 8th. Donna has agreed to share a book with one lucky winner. All you have to do to get in the running is to leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know the other things you do to share the good news, so I can put in the right amount of tickets in my basket for you.

Sharing on Facebook, Twitter, reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. Thanks for helping Donna!


My gym shorts burrow into my butt crack like a frightened groundhog.

Don’t you want to read a book that starts like that??

Lupe Wong is going to be the first female pitcher in the Major Leagues.

She’s also championed causes her whole young life. Some worthy…like expanding the options for race on school tests beyond just a few bubbles. And some not so much…like complaining to the BBC about the length between Doctor Who seasons.

Lupe needs an A in all her classes in order to meet her favorite pitcher, Fu Li Hernandez, who’s Chinacan/Mexinese just like her. So when the horror that is square dancing rears its head in gym? Obviously she’s not gonna let that slide.

Not since Millicent Min, Girl Genius has a debut novel introduced a character so memorably, with such humor and emotional insight. Even square dancing fans will agree…


Lupe Wong Won’t Dance’s book journey got underway over a simple dinner conversation. That’s where so many of the humorous and wonderful events in my family do begin, so it’s apropos that the favorite character I’ve written so far plopped down at my dinner table one evening with my daughters and me.

I’ve been writing novels since about 2011. I’ve written several. They’d always drifted into the magical, fantastical or Sci-fi realm. Well, on this particular evening a topic very real to most middle-schoolers or elementary students took my writing in a very different direction.

I’d just finished asking my daughters the usual, “How was everyone’s day?” and “Anything new or interesting at school?” My (at the time) shy and studious 6th grader informed us all that her teacher announced in P.E. they were going to have to square dance as part of their curriculum. She went on to announce that while she wasn’t thrilled about dancing for a grade, she was still going to have fun and dance with her best friend Gracie.

My older daughter promptly guffawed and burst her hopeful bubble by telling her, “Not only can you NOT dance with Gracie, you have to dance with a BOY! And not only that, you have to dance with whichever boy asks you.”

Those of us who have shy children know how this went over. Tack on what an awkward time middle school can be for most of us. My heart ached for her. I emailed the teacher to ask if this was true. It was. All of it.

And there wasn’t much I could do for her, but encourage her and say, we’d all had to square dance at one time or another. Then I thought, why? Why are we still square dancing? Not that it’s a horrible thing, but why in the heck are we still doing this? And before you say, “No one is still doing this.”  Oh yes, they are. Maybe not all, but many. Also, so many of us do it without talking about it so much. My older daughter had done it too, and never even mentioned it. I also realized the tradition didn’t really pertain to my culture or my children’s mixed culture either. I remember feeling the same way when I had to square dance in elementary school. I wasn’t a fan. I wanted to give my “kid-self” a voice. I wanted to give my own kids a voice.

Enter side stage, Lupe Wong. Lupe is the kid who says and does what most of us wish we could say or do. Most of the time Lupe approaches her challenges with a lot of humor (unintentionally of course), and always seems to end up in a bit of unexpected trouble. That night, I went to my room and wrote the first lines of Lupe Wong Won’t Dance. And boy, did Lupe have stuff to say! Her voice and spirit jumped off the page. But I wanted her to be honest about all she was feeling in a sort of awkward time and situation. I wanted the reader to relate to Lupe and become her friend even though they might not have a lot in common with her interest-wise and culturally. There are universal middle-school truths no matter what your background is. Like…gym shorts. So, the opening line and the first words that came out of Lupe’s mouth were something most of us have felt but didn’t quite know how to express. “My gym shorts burrow into my butt crack like a frightened groundhog.” And Lupe was born.

Just to be clear. This isn’t a book about square dancing. That was just the catalyst. This is a book about a girl tackling problems and insecurities I had at that age (my race, friendships, feeling powerless to make change). I was seeing my kids experiencing some of the same issues, so writing this book was very cathartic for me. But it was all more palatable as Lupe approaches it all with humor whether or not she means to. She makes the things that can be hard to digest, digestible.

While some of the topics explored are pretty timely, it obviously wasn’t planned. The topics are important. But ultimately the character, Lupe Wong, is who I am most excited for the reader to meet. She is flawed. But she is learning. And she is who I wish I’d been a little more like at that age.


Donna grew up in central California surrounded by agricultural and oil fields. As a child, rather than dealing with the regular dust devils, she preferred spending recess squirreled away in the janitor’s closet with a good book. Her favorite hobbies were calling dial-a-story over and over again, and sneaking into a restricted cemetery to weave her own spooky tales using the crumbling headstones as inspiration. ​

Her Middle Grade and Picture Books are about kids who find themselves in odd or scary situations.​ From language to cultural differences in being biracial life can become…complicated. So like Donna,  characters tackle more than just the bizarre things that happen to them in their lives.

She likes to write about all things funny, but also sad, and creepy, and magical. If you like those things, she hopes you will read her books!

Donna lives in Washington State with her family, three dogs and two frogs.

Thank you Donna for sharing your book and journey with us. Congratulations on Lupe Wong Don’t Dance receiving a starred review from Publishers Weekly. “Higuera’s debut is a home run, with a plot as multifaceted and compelling as her characters, whose nuanced voices and varied range of interests ring wholly true.” Good luck with the book! 

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Congrats on being published by Arthur Levine!


  2. I well remember the challenges my middle-school self endured. Dancing with a boy sat high on my chart of stresses. Like Lupe, in Donna’s novel, I was not a fan of gym class, as it often brought activities that made me feel uncomfortable or miserable. I have a feeling many readers will relate to the story in this book.


  3. Yes, square dancing still happens! This books looks amazing! Congrats, Donna!


  4. Love it, and totally want to read it. Thanks for the chance to win a copy!
    I’ve tweeted a link to this post:, and shared an image on Pinterest:
    Thanks again, have a safe day everyone!!


  5. Sounds fantastic! I remember square dancing (and all sorts of other dances). Best wishes and congrats!

    I tweeted this. 🙂


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