Posted by: Kathy Temean | June 2, 2022

Book Giveaway: THE LITTLE HOUSE OF HOPE by Terry Jennings

Terry Catasús Jennings has a new picture book, THE LITTLE HOUSE OF HOPE, illustrated by Raul Colón and published by Holiday House/Neal Porter Books. They have agreed to send a copy to the one lucky winner in the US.

Just leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Let me know other things you did to share the good news, so I can put the right amount of tickets in my basket for you. Sharing on Facebook, Twitter or reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. So, thanks for helping Terry and Raúl.

If you have signed up to follow my blog and it is delivered to you everyday, please let me know when you leave a comment and I will give you an extra ticket. If you want to make sure you don’t miss seeing that you won, please click “Notify Me of Follow-Up Comments By Email” box. I will leave a comment in reply if you win the book. Thanks!


When Esperanza and her family arrive in the United States from Cuba, they rent a little house, una casita. It may be small, but they soon prove that there’s room enough to share with a whole community.

“It was a little house. Una casita . . .
It was small.
It smelled like old wet socks. . .
But even though they were far from home,
The family was together.”

As Esperanza and her family settle into their new house, they all do their part to make it a home. When other immigrant families need a place to stay, it seems only natural for the family in la casita to help. Together they turn the house into a place where other new immigrants can help one another. Esperanza is always the first to welcome them to la casita. It’s a safe place in a new land.

Terry Catasus Jennings first came from Cuba to the U.S. in 1961, when she was twelve years old. With The Little House of Hope, she tells an inspiring, semi-autobiographical story of how immigrants can help each other find their footing in a new country.

A Spanish edition, La Casita de Esperanza, will be released simultaneously.

A Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection


La casita de esperanza 

The Little House of Hope has been five years in the making. It was born in a moment of anger and dismay. A realtor friend told me that he never rented to Mexicans because they would live four families to a house and always destroyed the property. At first, I was baffled. How could he say that? More importantly, how could he say something like that in front of me? Did he forget I was Cuban? He was so wrong! I tend to chew on things that bother me, and I did. And then I remembered. Wait! I was one of those immigrants who lived in a multi-family house when I first came to the United States. Two of my uncles had come to the United States before we had. We lived with one for a couple of months and then we moved in with the other for almost a year. In this second house, which was in Largo, Florida, there were twelve of us during the week—three families–and fourteen of us on weekends, when my aunt’s brother’s sons came to stay with us. We would have been homeless in the United States if they hadn’t taken us in. My parents didn’t have jobs. We had $50 for our whole family.

What that realtor got so, so wrong, is that the parents all eventually got jobs—even if they were a shadow of the jobs they had had in Cuba—were able to get homes of their own, all the kids went to college, got jobs. We all became citizens. And we never trashed that house or any other home where we lived.

What that realtor didn’t understand, is that we didn’t come to the United States on a whim, or to better our economic standing. We came to the United States because our lives in Cuba were untenable. Because in Cuba we were in danger. My father had been jailed by the Castro regime in Cuba and the two nights he was in jail neighborhood revolutionary committees stood around our house and chanted for him to be executed. He had done nothing. Even though my father’s life was in such danger, this was still a very difficult and heart-wrenching decision that our parents made. We left everything behind, including our grandmother, who died twelve years later without any of us seeing her again.

Our realtor friend wasn’t alone in his beliefs about immigrants. I had to do something. And to me, the best way to change the conversation is to write a book. It may not get published, but if it does, it has the chance to change hearts and minds.

I wrote the book very quickly, it sort of wrote itself. Normally I have gobs and gobs of rewrites and versions, and my agent sends a picture book manuscript back a couple of times. But this manuscript was more about tweaking than about rewriting. There was a version where the evil American neighbors were just miserable people—that one was nixed by my husband and one of my critique partners, but the story stayed pretty much the same. It is grounded on the truth of our experience, but some things are fictionalized. When I got the manuscript to my agent, Natalie Lakosil, we only had one rewrite, and I was delighted that Neal Porter agreed with us. He expressed interest within two hours of Natalie sending out the submission and made an offer within two weeks.

Once we started the editing process, Neal and I batted around some ideas. We added the evil Americans back in and took them out again. Instead of making room for more family, which is what happened in the real casita, we had them make room for other immigrants in need whom they really don’t know. The original story spoke of the old country, the final version is very much about Cuba (and this just warms my heart). In the end, what Neal’s magic helped me find was that the heart of the story was hope. The name of the protagonist changed to Esperanza, which means hope in Spanish. When that happened, I knew that we had something very special.

I got to translate the text into Spanish (La casita de esperanza will publish simultaneously) and that made my heart sing. Allowing someone else to translate something so personal would have been like giving up a child to have someone else raise it. I was grateful to Neal that he let me do the translation and left all my “Cubanisms” in. A reviewer has said that the book is poetic. That was beyond my wildest imagination.

Of course, Neal had a vision for this book, and that vision included the wonderful Raúl Colón as an illustrator. We had to wait a bit for Raúl, but Raúl captured the people. They look Cuban. They look like my family and friends did. The father in this book looks like my father and Raúl and I have never met, nor has he seen pictures of my father. His illustrations are exquisite. The book is a happy book. I know that anyone who sees it laying on a table will have to open it. And then, when they do, they will be able to find the message of hope.


On September 11, 1961, Terry Catasús Jennings landed in the United States with her family after a short flight from Cuba. Their only possessions were $50 and one suitcase each. Her family, including her father, who had been jailed during the Bay of Pigs invasion, was now in a free country. On September 12, Terry found herself enrolled in seventh grade, drowning in a sea of English she didn’t understand. With time and help, the family thrived. Terry was a late bloomer in her writing career. The Definitely Dominguita series was named SLJ, Kirkus, and Parents Latina Best Books of 2021. Her biography in verse, Pauli Murray, The Life of a Pioneering Feminist and Civil Rights Activist released in February. In The Little House of Hope, illustrated by Pura Belpré medalist Raúl Colón, Jennings portrays her immigrant experience, showing how a helping hand in a new land can make a life-saving difference for a family. She encourages us all to embrace our common humanity.

During one of the edit rounds, the question of immigration laws came up, and I went off and researched immigration laws in 1961.  (I had to move heaven and earth When I showed it to Neal Porter, my editor, he said why 1961? We need the current laws.  All the time I had written this story based on the 1960s and Neal was looking at a current story.  Isn’t it wonderful that it works out for both? It was one of those moments that gives you goosebumps.

She lives in Reston, Virginia with her husband, and enjoys visiting with her five grandchildren, often encouraging them to bring their parents along. She is a member of SCBWI, Las Musas Latinx Collaborative and the Children’s Book Guild of Washington, DC.

Raúl Colón BIO:

Raul Colón is an acclaimed artist whose work has appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times, Time Magazine, The New Yorker, and The Wall Street Journal. Raul’s artwork has also been commissioned for theater posters, annual reports, advertisements, and has been awarded a Silver and Gold medal from the The Society of Illustrators.

The artist is especially renowned for his children’s book illustrations for which he has received many accolades. Raul recently illustrated a book by gallery owner Richard Michelson: As Good As Anybody: Martin Luther King Jr. and Abraham Joshua Heschel’s Amazing March Toward Freedom.

Raúl Colón is the award-winning illustrator of many picture books, including Draw!, an ALA Notable Book and recipient of the International Latino Book Award; Imagine!, an ALA Notable Book, a New York Public Library Best Book for Kids, and a BookPage Best Book; Susanna Reich’s José! Born to DanceAngela’s Christmas by Frank McCourt; and Jill Biden’s Don’t Forget, God Bless Our Troops. Mr. Colón lived in Puerto Rico as a young boy and now resides in New City, New York, with his family.

Terry, thank you for sharing your book and journey. I love this book. The story and Raul’s illustrations are beautiful. The first thing I wondered was if you had sent Raul pictures of you family because the Dad looked like he could have been your Dad. Then I read your journey and you actually said you hadn’t shared any of your family pictures with him, but still that coujld have been your family and your Dad. Funny how a 1961 Cuban story is still relavant to the children arriving in America today. I’m so happy that your publisher, Neal Porter envisioned Raul for the illustrations and he was able to help create this book with you. Such and perfect match. Good luck with the book.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. what a wonderful story!


  2. Congratulations, Terry! What an inspiring story! Look forward to reading it. And I love the cover.


  3. Can’t wait to read this book! It brought me back to my own family’s stories about living in an uncle’s garage in Los Angeles after they’d first arrived here as refugees. Thanks for sharing the back story and writing process.


  4. Terry, thank you for being so vulnerable in sharing such a personal experience. How beautiful that you were able to put a piece of your history into a book to share with kids everywhere. I teach in a bilingual elementary classroom, and every year I have a child who is new to the country. I would love to share you book with them, especially the Spanish version.


  5. Congrats, Terry and Raul! This sounds like a beautiful and important book. I just RTed and I’m signed up for the emails.


  6. How inspiring, Terry. Thank you for sharing the moving story behind it. Congratulations to you and Raul.


  7. I loved learning the back story of how this beautiful and important book came to be. Can’t wait to read it!


  8. Beautiful work, Terry & Raúl! What a special story!!


  9. I had the privilege of meeting Raul Colon’ at the Bank Street College in NYC. What a gifted illustrator, what a gentle man. I shared this to my story on Facebook.


  10. This beautiful book and its journey to publication brought tears to my eyes. Thanks for sharing, and best of luck with this heartwarming and inspiring story.


  11. Such and inspiring story. This is how immigration makes a country a better place. Thanks for the chance to win a copy.
    I’ve shared:, and tweeted:
    I also follow daily by email: crs(at)codedivasites(dot)com
    Thanks again, have a great day!!


  12. What a beautiful story and beautiful book!
    I tweeted the blog post.


  13. This looks like such a lovely book. Thanks for the post. I subscribe to your blog by email.


  14. This looks like a timely story of hope. I hope it gets lots of love from the kidlit community. Thanks for sharing, Kathy. Congratulations, Terry and Raul!


  15. This is an inspiring story. I have so much respect for immigrants who make the US their home, and despite not having much, share all they have with others. I am a daughter of immigrants who were forced to “Americanize” as fast as possible to avoid hatred. All the hate crimes and racism I read about or hear on the news is terrifying. This book will enlighten people, build compassion, and offer so much hope to readers. I’m an email subscriber and shared:


  16. Thanks for sharing about your book and your life, Terry. I’m glad the story is being told. Congratulations! I’ve shared on Twitter and subscribe, Kathy.


  17. Loved reading the backstory to this new picture book. Can’t wait to read this. As always, I’ll be tweeting about the giveaway!


  18. Terry, this is a wonderful and personal story! I love the way that this introduces both need and generosity into the picture of the crowded home. For children who may not have thought of the caring that goes into welcoming others into your home, this is a broadening experience of learning to empathize with others.


  19. What a lovely book that explores the hope, perseverance, and generosity of immigrants who come to this country. The illustrations are beautiful and reflect the love these families share.


  20. I enjoyed learning about the writing of this beautiful story. I am excited to read it and share it with my readers.


  21. What a beautiful book! Both of my parents are immigrants and came to New York with their families when they were teenagers. I’m so sorry that Terry had that encounter with the realtor “friend” but if it helped create this book then I suppose it was worth hearing those mean, ignorant comments! I love Raúl Colón’s illustrations, too! They’re very realistic. What a lovely collaboration of art and story. Congratulations to all! (I have been a subscriber for years – Kathy! I really enjoy your blog and look forward to reading it with my morning coffee).


  22. Sounds like a beautiful book! Can’t wait to read it.


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