Posted by: Kathy Temean | July 28, 2022

Book Giveaway: WE BELONG by Laura Purdie Salas

Laura Purdie Salas has written WE BELONG, illustrated by CARLOS VELEZ AGUILERA and published by Carolrhoda Books on March 1st. 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 Laura and Carlos.

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!

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

We all belong!

You and I, we’re alike, / but we’re different too. / That’s not good. / That’s not bad. / It’s just what is true.

Explore and celebrate who you are and who others are too! Rhyming verse by Laura Purdie Salas invites others to notice the diversity of our world and affirm that we all belong, just as we are. Bright illustrations by Carlos Vélez Aquilera feature a diverse group of children, playing and learning in an urban setting.

BOOK JOURNEY:

We Belong took a long, winding path to existence, even though the idea initially came from Carol Hinz, Associate Publisher of Millbrook Press. Carol and I had done a number of books together, including the CAN BE… series, IF YOU WERE THE MOON, and LION OF THE SKY. In 2018, Carol and I were chatting, and she wondered if I’d be interested in trying to write a picture book for preschoolers on the concept of intersectionality. I was interested in the concept of social categories, but didn’t know where to start to address that for such a young audience.

Over the next six months, I thought and wrote and revised and wrote and ended up with a manuscript I really loved. It was a brief, non-rhyming text that had to do with opposites, a parade, belonging, and rejecting categories. And a carnival! It wasn’t exactly what Carol had asked for, but it felt…good. I adored it! Carol…rejected it. Shoot.

But Carol wrote, “That said, I love, love, love those two stanzas of rhyming verse you wrote for The Everyone Carnival! What would you think of potentially writing an affirming book for young children all in verse? It wouldn’t necessarily have to do with a carnival at all—instead it would be letting them know that whatever qualities they possess, they are a valued part of the world. And it would incorporate opposites while also acknowledging that people aren’t always all one thing or all the other.”

So, that’s what I set out to do. Write a book that affirms all children, incorporates opposites, and rhymes. Easy peasy—not! But it was fun, too. For more than half of 2019, I worked on WE BELONG. I worked on exploring abstract concepts like quiet and loud, but using very visceral, sensory language. I struggled with talking about concepts like skin color, gender identity, and where someone is “from” in ways that young children could relate to. I tried comparing skin tones to may different things, including foods, animals, and trees. Trees won out. Thank goodness for my critique group, the Wordsmiths, who were always ready to give me their gut reactions.

This was also a really collaborative process with Carol. Usually, when I sell a manuscript, an editor acquires it because they love what’s there. There’s always revision, but the manuscript is mostly there. With WE BELONG, I think I turned in 5 revisions of the manuscript before it even went to an acquisitions meeting. Carol had a vision that I was trying to bring to life. I don’t want it to sound like a chore, though. I was totally on board with seeing this project through for two reasons. First, over the past 5 years or so, I’ve come to really see just how big a need there is for children to be told that they are good just as they are. No matter how loud or short they are, no matter the color of their skin, no matter where they were born. The need is huge. Too many children are being told—explicitly or implicitly—that something about them is wrong. So this started as a project of Carol’s heart, but it turned into a writing project of my heart. The second reason is that it was a real challenge and puzzle to figure out, and I loved that.

Once the acquisitions committee said yes in July of 2019, the work was not done. At that point, editor Shaina Olmanson came on board as the actual editor of the book. Carol was too close to the actual creation of the book, and she felt Shaina would be a great fit for the actual editing process. And she was.

Although the manuscript largely remained the same, Shaina and I had great discussions about word choice—particularly in the race and gender sections—and I made small but impactful changes. When editors care very deeply about what a book is saying and what it can accomplish, everything is up for debate! I really appreciated her input, too. Because I was writing about concepts that were a little scary for me to address, it was super to have two editors weigh in and put their fingerprints on this book. And then to have Carlos Vélez Aquilera, a Mexican illustrator, bring the words to life in such vibrant scenes.

WE BELONG was initially slated for publication in 2021, but it was pushed to 2022 due to the pandemic. So, about five years from invitation to publication. In some ways, that seems like a long time. But in other ways, I’m so thrilled it took exactly this long. I’ve gotten to share it at schools and library storytimes this spring and summer. Honestly, some of the best moments of any of my author events have happened while reading this book and looking at kids and telling them they’re good. They’re enough. And when we do our own impromptu “This Is Where We Belong” poem, shouting out the refrain together and ad libbing lines with kids sharing all the fabulous things about them…well, my heart is pretty darn full at those moments.

LAURA’S BIO:

Former teacher Laura Purdie Salas has written more than 130 books for kids, including the CAN BE… series (Bank Street Best Books, IRA Teachers’ Choice) and BOOKSPEAK! (Minnesota Book Award, NCTE Notable). Laura lives in Minnesota, USA, and shares inspiration and practical tips with educators about poetry, nonfiction, and more, and she loves to visit schools to share reading and writing love. Visit Laura at laurasalas.com

Besides reading and writing, Laura loves going on adventures, working out, playing games, singing (badly–at home), and doing Rock Band.

CARLOS VELEZ AGUILERA’S BIO:

Carlos Vélez Aguilera was born in Mexico City in 1980. For 12 years he has been a professional illustrator and dedicated full time to editorial illustration. He has illustrated more than 20 children’s books and is the author/illustrator of the graphic novel Salón Destino.

Carlos has been recognized with two illustration awards from the International Children’s and Youth Book Fair in Mexico. He is a graduate of the National School of Plastic Arts of the National University Autonomous of Mexico. Carlos has been recognized with two illustration awards from the International Children’s and Youth Book Fair in Mexico.

He takes different workshops and illustration seminars with teachers such as Javier Sáez, Kveta Pakovska,
Adellci Galloni, Noemí Villamuza, Santiago Caruso, Andres Neves, Roberto Inoccenti, among others.

He has illustrated books for various publishers in Mexico such as:
Santillana, Ediciones Castillo, Norma, SM, Trillas, Richmond, Alfaguara, Porrua, among others. As well as a large number of magazines and animation projects.

Laura, thank you for sharing your book and journey with us. What a wonderful theme for a book – that no matter our differences, we all bring valuable things to the world. I love the illustrations Carlos’ created to help tell your story. Good luck with the book.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Responses

  1. What a wonderful book

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love this theme! Reposted pix and blog review on FB today.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a much needed and wonderful story. Thank you Laura and Carlos for bringing it to life!

    Like

    • Thank you, Sheri–I’ve been doing a few We Belong storytimes, and it’s awesome to spread this message and affirm kids!

      Like

  4. What an amazing (and arduous) journey! The book sounds fabulous!

    Like

  5. Such a beautiful book. Congratulations, Laura and Carlos!
    (Kathy, I receive emails for your posts. :))

    Like

  6. What an interesting journey. I love hearing this stuff! The book sounds and looks delightful. Congratulations to Laura and Carlos

    Like


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