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Lighting the Candle: Thank You, Mr. Baumgartner

Irene (seated, second from left) and Pam (seated, fifth from left) in third grade. (Photo courtesy of Pam Muñoz Ryan.) If I hadn’t been a failed violinist, I might never have become a writer. When I was in fourth grade, the public school I attended had a coveted orchestra program....

Lighting the Candle: Untitled

From the May/June 2021 special issue of The Horn Book Magazine: The Pura Belpré Award at 25. Find more in the "Lighting the Candle" series here. Illustration (c) 2021 by Sara Palacios....

Lighting the Candle: What Words and Art Can Do

This is a joyful memory, lo prometo, though it’s one connected to suffering as well. I am a writer and walk in this world with gratitude and purpose because of my mother, Isabel María Valdivieso Vexler Brown. In teaching me how to be an artist, she taught me how to...

Lighting the Candle: Dance with Me

Lilliam Rivera (left) with Titi Luz. (Photo courtesy of Lilliam Rivera.) She wore a long, colorful falda and matching blouse, or blusa, with ribboned ruffles, perfectly made for twirling. On a small stage stood my aunt Luz E. Ortiz Vázquez, ready to dance with her partner, who took her by...

Lighting the Candle: Mrs. Miller's Magic

From the May/June 2021 special issue of The Horn Book Magazine: The Pura Belpré Award at 25. Find more in the "Lighting the Candle" series here....

Lighting the Candle: The Kindness of Time

A page from one of the author's notebooks. (Photo: John Wiggins.) The kindness of time allows us to elucidate and inhabit memories from our childhoods that have shaped us into becoming who we are. I have always loved words, their sounds and textures. When I was a young girl, my...

Lighting the Candle: Blank Page Spark

From the May/June 2021 special issue of The Horn Book Magazine: The Pura Belpré Award at 25. Find more in the "Lighting the Candle" series here....

Lighting the Candle: The Sun Always Came Out Tomorrow

Miss Hannigan’s purple dress peeked out from behind the mulberry tree, the breeze pushing it against her calf and slightly above her black heels. She was good at hiding, but we were aware of her presence and that she’d been on our trail for the last twenty minutes and was...

Lighting the Candle: The Moments That Inspired the Journey

Alma Flor Ada at age five, in front of the Quinta Simoni in 1943. Photo courtesy of Alma Flora Ada. Growing up in Cuba at my grandmother’s home, the Quinta Simoni, surrounded by family and nature, was a most magical time. My parents, aunts, and uncles were all still young,...
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