Books by Juan Felipe Herrera

IMAGINE by Juan Felipe Herrera
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 2, 2018

"A lyrical coming-of-age story in picture-book form that begs to be shared. (Picture book/memoir. 4-8)"
Former Poet Laureate Herrera encourages his young readers to imagine all they might be in his new picture book. Read full book review >
JABBERWALKING by Juan Felipe Herrera
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 13, 2018

"An uncommon DIY for exuberant rule breakers. (Nonfiction. 12-16)"
In the spirit of Alice's madcap adventure down the rabbit hole, this stream-of-consciousness, metafictive exploration of the poetic process dips in and out of imagined reality as easily as the Cheshire Cat winks in and out of sight. Read full book review >
PORTRAITS OF HISPANIC AMERICAN HEROES by Juan Felipe Herrera
CHILDREN'S
Released: Aug. 7, 2014

"A worthy introduction to some of the Hispanic-Americans who have left their marks on the country and culture through their commitment and dedication. (Biography. 8-12)"
Short and engaging biographies of 20 inspirational Hispanic-Americans from fields as varied as sports, arts, sciences, politics, and teaching. Read full book review >
SKATEFATE by Juan Felipe Herrera
FAMILY AND GROWING UP
Released: March 1, 2011

Short diary entries and a series of confident, colorful poems introduce readers to Lucky, a wheelchair-bound former skater and drag racer who became paralyzed after a car accident. Despite the fact that Lucky is now in foster care after losing both his parents (one to Iraq War-induced post traumatic stress syndrome, one to breast cancer), he maintains a sunny outlook as evidenced by his mostly upbeat poetry. Some readers will enjoy Herrera's lyrical poems, full of strong images and stop-and-go rhythms ("on the gnarled foot so it will turn into a swan / on the hurt breast so that every beat of the heart / writes a new word for love"), while those looking for the story of a skateboarder that the title and cover promises may come away disappointed. The very brief prose sections don't provide enough detail to put the often nonsensical poetry into context. The result is a mixed bag that doesn't quite work as a narrative or a story in verse. Only one thing is certain—readers expecting a skating account are in for a wipeout. (Poetry. 12 & up)Read full book review >
DOWNTOWN BOY by Juan Felipe Herrera
CHILDREN'S
Released: Nov. 1, 2005

Ten-year-old Juanito, son of migrant workers, is always the new kid. Eager to foster friendships, he must simultaneously avoid trouble with each group of kids he encounters. Expanding on the theme he introduced in his award winning Calling the Doves / El Canto de las Palomas (2001), Herrera captures one year from his 1950s California childhood recounting, in first-person free verse, a boy's fears, thoughts, loneliness and optimistic dreams when stability is challenged by the continual uprooting of a migrant nomadic lifestyle. Herrera succeeds in developing his main character with little more than the descriptive inner thoughts of his young narrator, incorporating certain Spanish phrases throughout the text. Unlike the overall positive uplifting atmosphere of the earlier picture book, this novel allows readers to feel pain, resignation and resilience to circumstances beyond a young boy's control. Nevertheless, Juanito is faithfully sure that life will continue beyond the loss of his diabetic father's ability to work, when he loses both legs to a gangrene infection. His stability is the continual love he receives from his parents. A poignant and lyrical look into a transient existence that may still apply today. (Fiction. 10-14)Read full book review >
CINNAMON GIRL by Juan Felipe Herrera
FAMILY AND GROWING UP
Released: Aug. 1, 2005

Yolanda's grasp on reality crumbles along with the World Trade Center after her beloved Uncle DJ is injured on September 11. Still coping with a tragic incident from her past in Iowa, Yolanda's fear after this new calamity is palpable through the poetry used as the vehicle to tell her story. The bond between Yolanda and her uncle is portrayed through loving letters, which she keeps in an empty cereal box and rereads as Uncle DJ struggles for his life. Likening the ash blanketing the city to the voices of lives lost, Yolanda vows to collect the silvery dust in exchange for her uncle's life. The poetry itself is more complex than those in other verse novels for young adults—particularly due to the many Spanish words and phrases—but the glossary is quite helpful for comprehension. The Puerto Rican flavor of this lyrical, authentic novella will appeal to urban Latinas especially, but anyone touched by the events of September 11 will relate to Yolanda's story. (Fiction. YA)Read full book review >
FEATHERLESS/DESPLUMADO by Juan Felipe Herrera
CHILDREN'S
Released: Aug. 1, 2004

Like his pet bird Desplumado, featherless and with a drawn-in foot, Tomasito can't fly. Born with spina bifida, Tomasito is confined to a wheelchair and despairs of fitting in at his new school, where he has to explain his condition all over again. But with the encouragement of his father and friendly classmate Marlena, Tomasito recovers his sense of equilibrium and competence. While Featherless specifically addresses spina bifida, the story overall and Tomasito's sympathetic link to Desplumado open up avenues to address other physical disabilities that students might face. Tomasito's dream of flying with Desplumado and his incorporation into a soccer team help youngsters understand that disabled children share their longings and hopes, as well as the ability to achieve and participate. Cuevas's paintings are full-spread and boldly colored, combining realism with cartoon-style simplicity; their broad washes and fuzzy edges reveal the texture of the paper on which they were created. Both Spanish and English texts are direct, inviting, and expressive. (Picture book. 6-9)Read full book review >
LAUGHING OUT LOUD, I FLY by Juan Felipe Herrera
NONFICTION
Released: May 31, 1998

Citing Picasso's Hunk of Skin as his inspiration, Herrera (Calling the Doves/El Canto de las Palomas, 1995) offers 22 poems in facing English and Spanish versions, printed over Barbour's pale, floating figures of images from Mexican folk art. Subordinating meaning to sound and rhythm, the poet writes in quick, breathless phrases that sometimes read like random lists—"I own many socks, some with wings/others Alexandrines, 6 of white beaches/ . . . & 1 skin-diving pig, ‘Where are my sockos?' as Papi says,/one tambourine socko for your flower-vase head." Literalists may flounder, but the music comes through clearly, especially in the Spanish: " ‘®D¢nde est†n mis calcetas?' como dice Papi,/una calceta de pandereta para tu maceta." The voice is a child's, and while references to places in Mexico, California, and the Southwest—as well as Chechnya and Sarajevo—flicker past, it's food and family, spices, pets, and friends that recur. This is poetry to read aloud, to read quickly, to understand more with the heart than with the head. (Poetry. 12-14) Read full book review >