Tuesday, July 22, 2014



"Father and son face their demons, each other, and a depressingly realistic publisher in a newspaper yarn that made me yell 'Hold the Front Page' for Harvey Araton's rousing debut as a novelist.”  
—Robert Lipsyte, author of An Accidental Sportswriter

NPR commentator Frank Deford on Cold Type: “Harvey Araton writes, with keen insight, of a time when power was ebbing fast from both newspapers and their unions. It's an especially bittersweet tale he tells of the people who had grown up in newspapers and unions, as they struggle to adapt to this evolving new order. And, of course, what makes this even more evocative, is that we're still trying to sort this all out.”

Harvey Araton is no coward. Nationally recognized for his New York Times sports journalism and columns, plus his non-fiction best sellers (Driving Mr. Yogi and When the Garden was Eden), he decided to jump headfirst into his first novel.


Cold Type is a wonderful story of family and finding one’s identity in the midst of economic distress. The newspaper labor strike that drives the book’s conflict feels remarkably fresh, even two decades later. Why? The newspaper industry is again in turmoil and technological change still threatens jobs. Men who created their wealth in other industries see that disruption as an opportunity and are buying up failing newspapers. Jeff Bezos, whose Seattle startup lurks in the background of the chaos of Jamie’s life, just completed his purchase of the Washington Post not too long ago. Change is surely on the horizon, and change is not easy.

As in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman, son and his father struggle to hold onto what they think is right. It's mid-1990s; and "cold type" technology, a.k.a. computerized typesetting, wreaks havoc among workers in the newspaper industry. A wealthy Briton buys the New York City Trib (Rupert Murdoch, anyone?) and immediately refuses to negotiate with the truck drivers' union. In solidarity, all the other blue collar unions take to the streets. Jamie Kramer is a reporter for the Trib. His father is a hardcore shop steward (unusual for a Jew in Irish-dominated unions) from the old day of "hot type," but who has become a typographer in a world he doesn't understand. His father expects Jamie not to cross the picket line. It would be an act of supreme disrespect. But that's not so easy for Jamie. His marriage has fallen apart, he desperately needs his paycheck for child support, and he needs to make his own life outside the shadow of his father.


"Father and son face their demons, each other, and a depressingly realistic publisher in a newspaper yarn that made me yell 'Hold the Front Page’ for Harvey Araton's rousing debut as a novelist."  --Robert Lipsyte, author of An Accidental Sportswriter

"I’ve been waiting almost 25 years for something good to come of the Daily News strike. Now it has. But this wonderful novel captures more than a time and a place. Harvey Araton deftly turns the picket line into a metaphor for other divides, for those that separate journalism and commerce, heroes and goats, and most of all, fathers and sons. Cold Type is a love song to the real New York."  --Mark Kriegel, author of Namath

"A gripping narrative and an insightful take on family, work, what loyalty means—and what it costs. Harvey Araton is a skilled writer who knows his way around the milieus he travels in this novel, whether it’s a newsroom, a labor hall or a living room. But what really makes this worth reading is the heart you can feel beating underneath it all.”  --Brad Parks, author of The Player

"Fans of Harvey Araton’s lively, engaging prose will love this vivid and heartfelt exploration of what it means to be a journalist, a son, a father, and a man."  --Pamela Redmond Satran, author of Younger

"Araton knows newspapers and knows New York, and in his seventh book (and first novel), he explores clashes more personal, more searing, more universal than any of the sports stories he's told before. Cold Type is a tale about collisions: between generations, between classes, between different crafts in a rapidly changing economy, between the past and the future, between father and son…one of the freshest surprise endings.”  --Kirkus Reviews

"For his fiction debut, he’s mined what he [Araton] knows best—newspapers….If you like the movie The Paper, you’ll want to read this." --Billy Heller, The New York Post, "This Week’s Must-Read Books"

Photograph by Robert A. Cumins
HARVEY ARATON is a celebrated sports reporter and columnist for the New York Times. He is the author of the New York Times best seller DRVING MR. YOGI: Yogi Berra, Ron Guidry, and Baseball’s Greatest Gift and WHEN THE GARDEN WAS EDEN: Clyde, the Captain, Dollar Bill, and the Glory Days of the New York Knicks, which has been adapted for an ESPN “30 for 30” film to be broadcast this Fall. Araton is an adjunct professor at Montclair State University in New Jersey where he lives. Cold Type is his first novel.

Visit the Harvey Araton website here
And follow him on Twitter here.

COLD TYPE is available in cloth, paper and as an e-book. Cinco Puntos Press is distributed to the trade by Consortium Book Sales and Distribution. You may buy a copy from Cinco Puntos Press, a Proud Indie!, here, or from your favorite retailer or e-tailer. 


Monday, July 21, 2014

SLUMP, The 2nd Novel in the D-Bow High School Hoops Series, BY KEVIN WALTMAN

Listen up. This is D-Bow talking hoops, the game he loves. And this is how Kevin Waltman writes about hoops, the game he loves. This is why D-Bow found a home in Waltman's Young Adult fiction!
"So then there I am, out between the circles, soloed up with Major Newsome. I clap my hands in front of me. Bring it. Newsome gives a sly little grin, loving the moment. I get it. He’s just like every other baller in this city. We grow up dreaming of it—a clock ticking down, a crowd on its feet, holding its breath to see what you got. It’s why we burn through our summer, practicing with a purpose when other kids are killing time. It’s why we lift weights until our arms are jelly, run sprints until our calves catch fire. It’s why when we get our teeth kicked in by a better team, we just bear down and keep working. This."
But life is not always inside a gym with the crowd screaming. Especially for a 16-year-old sophomore in an Indianapolis inner-city school. “All a man can do is his dirty best.” That's D-Bow’s father talking. He wants his son to hear the lesson of generations of black men struggling to do good by their families and by what they know is right.

This is what we promise you. Nobody does high school basketball like Kevin Waltman. Nobody. The son of the late Indiana coaching legend, Royce Waltman, he knows his hoops, he knows the flow and erratic rhythms of a game, and he knows the baller-lingo of the kids who love the game. He wraps Derrick’s (aka “D,” aka “D-Bow) sophomore season with a good story. Waltman knows, like we all know, there is no story without trouble.

The last we read about D-Bow (Next, Cinco Puntos, 2013), his freshman year ended with a two-point loss to suburban and wealthy Hamilton High, he decided not to switch to Hamilton but to stay with his home boys. Life was going to be good. The beautiful Jasmine was his girlfriend, D-Bow is the starting point guard and, Moose, his main man on the court had chiseled down 15 pounds for his senior year. D-Bow figured Marion East might even make a run at the State Championship. But things change, things fall apart. Jasmine and Derrick, as she calls him, break up; Wes, his longtime best friend, hardly talks to him anymore because of his own girl problems; D-Bow’s father, long stressed out with overwork and worry, almost dies in a stroke-induced car accident; and the Marion East squad, after the team’s best 3-point shooter goes down, is not what D-Bow expected. Besides, Coach Bolton is still the same hard-ass. D-Bow and his boys want to run run run! But Bolton sees that's not the team he has. He preaches, "Patience, patience, patience." Reynolds, the new kid, says "Coach, that's 'white ball.'" They don't want to play "white ball." That’s not the half of it. D-Bow, like any 16 year old, is feeling his hormones. That’s when Daniella comes calling.

KEVIN WALTMAN, the son of Indiana basketball coaching legend Royce Waltman, grew up playing the game and immersed in its stories and language. No wonder his prose catches the rhythms and muscle of the game. Slump is the second—D-Bow’s sophomore year—in Waltman’s “Hoops at Marion East” series. His junior and senior years will follow in 2015 and 2016. Waltman teaches writing at the University of Alabama. He and his wife Jessica have a baby daughter Calla. 

ISBN 978-1-941026-01-4 paper / $11.95
ISBN 978-1-941026-02-1 e-book / $11.95
Distributed by Consortium Book Sales / Publishes October 2014

Slump is the second book in this four-book series, D-Bow’s High School Hoops. Expect the third book in October 2015. Here's praise for NEXT (Cinco Puntos, 2013): #1 in the D-Bows High School Hoops Series

PUBLISHERS WEEKLY—Waltman’s novel is packed with basketball jargon and action, but also impressively multifaceted, as it examines neighborhood rivalries, the tremendous pressures that come with making one's first adult decisions, and the values of both teamwork and individuality.
KIRKUS REVIEWS—Waltman’s series opener (first of a planned four) features plenty of basketball action fueled by hoops slang that will set basketball-mad readers right onto the court… The author avoids slam-dunk answers, leaving readers poised for the next book. Like Derrick, this series is off to a promising high school career.A Junior Library Guild selection.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


IT'S BOOK EXPO TIME! Cinco Puntos is homesteading booth 1150 in the Consortium Aisle, and like always, we are elbows to elbows with our buddies at Akashic Books. The Consortium Aisle is where all the hip and cool people hang their hats and coats and get down. Johnny Byrd and Bobby Byrd are your hosts. We have our greatest BEA line up of all time for book signings! And they all will be signing books galore! We’ll be there from Thursday morning until 2pm on Saturday. Come by and visit.


Hot dog! Young Adult prize-winning novelist, SHIRLEY VERNICK starts the ball rolling with her newest THE BLACK BUTTERFLY: part ghost story, part love story, total fun read. Just today THE STYLING LIBRARIAN is raving about the book and she does a lengthy interview with Shirley. Besides, she sums it all up: “If only Ghost Girl didn’t want Penny dead. If only George were the tiniest bit open to believing. If only she could tell her mother. Then maybe this could still be a vacation. But it’s not. It’s a race for her life, her first love, and her sanity.”

New York Time sports writer Harvey Araton (When the Garden was Eden and Driving Mr. Yogi) will be signing his first novel, COLD TYPE. NPR commentator FRANK DEFORD says of COLD TYPE: “Harvey Araton writes, with keen insight, of a time when power was ebbing fast from both newspapers and their unions. It's an especially bittersweet tale he tells of the people who had grown up in newspapers and unions, as they struggle to adapt to this evolving new order. And, of course, what makes this even more evocative, is that we're still trying to sort this all out.”
WHEN: 3:30 TO 4PM


Well-known Freudian psychoanalyst DIANE LAWSON has written her first novel, A TIGHTLY RAVELED MIND, a murder mystery cum literary thriller. Ha! And ABRAHAM VERGHESE, author of best-seller Cutting for Stone, celebrates it with these words: "Diane Lawson's amazing insight into the mysteries and witchcraft of psychoanalysis . . . combined with her extraordinary writing skills makes this a one-of-a-kind novel that I found impossible to put down."

Debut novelist DÉSIRÉE ZAMORANO has none other than DAGOBERTO GILB blurbing her book THE AMADO WOMEN: "Far from the cholos and maids of a cliché Latino Los Angeles, these beautiful Amado women dine at chichi hotels and restaurants, carry plush designer bags, and steer new cars into suburbias. But Zamorano doesn’t leave it at that--because even an American dream-fulfilled life is still full of real life, and what alone endures is family."
WHEN: 2:30PM TO 3:00PM

JOSHUA ISARD, author of CONQUISTADOR OF THE USELESS will be hanging out at our booth #1105 on Friday afternoon before the Great Pachanga Block Party (#beaspeakfreasy2014). Conquistador is a hoot. Our hero Nathan Wavelsky moves into the burbs with his wife. Life is good. He’s a successful slacker. He doesn’t want to rock the boat. His definition of a good time is listening to his favorite bands on his iPod and staring at the grass and the poplar trees in his backyard. The Philadelphia Review of Books says, "Isard’s debut novel is one of the best I’ve read in a while, a heartbreaking book, and a funny and emotionally trying read that’s worth every minute of your time."
WHERE: Cinco Puntos Booth,1150

AND THEN THE GREAT PACHANGA BLOCK PARTY. At 4pm Friday afternoon, as if by magic, all the CBSD publishers pull out their suitcases that are miraculously full with ice beer and bottles of wine. Wow! How does that happen? Well, nobody has taken responsibility but it happens. Come visit us and enjoy.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


Cecilia Gonzales Abraham, 1945

Independent Publishing is always miraculous. Like that time somewhere in 2004 when the door opened at Cinco Puntos Press and, Surprise!, the Abraham sisters, Susan and Denise, brought their mother Cecilia Gonzales Abraham to visit us. We had just signed a contract with the sisters to publish a YA book starring their mother Cecilia. And here she was, walking through the front door, a spry 83 year old woman ready to talk and laugh and maybe even dance if somebody would ask. We knew immediately where her daughters received their delight in their lives, their wit, their joy and their love for their mother. It was a great experience. We spent time with Cecilia on other occasions, but that first time was very special.

The two award-winning historical novels that Susan and Denise wrote about their mother--Surprising Cecilia and Cecilia's Year--were very special too. Cecilia was born in Derry, New Mexico in 1920. Derry is that little farming community you can see, going north on I-10, just before you cross the Rio Grande below Truth or Consequences. Derry was a wonderful place to grow up, but Cecilia wanted to see the world, so she had to buck the expectations that her family and the community placed on her. She had ambition and the wonderful surprising spirit that allowed her to follow her dreams. The stories form a wonderful portrait of a young girl becoming a woman. The story of Cecilia--from beginning to end--is a true American story. A true American woman's story!

Here's the author's note that Susan and Denise wrote for back of Cecilia's Year.

Cecilia Gonzales is a real person who really did grow up on a farm in Derry, New Mexico. Cecilia’s dream was to get an education and to make a better life for herself and her family. Through determination and hard work, she was able to see this dream come true.
Cecilia graduated as salutatorian from Hatch Union High School in Hatch, New Mexico in 1938. Against her mother’s strong protestations, she left the family farm for El Paso, Texas, where she attended the International Business College. She paid her tuition and supported herself through secretarial work, including working for the well-known architects, Trost and Trost. During World War II, Cecilia worked for the Office of Alien Registration under the Department of Justice and for the Post Quartermaster at Fort Bliss, Texas. Because she was bilingual, she was hired by the U. S. Office of Censorship, where she monitored telephone calls between El Paso and Latin America during the war.
In 1944, Cecilia left El Paso for New York City to marry her husband, Anees Abraham, a native El Pasoan. He had joined the army and was stationed in Pennsylvania. They were married for 49 years. While in New York, she worked for the American Red Cross, where she met Mayor La Guardia and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.
In 1964, Cecilia became one of the first employees of the Chamizal Project under the U. S. Boundary and Water Commission. She served as a hostess during the transfer of the Chamizal to Mexico where she met President Lyndon B. Johnson of the United States and President Díaz Ordaz of Mexico. In 1967, she was the first employee of the Chamizal National Memorial in El Paso, Texas. She met First Ladies Rosalynn Carter of the U. S. and Sra. Carmen Romano López Portillo of Mexico during their visit in 1977. Cecilia was assigned to take inventory of the LBJ Ranch home in Johnson City, Texas, before it was donated to the National Park Service by Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968. Mrs. Johnson graciously met with Cecilia and the other Park Service employees, serving them coffee and cookies.
Besides meeting two Presidents and four First Ladies and retiring after over 20 years of government service, Cecilia has traveled all over the world to places such as South America, Europe, Greece, Turkey, Canada, the Caribbean, and Mexico—not bad for a young farm girl who used to sit daydreaming under a cottonwood tree.

 May Cecilia rest in peace. 

Cecilia Gonzales Abraham, 1995

Monday, July 15, 2013

George Ella Lyon's Ann Izard Storyteller's Choice Award Acceptance Speech

On May 10, 2013, George Ella Lyon's book, Which Side Are You On? The Story of a Song, received the prestigious Anne Izard Storyteller's Choice Award. All of us--George Ella, illustrator Christopher Cardinale, and the CPP folks--were overjoyed. George Ella had hoped to attend, but couldn't for a number of reasons. So she wrote this beautiful speech to be read at the event. Where Which Side Are You On? is the story of a song, her speech is the story of a book. The story of how an idea becomes a story. Many thanks to George Ella for sharing this with us. 

To all who have worked on the Anne Izard Award:

I wish so much that I could be in White Plains to thank you in person for the honor you are giving “Which Side Are You On?” The Story of a Song. I once rented a car at your airport and drove across the state to Bath in search of a nineteenth-century schoolteacher. But that was for a different book. It was even in a different century! A person will do a lot once a story gets hold of her. But you know about that.

My obsession with this story began on a Saturday in another June nine years ago.  I was doing a reading and music event at the downtown library in Lexington, Ky., with The Reel World String Band.  One of the songs was Florence Reece’s iconic anthem to workers’ rights, “Which Side Are You On?” I’d known the song for a long time—one of my early ambitions was to be a folksinger—and I knew it was written in Harlan County, where I come from. I knew it grew out of the struggle of coal miners to form a union and bargain for safer working conditions, better housing, and better pay.

What I didn’t know until Bev Futrell, the Reel World’s mandolin player, shared it in her introduction, was that Florence Reece had written the song with her kids hiding under the bed while hired killers were shooting at her house. They were out to terrorize the Reeces because Sam Reece was a union organizer.  He wasn’t even home that night, but as Omie, the book’s child narrator tells us, “If a bullet hits you, it don’t matter whose name is on it.”

I was mightily taken with this story.  And it just so happened that I was driving to Harlan that afternoon to visit my mother. I was driving by the turn for Molus, where the Reece’s mining camp had been. I was headed for my homeplace where the story happened.

I told it to my son on the drive down, to my mother after we got there, and that night I condensed it into a paragraph in my journal.  It wouldn’t stay there, though. I couldn’t stop wondering about it.

Sometime in the next week, I started writing. I don’t know if I thought it might be a book or if I was writing it in my effort to understand Florence and to quit worrying about those children. Writing happens that way sometimes.

Eventually I did a lot of reading and interviewed folks who knew Florence and Sam Reece, including their granddaughter, but everything I learned had to be tested in Omie’s voice. If the storyteller wouldn’t say it, I’d have to leave it out.

I write by ear. It’s partly because I grew up listening to parents and grandparents, neighbors and friends telling stories. They couldn’t give directions without going into local history. They didn’t want to. And it’s partly because, since I had double vision till I was thirteen and couldn’t always read directions on the board, I listened hard.  This tuned my ear to the music in how people talk.

The music in “Which Side Are You On?” is being written while people talk. The Reece kids keep asking questions, trying to understand the crazy world they’re in, and their crazy mama who is writing in the midst of it.

Now that I have some distance on the story, I understand why it had such a hold on me. It wasn’t just the connection with the place and history I come from. It wasn’t just that Bev had known Florence and heard the story from her, so it was almost close enough to touch. It wasn’t that a miner’s wife in eastern Kentucky had written a song that’s still going around the world.  It was that Florence Reece, unable to protect her children from bullets, nevertheless stood up for them with the one tool she had: writing. In making new words for an old tune, she bore witness to the exploitation of miners and their families. She might die, but she would not die silent. She would give herself and those kids a voice.

Reece would recognize the situation in our nation today where we see the 1% protecting their ferocious wealth while the 99% struggle to get by. She would want to stand with the Occupy movement, the Wisconsin teachers, and all who suffer in a society where profit matters more than people. But Florence doesn’t have to be at those protests in person. They are singing her song.

Thank you for honoring her story and for helping it find new readers.

For all our voices,
George Ella Lyon

And don't forget to listen to Ma Reece herself sing her song, written while the hired thugs were riddling her house with bullets.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Beauty is a Book Tour

The editors and poets of the acclaimed anthology Beauty is a Verb are hard at work this month, with upcoming book tour dates in New Jersey, New York and Virginia. Are you planning on attending any of these? Here's the full schedule:

Thursday, March 14
Don't Call Me Inspirational: a Literary Reading for Women's History Month
6-7:45PM  |  Hoboken Public Library
500 Park Avenue  |  Hoboken, NJ
Readings by Ona Gritz and Jennifer Bartlett, plus Harilyn Rousso will read from Don't Call Me Inspirational 

Wednesday, March 20
Virginia Festival of the Book
2PM   |  UVa Harrison Institute Auditorium
160 McCormick Road  |  Charlottesville, VA
Readings by Michael Northen & Anne Kaier

Thursday, March 28
Disabilities as Ways of Knowing: A Series of Creative Writing Conversations
7-8PM   |  Watson Theater, Syracuse University
405 University Place   |  Syracuse, NY
Readings by Laurie Clemens Lambeth, Jim Ferris & Stephen Kuusisto
8-9PM  |  Light Work, Robert B. Menschel Media Center
316 Waverly Avenue  |  Syracuse, NY
Reception and book signing

Thursday, February 28, 2013


Lee with BRLA Proclamation for Excellence in Publishing.
She couldn't be at the banquet, but she's still excited.
We thank the BRLA! 
Saturday night, February 23rd, 2013, the Border Regional Library Association invited Cinco Puntos to their annual Southwest Book Awards Banquet. The reason?! The BRLA gave us their EXCELLENCE IN PUBLISHING AWARD. And this is the 2nd one we’ve received. That’s the first time that’s happened! My gosh we were honored. And still are. ¡Muchisimas gracias a la BRLA!

Once again proving the librarians rock n’ roll.

The BRLA  is made up of wonderful librarians who go about their daily duties of promoting literacy, reading books, serving the public by answering questions, keeping books on the shelves, navigating the new world of e-technologies, lobbying politicians who just don’t understand and keeping the doors open—among their other jobs. Special thanks to Lisa Weber and Claudia Rivers who wrote and read the proclamation! It was a great evening! Good food, good talk and laughter, the celebration of wonderful books which won the annual Southwest Book Awards.

The only disappointment of the evening was that Lee couldn’t be there because she was out of town. But Susie Byrd and Ed Holland were there—both of whom worked with us six years or so beginning in 1996 until Susie became a politician and Ed a high school teacher; Johnny’s wonderful wife Ailbhe Cormack, and the irreplaceable long-time employee and close friend, Cactus Mary Fountaine. And in fact, Mary, who as a cottage industry entrepreneur makes the incredible hand-crafted and totally natural Cactus Mary’s Soap, inspired our favorite line from the Proclamation:

Whereas, the Press has supported hygiene in the borderlands by selling Cactus Mary soap at their headquarters…

But, please read the whole proclamation. It’s serious and fun at the same time.

A Resolution of the Border Regional Library Association

Whereas, the Border Regional Library Association is an organization dedicated to the promotion of libraries and literacy in the American Southwest; and

Whereas, Cinco Puntos Press has performed many acts in support of libraries and librarians since its founding in 1985; and

Whereas, the Press has brought fame and credit to the borderlands by publishing outstanding works by regional authors such as Dagoberto Gilb, Joe Somoza, Joe Hayes, and Benjamin Saenz; and

Whereas, the Press has promoted literacy by publishing outstanding children’s books in bilingual format; and

Whereas, Bobby and Lee Byrd themselves have written books of great merit; and

Whereas, Lee Byrd so dedicated herself to libraries that she even attended Library Science courses; and

Whereas, the Press has published controversial books by revolutionaries that received national press coverage and revocation of grant funding; and

Whereas, the Press has nurtured talented artists and designers by commissioning them to illustrate and design books; and

Whereas, the Press has supported hygiene in the borderlands by selling Cactus Mary soap at their headquarters; and

Whereas, representatives of the Press have braved long airline flights and international tensions to carry books from the U.S.-Mexico borderlands to far-away book fairs; and

Whereas, the Press has been the recipient of seven individual Southwest Book Awards for books they have published and one award from the Border Regional Library Association citing its  encouragement of new literary talent; and

Whereas, after twenty years since the last award for Excellence in Publishing given to the Cinco Puntos Press, it is now time to recognize its continuing record of achievement.

Now therefore be it resolved, that the membership of the Border Regional Library Association at its gathering for the Awards Banquet on this 23rd day of February, 2013 of the Common Era do hereby express our unreserved appreciation of Cinco Puntos Press, and

Grant, to Cinco Puntos Press the honor of an unprecedented second BRLA award for Excellence in Publishing.

Johnny Byrd (CFO plus many other hats) and his wife Ailbhe Cormac, Ed Holland (son-in-law and employee emeritus, 1996 to 2002, and now a thriving high school teacher of film and literature), his wife Susie Byrd (also employee-emeritus who left Cinco Puntos to become a City Representative), Cactus Mary Fountaine, and co-publisher Bobby Byrd.
Not pictured is co-publisher who was out of town. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Which Side Are You On?, written by George Ella Lyon and illustrated by Christopher Cardinale, has won the American Folklore Society's 2012 Aesop Award for Children's Literature. That's big news! Congratulations to George Ella Lyon and Christopher Cardinale. George Ella is an activist for the rights of coal miners and for the land on which she lives. Which Side Are You On? is truly a labor of love and an homage to Florence Reece--the author of the song "Which Side Are You On?" Christopher Cardinale traveled to West Virginia to study the Kentucky mines and landscapes for his illustrations. He and George Ella collaborated on this wonderful book that teaches us the story of Ma Reece, her husband and her children as they struggled for basic human rights. Cinco Puntos is proud of Which Side Are You On? and the Aesop Award, and so happy for George Ella and Christopher. We congratulate the Aesop Committee for recognizing the book's roots in the voice of the people--the folklore of the people--and its importance to the United States in 2012. It arrives at a time of renewed union struggle, a time in which our country seems to have forgotten about the struggles in the past. Which side are you on? 

Children’s Folklore Section
of the Children’s Folklore Section of the American
Folklore Society announces the 2012 Aesop Awards

The Aesop Prize and Aesop Accolades are conferred annually by the Children’s Folklore Section of the American Folklore Society upon English language books for children and young adults, both fiction and nonfiction. The award criteria include: Folklore should be central to the book’s content and, if appropriate, to its illustrations; the folklore presented in the book should accurately reflect the culture and worldvie w of the people whose folklore is the focus of the book; the reader’s understanding of folklore should be enhanced by the book, as should the book be enhanced by the presence of folklore; the book should reflect the high artistic standards of the best of children’s literature and have strong appeal to the child reader; and folklore sources must be fully acknowledged and annotations referenced within the bound contents of the publication.

2012 Aesop Prize Winner

Which Side Are You On? By George Ella Lyon, illustrated by Christopher Cardinale. El Paso, TX:
Cinco Puntos Press, 2011.

The urgency and bravery described in Which Side Are You On is at once both historic and contemporary.This picture book recounts the desperate circumstances that prompted the writing of a pivotal song of the labor movement in Kentucky in 1931. Author George Ella Lyon, and illustrator Christopher Cardinale, do a masterful job of portraying the historic setting and the unsung heroes of the coal miners’ strikes in the 1920’s and 30’s. And yet, by bringing this era into sharper focus, Lyon and Cardinale bring the realization that folk song is ever relevant in contemporary society. This book showcases a classic example of folk song, while simultaneously providing the context in which this song for social change took root. Social unrest, and the desire for justice, provide fertile ground for the flourishing of folk music as the voice of the oppressed. By describing the development of this song, Lyon and Cardinale remind us of its relevance today.

This is mainly the story of how Florence Reece wrote the song, “Which Side Are You On,” during one terrifying night, when the “gun thugs” (hired by the mine owners) were firing bullets into her home. Reece’s daughter narrates the scene, describing the way her six brothers and sisters cowered under the bed. Reece had gotten word to her husband (a mine worker and union organizer) not to return home, and to hide out. Amidst the questions bursting from the children under the bed, Ma tells them, “This ain’t easy, but sometimes you’ve got to take a stand.”

But this book is so much more than the story of Ma writing the song on the back of a calendar page, riveting though it is. The narrative simultaneously weaves three main threads into a cohesive flow: the unfolding plot in Reece’s home, background information on miners, and the lyrics of the song. Using an economy of words, Lyon imparts a surprising amount of information, in a child’s language. Readers learn about the grueling work of a miner, the meaning of a “company town,” payment in “scrip,” the meaning of a strike and a scab, and the reason a union is needed to set things right. The song lyrics visually swirl on intermittent pages.

The extensive author’s note provides even more information on the history, as well as reflections on folk music and the folk process, then and now. Cardinale, an accomplished cartoonist, achieves a style of illustration that captures the rough‐hewn quality of the setting, evocative of woodcuts. Illustrations and text work cohesively to portray a mood, not only of the violence, but of the resolve and love and solidarity of the family and the union.

Visualize the scene: Disenfranchised by those in power, the common people rise up to face their oppressors. These brave souls are armed with a powerful tool: the rousing refrains of a song. The music stirs their hearts and feeds their spirits, as they gather in strength and resolve. Does this scenario sound familiar? We hear about such uprisings and rallies on the news frequently. The use of folk song as a vehicle for righteousness is grounded in history, and those songs, old and new, still ring out today. Lyon and Cardinale have crafted a book that reminds us of that.

--Statement by the Aesop Award Committee

The Great Florence Reece singing her song!

Friday, October 5, 2012


It's time to get ready for Halloween, so that means folks will be telling and re-telling the legend of La Llorona, the Weeping Woman. The Byrd kids--Susie, Johnny and Andy--, when we moved to El Paso in 1978, learned about La Llorona on the playground in kindergarten and at Crockett Elementary School. Parents or teachers didn't tell them the story. The kids did. All the kids knew about La Llorona and where she lived and they knew to scare the new kids with what they knew. In our neighborhood, she lived on Franklin Mountain up Louisville Street, and at night she'd come howling out of a canyon, looking for her kids. Oh, wowweeee! Lee and I learned about La Llorona first thru out kids and our neighbors, but then we met storyteller Joe Hayes. We became friends. Joe told us a lot about the folklore of the American Southwest and the world (that's something most people don't know about Joe--he's a deeply committed folklorist), and from Joe we learned the history of the legend. But most importantly, we got to publish Joe's telling of the story. Oh, what a great gift that was. It was the 3rd book published by Cinco Puntos, our first bilingual children's book and by far our best-selling book of all time. We have over 400,000 in print in all of its various editions. We call Cinco Puntos Press "the House that La Llorona built!" Here's an interview I recently found in our archives (forgive me, I can't find the source, so if somebody knows, please tell me) where Joe talks about this great legend which is certainly an integral part of the culture where we live.  --Bobby Byrd


Q: Why are people so intrigued by the tale of La Llorona?

There are really three aspects to the character of La Llorona. First, she's a threatening character you have to look out for, especially if you're a kid. This by far the best-known aspect. Many people know of her in this role, without knowing the tale behind it, or knowing only the detail that she drowned her children.

And then there's the legendary tale explaining her origin. It's a legend because it's widely accepted as based on real events.

Finally, there are the many stories of personal experiences involving La Llorona.

In my version in The Day It Snowed Tortillas, I include all three aspects of her. And I think these three facets of La Llorona combine to make her so intriguing. Children are fascinated by a vague threat, and even more so if there's a safety valve, a way to avoid the threat: Stay inside at night.

The theme of a mother who kills her own children is widespread in folklore. It's such a violation of the natural order, that people can't quite get it out of their minds. And a character who is perpetually mourning and seeking forgiveness also has a strong hold on the imagination.

Finally, so many people swear they've seen or heard La Llorona, that children can never quite declare that they don't believe the story.

There's always that sense of "I don't really think it's true, but… but…"

Q: The story has many different versions. How did you adjust it to your book version?

I just started telling the story several decades ago, combining things I had heard as a kid with my own imagination. Over the years, the listeners helped me refine the story by the way they reacted to it. The printed version is somewhere between the way I started out telling and how I now tell it. I always tried not to glorify the violence that's inherit in the tale, but refused to abandoned the essential fact that she drowned her children.

I can't stand some of the contemporary versions that turn La Llorona into a helpful character, or say that she didn't actually drown the children.

They rob the story of it's mythic quality. The story of La Llorona, at least my version, is highly moralistic. It's a teaching story.

Q: As an Anglo man, what has appealed to you about communicating through different cultures?

I have always believed that stories belong the those who honor and care for them, those who put them to good use. Years ago when I first started tellling stories, I knew that the story of La Llorona needed to be perpetuated. No other storytellers were telling it. So without reasoning why I just started telling the story. That's changed now, of course. Many people tell it.

I now realize that because I'm not Hispanic I've been able to make a greater contribution--both to Hispanic and non-Hispanic children--than I could ever have made were I Hispanic. It's opened minds to the fact that words are for everyone, stories are for everyone. The human family is one big round circle, not a lot of separate straight lines.

Thursday, October 4, 2012


Sometimes the border is a mirror, sometimes an escape,
and sometimes it’s just the bridge you cross to go home.


The Kentucky Club on Avenida Juárez is a touchstone for each of the stories in this remarkable collection. Saenz’ characters walk by, or they might go in for a drink or to score, or they might just stay and hang out for a while and let their story be told. Sáenz understands that a place like the Kentucky Club is an antidote to borders, welcoming Spanish and English, Mexicans and gringos, poor and rich, gay and straight, drug addicts and drunks, laughter and sadness—and sometimes even well-earned despair. It’s a place where you can sit at a polished mahogany bar, drink a cold beer, and become a part of history. “I’m going home to the other side.” That’s a strange statement, but you hear it all the time at the Kentucky Club.

“There is never a question of either Sáenz’s own extraordinary capacity for caring and compassion or the authenticity of the experiences he records...” Booklist 

“Sáenz's moving collection of short stories hinges on the intergenerational clientele of the titular borderland watering hole just south of the U.S.-Mexican divide on Avenida Juárez...there's much to enjoy in these gritty, heartfelt stories.” Publishers Weekly

Benjamin Alire Sáenz is a poet and writer of fiction, young adult and children’s literature. Like these stories, his writing crosses borders and lands in our collective psyche. Poets & Writers Magazine named him one of the fifty most inspiring writers in the world. He’s been a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and PEN Center’s prestigious award for young adult fiction. Sáenz is the chair of the Creative Writing Department at the University of Texas at El Paso.

Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club 
240 pages / Publishes September 2012
PAPERBACK ISBN 978‐1‐935955‐32‐0 / US $16.95 
E-BOOK 978-1-935955-33-7 (AVAILABLE @ ALL E-TAILERS)
Available to the trade at www.cbsd.com 
For more information, contact John Byrd
johnbyrd@cincopuntos.com ; 915‐838‐1625

(I recorded this video in August 2012 at the Kentucky Club on Avenida Juárez; la ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico. The book's designer Antonio Castro H, Ben and I walked across the bridge to take photographs, looking for the perfect cover. We had a beer, talked to the waiters, took photographs and enjoyed ourselves. When it was time to go home, I asked Ben to say a few words about the stories. It was a good afternoon. --Bobby Byrd)