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 
For more information, contact John Byrd ; 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)

Friday, September 14, 2012

Cadillac Chronicles - by Bret Hartman


A wild ride, Cadillac Chronicles explores what it means to—finally—find a real friend.


by Bret Hartman

Sixteen-year-old Alex Riley’s top priorities in life are to find his long-absent father and a girl with a decent set of breasts. But his mother has a knack for sabotaging his plans. To advance her political career, she takes in an elderly black man named Lester Bray. Lester arrives with a cherry Cadillac and an old man's personality. It takes a week for Alex's mother to ask Lester to leave. That makes Alex angry. On the morning of his eviction, Lester and Alex set out on a road trip to find the boy's father in Ft. Lauderdale. But the two don't just head south. They cross through un-navigated political, racial, and personal territory. A wild ride, Cadillac Chronicles explores what it means to—finally—find a real friend.

Brett Hartman distinguished himself early in life as the tallest kid in his class, though unfortunately this did not translate into basketball talent. He distinguished himself yet again in 1984 as the first of his graduating class to have a psychotic breakdown (see his memoir, Hammerhead 84). He spent a lot of time in school—Auburn University, Villanova and Indiana State from which he received a doctorate in clinical psychology. He and his wife Sarah live in Albany, NY with their two sons, Ben and Nick. Cadillac Chronicles is Brett’s first novel.

What was the spark for your story?
Back in the late 90’s I tried to start a non-profit organization that would match single elderly people with qualifying families—kind of an adopt-a-senior program. It never worked out, but the idea resurfaced years later when I started plotting this book.

Tell us about your most memorable road trip.
In the summer of ’88, I packed all my belongings, including my cat, into a UHaul (towing my car) and travelled with my grandmother from Ft. Lauderdale to Philly. The trip occurred during one of the most punishing heat waves on record and our truck had no functioning a/c. We lost the cat. (She was hiding inside the dashboard.) Then we got lost and had to abandon the car trailing behind us. My grandmother remembered that trip as one of the high points of her life. I’m not so sure the cat would agree.

"Angry, just-turned-16-year-old Alex, a white boy, and equally angry but very old Lester, a black man, are unlikely road-trip buddies in this novel that transcends its conventions…Alex learns to drive, comes to understand a little of the hard truth of race in post–Civil Rights–era America and spectacularly loses his virginity in a scene that will surprise readers as much as Alex…If there's little doubt about the end of the trip, readers will be happy they've gone along for the ride."

Cadillac Chronicles  
ISBN 978-1-935955-41-2 paperback/ 978-1-935955-42-9 e-book  
US $16.95 
304 pages / Publishes September 2012

Monday, September 10, 2012

Joe Hayes: "My life has been like a visit to an enchanted castle."

The new school year has started, and storyteller Joe Hayes is out on his journeys, doing what he loves to do best--telling stories to kids. We know Joe. He gets nervous if he's not telling stories, especially to kids. So to celebrate the new school year, and wish Joe the very best as the school year begins, we thought we'd post this interview for the National Book Festival where he was a featured writer last year. Teachers, librarians, principals--if you want Joe at your school, follow this link.

What sparked your imagination for your book – The Coyote Under the Table?

The book contains my versions of ten Southwestern folktales. Each story had its own unique appeal to me. It might have been humor, or a touch of wonder or some subtle wisdom. Or the images of the story may have delighted me. Whatever the quality that appealed, it made me want to share the story with children, hoping they'd find the same pleasure in it that I do.

What challenges do you face in your writing process? How do you overcome them?

I probably shouldn't admit this—especially to kids—but the biggest challenge is to make myself settle down and write. And the older I get, the harder it becomes. More and more things—mostly petty everyday things—seem to be crying out for my attention. It sometimes helps to keep a pencil and paper beside the computer and write down the chores that pop into my head, rather than jumping up to do them as soon as I think of them. If I write them down I don't have to worry that if I put them off I'll forget them.

The biggest help is to have the story pretty well worked out in my mind before I begin to write. I'm lucky because I'm a storyteller and can often work a story out by telling it before I write it. Another time I plot out stories is when I'm walking my dog. Ideas come more freely into my mind when I'm moving. I can sometimes do the same thing when I'm driving my car. But then the moment comes when I have to sit down and get the words written.

What tips or advice can you share with young students who hope to start writing?

The most obvious advice is Stop hoping and start writing. And in a similar vein, don’t think about being a writer; think about writing. We make far too big a fuss about becoming a writer. The main thing to remember is that writing is just a way of sharing. If there's something you like, something you're interested in, there are bound to be other people who will also like it, so share it with them in writing.

Can you suggest a fun writing topic to get them started?

One kind of story I like to tell and write is a tall tale—not the broad, literary ones like the stories of Pecos Bill or Paul Bunyan, but the more traditional style tall tale, the personal yarn. These are what if? Stories. You ask yourself what if? And then think of a wild answer and then start telling it as if it really happened. I asked myself, What if I had a pair of shoes that got really stinky? I answered; a skunk might fall in love with them. And I started making up The Love Sick Skunk. What if you had a pair of smelly shoes, or socks? I asked myself, What if a hen mistook some big hailstones for eggs and sat on them? I answered; She hatched out a bunch of baby penguins. What if she sat on some light bulbs? What if she sat on some marbles? What might she sit on to hatch out a woodpecker? An owl? A roadrunner?

What is your list of favorite children's or teen books?

I pay more attention to folklore than to children's literature, so I don't have a ready answer, but the books that have been a great inspiration and guiding beacon to me are those of my friend Byrd Baylor. I don't know that I would have begun writing Southwestern stories without her pioneering influence.

How do you decide on themes for your books?

That's an easy question to answer. I don't. Only once did I take a thematic approach. That was for Watch Out for Clever Women/Cuidado con las mujeres astutas. I decided to do a collection of Southwestern stories in which a wise or clever woman saves the day. With all my other books I just focused on sharing a story, or a group of stories, that I liked.

How important is research in the development of your books? Can you explain the process as well?

I'm kind of embarrassed to call what I do research. It’s not that formal. I read folktales constantly. I especially read stories that were collected by folklorists and anthropologists, typically 50 to 100 years ago. I'm always looking for something that will excite me, some story idea that I can build on and make into a story to share with children. Most of the collections are in Spanish—not standard Spanish but the rural, informal Spanish of the villagers who told the stories. This also helps me understand the way traditional tellers used language and how they constructed their stories so that do an authentic job of retelling the tales.

What is your advice to parents for passing the joys of reading on to their children?

I have nothing new to offer here. Parents who love to read tend to raise children who love to read. We all know that. Parents who frequently read to their children, to each other and to themselves, and who talk about what they're reading, provide a model children naturally emulate.

Can you tell us about any new books that you will be working on during the coming year?

I have a couple of new things on my computer that I'm trying to make headway with. I hear over and over from librarians that another short bilingual chapter book like Ghost Fever/Mal de fantasma would be very welcome, so I'm working on that idea.

If you weren't creating children's books, what would you be doing?

If life hadn't led me into telling stories and sharing them with kids in books, I have no idea where it would have taken me. My life has been like a visit to an enchanted castle. I went inside and from the first room a door opened into another. There were other doors, but I just went through the one that was open. And in the next room I saw another door and, so on. I didn't plan for things to turn out this way. There are many other things I might have ended up doing, and enjoying very much, but I can't think of any other work that would have given me the opportunity me to make the same kind of contribution to the lives of others, especially to the lives of children.

Now let's listen to Joe tell two of his favorite stories--first one of Joe's "boy-favorite" tall tales, The Gum Chewing Rattler; and then A Spoon for Every Bite / Una cuchara para cada bocada, first in English and then in Spanish. Life is good when you're hearing Joe Hayes tell stories.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Count Me In - by Cynthia Weill


Oaxacan dancers and musicians celebrate with a colorful parade. 
Count yourself in the fun!

A Parade of Mexican Folk Art NUMBERS in English and Spanish

Practice your numbers in English and Spanish when you count the beautiful dancers, playful musicians, and happy children of Oaxaca as the Guelaguetza parade goes by! Pronounced Gal-a-get-zah, the lively celebration—full of traditional dancing and music—takes place every July deep in the heart of southern Mexico. ONE band leader with a big white balloon! DOS hombres with firecrackers! THREE musicians! FOUR giants! All exquisitely handcrafted by the Mexican folk art masters Guillermina, Josefina, Irene, and Concepción Aguilar, in collaboration with author and scholar Cynthia Weill. Bienvenidos! Welcome to the parade!

Cynthia Weill holds a doctorate in education from Teachers College Columbia University.  She is on the board of a foundation, Friends of Oaxacan Folk Art which seeks to promote and preserve the artists and artisanal work of the state.  Count Me In is her fourth book in the First Concepts in Mexican Folk Art Series.

The Aguilar sisters are Mexico’s most beloved artisans. They learned how to make clay figurines from theirmother Isaura Álcantara Diaz. These lively independent women are considered great masters of Mexican folk art and have been presented to Queen Elizabeth, Queen Sofia of Spain, various Mexican presidents and Nelson Rockefeller. Their humorous ceramics of the people of their town and state are in museum collections the world over.

The collection of parade figures from Count Me In was acquired by the Field Museum in Chicago for its permanent collection. 


Praise for other books in the First Concepts in Mexican Folk Art Series
ABeCedarios Letters in Spanish and English. “Highly recommended...” —Críticas
Opuestos Opposites in Spanish and Enlgish. “Direct and charming.” —Publishers Weekly
Colores de la vida Colors in Spanish and English. “The sculptures are hypnotic.” —Publishers Weekly

Count Me In
ISBN 978-1-935955-39-9 hardback 
 978-1-935955-40-5 e-book
US $14.95 
24 pages / Publishes September 2012

The Aguilar sisters, from left to right, Irene, Conception, Josefina and Guillermina.

For more about the Aguilar Sisters of Oaxaca, go here!

Catrina with Frida Kahlo References

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Cinco Puntos Press has been proud to collaborate with the El Paso Community Foundation in its initial First Steps to Reading project. Modeled from the national Born to Read Program and the Born to Read Program in San Antonio, First Steps to Reading, a pilot program, will deliver high-quality bilingual “early concept” books to newborn babies and their parents before they leave the hospital. Books will be distributed at Sierra Providence East Medical Center in El Paso and at Hospital de la Familia in La Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua. “The El Paso Community Foundation is proud to provide access to literacy by building home libraries which encourage reading from birth to adulthood,” said Eric Pearson, president of the El Paso Community Foundation. 

The program’s goal is to improve literacy rates in the El Paso community through ongoing, targeted interventions aimed at children and their parents.  By several measures, El Paso lags behind the country in adult literacy rates.  The National Assessment of Adult Literacy estimated that 36% of El Paso County residents lacked basic literacy skills in English.  The state average is 23%.  A separate study, America’s Most Literate Cities, ranks El Paso 69th out of 75 cities in the literacy resources that it affords its citizens.

“We are delighted to support this literacy program in its inception,” said Johnny Byrd, managing editor of Cinco Puntos Press.  “El Paso and our region is a bilingual community, and we believe our bilingual books—rooted like they are in the first-hand experience of both languages—can be used as an antidote to the problems of literacy here.”
In its first year, the program will deliver 4,200 books to newly born children and their parents at the selected hospitals. The three books selected are from the Cinco Puntos bilingual series “Early Concepts in Mexican Folk Art” by Cynthia Weill in collaboration with three different groups of Oaxaca artisans: Opuestos, Abecedarios and Colores. 

The El Paso Community Foundation has granted $20,000 for First Steps to Reading, and is encouraging other funding partners—corporate or individual—to contribute. For more information contact the Foundation via

FEMAP staff Alejando and Vicente
pick up books at Cinco Puntos to take to Juárez

EPCF President Eric Pearson and CPP Managing Editor Johnny Byrd
at presentation of books to staff at Sierra Providence Medical Center

These are some of the Sierra Providence staff who will be handing
parents and children the First Steps to Reading books!

Monday, August 6, 2012


--by Bobby Byrd

Note: Let Us Now Praise Famous Men is that classic book with text by James Agee and photographs by Walker Evans that documents farmers, immigrants and families during the great Dust Bowl of the 1930s. Cinco Puntos, from time to time, would like to celebrate librarians, teachers and others in the struggle for literacy and reading of good books in our nation's schools. This is the first installment. 

Francisco Vargas seated next to Xavier Garza
At this year’s ALA Convention in Anaheim, CA the Pura Belpre Committee celebrated its annual literary awards, given to writers and illustrators of Hispanic origin. The awards are sponsored jointly by ALA organizations REFORMA  promoting library services for Latinos and the Association for Library Services for Children. Xavier Garza’s Maximillian and the GuardianAngel received an Honor Book for 2012. Lee and I were there at ALA to celebrate with Xavier, his wife Irma and son Vincent. It was a wonderful occasion for all of us. The Pura Belpre Organizing Committee had put together a great event to celebrate its winners. But Xavier’s honor soon received added significance.

Francisco Vargas, the Youth Services Librarian at Long BeachPublic, made the presentation. He delighted the audience by proudly strutting like a luchador to the podium in his most prized lucha libre mask, the one he wears at his library when he does story-time for the kids. He smiled down at the audience through the mask, his eyes flashing with joy.  He was honored, he said, to be presenting this award to Xavier. As a kid, he loved books but he never found that one perfect book that spoke directly to him about his Mexican-American roots.

When he became a librarian, he wanted to find books that spoke to the children in front of him. Especially the Mexican-American kids. The kids like him. But he could never find that perfect book, that is, not until he read them Xavier’s first Cinco Puntos picture book, Lucha Libre: The Man in the Silver Mask. Oh, he said, the boys loved that book. And now here was this new bilingual chapter book about Max and the Guardian Angel. The Chicano kids love that book just as much. They want him to read both books over and over.

That’s the speech Francisco wanted to give to celebrate Xavier and his books. But something happened. As he began talking, he choked up. He was so moved by what he wanted to express to all of us he began to weep. He’d stutter and stop and start again. Finally, he ripped off his mask to reveal his true self. At first, we all thought that this was part of his presentation, the famous luchador rips off his mask to reveal the true man beneath. We thought he was making theatre. But we were wrong.  The emotion of the moment actually grabbed Francisco and swept him up. It was beautiful. At that moment Francisco Vargas was the embodiment of what power and purpose a man like him can bring to the library and to the kids he serves. 

What a performance!  

Thanks to Francisco and to all the members of the Pura Belpre committee: Chair Jamie Naidoo, Rebecca Alcalá, Carling Febry, Daisy Gutierrez, Amanda Sharpe, Henrietta Smith, and consultant Oralia Garza de Cortes. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Pura Belpre Loves Lucha Libre + New Books at ALA

Lee and Bobby Byrd will be California dreamin' in Anaheim this week with librarians from all across the country at ALA Annual.

Stop by booth 2567 to say hi and check out our latest books, including new work from Benjamin Alire Sáenz, a dictionary for marital bliss, hoops fiction, and ambitious YA from Brett Hartman.

Author and illustrator Xavier Garza will also be on hand to celebrate his Pura Belpré Honor Book Maximilian and the Mystery of the Guardian Angel.

Author/Illustrator Xavier Garza


Book Signing
Cinco Puntos booth #2567
10am-12pm Saturday, June 23

Beyond Books: Graphic Novels 
and Magazines  of Color Panel
Convention Center Room 207D
10:30am Sunday, June 24

2012 Pura Belpré Celebratiòn
Disneyland Grand Ballroom Center, Disneyland Hotel
1:30pm-3:30pm Sunday June 24

Remember to follow us on twitter (@5puntosbooks) to get updates on upcoming events, new books, and lots more.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


Below is Joe's wonderful performance at the 2011 National Book Festival in D.C. The recording is from the Library of Congress. As usual, Joe emphasizes the Spanish language and the importance of bilingualism. Folks back East are finally listening to the great resource we've been enjoying all these years.

There's also a nice interview here. Joe, because he understands the magic of story, ends the interview like this:

Interviewer: If you weren't creating children's books, what would you be doing?

Joe: If life hadn't led me into telling stories and sharing them with kids in books, I have no idea where it would have taken me. My life has been like a visit to an enchanted castle. I went inside and from the first room a door opened into another. There were other doors, but I just went through the one that was open. And in the next room I saw another door and, so on. I didn't plan for things to turn out this way. There are many other things I might have ended up doing, and enjoying very much, but I can't think of any other work that would have given me the opportunity me to make the same kind of contribution to the lives of others, especially to the lives of children.

Enjoy the video!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Friday, March 23rd, Lee Merrill Byrd and Bobby Byrd will be on campus reading at Arcadia University in Glenside, Pennsylvania (near Philly). In the afternoon they will be reading from their work and work-shopping about publishing (they are co-publishers of Cinco Puntos Press in El Paso); and in the evening they will host a celebration of the new poetry anthology BEAUTY IS A VERB: THE NEW POETRY OF DISABILITY edited by Jennifer Bartlett, Sheila Black and Michael Northern. Lee is an alumni of Arcadia in its previous incarnation as Beaver College (an all-girls institution whose name was changed to protect the...oh, no time for jokes!).
BEAUTY IS A VERB CELEBRATION & READING: 7:30PM in the Mirror Room of the Grey Tower Castle. Anne Kaier (a professor at Arcadia), Hal Sirowitz, and Dan Simpson--all contributors of BEAUTY--and Michael Northern, one of the three editors, will read from their work. The Byrds will introduce the anthology and the readers, and Northern will emcee the reading. Ron Silliman--widely-known poet, critic and blogger living in Philadelphia--has said "[BEAUTY IS A VERB] is going to be one of the defining collections of the 21st century...the discourse between ability, identity & poetry will never be the same." [For Ron's complete review of BEAUTY, go here.]

READING AND PUBLISHING WORKSHOP: 2PM Friday afternoon and also in the Mirror Room of the Grey Tower Castle, will feature Lee and Bobby Byrd first reading their own work (Lee is a novelist, Bobby a poet) and then conducting a workshop about publishing and discussing their own experiences as independent publishers at Cinco Puntos Press.

For further information, please contact Prof. Richard Wertime of Arcadia's English Department at

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Eloisa Alire Saenz (1929 to 2012)

Eloisa Alire Saenz (1929-2012)

Ben Saenz' mother Eloisa died Tuesday, February 21st. She was almost 83. Lee and I got to know her when she would come to readings to hear Ben perform and especially to those special times when Ben was receiving an award. Afterwards we would sometimes have a lunch or dinner. Also, once when Ben was in the hospital, we got to sit, talk and laugh with her and husband Juan. She was fun to be around. I could make jokes about Ben and she would  giggle, but I could tell that she was strong and steadfast in her love for her son. Indeed, for all of her children. I asked Ben to send along a photograph of his mom for the blog, plus the obituary that will appear in the Las Cruces Sun News. For those of you who are friends here in El Paso or Las Cruces, a rosary for Eloise will be at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Cathedral in Las Cruces (Espina and Idaho) on Sunday night, 6pm; and then Monday morning 10am, for the funeral services.

Ben writes about his mother and his family in his poetry--all books which I highly recommend, those from Cinco Puntos and those from Copper Canyon Press. And I think Eloisa is always informing his other work, especially his illustrated children's books which speak so warmly about the importance of family. 

It's one of the great joys of independent publishing to become good friends with the writers we publish. Ben's friendship to Lee and me, and his loyalty to Cinco Puntos, are ingredients of our lives that we cherish. For Eloisa, may she rest in peace. And blessings to Ben and his family.


Eloisa Alire Saenz, faithful servant of God, passed from this world on the morning of February 21st, 2012. She was born in Old Picacho, New Mexico on May 21, 1929 to Teresa and Ventura Alire. She was a devout Catholic throughout her life and served as a lector and communion minister at Immaculate Heart of Mary Cathedral for many years. She also served her community by being an active member of the Catholic Daughters, an organization she cherished. She faithfully devoted herself to prayer and weekly knelt before the Blessed Sacrament. She was preceded in death by her parents, Teresa Chavez Alire and Ventura Alire, her husband, Juan Villanueva Saenz, her son, Donaciano Sanchez, and her granddaughter, Amy Houser. She is survived by the children she raised and loved: Linda Paredes and her husband Mark, Ricardo Saenz and his wife, Nancy, Benjamin Saenz, Gloria Woods and her husband Anthony, Jaime Saenz, and Jose Saenz and his partner Therassa Crunk. She is also survived by the grandchildren she adored and who adored her in return: Amanda Paredes, Roberto Saenz, Cynthia Woods, Mark Woods, John Frederick Paredes, Ivana Saenz, and Isel Saenz. She is also survived by five great grandchildren, Isaiah Gonzalez, Mariah Woods, Jai Paredes, Arika Fulton, and Christian Woods. She also leaves behind three surviving sisters: Luisa Matsuba, Erminia Montoya, and Esperanza Terrazas, and her brother-in-law, Frank Saenz and his wife Sylvia, her Godson, Justin Atma, and numerous nephews and nieces.

Eloisa was a woman who was greatly loved and respected. She was humble, generous, intelligent, forgiving, and kind. In her house, there was always room at the inn and she greeted friend and stranger alike with a ready smile and it was in her nature to help others in need. She loved to talk and laugh, and was, among other things, a fantastic cook. Throughout her life she gave great comfort to all those who surrounded her by nourishing them with her wisdom, her warmth, and the food she cooked. Her kitchen was the most sacred of places. For many years, she worked as a cook and housekeeper at Immaculate Heart of Mary Cathedral and at Our Lady of Health Catholic Church. She cared for her husband, Juan through his illness, and she bore her losses and sufferings with a rare and uncommon grace. Despite all the difficulties she encountered, she never despaired, never lost her deep and profound faith that was an example to everyone who ever had the privilege of knowing and loving her. In the end, she wished to go and be with her God, with her beloved mother, with the husband that she lost eight years ago, and with Amy, the granddaughter she lost so tragically. She will live on in this world in the hearts of all the people she touched and loved.  

Thursday, February 16, 2012


James Carlos Blake by Maura Anne Wahl

Certainly you know GQ (aka Gentleman’s Quarterly), that swanky high-dollar magazine that keeps men (and women) strutting their glamorous, stylish selves into the 21st Century. Well, published a wonderful interview with James Carlos Blake to celebrate his new book Country of the Bad Wolfes (Cinco Puntos, January). Stayton Bonner of GQ did the honors as interviewer. We are excited that JCB and his novel are getting this kind of attention. But, in comparing the published version with JCB’s original draft, we realized that the editor at GQ slipped some very interesting parts onto the cutting-room floor.

Not to worry. We’ve retrieved them and are publishing them here. James Carlos talks about the habits of the writing life, his reasoning for choosing an independent press like Cinco Puntos for publishing his new novel, being an outsider and a borderlander (aka fronterizo), daydreaming a life on a desert island with the sublime Penelope Cruz, and other interesting tidbits of a fine writer’s imagination.

By the way, the only misstep Mr. Bonner took in the interview is by referring to Cinco Puntos as “a mom-&-pop operation.” Not that he’s wrong. We are “mom-&-pop” and proud of it, as are so many other independent presses in the U.S.—publishing companies that are stirring and heating the brew that is American culture, right alongside our counterparts, the NYC conglomerates.

But “mom-&-pop” is a dismissive adjective that diminishes the importance of what independent presses do.

Sure, we don’t have the financial resources as the Big Boys, but we are nimble in our ability to make decisions, to put a book out quickly and with hands-on accountability at all levels of editing production. Besides, publishing with an independent press can be an intimate process compared with the big houses. Here we collaborate with our authors in publishing his or her book, and we love and care for a book because it’s an important piece of our business, not simply another line item on a accounting form.

And we do very well getting the word out nationally. Country of the Bad Wolfes, in this instance, has received excellent reviews in Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Booklist, Kirkus, Texas Monthly, Texas Observer, and a variety of dailies. The fervent booklover, reviewer and blogger Robert Birnbaum—aka Our Man in Boston—also did a fine review while giving the New York Times a backhanded slap for not doing the same.

Consortium Book Sales and Distribution—one of the best and most respected in the business—distributes our book to the trade. Our relationship with CBSD gives us the muscle to level the playing field in the marketplace. You can find our books in your bookstores or wherever you buy books and e-books.

Enough said. We are proud to have published James Carlos Blake’s Country of the Bad Wolfes. Enjoy the rest of his GQ interview.

GQ: What's your writing routine?

JCB: I try to get to work no later than 9 AM, but sometimes that most fundamental rule of writing -- Put Your Ass in the Chair -- can be tough to obey. At noon or so I take a break for indoor exercise and then get back to work till around three. Then it's a run, and then it's ale o'clock. At the beginning of every new book, I tell myself I'm not going to work on one day of the week, but I can never fully abstain.

GQ: Favorite drink?

JCB: I'm an ale and beer man with a preference for Fat Tire and Sam Adams Boston Lager but will never turn down a Margarita (rocks, salt).

GQ: In your L.A. Times essay “The Outsider”, you write that you’ve always felt like an outsider. Why?

JCB: I don't really know. It isn't simply a matter of growing up in one culture and learning a certain language and then having to switch to another culture and language. There are countless people of that general description and experience who, so far as I can tell, don't feel at all like outsiders. One's own nature probably has as much to do with the effect of such a transformation as anything else. And of course some people who have never been twenty miles from home can feel like outsiders. For a fact, though, I've never felt as much at home anywhere else as I felt when I was a grade school kid in Brownsville. When I was moving easily between two cultures and was fluent in two languages. It's as though my only sense of belonging came from not belonging to solely one group. Maybe a lot of borderlanders feel that way, I don't know.

GQ: Your fictional violence is rooted in a historic remote time—a time when mannered cultural order still persisted despite man’s perhaps innate violence. Now, with Internet and loss of community, it seems the 21st century is without a moral compass. How do you think the current culture affects/shapes violence?

JCB: One might argue that today's consensual "moral compass" is called "political correctness," which is so sure of its correctness that it has no compunction about punishing all forms of speech or ideas that don't adhere to its own. It's the sort of moral compass that has pointed the way to such things as speech codes on campus. One might also argue that the internet itself has become a kind of "community" that dwarfs all others, and that in many ways it has become one more tool for the promotion of violent action. All this reminds me of something a young woman said to me about youth gangs today fighting over mostly "imaginary turf." It took me a while to understand how very perceptive that is.

GQ: Your work seems well suited for the screen. Have you ever thought about writing a screenplay or collaborating in that medium?

JCB: I have. May soon act on that thought.

GQ: Spend much time in Hollywood?

JCB: No. But I've enjoyed the brief visits I've made there.

GQ: If you were stuck on a desert island with one musical album, what would it be?

Penelope Cruz listening to Bach's The Art of the Fugue
JCB: The Art of the Fugue, by the great J. S. Bach, arranged for string quartet and performed by the Emerson String Quartet. And delivered to me by the sublime Penelope Cruz, who would no doubt be enchanted beyond utterance by a handsome older man with superior musical taste and a deep understanding of her Spanish soul -- and would immediately send word to Javier that "Como dicen los gringos, tu y yo somos historia."

GQ: What is the best western movie ever made?

JCB: "The Wild Bunch" or "Unforgiven." Ask me tomorrow and I'll give you a different answer.

GQ: Your last books were published by Harper Collins. For Country of the Bad Wolfes, you went with Cinco Puntos Press—a mom-and-pop operation in El Paso. Why?

JCB: At the time that I was finishing Country of the Bad Wolfes, word was that the NY Houses were shying from large historical novels, and that those they were publishing were not going to get much priority. My agent tested the waters and said it was so, and when I heard that the estimable John Sayles was having trouble selling his big new historical (I think he finally placed with Dave Eggers' little press), I figured the thing to do was try a small house that might give Bad Wolfes the sort of attention and care a NY publisher was unlikely to. It so happened that Cinco Puntos had recently queried me to see if I might be interested in reissuing my first two novels, which had gone out of print, and so I tried them first. They loved the manuscript and that was that. They're a very savvy bunch with more than 25 years of experience, and I'm very pleased with what they've done with the book. Any writer out there who's thinking he might prefer to try his luck with an independent house than with one of the bigs might do well to query Cinco Puntos.

GQ: What do you do for fun?

JCB: I like the outdoors. I'm a runner, a biker. I miss swimming in the Florida seas. I cook. I'm ever enlarging my classical music library. We have a bunch of cats, and as the Japanese say, a house with cats needs no artwork.

GQ: What author or book made you want to become a writer?

JCB: From Here to Eternity, by James Jones, and Cannery Row, by John Steinbeck.

GQ: Who’s your pick for the Super Bowl?

JCB: Brady and Company, in a walk...

[Note to James Carlos: You should have talked to me before making your pick! bb]

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

SALTYPIE named Honor Book by American Indian Library Association

Congratulations to Tim Tingle and Karen Clarkson! The American Indian Library Association named SALTYPIE: A CHOCTAW JOURNEY FROM DARKNESS INTO LIGHT a 2012 Honor Book. This is special for Cinco Puntos. We've been fans of the story ever since we first heard Tim tell it. Besides, it's an important story about contemporary Native America which goes a long way in helping the over-culture resolve the deeply held stereotypes about contemporary indigenous peoples and their cultures. Tim wrote an essay as an afterword to the story which speaks of these issues--an essay for young and old alike. Please, take a couple of minutes and listen to Tim celebrate his award.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Xavier Garza does Maximilian & the Mystery of the Guardian Angel

Last week at the American Library Association's Midwinter Convention in Dallas, the Pura Belpre Committee named Xavier Garza's bilingual middle-reader MAXIMILIAN AND THE MYSTERY OF THE GUARDIAN ANGEL as Honor Book for 2012. We are proud and happy for Xavier and his work. Besides writing the book, Xavier did the illustrations and cover which wonderfully match Max's journey into the land of Lucha Librfe! Xaiver is a good-hearted man and a good good friend. Here's a video of Xavier talking about the book. And it was the next day, after he had made the video, that we all learned the good news.

The good news is that Maximilian will be a series of bilingual mysteries for middle-readers. Xavier is currently working on the sequel.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Helen of Troy and the Literacy Triangle

Books are windows, Books are mirrors. 

Cinco Puntos is honored to have participated with El Paso's own Helen of Troy Corporation in providing books for children in El Paso's south side. We call this "The Literacy Triangle." Cinco Puntos partners with a corporation and an institution to give books to children, thereby providing relevant books to young readers.

Four school libraries--Aoy Elementary, Douglas Elementary, Guillen Middle School and La Fe Preparatory Charter School--received gifts certificates of $250 each. Librarians, and in one case the school principal and four exceptional reading students--came down to our offices and selected from our array of bilingual and multicultural titles.

Many thanks to Helen of Troy and, in particular, to President and CEO Jerry Rubin who grew up not far from where these kids go to school.

 Librarian Carol Gonzalez, Aoy Elementary

Librarian Sandra Byer, Douglas Elementary

Librarian Brenda Marin, Guillen Middle School

School Principal Karina Silva along with exceptional readers Bruno Sotelo (5th Grade), Leila De Pasavale (3rd Grade), Gabriel Scott (4th Grade) and Liliana Dominguez (2nd Grade).

Friday, January 20, 2012

Lone Star Ramble: James Carlos Blake Book Tour

Cinco Puntos is all over the Texas map this weekend! While John Byrd mans the store back in El Paso, Lee and Bobby Byrd are hitting up ALA Midwinter Meetup in Dallas and James Carlos Blake kicks off his three-day Country of the Bad Wolfes book tour across the Lone Star State. Catch the acclaimed author tonight in Houston at Murder by the Book. The great reviews for this book just keep rolling in!

Country of the Bad Wolfes Texas Book Tour:

Friday, Jan. 20 | Murder by the Book | 6:30 p.m.
2342 Bissonnet Street | Houston, TX 77098

Saturday, Jan. 21 | Gemini Ink | Class from 1-3 p.m., reading at 3:30 p.m.
513 S. Presa | San Antonio, TX 78205

Sunday, Jan. 22 | Bookpeople | 3 p.m.
603 North Lamar Boulevard | Austin, TX 78703

Planning on going? We'd love to see your photos and video from the event! Send 'em this-a way and we'll share 'em here on the blog!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Goin' Down to Dallas

This weekend is the American Library Association's Midwinter Meetup and we're gearing up for a dusty road trip east, through the sprawling heart of Texas, to Dallas. We'll be in booth #1645, and we're giving away free copies of Joe Hayes' classic tall tall, The Lovesick Skunk to anyone who makes a purchase! Authors at our booth this year include Choctaw storyteller Tim Tingle and the lucha libre lovin' author/illustrator Xavier Garza. Plus, we're spotlighting James Carlos Blake's newest novel, Country of the Bad Wolfes—a new historical novel about Mexico and Texas during the Díaz Regime. It’s already been well received by the Texas Observer and will be the lead review in the January Texas Monthly.

Here are all the details:

Friday, January 20 | 5:30p-7:30p: Choctaw author Tim Tingle, author of Crossing Bok Chitto and Saltypie, will be in our booth.

Saturday, January 21: Meet Xavier Garza, author of Lucha Libre - The Man in the Silver Mask. He'll be signing copies of his latest book, a bilingual lucha libre thriller, Maximilian & the Mystery of the Guardian Angel, a book sure to please the young adult patrons at your libraries—especially the boys.

Sunday, January 22: Tim Tingle returns to hang out in our booth!

Remember to stop by booth #1645 and say "hi." We're looking forward to seeing you!