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Rivera Children’s Book Award honors Herrera in Houston, San Marcos

Posted by Jayme Blaschke
University News Service
October 17, 2007

Juan Felipe Herrera will be honored for his book Downtown Boy--winner of the Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children's Book Award for books published in 2005-2006--on Oct. 17-18 in events ranging from San Marcos to Houston.

The celebration will kick off with a 1 p.m. presentation in the LBJ Student Center Ballroom on the Texas State University-San Marcos campus. Students representing middle schools in San Marcos and Austin will be in attendance at the event, which will feature a mariachi performance and refreshments in addition to a book signing, which is open to the public.  

On Oct. 18, events move to Houston, where Herrera will visit Thornton Middle School in the Cypress-Fairbanks ISD to participate in a presentation for the students. The Texas State College of Education and the Cypress-Fairbanks ISD will then host a noon  luncheon and award celebration for Herrera at Cypress-Fairbanks ISD’s Berry Center, featuring Texas State President Denise M. Trauth. Following the award presentation will be a community book sale and signing from 2-3:15 p.m., which is open to the public. 

The Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children's Book Award, established at Texas State University-San Marcos in 1995, is designed to encourage authors, illustrators and publishers to produce books that authentically reflect the lives of Mexican American children and young adults in the United States.

Downtown Boy, like several other works by Herrera, is inspired by his past as the only son of a pair of migrant farm workers. As a child, Herrera traveled through the many small farming towns of California before his parents finally settled in San Diego. That influence is apparent in Downtown Boy, which follows the life of Juanito Paloma, who, along with his mother Lucha and his elderly father Felipe, moves to San Francisco's Latin Mission District to live with relatives after years of working in the fields of California's Central Valley.  Juanito longs to live in one place, rather than “going, going, going,” and pines for the love of his often-absent father.

The author of 19 books ranging from children’s literature to verse, Herrera is best known for Calling the Doves, winner of the 1997 Ezra Jack Keats Award, Crashboomlove, winner of the 1999 Americas Award, and Featherless/Desplumado, winner of the 2005 Independent Publisher Book Award.

Beyond his writing, Herrera has also founded bilingual theater groups, music and poetry troupes. He learned his love of word, language and writing at a young age from his mother. Poetry has been a part of his life ever since and he now writes poetry for both children and adults.

Herrera currently holds the Tomás Rivera endowed chair in creative writing at the University of California, Riverside. He lives in Fresno, California with his wife and two children. He is also an actor, a musician, and a popular professor at California State University, Fresno, where he teaches Chicano and Latin American Studies.

About the Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children's Book Award

Texas State developed the Tomás Rivera award to congratulate and acknowledge authors and illustrators dedicated to depicting the values and culture of Mexican Americans. Rivera, who died in 1984, graduated from Texas State with both his bachelor's and master's degrees before receiving a Ph.D. from the University of Oklahoma. A Distinguished Alumnus of Texas State, Rivera published his landmark novel in 1971 titled ...y no se lo tragó la tierra ...And the Earth Did Not Part. In 1979, Rivera was appointed chancellor of the University of California-Riverside, the first Hispanic chancellor named to the University of California system.

For more information on the Rivera Award, please visit the Rivera Award website.