Author Archive

Kids Books We Love: All the Way to Havana

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Kids Books We Love: All the Way to Havana | Live Colorful

A few weeks ago, I received a copy of this book “All the Way to Havana” illustrated by Mike Curato and written by Margarita Engle, the first Latino author to be named US Young People’s Laureate.  

As soon as I opened the book, I knew my boy was going to enjoy the story just by looking at the detailed car illustrations. The story is about a Cuban boy and his father on a road trip to the city. It shows, in an entertaining and neat way, “the ingenuity and perseverance of poor people everywhere”.

Kids Books We Love: All the Way to Havana | Live Colorful

I got to read some of Margarita’s pieces that I found on her site, and I thought they were really beautiful, meaningful, and honest.

Margarita Engle Author


I wanted to share more about Margarita’s inspiration, work, and about the importance of reading to our kids.

Here is an interview to Margarita Engle:

How did you feel when you discovered that you were named U.S. Young People’s Poet Laureate this June?

It was too amazing. I couldn’t believe it. I had just met a previous Poet Laureate one week earlier, and he had said, “If they ever call you…” followed by words that vanished from my ability to hear them as I protested, “They would never call me.” Then I received a phone call from the President of the Poetry Foundation in Chicago. It really seems like an impossible miracle. It’s not only an immense honor, but an incredible opportunity. For two years, I am free to do anything I want to promote poetry to young people.  In fact, it’s such a wide open format that I’ve had trouble deciding where to start, but I have settled on a theme of peace in every sense of the word. I’ve started recommending books on the Poetry Foundation website and Poetry Foundation Children Facebook page, and I’m working on bilingual projects. The first is poetry education videos, one for teachers, and one for students. I hope they will be finished not too long after the start of the school year.

Do you remember when your love for writing began?

I was around six. I loved reading, especially poetry, so it seemed natural to write in my mind while walking. The poems came out with a rhythm of steps.

I saw that many of your poems, such as Kinship, and Counting, refer to multicultural issues. How does your heritage inspire your work?

Most of my books are about Cuba. Many, such as The Surrender Tree,  are historical, but Enchanted Air is a verse memoir, and my newest verse novel, Forest World, is set in contemporary Cuba. Some of my picture books have branched out into scientific subjects, while others, such as Drum Dream Girl, The Sky Painter, and Bravo!, honor remarkable Latinos who have been forgotten by history. I love to experiment, but I also have a tendency to return to the same few basic themes of peace, freedom, social justice, and environmental justice. Those happen to be subjects that I’ve learned during a lifetime of travel back and forth to Cuba, as well as to other parts of Latin America.

Can you tell me more about your new picture book, All the Way to Havana?

All the Way to Havana is a truly unique picture book, because it can be read in several different ways for various age groups. On one level, it’s a fun read-aloud about a family road trip. For older kids, it shows the ingenuity and perseverance of poor people everywhere, who take pride in keeping their old possessions going because they can’t afford to buy new ones. For adults, I hope this book will be an introduction to the beauty of Cuba, one of the closest neighbors of the U.S. I hope it will be a reminder that neighbors should be friends, and a plea for lifting the economic embargo and travel restrictions, forgiving old grudges, and working toward peace. Finally, for people who like “classic” cars, Mike Curato has turned All the Way to Havana into a dream come true! (I just want to be sure that Americans realize they’re not collectible luxury cars in Cuba, they’re proof of survival in a land of poverty.)

When you first saw the illustrations for your book, All the Way to Havana, did they remind you of your childhood?

Yes, because despite political changes, the countryside is still beautiful, and the people are still friendly.  Mike Curato visited Cuba, stayed with my cousins, and traveled to the countryside, doing the most amazing research so that his illustrations are completely authentic! I absolutely love all the pictures, but especially those which show the beauty and isolation of rural areas. Sadly, due to fuel shortages, much of the transportation is still limited to horse-drawn vehicles, and fields are still worked with oxen. This makes it impossible to grow enough food for the population. Eighty percent of the food is imported. By lifting the trade embargo, American farmers would gain a new market, and the Cuban people might hope for an end to food rationing, a hardship they’ve endured for more than half a century. Tourists don’t see that side of Cuba. They don’t see the insides of empty refrigerators. They eat well in special restaurants, and tour guides take them to model farms that convey a myth of sustainable agriculture. They experience an illusion, not the real Cuba where Cubans live. One of the things that makes me sad is when I hear Americans say they want to see Cuba before it changes. That means they want to see it while the people are still poor and hungry. They want to see a living museum of poverty.

Food at the birthday party in All the Way to Havana is a feast that could tell another entire story if there were enough room in a picture book to show how most Cubans have to scramble, search, barter, and take chances delving into the Black Market in order to come up with enough food for a party.

What’s the story behind the name of the car in the story, Cara Cara?

During the worst poverty of the early ‘90s, right after the fall of the Soviet Union, noisy old cars were called cafeteros (coffee percolators), because they made a sound that would be described as putt putt in English. Since I didn’t think children could imagine coffee percolators, I chose to use the sound a hen makes in Spanish, cara cara, the equivalent of cluck cluck. In Spanish, chicks say pío pío, and roosters say kikirikí, but I omitted the rooster’s song, because it seemed too bold for such a tired old car.

Why do you think that poetry is important for kids?

For young children, poetry introduces them to the sheer joy of pleasing language. For older children and teens, poetry gives them a safe place for all their thoughts and emotions. For people of any age, poetry offers us a way to slow down and pay full attention to all our five senses, rediscovering our kinship with nature and human nature.

Do you have any advice for moms about how to raise kids interested in reading?

Avoid multitasking. Pay attention to books. Let children see you reading paper books, just for fun, instead of constantly peering into your phone. Take them to the library! Read out loud at bedtime until they’re teenagers who tell you to stop. Then keep reading whatever you see them reading, so you can talk about their favorite books, even if that means you have to get used to styles and subjects that aren’t your favorites. I read everything my kids read all the way through their college years, including textbooks.

Kids Books We Love: All the Way to Havana | Live Colorful

I hope you guys enjoyed the interview. “All the Way to Havana” is now available on Amazon. I’m sure you are going to enjoy the powerful story and the detailed colorful illustrations in the book. The note of the author and illustrator on the last pages of the book are going to give the story a more special meaning. Reading through that last page I discovered the amazing comparisons about the people of Cuba and the cars in a neat and beautiful way. I will definitely think about that every time I hear something about Cuba and its perseverant people.

Kids Books We Love: All the Way to Havana | Live Colorful

Find more information about Margarita Engle on her site. You can also find more about her and her work on Twitter @YPPLaureate.

Giving Hugs to All Who Need

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This post is made possible by a collaboration with Huggies and Dime Media, my comments and opinions are my own.

Help eliminate diaper need for Bay Area families | Live Colorful

When we moved to the Bay Area, the first place we lived was Santa Clara, CA. We loved our old neighborhood, and one of the great things about living there was getting to see the construction of Levi’s Stadium, home of the San Francisco 49ers. We used to take family walks  down to the stadium often, and we even got to attend games a few times. Funny enough, we took our parents to the 49ers museum a week after our baby boy was born, and his first teddy bear was one with a 49ers t-shirt and a cute 49ers hat!

Those first weeks, after we became parents, were crazy, tiring and overwhelming. We couldn’t believe how much money we were spending on all the needs our new baby had. Medical bills, clothes, breastfeeding accessories, diapers, etc. We also realized that we were really lucky to be able to afford everything he needed, but we knew that a lot of parents weren’t as fortunate; and we felt for them.

Help eliminate diaper need for Bay Area families | Live Colorful

We thought of family members, friends, and friends of friends, who were struggling with their new baby expenses. We wish we could help, and in some way, make their journey easier and less stressful.

According to a Huggies 2010 study and supported in the journal Pediatrics in 2013, one in three families nationwide struggle with the ability to provide clean, dry diapers for their babies. Can you imagine being in that situation?

The Huggies Brand and the San Francisco 49ers teamed up for the second year in a row to ensure Northern California babies in need get the diapers they need to stay clean, dry, and healthy.

Help eliminate diaper need for Bay Area families | Live Colorful

This year, Huggies and the San Francisco 49ers asked everyone to “Huddle Up” for San Francisco’s biggest diaper drive for the 49ers Open Practice presented by SAP a few weeks ago. The event was a total success, and it seems like everyone had an amazing time with games, prizes and the opportunity to see the 49ers practicing!

Help eliminate diaper need for Bay Area families | Live Colorful

If you didn’t make it to the event, you can still participate by contributing to the local Help A Mother Out Diaper Bank through the Huggies No Baby Unhugged program by making a diaper donation online, donating your Huggies Rewards Points to benefit the National Diaper Bank Network (@diapernetwork) or purchasing diapers through the Huggies Amazon Registry page. All diapers purchased will benefit (@diapernetwork) and help eliminate diaper need for Bay Area families.

Help eliminate diaper need for Bay Area families | Live Colorful

A Great Idea About How to Make your Kids Excited for Back to School

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DIY: How to make a cardboard bed for plush toys (free printable) | Live Colorful

It’s back to school season and I found the perfect book to read with our kids and get them excited about their first day meeting new teachers, playing with friends and learning while having fun! Its name is Back to School with Mac, and I’m sure you are going to love this story as much as we do because it’s not just a book, but more like a family tradition that reaffirms positive encouragement and friendship.

You are going to love this book and family tradition, it's a great way to get your children excited about school | Live Colorful

Kim DiLoreto contacted me a few months ago to share with me her book, Back to School with Mac. She originally wrote the story a few years back for her youngest daughter when she was in Kindergarten. She struggled with the end of summer/back to school transition. To help her see that this time of year could be a fun time and not an anxious time, she wrote her a story and accompanied it with a small apple plush toy. This became a tradition for them, and she saw that this tradition helped to turn tears into smiles. Since this worked so well for her daughter, she thought this tradition could help many more kids. She decided to self-publish the book and worked with a toy designer and manufacturer to create Mac, the apple plush.   

Mac the magic apple shines at the end of summer. The book encourages families to pick a date when Mac’s magic will arrive. Mac can play with the kids all day long, go to the park with them, help them bake cookies and even ride a bike with them. It’s at night (with the help of us, the parents) when Mac’s magic come to life. He likes to leave treats or small back to school gifts to get the kids excited about that first day back to school.

Now, you might we wondered, what does this story have to have with a cardboard box DIY project?

Well, Jaxon started a bit of daycare not long ago, still not all day but it’s a step! The transition wasn’t easy, and although he is doing so much better, he sometimes expresses to me that he feels anxious, especially when there are too many kids in the daycare room. It breaks my heart to see him feel that way. But I also believe that these situations prepare us for preschool and kindergarten. I want to teach him how to deal with those feelings in a positive and encouraging way, and what better way than by giving him a new friend, Mac, with whom he can share those worries and insecurities and feel heard and understood.

You are going to love this book and family tradition, it's a great way to get your children excited about school | Live Colorful

I read the story to him as soon as the book arrived. Jaxon was listening carefully, but what caught his attention was hearing that Mac’s magic arrives at night. So he asked “cama, Mac?” which I translated as “Where is Mac’s bed?” And then, the idea of making a cardboard box bed for Mac arrived. It was a good one because this afternoon Jaxon put Mac in bed next to him and they both took an amazing nap.

You are going to love this book and family tradition, it's a great way to get your children excited about school | Live Colorful

Want to make one for your new Mac or any of your kid’s plush toys, check out this simple tutorial:


  • Cardboard box
  • Scissors
  • Exacto knife
  • Felt
  • Glue
  • Needle and thread
  • Acrylic paint (optional)

You are going to love this book and family tradition, it's a great way to get your children excited about school + a fun back to school craft idea | Live Colorful


  1. Download the printable: Cardboard plush toy bed printable | Live Colorful to recreate the bed’s structure, mark the shape on a cardboard box
  2. Cut the outlines of the bed and fold the inside lines
  3. Glue all the pieces together to close the bed’s structure
  4. Cut an extra rectangle to make the headboard of the bed
  5. Glue the headboard into the bed’s structure
  6. Cut a rectangle out of the white felt
  7. Fold and sew the rectangle to make a tiny pillow. You can fill it with small pieces of felt
  8. Cut two extra rectangles of felt to make some sheets and bedspreads

DIY: How to make a cardboard bed for plush toys (free printable) | Live Colorful


Cardboard plush toy bed printable | Live Colorfu

DIY: How to make a cardboard bed for plush toys (free printable) | Live Colorful


Is it easy for your kids to go back to school? Do you have any special activity, tradition or story that you share with your kids this season?