Monday, December 10, 2018

The 6th Multicultural Children’s Book Day to be held January 25, 2019

The Annual Nonprofit Event Gifts Books For Classrooms  

Free downloadable poster. Artwork by Julie Flett.
(Dec. 10, 2018) -- It's nearly time again for Multicultural Children's Book Day. Now entering its sixth year, the fundraising event will again raise needed funds of which 100% of proceeds go towards gifting books to teachers for their classroom libraries. The event continues to experience a groundswell of interest which in its third day in 2018, reportedly achieved 3.2 Billion Social Media Share Impressions.  

The program is the brainchild of children’s reading and play advocates Valarie Budayr from Jump Into a Book and Mia Wenjen from Pragmatic Mom, who teamed up to create the ambitious (and much needed) national event and non-profit initiative, as noted on the event website (

Author Valerie Williams-Sanchez and Valorena Online Publishing
to be a Featured Sponsored

In 2019, Author/Illustrator Valerie Williams-Sanchez will again participate in the Multicultural Children's Book Day. Different than in years past, Williams-Sanchez will not only serve as a reader/reviewer of other children's titles but also will be an Author Sponsor for this important reading and literacy event. Moving into the spotlight with a cohort of inspired and inspiring authors, she along with Valorena Online (VO), and Valorena Publishing, the moniker for current and future children's book titles, decided to learn more about the event that is an important literacy-building event. Ahead of the big day, VO chatted with Rebecca Flansburg (RF), the self-described writer, influencer, and Project Manager for MCBD, about the initiative has grown and current trends in self-publishing.  Here's what we learned:

VO: Are the majority of the MCBD entries self-published?

RF:  I would say it's an even split between traditionally published and self-published with our MCBD Sponsors and Authors. There also been an uptick in Small-to-Midsized Boutique Presses like TimTimTom Books, Language Lizard, Starlight Books, Chickasaw Press, and Ohio University Press. 

VO: What makes self-published diversity books different than commercial diversity books?

RF: The thing I love about self-published books is those authors are not afraid to write books about important, but not-as-common, topics like foster care, anxiety in kids, adoption, and diverse religions, holidays, cultures, and traditions. Self-published books can also be produced faster which means they can get into the hands of readers quicker. Self-published books have gotten a bad rap for years because there are cases where the books are not well edited and don't have the "polish" of a traditionally-published book. Though there are instances of self-published children's books being a little rough around the edges, the amazing thing about book readers and buyers is that, if an author produces something subpar, they will certainly let the author and other readers know via reviews and social media! 

VO: What growth have you witnessed in self-published diversity books through MCBD?

RF: What I have noticed about self-publishing as a whole is the fact that it has grown in popularity. Authors who have struggled for years to find an agent or spent months querying publishers can now take matters into their own hands and with the vast amount of online tools and tutorials produce and publish the book they've always dreamed of creating. I would have to say that the quality of self-pub books has increased as well.  

VO: Are there any common stories, experiences, or motivations that self-published authors in this community share?

RF: Mainly that it can be hard to get traction and visibility for their books and even harder to get them into libraries. Self-published authors are their own marketing and P.R. team so it can be frustrating to try to find ways to be seen. That's another reason why MCBD is so helpful to all authors-it offers a unique opportunity to get their work in front of a huge audience of book readers and buyers. 
VO: How does this program compare to other programs that may be similar (consider organizations like WNDB)? 

RF: MCBD and WNDB have a common goal of raising awareness for the need to shine the spotlight on the kids' and YA books that let readers "see themselves" in the pages of the books they read. WNDB has been very instrumental is encouraging change in the publishing industry since many of their core members are diverse authors. MCBD is more a grassroots movement that works directly with readers, caregivers, parents, teachers, and librarians by getting multicultural books into homes and classrooms as a non-profit. There can never be too many folks advocating for change in the world :).

VO: What do you anticipate will happen with this industry in 5, maybe 10 years? Will it rival traditional publishing? 

RF: It's hard to say. Traditional publishing will always be around but the smaller and more nimble small presses and self-publishers will definitely give them some competition.

VO: What's the Male/Female breakout for MCBD authors? 

RF: Oddly enough, there seems to be a much stronger female presence, even though it does vary a bit year-to-year.

VO: Do you know what average sales are for your program participants? 

RF: MCBD never promises or guarantees book sales in any way shape or form. We use our reach, vibrant social media and core of parents and educators to raise awareness of an author or publisher's work. Visibility is so important in an online world that tends to be noisy and crowded. MCBD offers an effective way for authors and publishers to get their books in front of the eyes of their ideal customer.

VO: Is there an ethnicity breakdown for your authors? 

RF: Since every year is different, I don't have any stats on that.

VO: Are authors largely teachers/educators? What is the average length of time authors have been writing as self-published authors? 

RF: We've had quite a few self-published authors who are educators or former educators. We've also seen quite a few who are doctors or mental health professionals as well. Advice to Self-publishers: Spend the time and money making your diverse children's books the best it can be. Have it professionally edited several times and invest in a quality illustrator. If you want book-buyers to take you seriously and buy your book, you have to offer up only your best work.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

2018 Multicultural Children's Book Day: Book Review

With retail copies of my third book, Lorena and the Magic Mocha Mirror drying and ready for pre-order and purchase, it's my pleasure to participate in the 2018 Multicultural Children's Book Day. My third time as a reviewer, I am again tasked with reading and sharing my thoughts about a new book. With so many new titles and entries to this initiative -- just over 500, I'm told -- I am thrilled. 

What's encouraging, is the breadth of new content available. But what's not such great news is the continued need for efforts to increase literacy levels among our nation's youngest readers. 

According to recent data from the Balitmore-based, Annie E. Casey Foundation, fourth graders' in the nation's ethnic minority demonstrate literacy levels that are still well below acceptable levels, and the US trails well behind other developed countries.  

For these reasons, I am excited to again do my part, participating in the fifth annual Multicultural Children's Books Day. I feel it is an important initiative. It is through a collective effort to develop engaging and relevant content and applied, rigorous translational reading research that turns data into policy and practice, that real change will be realized.    

“Sofia Martinez: Every Day Is Exciting”
By Jacqueline Jules, Illustrated by Kim Smith

Publisher: Capstone Imprint - Picture Window Books
ISBN: 978-1-5158-2343-8      Pages: 96         Published: 2018

Sofia Martinez is a spunky 7-year-old with big dreams, big adventures and a loving family that helps her make every day exciting in the new book written by Jacqueline Jules and illustrated by Kim Smith.
Through her family adventures, Sofia shows how adversity is simply an opportunity for learning – and fun! From a dilemma at her first quinceanera, to a seemingly incurable case of the hiccups, to a brief power outage at her family home, Sofia demonstrates creativity, moxie, with Latinx cultural flair.
Our young heroine learns to appreciate the uniqueness of her grape juice-stained white shoes when they become fashion standouts. Then, when she and her cousin get a seemingly incurable case of hiccups, Sofia doesn’t despair. Instead, they turn their “hics” into beats and dance their cares away! Finally, when the lights go out in a power outage, it is Sofia’s inspired orchestration to grab some glow sticks, craft a makeshift jack-o-lantern, and make music played on the family piano into a dance party that everyone in the household can enjoy!

The book is small in size (measuring a diminutive 5-by-7inches), but big on entertainment, punctuated by colorful cartoon images, which make it a real page-turner. Add the Spanish/English vocabulary and glossary and the result is a wonderful narrative with bilingual language and word acquisition attributes.
-- By Valerie Williams-Sanchez, MS, PMP

This review is part of Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2017 (1/27/18) which is in its 5th year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. The mission of MCCBD is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in home and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators.  For full program details, including a full list of sponsors, visit #READYOURWORLD, or click the links above.

 P.O. Box 180, Palisades, NY 10964

Friday, September 15, 2017

Cocoa Kids Collection Books™ Original Illustration Selected for New York Art Center Exhibition

Media Contact: Valerie Williams-Sanchez
Phone: (714) 654-6453

Cocoa Kids Collection Books™ Original Illustration
Selected for New York Art Center Exhibition

Palisades, New York (September 14, 2017) – Valorena Online, LLC is pleased to announce that an illustration from the forthcoming Cocoa Kids Collection Books© title has been selected along with works by a dozen other artists, to be featured in an upstate New York Art School show.

The piece, “Grandma Mimi’s Kitchen,” from the book, Lorena and the Magic Mocha Mirror© has been selected to appear in Rockland Center for the Arts (RoCA) upcoming exhibit, “Home,” a show, which will be on view October 8 through November 19, 2017, and explore artists’ notions and expression of “Home.”

As described on the RoCA website:  

“Our home interiors create our environment and state of mind. It is often the place we associate with our identity. How does our interior home space affect our emotional and mental outlook on life? Is our living space affected by the outside environment? Or does the home environment affect how we interact in the outside world? Is it a sanctuary, a creative space, a place of conflict, new beginnings, endings, or memories?  The artists in this exhibit explore the home and its environment.”

In announcing its selection, RoCA acknowledged Valerie’s work for having captured the essence of the show’s theme. Her hand-drawn work, created to punctuate her books’ narratives, shows Lorena, the story’s protagonist, being body shamed by beach bullies until a trio of mermaids encourage her to love her body, while on vacation with her family.

In the artist’s statement, Valerie wrote:

“To create this “Home” scene, I meditated on my own childhood and days spent at my grandmother Mary Evelyn (a.k.a. Evie) Givens’ house.  Evie’s house was my home away from home, and time with Evie was always an adventure. Afternoons were spent in discussion of big ideas, learning and fun. It was Evie who encouraged me in my youth to “write something every day.” Scrabble was most always on the agenda at Evie’s, and day trips were frequent. An avid fan of the arts, Evie and I would travel by bus – Evie didn’t drive— to museums, galleries and gardens in my native Southern California, filling my childhood with vivid memories of love, laughter, and light. Even when no one was home, as was the case while she and I were out having adventures, Evie’s cluttered yet tidy home was a cherished space that I return to in my heart even now as an adult. Evie passed away in 2008. 

I called on these recollections of history to create an easy, breezy image that would evoke for my young readers the warmth of a summer day, and the love and comfort most often associated with home and family. These feelings are hinted at in the room’s details, like the family pictures on the walls and refrigerator. Also, I took a coloring book drawing approach to pull kids into the stories and to make the books more accessible, using a cheerful and bright palate, meant to appeal to young sensibilities’ developing visual literacy. I hope my books bring joy to my readers and inspire them to create and explore their own memories through reading and books.  

Artist Valerie Williams-Sanchez is the principal consultant for Valorena Online, LLC, a former daily journalist and writer who is the author of the Cocoa Kids Collection Books©, fictional tales that put multi-racial and minority children center stage in the self-published series that tackles big issues with wit, whimsy, and chocolate. The third book of the series, Lorena and the Magic Mocha Mirror© marks Valerie’s debut as an illustrator.  Valerie began illustrating her books out of a desire to perfect and fully articulate her creative vision. Markers were used for the book illustrations; however, Valerie’s preferred mediums are charcoal and watercolor.

A certified Project Manager Professional (PMP®), Valerie is Mom to Lorena, 21, Auntie to Isaiah, 9, and a former teacher to countless, at-risk, and special needs kids of all ages. Valerie includes creative writing and drinking hot chocolate among her passions. Learn more about Valerie and her books at

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Indiegogo - Going, Going, Gone!

Thanks to my newest group of supporters! The Indiegogo campaign is a wrap, and "Lorena and the Magic Mocha Mirror" is a step closer to a bookshelf near you. We achieved 12% of our project goal thanks to those "Beach Blanket Buddies" named here. For projects like my Cocoa Kids Collection of Books, this sort of support makes a huge difference! 

Frances M. Williams,  Ed Richardson,  Rhonda Jones,  Ciara Cox,  Borzou Daragahi,  Anna J. AllenVlatka Majstorovic, and Rose De Maio

One of the new features of this Indiegogo campaign was the inclusion of Spanish language project information. In case you missed it, below is that passage again, in a cleaned-up and proofread version! It's a free translation from English to Spanish.

Endomorph, Mesomorph and Ectomorph

Last, "Lorena and the Magic Mocha Mirror" is a book that teaches girls to have a healthy body image using paper dolls. Here is a peak at the book's cut-out forms of the three body types girls will dress.

La Campaña Publicitaria de Lorena y el Espejo Magico de Moca

     Hola! Soy Valerie, autora de los libros de la “Colección Niños de Cacao.”
     En la primera historia de la colección, “Isaiah y la montaña de chocolate”, Isaiah sale de casa, empieza una aventura y acaba conquistando nuestro cariño. Luego, en la historia de "Eddie y el coche fantástico de chocolate”, Eddie nunca se da por vencido hasta que alcanza el círculo de ganadores. Ahora, en la historia de "Lorena y el espejo mágico de moca", Lorena se encuentra en la playa con unos jóvenes acosadores. Con la ayuda de unas nuevas amigas, su historia llega a un final feliz.
     Esta es la historia: La pasión de Lorena por el helado de moca la convierte en un blanco fácil para los amantes del bullying y la playa, durante el viaje anual de toda la familia a la casa de la playa de la abuela Mimi. Pero la situación cambia cuando conoce a unas sirenas trillizas, y estas le enseñan que hay cuerpos de todo tipo y que se debe apreciar lo que tiene cada uno. Lorena es nuestra heroína pequeñita, que sale a flote.
      Esta campaña, otra vez, busca el apoyo financiero del público y de nuestros aficionados, para completar la publicación de este libro nuevo que intenta llenar la necesidad de los lectores cuyos intereses son los menos considerados por la industria de libros infantiles.

Tendencias del comercio de libros, por contenido pertinente, sobre y por afroamericanos:       
       • La cifra total de títulos infantiles* del 2014 al 2016 es de unos 3.400 a 3.500 por año, aproximadamente, aunque los afroamericanos representan un 12.5% de la población Americana.
        • Los libros infantiles escritos por afroamericanos fueron solo un 3% de todos los libros publicados entre 2015 y 2016.
        • Los libros infantiles sobre afroamericanos fueron solo el 8% de todos los libros publicados durante el mismo período.  ¡La disparidad es clara!

* “Todos los libros” se define como todos aquellos libros que fueron enviados al CCBC para fines de encuesta y seguimiento. El Centro Cooperativo de Libros Infantiles (CCBC, por sus siglas en inglés) es una biblioteca única de la Facultad de Educación de la Universidad de Wisconsin, que se enfoca en el estudio, el análisis y la investigación.
     Contando con los personajes multiculturales más recientes de la "Colección de los Niños de Cacao" y con el primer personaje femenino en un papel principal, “Lorena y el Espejo mágico de moca”, ahora se incluye Lorena, que lleva el mismo nombre de mi hija. Es mi tercer libro infantil de ficción y mi primer proyecto como ilustradora.
     La última campaña publicitaria alcanzó solo el 11% de su meta financiera. Esta vez, ¿por que no unirse a nosotros, donar y comunicar a sus amigos y asociados para que sean parte de esta iniciativa y así ayudarnos a obtener el 100% de lo que nos hace falta ($5,000)? Su apoyo a este proyecto es muy importante. ¡Conviértase en nuestro socio editor!
      Cuando lo haga, obtendrá beneficios** geniales, y nuestro agradecimiento por haber apoyado uno de los segmentos menos valorado por las editoriales tradicionales: los niños afroamericanos.¡Sea parte de la revolución!