Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards 2016


Wonderful news…Monster Slayer / Exterminadora de monstruos has received a bronze medal for Best Spanish Language Picture Book. A huge thank you to Lina Safar – your illustrations are amazing. Also to Liliana Consentino, whose Spanish translations truly captured the sentiment of the book. I’m honored and proud of the picture book that together, we created. I think I shall go outside and celebrate with my family by doing handstands!

Congratulations to all the Moonbeam medalists! As an educator, I love everything about picture books. I see how they positively impact my students’ understanding of their world, community and relationships.

About the Awards

The Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards are intended to bring increased recognition to exemplary children’s books and their creators, and to celebrate children’s books and life-long reading. 

2016 Purple Dragonfly Book Award:Monster Slayer!

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Monster Slayer/ Exterminadora de monstruos has been awarded a Purple DragonFly Book Award in two categories: Family Matters & Cultural Diversity – Honorable Mention.

The Purple Dragonfly Book Awards are geared toward stories that appeal to children of all ages. We are looking for stories that inspire, inform, teach or entertain. A Purple Dragonfly Book Awards seal on your book’s cover tells parents, grandparents, educators and caregivers they are giving children the very best in reading excellence.

Monster Slayer is a story based on my childhood. Growing up, I was not very kind to my little sister. As life presented me with challenges, my little sister was always there to save the day and I don’t know what I would do without her. I think it’s fitting that this bilingual picture book (English & Spanish) is being recognized as a book that helps teach siblings the importance of family and celebrates the richness of cultural diversity.

Here are some of my favorite Monster Slayer illustrations so beautifully done by the very talented Lina Safar.


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Congratulations to all the 2016 Purple Dragonfly Book Award Winners!

Dragonflies are reminders that we are light and can reflect the light in powerful ways if we choose to do so.



A Small Window Into My Family’s Immigration Story


A recent book review of my upcoming picture book, A Charmed Life, has me thinking a lot about my family’s immigration story. While I don’t have a problem with the book reviewer not liking the picture book, some of the comments in my opinion, are a bit off the mark.

A Charmed Life is based on my personal experiences growing up. My mom did clean houses on the weekends and I was never asked to help out while my mom worked. She expressed in earnest that my sole job was to graduate from college so that I could get a job where I would be financially independent and be able to provide for myself. I remember how much I detested having to spend a Saturday watching my mom clean. She always replied, “There’s no shame in doing an honest job. Dale gracias a Dios por este trabajo,” or “Watch yourself, you are no better or no less than anyone and you never know when you might find yourself in this situation. Life is unpredictable.”

My mother immigrated to this country from El Salvador, a single woman in the early 1970’s. She wanted to go to school and to have freedoms she was not going to have if she stayed.  She is by nature a force to be reckoned with. She is headstrong, a dreamer, goal oriented and the most hard-working person I know. She speaks her mind, is audacious and has moved heaven and earth to make sure her two daughters were given the opportunity to go to school, even if it meant she would work three jobs. Naturally, being a woman ahead of her time – she raised us to be the same. And so, I am fiercely independent, a dreamer, a child who asked lots of questions and an adult woman who is still curious and eager to learn.

As an educator, I try to convey to my students that everyone has a story and that their story is worth telling. And while it might not make sense to anyone, the truth of the matter is that every person has their own perspective based on their own experiences.
When I read A Charmed Life to my students a few asked if the mom was mad. I took this opportunity to ask:
“Why do you think the mom is mad?”
“Could she be something other than mad?”
The students said that the mom was probably running late, tired of working this hard or maybe she had other stuff she was worried about.”  I asked them what grown ups could possibly worry about. They answered bills, work, not having enough time and being tired. I shared that in my personal life my mom was often tired and overwhelmed with the demands of life, particularly since we didn’t have enough money or an extended family network.
I have always envied large families. I still do.  I loved the idea of celebrating with abuelos, tías, tíos y primos. But that wasn’t my experience. It was just my parents and my sister. We often spent the holidays with other orphaned families who for various reasons: political, economic, education, civil war, persecution, were here in this country alone and without extended family. But we shared a common language and these strangers who became my family bonded over a lost country, an unforseen future and the hope they would be able to buy a casita and their children get educated.
The women who helped raise me were no-nonsense, had a strong work ethic and had a set vision for their children to be educated. They weren’t traditional mothers and as an adult I understand their stories and their plight for survival.The woman who helped raise me worked in a factory sewing. The woman who helped raise me left Cuba with her new husband and provided a loving place when my parents got divorced. The woman who helped raise me picked strawberries, while finding a way to survive and protect her children from domestic violence.  The woman who helped raise me almost lost a husband to the atrocities caused by Pinochet when her husband, father of her children was taken prisoner. The woman who helped raise me babysat while their mothers went to work. The woman who helped raise me worked at a school cafeteria and told us to study and get ahead.
Interestingly, it is through the male figures that I came to understand and appreciate the need for the arts, writing, and the place that resides in books that calls you to be something bigger, to break apart and cry and to find courage for a different tomorrow. My dad, has always told me that while my home, my country, and my family might be taken away – no one would ever be able to take away my education, the things I have learned, the stories I have read and my desire to want to learn.
Stories are powerful. Every story is valuable and every story has its own history. What I love about books is the opportunity for educators to provide a platform for perspective building.
What are some reasons people immigrate?
Is there just one immigrant experience?
How does class and socio-economic levels affect this?
Who benefits from immigration?
What is the American Dream?
Is such a thing attainable today?
What is a charmed life?
Who defines what a charmed life is?
What is your definition of a charmed life?
While this is just a small window into my story, there are many other stories waiting to be told and understood. And as I type this in the safety of my warm home, on my home computer, I am once again eternally grateful for my education, the opportunity to share and the vision my parents had for me.


Fireboat Field Trip!

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Fireboat 2 – San Pedro, CA

Today, I experienced our class field trip to the fireboat through the eyes of a child. Earlier in the school year my team teacher suggested we visit the fireboat as a means to tie in the social studies theme – “World of Work”. Confused because I had never in my entire life heard of a “fireboat” I asked, “What’s a fireboat?” I came home that night and asked my family and my childhood friends, who like me, are college educated professionals, products of hardworking immigrant families where English was our second language and Spanish was the home language.  None of them had ever heard of a fireboat. A fellow colleague (also from an immigrant family) shared a book with me and chuckled – “Don’t worry, I had no idea what that was either!” As I read and perused the pictures in the book, Fireboat, I waited for this special day with much anticipation.

When we arrived to the Fireboat Station in San Pedro, I couldn’t wait to put a real life experience to the book that I had read with much curiosity. The fireboat was out, doing a dance with the water. It reminded me of the Bellagio Water Show in Las Vegas.

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Then we walked inside the station and it was the most awesome thing ever. It was dark, mysterious and beautiful. While we waited for the fireboat to dock, we were given an informative tour. I really appreciate how the firefighter leading the tour emphasized how every firefighter helps clean, cook, organize and maintain the fireboat. It was a natural tie-in to the theme, “World of Work” – a study of the many systems in place needed to keep and maintain a community thriving.

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After the tour, our little ones were given the opportunity to handle a fire hose. They held onto the long hose, waiting patiently to get wet…and boy did they get wet!

fireboat.jpgWhile the little ones waited to get their turn at spraying water from the hose, a student ran up to me and said, “There’s a girl firefighter here, like your book. You have to talk to her.” I eventually talked to the girl firefighter whose name is Valerie (shout out to Valerie and all the other girl firefighters!). I loved that Valerie said that where she’s from, she was raised with the belief that she could be whatever she wanted to be when she grew up. I shared with Valerie that my picture book, Pink Fire Trucks aims to inspire this important message. I could see how significant this was for my female students since it was mentioned a few times on our drive back to school.


Thank you Fireboat Station 112 for your time and dedication. Today was exciting! It’s important for students of all ages to not only be able to conceptualize concepts they are learning, but to experience them. Field trips are important. And for an adult who had never heard of the word “fireboat” – today’s field trip was extra special.

Inspiration for New Bilingual Picture Book – Monster Slayer


I have been reading and rereading my latest bilingual picture book – MONSTER SLAYER. The illustrations are gorgeous and brilliantly done by Lina Safar. I am looking forward to sharing this book with my friends and family. My good friend and founder of My Escuelita: Spanish for Kids, is hosting the book release and signing party on Saturday, February 6th, 2015.

As with any product that is created and shared, some will think it is a great book, some will think it is just OK, and others will loudly say, no gracias. But I am beginning to understand this “game”, and for this reason I have to remember the inspiration behind Monster Slayer, my little sister.


My little sister is two years younger than me and I always used my “smartness” to her advantage. I was seven years old and she was five. I knew how to read, she didn’t. I knew how to do many more things and always let her know, one way or another, that I was the “big sister”. But as adults, oh how things have changed. My little sister is my best friend, my teacher of many things and my rock. Whenever I have needed direction, she has always been there to lead the way. Whenever I have needed reassurance, she has cheered me on, and when I have faltered, she has gently helped me pick up the pieces.

My little sister, or Poka, as she is lovingly called, is one of the best gifts that I have ever received. Little sister, thank you so much for being a living example of beauty, grace, kindness, love and laugher. I can’t believe that growing up, I tried to get rid of you on numerous occasions. I am beyond blessed to have you here on this journey…

“Is solace anywhere more comforting than in the arms of a sister.”– Alice Walker








2014 Int’l Latino Book Awards: Pink Fire Trucks is a Winner!

Book Award LOGO & Image

Pink Fire Trucks was awarded First Place for Most Inspirational Children’s Picture Book (bilingual) in the 2014 International Latino Book Awards! The awards event was held in Las Vegas in conjunction with the 2014 American Library Association Annual Conference.

The ILBA are presented by Latino Literacy Now in partnership with Las Comadres Para Las Américas and REFORMA, the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and is an affiliate of the American Library Association. The International Latino Book Awards are not only one of the largest book awards of any kind in the world, they are also the largest Latino cultural awards in the USA. The goal of the awards is to highlight Latino literature and increase the sales of these books. -Kirk Whisler

I was totally surprised when my name was called. Then panic set in when I realized I had to walk down the stairs to the stage to give a brief acceptance speech.Thankfully I didn’t trip and fall. That would have been disastrous and something that normally would happen to me. I’m not sure what I rambled in my nervousness, but I would like to say now that I am extremely grateful and blessed that this book has been so well received.  What an honor. And what a greater honor to be in a venue with so many creative and talented individuals.

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Awards Ceremony for 2014 Int’l Latino Book Awards

After the awards event, we waited for an hour to get a taxi to take us back to the hotel with no success. Tired and hungry, we ended up walking back, down Flamingo Road, on a hot Vegas summer night with my award plague in hand.  I was no longer smiling and I thought I was going to melt:/

The following morning I attended the ALA Conference at the Las Vegas Convention Center as part of the Award Winning Author Tour.

2014 ALA Conference, Las  Vegas

2014 ALA Conference, Las Vegas

I mingled and networked.  I saw an old friend Sandra Scott and made a new one, Lisa Neisa, who traveled to the awards event all the way from Colombia.  She and I meandered through the vast aisles of books, posters, and authors while I got to practice my español and she, her English.  I was like a kid in a candy store as I got free books for my classroom. We even got serenaded by Elvis!

Award Winning Author Tour (ILBA)

Award Winning Author Tour (ILBA)

elvis alaI’m back home and I’m happy to report I didn’t melt…Las Vegas was fun.

And lastly a big thank you to my parents for teaching me the importance of dreaming, reading and learning.

I don’t mind if I have to sit on the floor at school. All I want is education. And I am afraid of no one. -Malala Yousafzai 

 2014 Int’l Latino Book Awards Winners

Growing Int’l Latino Book Awards Reflect Booming Market via NBC News














2014 Purple Dragonfly Book Awards: Pink Fire Trucks


Happy Happy Happy News…

Pink Fire Trucks has been awarded a 2014 Purple Dragonfly Book Awards (First Place: School Issues).

The Purple Dragonfly Book Awards are geared toward stories that appeal to children of all ages. We are looking for stories that inspire, inform, teach or entertain. A Purple Dragonfly Book Awards seal on your book’s cover tells parents, grandparents, educators and caregivers they are giving children the very best in reading excellence. 

Also, big shout out to my friend, Hayley Rose who’s picture book, The Do’s and Don’ts  was also awarded.

I am tickled pink that Pink Fire Trucks has won this award. I visited the Ezra Jack Keat’s exhibit at the Skirball Cultural Center and my sweet mother bought everyone an ice cream cone in celebration of this great day.

Congratulations to all the book winners!

Here is a complete list of the 2014 Purple Dragonfly Book Award Contest Winners: 


Picture Books About Courage And Perseverance

I finally read Pink Fire Trucks to my first grade class. I read it in conjunction with several picture books where the overarching message or theme was courage. Courage (as defined by is the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty or to have the courage of one’s convictions, to act in accordance with one’s beliefs, especially in spite of criticism.

We discussed instances where we have been afraid and where we have had to put on our “brave hat” in order to move forward and persevere.  I shared that I was deathly afraid of jumping off the high diving plank when I was taking swimming lessons as a young kid.  The students shared they are afraid of sleeping in the dark, sleeping alone, swimming in the ocean because a shark could bite you and of being called on by the teacher when they don’t know the answer. My heart melted at this last comment and I told them, “Get comfortable with not knowing the answer. It’s OK because none of us will ever know all of the answers. What matters is that we keep on trying, learning and most importantly, don’t ever give up.”

As we read the different picture books, the students were able to see how the characters faced difficult challenges and how through hard work they found the courage to persevere.  One student commented, “That’s hard work, huh Ms. Barbieri?”  I responded, “Sure is. There are two types of people. People that make it happen and people that come up with a bunch of excuses. Which one do you want to be?”

They all said they wanted to make things happen. On the back of the fire truck art project they wrote what they want to be when they grow up. I have a few doctors, astronauts, fire fighters, teachers and future Presidents of the United States of America. I hope so!

These are the books that I read:

1. Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman

2. Grace For President by Kelly DiPucchio

3. Unspoken by Henry Cole

4. The Little Seahorse by Sheri Fink

2014 International Latino Book Awards Finalists…PINK FIRE TRUCKS!


2014 International Latino Book Awards

Let yourself be silently drawn by what you love. It will not lead you astray. -Rumi

For the longest time I felt stagnant in my work environment.  I couldn’t think of what else to do since teaching had been my one and only job after graduating college.  I had already finished graduate school and taken a bunch of extension courses to further develop my teaching skills. While I loved being with the little ones, I simply felt stuck.  Upon the urging of my dad I began to write. And the more I wrote, the more stories that were created. I now house several story characters, story plots and worlds in my mind. My “friends” keep me company and quietly cheer me on when I panic and wonder, “Who do I think I am and how could I ever do that?”

Today I am happy to announce that Pink Fire Trucks, illustrated by Lina Safar and translated by Liliana Cosentino is a finalist for the 2014 International Latino Book Awards for Most Inspirational Children’s Picture Book – Spanish or Bilingual. Yahoo!


Here is a link to view the list of winners, dreamers and believers.

Bravo to all the 2014 Int’l Latino Book Awards Finalists!

(It’s not the most direct link, but I will update it once I get it.)


author visit:common core cafeThis past Friday I had the great privilege to visit an elementary school. The school was so welcoming and excited to have me share my picture books, Rubber Shoes and Pink Fire Trucks.  I was pleased to meet teachers who are working extremely hard to make sure their students’ needs are met.  As a first grade teacher with a classroom full of varying levels it is quite challenging to make sure that all students have access to the curriculum. One has to modify class lessons and assignments to ensure that students are not lost, but working at their zone of proximal development.  We teachers are constantly searching for ways to bring books to life, to help students become metacognitive readers and to find activities that will create cooperative learning and discussion.

To my surprise, the person who invited me to this elementary school is also the common core coordinator for the school district.  She even has her own blog, The Common Core Café.  I am always doing different activities to connect my students to the messages and lessons of the picture books that I read in class. It’s pretty neat to see how teachers are bringing my stories to life in their classroom.   I hope you as a parent, teacher or picture book lover will be able to learn something new. Thank you Ms. Gabi for sharing and for inviting me to your school. It was an amazing day!

Enjoy this teacher activity write up on Pink Fire Trucks: