A joyful celebration of the taco and a novel based around a famed work of art were named winners of the 2021 Selfies Book Awards U.S. in a virtual ceremony held during the American Library Association annual conference June 24.

How to Fold a Taco (Con Todo Press, ISBN 978-1-7337103-6-7) by Mexican-American TV personality and journalist Naibe Reynoso, won the grand prize in the children’s category, which was added to the prize awards this year. The picture book, written in English and Spanish, is illustrated by Ana Varela, whose art introduces a lively cast of human, animal, and mythical characters who demonstrate how to fold tortillas to make tacos.

The Rumble Hunters by Courtney Dunlap, about a young boy’s night-time romp as he investigates an unusual noise in his family’s home, was named a runner-up in the children's category.

In the adult category, the prize was presented to author Lilianne Milgrom for L’Origine (Little French Girl Press, ISBN 978-1-7348670-0-8), a novel that weaves historical events into a fictional narrative surrounding the controversial work of art, L’Origine du monde (The Origin of the World), painted in 1866 by Gustave Courbet.

The Boy and the Lake, a literary mystery by author Adam Pelzman, was selected as a runner-up for the adult category.

Milgrom told PW that “L'Origine is the result of 10 years of research and writing, but what kept me going was my absolute and unwavering obsession with wanting to get the story out into the world! I read somewhere that you should write a book that you want to read; I believe L'Origine is that book for me.”

Reynoso also talked to PW about the inspirations for her book, saying that “How to Fold a Taco was written to honor and celebrate my Latino heritage, but also to make kids and parents smile, as it is a colorful and imaginary rhyming adventure with dragons, magicians, dinosaurs and more. But to honor my culture, it was important to include my mom’s family taco recipe, and a brief history of the taco, which is now one of the most beloved dishes of America.”

Reynoso also spoke about her publishing journey, the challenges of being an indie author, and how the Selfies help to support and affirm the work of self-published writers. “As an independently published author, I have to play multiple roles to get my book from idea to reality. Awards like the Selfies recognize authors’ efforts and validate their work, giving them the fuel to keep going,” Reynoso said.

The mission of the Selfies, which were created by BookBrunch and launched in the U.K. in 2018, is to discover new talent and reward the best self-published titles each year. The awards focus not only on the strength of the writing, but on each title’s overall production value, cover design, and the author’s promotional materials. Hosting the event was Jo Henry, managing director of BookBrunch, and Carl Pritzkat, president of BookLife, which oversaw the awards in partnership with Publishers Weekly and BookBrunch.

The judges for the U.S. Selfies children’s book category were Paige Allen, director of IngramSpark; Joshua Carlson, librarian and manager, youth services, at the White Plains Public Library; and Matia Madrona Query, BookLife editor. The judges selected How to Fold a Taco for its natural, read-aloud appeal, its polished and endearing illustrations, and its diverse characters. Allen wrote that, along with elements of science, language, culture, history and cuisine, the book ensures that readers “will head straight to kitchen or la cocina to indulge in a night of tacos and fun.”

Judges for the adult category were Emily Thomas Meehan, chief creative officer and publisher at Sterling Publishing, Barnes & Noble's publishing arm; Robin Cutler, president of LMBPN Worldwide Publishing, CEO of HowToPublishBooks.com, and creator and developer of IngramSpark; and Jo Henry. Cutler praised L’Origine, saying that “Milgrom’s thorough research, knowledge, and emotional attachment to the painting is enhanced by a sweeping fictional narrative that puts us in touch with major historical events and figures spanning 1866 to present day.”

“Congratulations to the authors of these fine examples of self-published books,” said Cevin Bryerman, CEO and publisher of Publishers Weekly. “How to Fold a Taco and L’Origine are testaments to the wealth of talent that deserves wider recognition in the publishing world.”

The winning author and author/illustrator team each receive a $1,000 cash prize, promotional book displays from Combined Book Exhibit (CBE) at major book fairs around the world, a feature in the CBE librarians’ newsletter reaching 30,000 librarians, and a $5,000 package of print and digital advertising in Publishers Weekly.