In February, PW visited the children's pavilions at the 25th Feria Internacional del Libro de La Habana (Havana International Book Fair), where there was no shortage of books for children and young adults. Lines of children with their families and groups of teenagers extended for a couple of blocks, and no one seemed to walk out of the fair without a few books in hand.
One of the titles by Cuban authors that stood out at the fair was Zambilé by Nersys Felipe Herrera, beautifully illustrated by Alejandro Rodríguez Fornés. It's a children's book that deals with the subject of African children who were brought to Cuba as slaves. Herrera is an educator and poet who has twice been awarded the Premio Casa de las Américas, one of Cuba's most prestigious literary prizes.
Another book that drew lots of interest was the young adult title Vampiros con tatuajes raros (Vampires with Weird Tattoos). Written by Eldys Baratute Benavides, Vampiros is composed of seven amusing stories about being different—about children who are marginalized or rejected by others. The illustrations by Dagnay Tomás Martínez are in a fun and whimsical style, in keeping with the spirit of the text.
Baratute was born in 1983 and has already published more than a dozen books for children and young adults. He has won three of Cuba's most prestigious literary awards for children's and YA books: Calendario, La Edad de Oro, and La Rosa Blanca. Baratute is also the president of the Guantanamo chapter of the Asociación Hermanos Saíz (a Cuban cultural organization for artists younger than 35). His books are known for addressing various social problems in a very entertaining manner.
Ivette Vian Altarriba is a storyteller, poet, journalist, and television writer. She has won numerous awards, including La Edad de Oro, Premio Ismaelillo, and La Rosa Blanca. Vian is the creator of a popular children's television program in Cuba called La sombrilla amarilla (The Yellow Umbrella). The show takes place in the home of a fictional artistic woman named Marcolina, and a book based on the show was popular at the fair. Marcolina en la cocina (Marcolina in the Kitchen) has a colorful cover and features almost 60 simple recipes from the show. In addition to the recipes, the book includes songs, tongue twisters, guessing games, and comments about some of the ingredients used in the recipes. The illustrations are by Arístides Hernández, better known as Ares. Ares has illustrated more than 70 books, and his work appears in periodicals all over the world. In 2002, he received the National Cultural Medal from the Cuban Cultural Ministry. The book is appropriate for older children and young adults.