A Year of Celebraciones cover

Carrie Lara’s newest picture book, A YEAR OF CELEBRACIONES, debuted on October 17, 2023, and I’m thrilled spread word about it. I’ve featured the other companion books in this series, including Marvelous Maravilloso and The Heart of Mi Familia, as well as Carrie’s additional book Out of the Fires.


A Year of Celebraciones coverFrom Laos to Mexico, China to Scotland, Iran to Nicaragua, and more, A Year of Celebraciones follows the main character’s continuing cultural education as she learns about how different kids and families she knows celebrate New Year’s. Traditions include decorations, gifts, foods, and gatherings. This exciting tour of the globe will encourage kids to learn about how their own families ring in the end of the year and the beginning of the next, while discovering that there are so many ways to celebrate!


In our last interview, you said, “I am a huge supporter of the need for more books that represent diversity and cultural experiences, both as mirrors and windows for children to build empathy, compassion and understanding.” What are some books in this genre you’ve read recently that you’re particularly excited about?

I am excited to say that there are more and more options for children in this genre, and it continues to grow. Of course, there is still a need, but it is exciting to see progress. I have had the opportunity to speak at conferences with the authors of the Something Happened series which I highly recommend. Something Happened to our Town has been a New York Best Seller and made the banned book list in many states for its poignant and important topic. Something Happened to My Dad is available in Spanish and English, and the focus is on immigration and deportation, which so many families face. Books like these give the mirrors to children to be seen, their stories and lives validated, and the windows for others to build empathy. I follow a lot of ‘book influencers’ on Instagram who are frequently highlighting new books with inclusivity and diversity topics. I recommend everyone do it!


Great advice! A YEAR OF CELEBRACIONES is a companion to both The Heart of Mi Familia and Marvelous Maravilloso. How did you know you wanted to tell more stories from this character’s perspective?

It is very interesting actually. I initially wrote Marvelous Maravilloso, and half of The Heart of Mi Familia without thinking it would go much further. But after Magination Press asked me to finish Mi Familia the author bug had fully bit me and I was hooked. I thought about the journey this little girl was taking through the two books, and how the cultural identity development was not fully complete. First she was learning about the layers at a surface level, like in preschool, learning to identify and categorize things by shape, color, etc. That is Marvelous Maravilloso. She talks about the diversity of people through color, skin type, hair type, etc. and celebrates that she is her own color too. This is very insular focused as well as often children are at this age level. Then in Mi Familia, she has grown a little more and has started to put more context to her cultural identification. She talks about the sights, sounds, smells, food, and of course emotional experience she has in her two cultures, and how they blend together in her bicultural home. A little bit richer context, with family history sprinkled in. But again, focused on the individual and her identity. This follows child development. And what we know about the identity development, is that in the next step we learn about ourselves by learning about others. Essentially, how we relate in the world by how we relate with others. How are we similar and how are we different, what is our place and how do we fit together? So this is what I wanted to tackle, to create a story that addresses this concept. I had the idea of using festivities and holidays as this seemed to be a good avenue to address it. But choosing what holidays was a hurdle initially. Many holidays are associated with religion and I wanted to capture as many cultures as I could. One day while on a hike with a dear friend, we were just talking about our days and we needed to get the hike in before she had to rush home for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. That is when it hit me: New Years! It was perfect because it is not always connected to religion, it is very cultural in context and had so many options to expand on within the story. Then the challenge began to be what cultures to include, how to highlight each one… it was so hard! I had 12 different celebrations initially and due to word counts and picture book limits, had to cut it down. I hated that! That is why I tell families to go out and explore more in the back too. I wish I could have included everybody in the story!


The cutting down of content definitely makes picture books harder to write than people think! What promotional efforts do you recommend for debut authors?

In this day and age so much is online in social platforms. I am not good at mine, so don’t use me as an example. But I see so many authors doing this work out there. There are even authors who have coaching packages for other authors on how to do this. Also, what I think really helped my first book was the events I attended. My publisher sent me to the Book Expo in New York, a conference in Kent, Ohio, and the Independent Book Sellers conference in Oakland. I signed and handed out so many copies of the book, and to this day this book remains my top seller. I have not done this with my other books (mostly due to Covid) and they have not done as well. However, fingers crossed the word spreads, and they will!


I hope so too–your books are so necessary! A quote from your website attributes Maya Angelou and says, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” What are some untold stories you hope to get on the page?

I have two picture book manuscripts that have been pitched to Magination Press and I hope to hear back soon. I also have two novels that are unwritten, but continuously write chapters in my head. I just need to schedule the time to get at them, I guess. I haven’t written a novel yet, so it does seem daunting. But really, this quote speaks to me because I never knew I was going to be an author. I enjoyed writing as a kid, most of my teachers had told me that I was good. And I loved reading, and I read all the time. I just never set out thinking I am going to write a book someday. So, when I sat down to write Marvelous, it was more about not seeing a story for my child to see herself in, and to process the emotions I was experiencing, because as a therapist this was something that I would have my clients do to express themselves. The story just came forth, it got picked up by Magination, and there it was. It was a beautiful and wonderful book! Now I want to tell all the stories! Like I said, the writing bug bit me!











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