Shine On, Luz Véliz by Rebecca Balcárcel

Hello, Rebecca Balcárcel! Welcome to Watch. Connect. Read.! First of all, congratulations on sending the paperback edition of The Other Half of Happy out into the world today. Hooray! 

Second, thank you for stopping by to discuss Shine On, Luz Véliz! I love the moment Caribay Marquina captured on the cover! What ran through your heart the first time you saw it?

Rebecca Balcárcel: Cue a magic wand sound and a swell of orchestra music! I could hardly take in all the WOW of this cover at first, but then Luz’s sassy pose, can-do overalls, and upturned face made me cheer. With that hand-on-hip, Caribay captures Luz’s go-for-it attitude. I especially love all the sprays of color! The stars, starbursts, and comets really show off the shine that IS Luz Véliz (whose name means light)!

What are 3 things Luz Véliz would want us to know about her?

Rebecca Balcárcel: First of all, her name. She’s not afraid to correct anyone who thinks it’s “lose.” Yeah, don’t EVEN. Pro-tip: it’s more like “loose.”

Second, coding is her jam. She’s always been the kind of kid who could assemble stuff without the directions, but now she’s learning Scratch, a programming language that uses drag-and-drop colored blocks. Hey! You can actually see Luz’s code and a game she calls Growbot here:

or click here.

Third, she would say that her dad is not as perfect as people think, and she’s sad that her connection with him has gone brittle. Sure, he was a great youth soccer coach back when she played, but now he’s stepped back from the jokey, fun guy he was. He’s all about work now, and Luz senses there’s something important that he and Mom aren’t telling her.

Please finish the following sentence starters: 

Shine On, Luz Véliz spotlights a Latina in STEM! I hope Luz inspires all kids, but especially girls of color, to see themselves as capable in computer science. The builders, tinkerers, and coders in my life were my Grandpa, my uncles, and my male cousins. I honor them in the character of Mr. Mac in the book. I can still smell the sawdust in my grandpa’s basement woodshop! My hope is that girls, too, see a place for themselves in the joyful world of wires, gears, and code. (Book cover challenge: Look for something electrical on Luz’s pocket!)

Soccer used to be everything to Luz. She was the striker, the top-scorer, and master of the Maradona Spin. Posters of the American Women’s team hung on her walls, and she thought the game would be her forever thing. An injury wipes away that dream, but she’d still enjoy watching the World Cup and analyzing brilliant plays. Since soccer is a global sport, it unites her Guatemalan and Anglo heritages. Fun fact: like Luz’s dad, mine was a talented soccer coach!

John Schu, you should have asked me what research did you do for this book? A lot! I

watched videos about robotics classes

studied the LEGO Mindstorm manual

found famous quotes by scientists

learned about the ENIAC 6, women who coded during WWII

exchanged email with an immigration lawyer

interviewed my Guatemalan half-sister

made Mexican hot chocolate (often!)

Thank you, Rebecca! Congratulations! 

Rebecca Balcárcel received the Jane Kenyon Poetry Prize, and her work has appeared in journals such as the North American Review. She is an associate professor of English at Tarrant County College. She lives in Bedford, Texas.

Look for Shine On, Luz Véliz on May 3, 2022. 


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