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Happy Monday Everyone! Today I'm thrilled to have debut author Jennifer Torres here to share about her MG contemporary STEF SOTO, TACO QUEEN. Stef sounds like a fantastic middle grader, and I love the multicultural themes in the story.

Here's a blurb from Goodreads:

Estefania "Stef" Soto is itching to shake off the onion-and-cilantro embrace of Tia Perla, her family's taco truck. She wants nothing more than for her dad to get a normal job and for Tia Perla to be put out to pasture. It's no fun being known as the "Taco Queen" at school. But just when it looks like Stef is going to get exactly what she wants, and her family's livelihood is threatened, she will have to become the truck's unlikely champion. 

Now here's Jennifer!

Extraordinary moments and ordinary lives

I started my writing career as a reporter, so the first stories I ever wrote professionally were true stories. True in the sense that they were about real things that really happened to real people. I covered issues like immigration and education, poverty and population change for The Record newspaper in Stockton, California. I wrote about interesting and influential events and trends and people. And, like any local reporter, I spent a lot of time at school board meetings and on the phone with watch commanders.

It was the best fun.

What I loved most about local news, I think, was that almost every assignment was an opportunity to uncover the extraordinary moments contained within ordinary lives.

(In fact, my picture book, Finding the Music/En pos de la música, was inspired in part by an obituary I wrote about a neighborhood mariachi teacher. “He wanted to rest in peace,” the man’s widow had told me at his wake. “But with music.” Someone like that, I thought afterward, is someone I want to know better.)

It’s been a while since I last wrote an obituary or even worked in local news. But I still draw on the
lessons of reporting in the writing I do now: I listen for voice, and I try to seek out the telling details that help capture and crystallize who a character really is.

And I am still inspired by the extraordinary lives of ordinary people.

Not too long ago, I chaperoned my daughter’s class field trip to a cherry-packing shed in the heart of Central California farmland. When I told my dad about the visit later, he laughed. “So we’ve gone from farm workers to farm tourists in three generations?”

That’s an extraordinary story. It’s also a true story— one about ambition and striving—shared by millions of other ordinary, real-life families, as well as by the fictional Soto family in my debut middle grade novel, Stef Soto, Taco Queen.

Stef is the first-generation daughter of Mexican-American immigrants who own a taco truck business. The truck (they call her Tía Perla) represents the family’s hope and hard work. But also, for Stef, a point of frustration and embarrassment—until she can recognize old Tía Perla as a source of strength too.

Like my picture book, Stef Soto, Taco Queen, was inspired, in part by a story I covered as a reporter. Not an obit this time, but part of a series about a struggling school working hard to improve student learning. While visiting the campus, I met Nancy, a third grader, and her dad. He read to her every night, and three mornings a week, he came to school with her to attend special English classes for parents.

He drove an ice cream truck, and after school, when he picked her up in it, Nancy’s eyes gleamed with pride in him – as much as he had in her.

I began to wonder what Nancy would think about the truck three or four years later. That’s where Stef’s story starts.

Thanks for sharing all your great advice, Jennifer. You can find Jennifer at:

Website: jenntorres.com
Twitter: @jennanntorres
Instagram: @jennanntorres

Jennifer is generously offering an ARC of STEF SOTO, TACO QUEEN, for a giveaway. o enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through January 28th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest.
If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. This giveaway is for U.S. 

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday was started by Shannon Messenger. You can find the participating blogs on her blog.

Here's what's coming up:

Wednesday January 18th, I'm participating in the Best of 2016 Giveaway Hop.

Monday January 23rd, I'll be interviewing debut author Brianna Shields with a giveaway of her YA fantasy POISON'S KISS

Monday January 30th, debut author Celeste Lin will be here doing a guest post with her agent Rosemary Stimola and a giveaway of Celeste's MG THE BRIDE FROM HUNAN

Monday February 6th, debut author Dana Langer will be doing a guest post with a giveaway of her MG fantasy SIREN SISTERS

Monday February 13th debut author Elly Blake will be here doing a guest post with her agent Suzie Townsend with a giveaway of Elly's YA fantasy FROSTBLOOD and a a query critique giveaway by Suzie

Hope to see you on Wednesday!


Karen Lange said...

Enjoyed reading your post, Jennifer. It reminds me that everyone has a story of some sort. Like you, I like finding and writing about those stories. Wishing you well with your book! It sounds like a wonderful story.

Natalie, thanks for hosting. Appreciate what you do to bring us quality content. I'll pass on the giveaway this time around. Have a great week!

S.P. Bowers said...

Cool idea for a story! And a very universal theme. I think everyone, at one time or another, wishes their parents were different.

Greg Pattridge said...

I've heard some good things about Jennifer's book, and the backstory of how it came to be makes it even more appealing. Good luck with your debut!

Bish Denham said...

I like the premise of this story and that it has it's root in real life is marvelous. I've tweeted!

Donna K. Weaver said...

Congrats to Stef. I love stories where people are pioneers of a sort and brave a new world and succeed with it.

Tyrean Martinson said...

Wonderful story! I love the obit about music. It reminded me of my family. The story about the girl with the dad and the ice cream truck is wonderful, too. I imagine that with those sorts of stories behind the story of the novel, it's a wonderful book.

Unknown said...

This is wonderful! I'm so glad to hear Jennifer is writing a story championing the Latinos who're bravely trying to make a living and being denigrated by a certain portion of our society who belittle immigrants. I love that Latino children will get a hero they can emulate in Stef. Go Jennifer!

abnormalalien said...

This sounds like such a good story. And as others have said: I love how it's hitting the hard theme of familial shame versus pride. Middle grade through high school is exactly the age I remember going through this sort of thing.

Joanne R. Fritz said...

Congratulations to Jennifer! Loved learning about the inspiration for this book.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

We've all seen taco trucks like that but never really think about the families behind them.

Michael G-G said...

Great interview, and thanks for bringing this debut novel to my attention. It sounds like a splendid middle grade story with great voice--"It's no fun being known as the "Taco Queen" at school" Tweeted: https://twitter.com/MGMafioso/status/821153156356657153

cleemckenzie said...

This sounds great. Love the idea and look forward to reading the story.

Max @ Completely Full Bookshelf said...

This book sounds great! It seems very unique. Thanks for the post!

Kathy Halsey said...

As writers, we must all look for the extraordinary found in ordinary lives and tease them out. TACO QUEEN sound alike a fab book I'd love to win and read. infowoman@sbcglobal.net

mshatch said...

Love the idea for this story. A taco truck! I can see how this would go from being so cool when you were like 10 or 12 to totally embarrassing by the time you're 15.

Darlene said...

I enjoy immigrant stories. Congrats to Jennifer on her debut MG novel! I'm not entering (I'm in Canada), so just stopping by :)

I'll be back next Monday, Natalie. Poison's Kiss is the 2017 debut that I'm most looking forward to!

likeschocolate said...

Never heard of the book, but I will have to be on the look out for it ! Thanks for sharing your review. Have a lovely week!

Nick Wilford said...

Great to hear about the inspiration behind Jennifer's story - it sounds like a lot of fun! I also started out in local journalism and agree that it's great training for any writer - you learn to cut to the heart of the story. And yes, extraordinary things happen to ordinary people.

jpetroroy said...

Yay! Congrats, Jennifer!

One Latina's Pen said...

Love this idea of a MG girl and the conflicts she'd have with her dad driving the taco truck, the name calling, and how she'll handle everything. Tweeted this for others to come take a look and see there are MG books for young Latinas.

Danielle H. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Danielle H. said...

I love the story of the girl and her dad with the ice cream truck. This sounds like a great book for me to read. I shared on my tumblr blog: http://yesreaderwriterpoetmusician.tumblr.com/post/156003825477/jennifer-torres-guest-post-and-stef-soto-taco

Rosi said...

What a terrific concept for a book. I want to read this one! I'm reading The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky now and it has a similar story idea, and I'm loving it. Thanks for the chance to win and for the interesting post.

Unknown said...

Would love to win this fun book. monicachess26@gmail.com. Tweeted about the offer at: https://twitter.com/ChessmoreMonica/status/821725440641474560

Unknown said...

I think this would be perfect for my daughter! It looks and sounds so cute and fun.


Jessica Lawson said...

This sounds like a wonderful, heartwarming MG book! I loved hearing about the author's background in reporting, and hearing how it's influenced her as a fiction writer. Thanks for the post, ladies!