Fil-Am author Erin Entrada Kelly garners second Newbery honor

THREE years after being awarded the highest honor in children’s literature, Filipina American author Erin Entrada Kelly has received another accolade for her latest middle-grade novel, “We Dream of Space.”

Kelly holds a copy of “We Dream of Space, which was released on May 5, 2020 by Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. | Photo courtesy of Erin Entrada Kelly/Instagram

The author’s sixth novel, released last May, was named one of five Newbery Honor books, the American Library Association announced on Monday, January 25.

“I got the call last night that WE DREAM OF SPACE won a Newbery Honor,” Kelly wrote in an Instagram post on Monday, sharing how she was notified of the honor after initially thinking it was a spam message. “I cried and called my agent @saraagent and then I poured a glass of whisky and drank it.”

Tae Keller’s “When You Trap A Tiger” garnered the 2020 John Newbery Medal. Kelly previously won the prestigious award in 2018 for “Hello, Universe,” which will be adapted into a live-action movie by Netflix.

“We Dream of Space” brings readers into the lives of the Nelson-Thomas siblings, 12-year-old twins Bird and Fitch and their older brother Cash, and the weeks leading up to the Challenger launch.

 

Along the way, Bird’s dreams of being NASA’s first female shuttle commander and the dynamics of this middle-class family in Delaware are detailed. Readers also get introduced to their science teacher Ms. Salonga and see the recurring themes, such as loneliness, found in Kelly’s work.

“This book explores a non-ideal family situation — it’s not that the parents don’t love their children, but they’re caught up in their own toxic dynamic that’s permeating the rest of the family. It was important so that young people who are in that kind of family can see their dynamic on the page. My hope is that families can use it as a jumping-off point to talk about family dynamics and other things mentioned,” Kelly told the Asian Journal in a May 2020 interview.

In addition to Kelly’s novel, “All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys’ Soccer Team” and “A Wish in the Dark” by Christina Soontornvat, “Box: Henry Brown Mails Himself to Freedom” by Carole Boston Weatherford, and “Fighting Words” by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley were named Newbery honor books.

Kelly — who was born in Lake Charles, Louisiana to a Filipina mother from Cebu and a white father — previously had a journalism career, and is now a full-time author based in Delaware.

This May, she is expected to release “Maybe Maybe Marisol Rainey,” a novel about summer, friendship and overcoming fears, which she also illustrated. The title character, Marisol, mirrors Kelly’s background with a mother from the Philippines.

“I know the landscape for not just Filipino authors, but people from all kinds of marginalized groups, has opened up and will continue to do so because literature needs to reflect our entire society. That’s what our world and bookshelves should look like,” Kelly said.

Christina M. Oriel
Christina M. Oriel

Christina M. Oriel is the Managing Editor of the Asian Journal Weekly Newspapers.

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