New Middle Grade Book: Mani Semilla Finds Her Quetzal Voice

We often lament the limited number of books for young readers by Central American authors and/or about Central America. So, we were delighted when Guatemalan American middle school teacher Anna Lapera alerted us to her debut upper middle grade book, Mani Semilla Finds Her Quetzal Voice.

We first met Lapera when she attended a workshop on our Central America Introductory Lesson. She received the role of Berta Cáceres and has used the same lesson in her middle school classroom in Montgomery County Public Schools.

Mani Semilla features a 12-year-old student who learns from hidden family letters about the conditions in Guatemala that led her family to leave. As a teacher, child of immigrants, and a parent — Lapera had a wealth of first-hand insights to paint a page-turning story about the challenges Mani faces at home, at school, and with friends. Lapera even wove Berta Cáceres into the story.

The book was launched to a full house at the Politics and Prose Bookstore in Washington, D.C. on March 5, 2024.

Lapera spoke on a panel with Baltimore Teachers’ Union leader Franca Muller Paz and 2024 Latinx Education Collaborative Educator of the Year Edwin Pérez.

The audience included teachers (including her own high school social studies teacher), librarians, her two children, other members of her family, and community members.

Lapera read excerpts from her book and explained that she wrote it when she realized there were no books in the library for her students who were primarily from Central America. Attendees were delighted to hear that it will be released in a Spanish edition and also as an audio book. Educator Lesley Younge is writing a teaching guide for Mani Semilla.

We look forward to Lapera’s next book which will be a young adult historical fiction novel set after the U.S. backed 1954 overthrow of Guatemalan president Jacobo Arbenz. In the meantime, we encourage everyone to read and use your voice to share Mani Semilla Finds Her Quetzal Voice.

Our appreciation to Teaching for Change colleague Marcy Campos who attended and documented the event.