Juan Felipe Herrera’s ‘Imagine,’ Illustrated by Caldecott Honoree Lauren Castillo, Chosen as 2021 Young Readers One Book

Book Being Distributed to 10,000 Students

The work of two acclaimed creative artists, translated into two languages, equals one extraordinary book for young readers in South Dakota.

The South Dakota Humanities Council is pleased to introduce the 2021 Young Readers One Book South Dakota Imagine/Imagina, written by Juan Felipe Herrera and illustrated by Lauren Castillo. There are currently separate versions available in English and Spanish, but SDHC's special edition will include both versions. SDHC created the Young Readers Initiative, an extension of the established and successful South Dakota Festival of Books and One Book South Dakota programs, in 2014 to excite children about books.

More than 10,000 young readers in South Dakota will receive the Spanish/English special edition. Given the creators' credentials, it will indeed be "special."

Herrera, the United States Poet Laureate from 2015-2017, is an eloquent linguist whose collaboration with Caldecott Honoree Castillo on Imagine has been lauded by critics.

Turning Dreams to Reality

"Castillo's ink and foam monoprint illustrations are a tender accompaniment to Herrera's verse, the black lines of her illustrations flowing across the page in rhythm with the author's poetry," said a starred review from Kirkus Reviews. "Together this makes for a charming read-aloud for groups or a child snuggled in a lap. A lyrical coming-of-age story in picture-book form that begs to be shared."

Herrera's life changed when he pursued his childhood passions, and he exemplifies the power of the written word. Having taught himself to read and write English as a boy, he grew up to be the US Poet Laureate and read his work on the steps of the Library of Congress.

Herrera shows young people how dreams can become a reality by sharing his story, according to a starred review from School Library Journal.

"Written by the master wordsmith himself, this work details Herrera's life as a young boy spending time outside and then as an adolescent learning to craft poetry, before ultimately receiving the honor of US Poet Laureate as an adult...Readers will finish the story envisioning all the possibilities that may await them. A beautifully illustrated poem that will be cherished by children. A first purchase."

South Dakota Festival of Books Director Jennifer Widman is excited to get copies of Herrera's book into the hands of third graders this fall.

"We think Imagine will spark ideas in our state's young readers as they read Herrera's story of being a child with dreams who grew into an adult with even bigger accomplishments," she said.

Castillo plans to appear in person this fall at the Young Readers Festival of Books, while Herrera will appear virtually or by pre-recorded video.

"We've featured an illustrator for this program once before – in 2017, when Chris Van Dusen visited the Black Hills – and students responded very enthusiastically to his drawing demonstrations and his encouragement to keep making art in every way possible," Widman said.

Combining book ownership with face-to-face visits with authors and artists creates the kind of lifelong excitement for reading and writing that SDHC wants to achieve.

Watch the 2020 Young Readers Festival Online

Want a better idea of what happens at the Young Readers Festival of Books? Click below to watch the Virtual 2020 Young Readers Festival of Books online!

About Juan Felipe Herrera

Herrera is the author of 30 books of poetry, novels for young adults, and collections for children, including Half the World in Light: New and Selected Poems (2008), winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award. Elected a Chancellor for the Academy of American Poets in 2011, Herrera served as the Poet Laureate of California from 2012-2015 and the United States Poet Laureate from 2015-2017. He has served as the Chicano and Latin American Studies Department Chair at California State University Fresno and held the Tomás Rivera Endowed Chair in the Creative Writing Department at the University of California, Riverside, where he taught until retiring in 2015. He lives in Fresno, CA.

About Lauren Castillo

Castillo studied illustration at the Maryland Institute College of Art and received her MFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York City. She is the author and illustrator of the 2015 Caldecott Honor-winning book, Nana in the City, and the new chapter book series, Our Friend Hedgehog. Lauren has also illustrated several critically acclaimed picture books, including Kirkus Prize finalist Imagine by Juan Felipe Herrera, Twenty Yawns by Jane Smiley, and Yard Sale by Eve Bunting. She currently draws and dreams in Harrisburg, PA.