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The True You

This author wants readers to see themselves on the pages of her books.

Craig Hanson/Courtesy of author

Nina Moreno

Author Nina Moreno knows what it’s like to be the new kid. When she was 10, Moreno and her family moved from Miami, Florida, to a small town outside Atlanta, Georgia. She was the only Latina at her new school. Feeling different was tough.  

Moreno has written two books about Maggie Diaz. Like Moreno, Maggie is Cuban American and from Miami. Everyone in the seventh-grader’s life seems to know what they’re good at. To figure out her passion, Maggie joins every club and team she can. But trying to fit in with everyone is pretty confusing!

Scholastic News: How much of Maggie is based on you?

Nina Moreno: Quite a bit. Maggie is what I wished I’d seen in books. It’s about putting kids like me on the page. 

That broadens our imagination. It broadens the scope of what we think is possible for us. It also helps our friends who may not come from our cultures or have families like ours to see us.

SN: What do you admire most about Maggie?

NM: She is just so certain of her plans. And then when it all falls apart, she doesn’t lose hope. There’s such determination.

SN: The books aren’t just about Maggie’s school life. They’re also about her family, including her grandmother who lives with her. Why did you focus on her home life? 

NM: My family is such a big part of my life. That’s true for a lot of us. They shape the way we move through our own story. And seeing a family different than your own is important. I have such a big family, and I wanted to see that in books. 

I wanted to see moms and grandmothers and different family shapes. Sometimes we narrow the idea of what family is. And if you don’t fit in that bubble, it can be stressful. It’s important to show how different families interact.

SN: What do you hope kids get out of your books?

NM: I hope that readers just have fun. I hope they find a thousand different versions of themselves in all the books they read. And I hope that books will always feel like a safe place.

Note: The interview has been edited and condensed by the editors of Scholastic News.

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