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🎧 The Reader's Heart | Guest: Torrey Maldonado

When I was in the 7th grade, I was suspended for demanding that my classmates and I be allowed to sing People are People by Depeche Mode during a school concert - a request that was both denied and seen as blasphemous by the principal of the Catholic school I was attending at the time. I can't think of this memory without laughing now, but at the time it felt quite serious - as though our fundamental right to sing synth-pop songs at school events was being trampled! I bring this up, because shortly after recording this week's episode of The Reader's Heart, Torrey Maldonado suggested this very Depeche Mode anthem as a potential theme song for our conversation - a suggestion that emphasized something I kept thinking about throughout our conversation: Torrey and I have A LOT in common. Our stories overlap in so many ways. From our love of comics as kids, to our deep affection for middle schoolers (we both teach/taught 8th grade!) and so much more, Torrey Maldonado feels like, as the kids might say, my brother from another mother! Maybe that's why recording this episode of #TheReadersHeart felt so joyful! I hope y'all love our conversation as much as I do!


Torrey Maldonado was born and raised in in the Red Hook housing projects of Brooklyn, New York. He has been praised by two NYC Chancellors for being a top culturally responsive educator who has taught in Brooklyn public schools for close to thirty years. Maldonado crafts his books and chapters to be short, fast-paced rollercoasters filled with diverse representation and his compelling stories are inspired by his and his students’ experiences. His popular novels Hands, Tight, and What Lane? are Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selections and Best Books of the Year. What Lane? garnered many starred reviews and was cited by Oprah and the New York Times for being an essential book to discuss racism and allyship; Tight won the Christopher Award, is an ALA Notable Book, and an NPR and Washington Post "Best Book of the Year"; Hands is a 2024 Global Read Aloud for Middle Schools/Junior High Schools, ALA/ALCS Notable Book, Black Caucus ALA Best of the Best Book, Jane Addams Finalist, Nerdy, Best Book of the Year for NY and Chicago Public Libraries, and won starred School Library Journal review and amazing reviews from Horn Book, Kirkus, and Publishers Weekly. His very first novel, Secret Saturdays, has been in print for over ten years. Learn more at or connect on social media @torreymaldonado



Please enjoy a special discount of 20% off the titles mentioned in this episode (or others of your choice) by visiting Bookelicious and using the code JENNIFERLAGARDE. Note: I do not make any money from the sales, but I am delighted that you get to save some!

Connect with Torrey


Rooted in the belief that our world needs the magic of children’s literature now more than ever, the Reader’s Heart podcast captures conversations with authors and illustrators about children's literature as a vehicle for empathy and joy in a dark world. I'm so excited about this project and it's my wish that it brings you as much light and hope as it has brought me.

Special thanks to Corinna Luyken for creating the beautiful illustration that will serve as the show's logo. I've always found Corinna's art so moving and she perfectly captured the spirit of what I am trying to do, which is to put warmth and love into the world during a time when so many are working to limit kids' access to the warmth and love inherent in children's literature. (Also, don't forget, you can use the discount above to buy Corinna's books from Bookelicious, too!)

Weekly episodes will drop on Tuesdays. Once you've had a chance to listen, I hope you will consider leaving The Reader's Heart a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review! Podcast reviews are one of the best ways to support your favorite shows and help others find these conversations.



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