Book Reviews: Lola Levine Meets Jelly and Bean & The Rooster Would Not Be Quiet

 

Reviews by Dora Guzman

The following books are examples of what to do when confronted with a problem. Both texts demonstrate the power of teamwork and sharing our voice with love and joy.

LOLA LEVINE MEETS JELLY AND BEAN

Lola Levine Meets Jelly and Bean CoverDESCRIPTION OF THE BOOK: The Levines are finally getting a pet–a furry one that is. They are excited about adopting a kitty they name Jelly, but they don’t get very far in the process when Ben starts sneezing. Oh no, he’s allergic! Lola is devastated and sets out to find Jelly a good home. Luckily, Lola is rewarded with a very happy (and still furry) ending. With Lola’s trademark humor, we can expect a few mishaps, many funny moments, and a cute new pet all wrapped in one adorable book.

MY TWO CENTS: This realistic fiction chapter book is the definition of a bicultural family that loves to spend time with each other and solve everyday problems! Lola Levine has a younger brother named Ben. She is your typical older sister who is always looking out for her brother. Lola and Ben are adopting a kitten! But before they can get a cat, they have to do some research on what a cat needs and even start building a cat play structure, or as the family calls it “a cat castle”. Once their new cat, Jelly, is home, Ben and Lola discover that Ben is allergic to cats! The ending of this realistic and humorous book is a true reflection of how a family solves a problem and works together for one goal. An amazing series to add to your diverse classroom library!

Monica Brown created an excellent bicultural character when she started the Lola Levine series. The sibling relationship between Lola and Ben is so apparent and loving, as well as the other relationships within the family. Lola Levine is a great role model for all as she navigates her childhood throughout this great series!

TEACHING TIPS: Teachers can use this early chapter book or components of it to model narrative writing, especially how to focus on small moments or details. Teachers can also use this book to focus on character analysis of either Lola or Ben as well as teaching story elements and making connections.

WHERE TO GET IT: To find Lola Levine Meets Jelly and Bean, check your local public library, your local bookstore, or IndieBound. Also, check out GoodreadsAmazon, and Barnes & Noble.

monica6ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Monica Brown, Ph.D. is the author of many award-winning books for children, including Waiting for the BiblioburroMarisol McDonald Doesn’t MatchMarisol McDonald no combina The Lola Levine series including: Lola Levine is Not Mean!Lola Levine, Drama QueenLola Levine and the Ballet Scheme, and Lola Levine Meets Jelly and Bean. Find Monica on Facebook at Monica Brown, Children’s Author, on twitter @monicabrownbks, or online at www.monicabrown.net.

 

 

 

Image resultABOUT THE ILLUSTRATOR: Angela Dominguez was born in Mexico City, grew up in the great state of Texas, and lived in San Francisco. She’s the author and illustrator of picture books such as Let’s Go, Hugo!; Santiago Stays; Knit Together, and Maria Had a Little Llama, which was an American Library Association Pura Pelpré Honor Book for Illustration. She now writes and creates in her studio in Brooklyn, New York.

 

 

THE ROOSTER WOULD NOT BE QUIET!

The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet! CoverDESCRIPTION OF THE BOOK: La Paz is a happy, but noisy village. A little peace and quiet would make it just right. So the villagers elect the bossy Don Pepe as their mayor. Before long, singing of any kind is outlawed. Even the teakettle is afraid to whistle
But there is one noisy rooster who doesn’t give two mangos about this mayor’s silly rules. Instead, he does what roosters were born to do.
He sings:
“Kee-kee-ree-KEE ”
Carmen Deedy’s masterfully crafted allegory and Eugene Yelchin’s bright, whimsical mixed-media paintings celebrate the spirit of freedom — and the courage of those who are born to sing at any cost.

MY TWO CENTS: There is a town, La Paz, that loves to sing and make all types of noise! However, there is a new mayor in town and with new leaders come new rules. The new mayor, Don Pepe, establishes a law of absolutely no singing or noise EVER! Well, a few days later, there is a rooster who moves into town and what roosters do best is sing in the morning. The mayor is shocked that someone would disobey the new noise ordinance and does everything in his power to enforce his law. Little to the mayor’s knowledge, the town sides with the Rooster and dethrones the mayor. The little town is back to what it was meant to be- joyful, noisy, and proud of it!

A hilarious bilingual story with a strong message for all to hear! The illustrations are vivid and significantly engage the reader as they are pulled into the plot of what is going to happen next.

TEACHING TIPS: Teachers can use this text to teach predicting, character analysis of the townspeople, the Rooster, and/or Don Pepe, as well as teaching readers about the progression of a problem and solution. Teachers can highlight the theme of what it means to have a voice and stand up for your community. Teachers can also use this book as a writing mentor text to model onomatopoeia, transition words, and dialogue.

WHERE TO GET IT: To find The Rooster Would Not Be Quiet, check your local public library, your local bookstore, or IndieBound. Also, check out GoodreadsAmazon, and Barnes & Noble.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Carmen Agra Deedy is an internationally known author of children’s literature, a storyteller and radio contributor. Born in Havana, Cuba, she immigrated to the United States with her family in 1963 after the Cuban Revolution. Deedy grew up in Decatur, Georgia and currently lives in Atlanta and has three daughters. She has also written books like 14 Cows in America and Martina The Beautiful Cockroach.

 

 

 

Image resultABOUT THE ILLUSTRATOR: Russian-born artist Eugene Yelchin graduated from the Leningrad Institute of Theater Arts. During his studies, he designed sets and costumes for dramas, comedies and ballets. He also co-founded a children’s theatre in Siberia. Despite obstacles, Eugene traveled to the United States to share his expertise and talent as an artist. His work has appeared in magazines and newspapers and advertising campaigns, TV commercials, and animated films. His novel Breaking Stalin’s Nose was awarded a Newbery Honor in 2012. His website is http://eugeneyelchinbooks.com/index.html

 

 

 

img_0160ABOUT THE REVIEWER: Dora is a bilingual reading specialist for grades K-3 and also teaches an undergraduate college course in Children’s Literature. When she is not sharing her love of reading with her students, you can find her in the nearest library, bookstore, or online, finding more great reads to add to her never ending “to read” pile!

Book Reviews: Marta Big and Small & The Chupacabra Ate the Candelabra

 

Reviews by Ruby Jones

MARTA! BIG & SMALL

Marta! Big & Small CoverDESCRIPTION OF THE BOOK: Marta is una niña, an ordinary girl . . . with some extraordinary animal friends! As Marta explores the jungle, she knows she’s bigger than a bug, smaller than an elephant, and faster than a turtle. But then she meets the snake, who thinks Marta is sabrosa—tasty, very tasty! But Marta is ingeniosa, a very clever girl, and she outsmarts the snake with hilarious results.

With simple Spanish and a glossary at the end, this fun read-aloud picture book teaches little ones to identify opposites and animals and learn new words.

MY TWO CENTS: Marta is a little girl who is exploring the animals around her. Compared to a horse, Marta is lenta. Compared to a turtle, Marta is rapida. All of this fun catches the eye of an animal that finds Marta sabrosa. Using her cleverness, Marta is able to escape.

Judging by only the title and the beginning of the book, you might be tricked into thinking that Marta! Big & Small is about opposites but you would be wrong! This picture book has an ingenious ending that is actually empowering to little girls….girls can be clever! What I really appreciated was that at the end of the book, there are Spanish to English translations of both Marta’s attributes and also the animals she encounters. Not only that, but the illustrations are very clean but bold and vibrant. It’s a great book for any young reader.

TEACHING TIPS: This book is a great opportunity to learn about opposites and comparing our attributes to the world around us. A good lesson would be comparing our size to various objects like a pencil or a house. Teachers could also review a variety of animals in English and Spanish.

WHERE TO GET IT: To find Marta! Big & Small, check your local public library, your local bookstore, or IndieBound. Also, check out GoodreadsAmazon, and Barnes & Noble.

copyright Meredith Zinner PhotographyABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jen Arena is a former editorial director at Random House Books for Young Readers. She now writes books for children full time, including 100 Snowmen, a wintry counting story, and Besos for Baby, a bilingual board book of kisses. Her books have been translated into French, Korean, Arabic, and of course, Spanish.

 

 

Image resultABOUT THE ILLUSTRATOR:  Angela Dominguez was born in Mexico City, grew up in the great state of Texas, and lived in San Francisco. She’s the author and illustrator of picture books such as Let’s Go, Hugo!;Santiago StaysKnit Together, and Maria Had a Little Llama, which was an American Library Association Pura Pelpré Honor Book for Illustration. She now writes and creates in her studio in Brooklyn, New York.

 

 

THE CHUPACABRA ATE THE CANDELABRA

The Chupacabra Ate the Candelabra CoverDESCRIPTION OF THE BOOK: Like most goats, Jayna, Bumsie, and Pep’s greatest fear is being eaten for dinner by the legendary chupacabra. (It’s common knowledge that goats are a chupacabra’s favorite food!) One night, tired of living in fear, the impetuous goats whip out their trusty candelabra and head off to find the beast and scare it away before it can find them. Little do they know that candelabras are the chupacabra’s third-favorite food . . . and he isn’t about to stop there. This chupacabra has quite the appetite, and the goats are in for a big surprise!

MY TWO CENTS: The chupacabra loves to eat many, many things. Three little goats hope that it definitely isn’t them! To make make sure they don’t become dinner, goats Jayna, Bumsie and Pep set off to scare the chupacabra before he scares them. When they encounter the continually hungry chupacabra, he devours their candelabra in an instant and demands more. When they are unable to produce more candelabras, the chupacabra eats his second-favorite meal. Finally, when they are unable to satisfy his desires using his third- and second-favorite foods, the chupacabra reveals what his favorite thing to eat is: Goat cheese! The relieved goats merrily proclaim that they have so much goat cheese, he’ll never be hungry again.

The first thing that you notice is this book’s winning feature: it’s beautiful and vibrant illustrations. It is obvious the illustrator was inspired by the colors and history of Mexico. She does a wonderful job of depicting the story line while still interjecting humor and whimsy.

The story line itself, however, has some issues. Mainly, the writing reads rather choppy and forced. I would have much preferred if the chupacabra were more similar to the little old lady who swallowed a fly, where the chupacabra would devour any ridiculous thing including a candelabra. Also, reading this book aloud was very difficult for me as some of the wording didn’t really seem to flow right. Finally, there were some phrases that most kids will fail to get like “the whole enchilada” or words like “cucaracha”.

In the end, the book is a whimsical and funny read, but I was left wishing for more finesse with the storytelling.

TEACHING TIPS: Teachers could definitely use this book to teach the culture and history about the chupacabra, highlighting the place it holds in, not just Latino culture, but throughout the Americas. There could also be a unit on Mexican art, using this book’s illustrations for inspiration. Children could also perform their own little “Three Billy Goats Gruff” version of goats and the chupacabra as a play!

WHERE TO GET IT: To find The Chupacabra Ate the Candelabra, check your local public library, your local bookstore, or IndieBound. Also, check out GoodreadsAmazon, and Barnes & Noble.

Marc Tyler Nobleman ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Marc Tyler Nobleman is the author of Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman and Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman, which helped correct the credit line of one of the world’s most beloved characters. Formerly a writer for Nickelodeon Magazine and a cartoonist whose work has appeared in over a hundred publication, Marc lives in Maryland. His third-favorite thing to eat is anything banana flavored.

 

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Photo by Feather Weight

ABOUT THE ILLUSTRATOR: Ana Aranda was born and raised in Mexico City, where she first befriended a chupacabra, and she completed her undergraduate studies in illustration in France. She now lives in San Francisco, California, where she has painted murals in the Mission District, for the consulate general of Mexico, and for the prestigious de Young Museum. Her biggest inspirations are her childhood memories, the vibrant colors of Mexico, and music. Her first, second, and their-favorite things to eat are tacos.

 

 

 

headshotABOUT THE REVIEWER:  Ruby Jones has been working in public libraries since 2007 in various capacities, including Adult & Teen Services technician and webmaster at her current library.  She currently lives in Maine with her husband and precocious 2 year old. She continually strives to impart a passion and a sense of fearlessness toward technology, reading and learning for all ages.

Viva Smart, Bold Girls, and Viva Lola!: A Guest Post by Author Monica Brown

 


Lola Levine Is Not Mean! CoverBy Monica Brown

Why write a chapter book series?

I love this age of reader and I love this age. It really is an honor and a delight to write an #ownvoice chapter book series because my books might be the very first “novels” a child will be read, and the first read on their own! There are plots, subplots, world creation, and all those things that go into any novel. It’s a challenging genre to write in, but it’s an important one, because chapter books can establish a true love of reading. It is also one that has had a paucity of diverse main characters, and even fewer authors of color. While most librarians will know exactly who Junie B. Jones and Judy Moody are, we just don’t have multicultural chapter books with that reach and readership, and we desperately need them.

I’m very proud of the books my amazing illustrator Angela Dominguez and I created with this series! Picture books, middle-grade, and YA get a lot of literary attention–chapter books much less so. When I Lola Levine Coverdecided to write a chapter books series, my agent told me it would be a challenge to publish because there are fewer houses that publish them and a series is a big investment. Against all odds, Angela and I did it, and our books are among the first, if not the first, Latina-authored and illustrated chapter book series.

When I was in second grade, I would have loved to meet a rough and tumble girl like Lola Levine. You see, I spent a fair bit of time on the bench at recess! Apparently I talked a lot in class, played tag a little too competitively, and jumped in puddles on purpose. I do remember that my mother was called more than once to bring me dry shoes. In fiction, as in life, rascals and rebels might have more fun, but I learned to channel that mischievousness into creative outlets and team sports, not to mention a great deal of humor. Like Lola, I was also a child of two cultures, and I know first hand that mixed-race children, like myself and my daughters, are sometimes described as “half” this or “half” that, instead of beautifully whole. Lola Levine isn’t a fraction; she is made up of multitudes! As a Lola Levine and the Ballet Scheme Covermother, a teacher, and a writer who meets thousands of children each year, I’ve also observed the way girls (and boys) who don’t quite “fit in” can experience social exclusion, teasing, and even bullying.

These are some of the reasons I created the chapter book series focusing on this irrepressible character of Lola Levine, who is boldly, fiercely, herself. Lola teaches us that girls can be competitive and loud and funny, but sensitive and nurturing, too. This series is also covering new territory. For example, in the upcoming Lola Levine and the Vacation Dream (Book 5), Lola goes to Peru with her family and visits her beloved Tia Lola. She stays in the house her mother grew up in and learns about her own complex history and Peru’s. This may be the first chapter book that addresses themes of indigenous identity and colonization in Peru.

As a writer, I’ve been inspired by director Guillermo del Toro, famous for the film Pan’s Labyrinth, who in relationship to art, imagination, and childhood once noted that there is “a particular moment that we all go through when we are asked to stop believing and stop choosing who we are and become who Lola Levine Meets Jelly and Bean Covereverybody else tells us to be.” He goes on to say, “we should not obey . . . imagination should not comply.” There is such a freedom in being oneself, and that is a gift I bestow on my character Lola.  It was a dream and a pleasure to create a smart, diverse, multicultural character who each day chooses to be herself, and whose imagination certainly does not comply! Viva smart, bold girls, and viva Lola!

Interested in more Chapter Books featuring Latina Characters?  In her recent blog on “Latina Girl Power! Chapter Books with Latina Characters,” librarian Mary Ann Schuer highlights Lola and other chapter books featuring Latina characters.

 

 

To the left is Monica Brown as a young soccer player; to the right is her daughter, JuJu, the original “Lola.”

monicasoccer  julessoccers

 

monica6Monica Brown, Ph.D. is the author of many award-winning books for children, including Waiting for the BiblioburroMarisol McDonald Doesn’t Match/ Marisol McDonald no combina The Lola Levine series including: Lola Levine is Not Mean!Lola Levine, Drama Queen; Lola Levine and the Ballet Scheme, and Lola Levine Meets Jelly and Bean. Find Monica on Facebook at Monica Brown, Children’s Author, on twitter @monicabrownbks, or online at www.monicabrown.net.

Spotlight on Latina Illustrators Part 1: Angela Dominguez, Juana Medina, and Ana Aranda

By Cecilia Cackley

This is the first in a series of posts spotlighting Latina illustrators of picture books. Some of these artists have been creating children’s books for many years, while others will have their first book out this year. Some of them live in the US, while others live overseas. They come from many different cultural backgrounds, but are all passionate about connecting with readers through art and story. Please look for their books at bookstores and libraries!

Angela Dominguez

Angela DominguezAngela Dominguez was born in Mexico City, grew up in the great state of Texas, and lived in San Francisco. She’s the author and illustrator of picture books such as Let’s Go Hugo!, Santiago Stays, Knit Together, and Maria Had a Little Llama, which received the American Library Association Pura Belpré Illustration Honor. Recently, she received her second Pura Belpré Honor for her illustrations in Mango, Abuela, and Me written by Meg Medina. Her new books How do you Say?/Como se Dice?  and Marta, Big and Small (by Jen Arena), will both be published later this year. To see more of Angela’s work, visit her website, blog or twitter.

Q: What inspired you to become an artist?

A: Like many of my artist friends, I’ve always liked to draw. Growing up, I was obsessed with books and art in general. I’d spend evenings watching VHS tapes and drawing all night (if I wasn’t doing homework). Still, I didn’t really consider art something I could do professionally until high school. Fortunately, my high school really had a great art program and teachers who were supportive. Then I received a partial scholarship to Savannah College of Art and Design based on my skills and academics. That sort of sealed my fate as a professional artist.

Q: Tell us about your favorite artistic medium.

A: I still love drawing with pencil. It feels so good in my hand. I even love the way a freshly sharpened pencil smells. I also enjoy working with ink especially with a dip pen and brush. I just like how there is less control. It forces you to work boldly and confidently. My last favorite medium is tissue paper. I just really enjoy collage and the texture it produces. It’s really fun to work with all three at the same time. In graduate school when I saw that Evaline Ness worked that way, I was inspired to do it even more!

Q: Please finish the sentence “Picture books are important because…”

A: Picture books are important because they can speak universal truths to people of all ages. They can make you cry and laugh all in the same little book. (Also there are pictures!)

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Juana Medina

Photo by Silvia Baptiste

Photo by Silvia Baptiste

Juana Medina was born in Bogotá, Colombia, where she grew up, getting in a lot of trouble for drawing cartoons of her teachers.

Eventually, all that drawing (and trouble) paid off. Juana studied at the Rhode Island School of Design – RISD (where she has also taught). She has done illustration & animation work for clients in the U.S., Latin America, & Europe.

She now lives in Washington, DC. where she teaches at George Washington University. Juana draws and writes stories from a big and old drafting table, in an even older -but not much bigger- apartment.  Juana is the illustrator of the picture book Smick! by Doreen Cronin. Her new books 1 Big Salad: A Delicious Counting Book and Juana and Lucas will be published later this year. You can find out more about Juana on her website and blog.

Q: What inspired you to become an artist?

A: I grew up in a family where pretty much everyone had some kind of artistic outlet; my grandfather was a great draftsman, my grandma was a fantastic carpenter, my aunt a potter… everyone found a way to use arts as a way to express themselves, so it took me a while to realize not everyone in the world did this! Moreover, I went to a school that valued arts very much. So for the longest time, I thought art was just one more fabulous aspect of being human. I didn’t think of art or my ability to draw as super powers; they were simply an added feature, almost as a bonus language. Now that I recognize not everyone draws, I have dedicated a lot of time to using this ability as best as possible, to tell stories.

Q: Tell us about your favorite artistic medium.

A:  Ink is one of my favorite mediums, because I find it very expressive. I enjoy the high contrast between the stark white paper and the very dark black ink; it makes it very exciting to see lines and traces -almost magically- appear on the page.

Q: Please finish the sentence “Picture books are important because…”

A:  Picture books are important because they don’t require more than visuals -and a handful of words- to understand a story. And understanding a story can lead to a shared experience with those who have also read the book. This not only serves for entertainment purposes, but allows us to learn about other people’s feelings, struggles, and dreams. Picture books also allow us to see the world through a different point of view and they tend to teach us things we perhaps didn’t know about, like how people live in villages we’ve never visited, or what dinosaurs used to eat, or how giant squids live in the darkest, deepest waters in the ocean, all valuable lessons to be learned.

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Ana Aranda

Ana ArandaAna Aranda was born and raised in Mexico City, where she studied design. From there, she moved to France, where she lived for three years while doing her undergraduate studies in illustration. Ana now lives in San Francisco thanks to a grant from the Mexican Fund for Culture and Arts (FONCA). Her biggest inspirations are her childhood memories, the vibrant colors of Mexico, and music. Her work focuses on transforming the every day into fantastical situations, and often includes images from nature and whimsical creatures. Ana’s work has been featured in different galleries and museums in the United States, France, Mexico and Italy. In San Francisco, she has painted murals in the Mission District, for the Consulate General of Mexico, and for the prestigious de Young Museum. Ana’s illustrations can be found in picture books published in France and Italy. Some of her forthcoming titles include “J’ai Mal à Mon Écorce” (Éditions du Jasmin, France, 2015). She also illustrated ¡Celebracion! by Susan Middleton Elya, coming in 2016 and The Chupacabra ate the Candleabra by Marc Tyler Nobleman, coming in 2017.

Q:  What inspired you to become an artist?

A: When I was a little girl, I lived in a colorful city in Mexico called Cuernavaca, also known as the “City of Eternal Springtime”. My childhood memories in this city full of flowers always inspire me to create colorful and joyful pieces for children of all ages.

I have also been very inspired by my family, teachers, Mexican muralists and printmakers, growing up learning about women artists such as Remedios Vario and Leonora Carrington.

Q: Tell us about your favorite artistic medium.

A: I first learned to use acrylics when I was around 14 years old and fell in love with it! Since then I’ve been playing with bright colors and mixing that technique with others such as pigments, scratchboards, etc. I’m in love with color and finding how every color can be part of an emotional experience.

Q: Please finish this sentence: “Picture books are important because…”

Ana Aranda Cover

 

A: Picture books are important because they help you travel to different worlds!

 

Books to Check Out:

Dominguez, Angela. Lets Go Hugo

Dominguez, Angela. Maria Had a Little Llama

Dominguez, Angela. Santiago Stays

Dominguez, Angela. Knit Together

Medina, Meg. Mango, Abuela and Me

Brown, Monica. Lola Levine is NOT Mean!

Elya, Susan Middleton. ¡Celebracion!  (coming Fall 2016)

Cronin, Doreen. Smick!

Medina, Juana. 1 Big Salad: A Delicious Counting Book (coming Summer 2016)

The Comadres and Compadres Latino Writers Conference

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By Lila Quintero Weaver

Writers workshops and symposiums are every place you look, but only The Comadres and Compadres Latino Writers Conference is specifically geared toward the interests of Latin@ writers. I attended the conference last year and found not only wisdom for the writing life, but also an amazing level of mutual support and enthusiasm for networking among my fellow attendees. Another of the conference’s major strengths is the accessibility of the presenters. The roster of speakers includes authors, editors, agents, and other members of the literary and publishing industry with keen interest in increasing Latin@ representation in books.

My co-blogger Cindy L. Rodriguez wrote about her experience at the 2014 conference, and the year before, Yadhira Gonzalez Taylor shared a recap of the sessions she attended.

This year, on October 3, the 4th Annual Comadres and Compadres Writers Conference will be held at The New School, in Manhattan. The New School is also a co-sponsor of the event.

Adriana Dominguez, of Full Circle Literary, is one the conference founders and organizers. Speaking of this year’s line up, she says, “We will have some amazing editors in attendance on the children’s side, which represents an amazing opportunity for Latino authors in particular! This is the only conference that focuses specifically on Latino writing, and as the numbers of Latino authors (and editors and agents) have dwindled in recent years, we know that our work is more important than ever.”

Please note that the deadline for the lower registration fee ($125) and to sign up for one-on-ones with agents and editors is 9/16, so best to sign up now, while you can still get a one on one, and before the fee goes up to $150 on site!

Cristina Garcia collageThis year’s keynote speaker is Cristina García,  the bestselling author of Dreaming in Cuban and other important books.

Meg Medina, best known for her Pura Belpré prize-winner, Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, will lead the children’s writing workshop. Other panelists of note include Angela Dominguez, author-illustrator of many adorable picture books, such as Knit Together, and Daniel José Older, writer of the highly acclaimed YA novel Shadowshapers. You can learn more about the conference program and registration details at the Las Comadres website.

Comadres panelists

Scholastic Asks Three Questions to Three Latina Illustrators

By Concetta Gleason
Editorial Manager of Club Leo en Español

To mark the end of Hispanic Heritage Month this week, Club Leo en Español is proud to share exclusive art and interviews with three fantastic and dynamic Latina illustrators: Yuyi Morales (author/illustrator of Niño Wrestles the World), Angela Dominguez (author/illustrator of Maria Had a Little Llama /María tenía una llamita), and Alejandra Oviedo (illustrator of Animaletras).

We asked each artist to answer three questions in words and art:

1. What inspires your work?
2. If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
3. What are your words to live by?

Each woman provided wildly imaginative, unique, and different examples of her artistic persona and motivations. Let’s explore!

Yuyi Morales won the 2014 Pura Belpré Illustration Award for Niño Wrestles the World. Not to brag but Yuyi briefly made us Internet-famous (by association) when she shared a sneak peek of her exclusive art on her resplendent Instagram account.

Yuyi answered the questions in a comic-book style and as a new person: she awoke one morning—transformed and “more beautiful than ever”—as “Tzitzimitl,” an ancient Aztec deity who shares a deep connection with the stars and astrology. Ha! Eat dust, Kafka.

For the record, Tzitzimitl > cockroach. Any day of the week. Thanks, Yuyi!

 

Alejandra Oviedo, the illustrator of Animaletras, sent us sweet and imaginative illustrations that capture the beauty and freedom of childhood. Her illustrations are made from intricate and delicate paper cuts, and she is inspired by looking at the world through the eyes of a child.

1. What inspired your work for Animaletras?

My inspiration for the illustrations came from kids’ drawings. I find them beautiful, and they portray the most important elements of each animal. I also paid attention to animal pictures, and I visited the zoo many times to capture not only the animals’ shapes but also their attitudes and personalities.

2. If you had a superpower, what would it be?

I would love to fly like a bird.

3. Words to live by?

Always put love in what you do; believe in your dreams and do not leave them behind.

What inspiring answers! Thanks, Alejandra!

 

Angela Dominguez, author and illustrator of the Pura Belpré Illustration Honor book Maria Had a Little Llama /Maria tenía una llamita, sent us fun and playful photographs of Peruvian children and llamas that she used to as models and inspiration for her book.

1. What inspired your work for Maria Had a Little Llama/María tenía una llamita?

The inspiration for the project came from an illustrator’s assignment at a Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators conference. I was given the task of doing my own version of “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” I was excited about the assignment, but I found it really difficult at first to find inspiration to reinterpret the classic story. My first doodles felt a little quiet, soft, and too familiar. I wanted my Mary to have personality with rich colors!

Whenever I’m stuck, I go to the library. There, I began researching sheep and farm life. It was in a book that I discovered a picture of a little girl with a llama. The idea of including llamas with the sheep led me to set the story in Peru. Finally I knew how I could personalize Mary, and that’s when Mary turned into Maria. The more I looked at books, the more I was inspired by the beautiful faces of the Peruvian children, the rich textiles, and the lush landscapes. I’ve never been to Peru, and I think my desire to visit the country pushed me to create landscapes of this idealized world I have in my head.

2. If you could have a superpower, what would it be?

I would teleport. I love traveling, but I don’t particularly enjoy flying or how long it takes to get somewhere. Plus I would love to be able to give a family member or a friend a hug really quickly and then get back to work.

3. Do you have a life motto or favorite phrase? 

I have a few. First, I’m not sure where I read it, but “persistence plus passion equals success” is my favorite motto. I also love so many quotes from Winston Churchill and Henry Ford. This one quote, in particular, from Henry Ford is just so motivating. He said, “Enthusiasm is the yeast that makes your hopes shine to the stars. Enthusiasm is the sparkle in your eyes, the swing in your gait. The grip of your hand, the irresistible surge of will and energy to execute your ideas.” It’s just so beautiful.

Thanks, Angela! We’d be happy to travel to Peru with you!

It’s wonderful to see Latina illustrators have prominence in children’s literature, and that as visual storytellers they have broken new ground—from Mexican myths to remaking classic fairy tales.

We thank and celebrate Yuyi Morales, Alejandra Oviedo, and Angela Dominguez for opening the worldview of children everywhere.

Club Leo en Español supports your classroom with fun and affordable books that connect children’s home language and learning. Our books include amazing series, original titles, and winners of the Pura Belpré Award, which celebrates the remarkable contributions of artists who give voice to the Latino community through children’s literature.

Club Leo en Español apoya tu salón de clases con libros divertidos y asequibles que conectan la lengua materna y el aprendizaje de los niños. Nuestra colección incluye increíbles series, títulos originales y ganadores del Premio Pura Belpré, que celebra los extraordinarios aportes de artistas que dan voz a la comunidad latina a través de la literatura infantil.