Book Talk: Octopus Stew by Eric Velasquez

.

We are an affiliate with Indiebound and Bookshop. If If you make a purchase through these links, at no additional cost to you, we will earn a small commission.

.

Welcome to another Book Talk, which can be found on our new YouTube channel!

ABOUT THE BOOK: The octopus Grandma is cooking has grown to titanic proportions. “¡Tenga cuidado!” Ramsey shouts. “Be careful!” But it’s too late. The octopus traps Grandma!

Ramsey uses both art and intellect to free his beloved abuela.

Then the story takes a surprising twist. And it can be read two ways. Open the fold-out pages to find Ramsey telling a story to his family. Keep the pages folded, and Ramsey’s octopus adventure is real.

This beautifully illustrated picture book, drawn from the author’s childhood memories, celebrates creativity, heroism, family, grandmothers, grandsons, Puerto Rican food, Latinx culture, and more.

With an author’s note and the Velasquez family recipe for Octopus Stew!

.

.

.

.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is sarodriguez_headshot.jpg

Sonia Alejandra Rodriguez, PhD is an Associate Professor of English at LaGuardia Community College (CUNY) where she teaches composition, literature, and creative writing. Her academic research focuses on decolonial healing in Latinx children’s and young adult literature. Sonia is a Mellon Emerging Faculty Leader.

.

.

.

img_0160

Dora Guzmán is a bilingual reading specialist for grades K-5 and also teaches college courses in Children’s Literature and Teaching Beginning Literacy. She is currently a doctoral student with a major in Reading, Language, and Literacy. 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!

.

Spotlight on Latinx Illustrators: Sharon Sordo, Tatiana Gardel, Luciana Navarro Powell

.

By Cecilia Cackley

This is the twelfth in a series of posts spotlighting Latinx 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 soon. They come from many different cultural backgrounds, but all are passionate about connecting with readers through art and story. Please look for their books at bookstores and libraries!

Sharon Sordo is an illustrator, cat hugger, and expert soup maker. As a Mexican girl growing up in the United States, Sharon found it difficult to relate to the many characters in children’s books that were available. Since then, she strives to represent different cultural backgrounds through her art. She lives in San Diego, California with her husband and cat.

Q: What or who inspired you to become an artist?

A: The magical way a story book can transport you into a new world through colorful illustrations captured my imagination as a young child. This is what inspired me to become an artist. Sharing my own stories and drawings with the people I love and igniting a sense of wonder in them, this is what will inspire me to do it forever. 

Q: Tell us something about your favorite artistic medium–why you like it, when you first learned it, etc. 

A: Through digital art, I have all of the traditional mediums at my disposal without the clean up and I can erase with ease. I don’t need a huge studio to store canvases and stinky oil paints, my pigments will never dry up, and sharing my art with the world and clients is amazingly simple. Drawing and painting in Adobe Photoshop along with my Wacom Cintiq, has made art more fun and stress free. One minute, I can try pastels, layer some watercolor on top, and finish it off with ink, never worrying about how these mediums will interact. I was introduced to digital art in college. It was there that I learned the basics. I’ve since continued to learn about different softwares for producing art and eventually landed on Adobe Photoshop as the most versatile and user friendly. I still dabble in traditional art, mainly ink and colored pencil, but I don’t think I will be illustrating children’s books this way anytime soon!

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

A: Picture books are important because they allow children to escape into different worlds and adults to keep our inner children alive and happy. We can learn great lessons from the stories we read and share. Also, we all get to own a piece of unique and original art.

.

.

Tatiana Gardel is a Brazilian illustrator and teaching artist based in New York City. She started her career in fine art, and while exploring other ways to express her creativity, she found a passion for storytelling and illustration. Tatiana co-founded #LatinxPitch and is a member of the Black Creators in KidLit. Her work has been recognized by the Society of Illustrators in New York and American Illustration.

She is the illustrator of the upcoming books Xavier’s Voice, written by Ashley Franklin (Innovation Press, 2023) and Painting the Sky with Love, written by Mary Baca Haque (Feiwel and Friends, 2023).

Q: What or who inspired you to become an artist?

 A: My grandfather had a passion for drawing and was the one to encourage me to draw when I was a child. I also grew up watching lots of cartoons, animes, reading comics, mangas, and playing video games. All of that sparked my interest in creating art and imagining stories. But it wasn’t until I was much older that I learned I could have a career as a professional artist.  

Q: Tell us something about your favorite artistic medium–why you like it, when you first learned it, etc. 

 A: I’m a traditional artist who transitioned to making digital art. In the past 2 years, I went from scanning and adjusting images to mixing up techniques to working fully digitally. This was an organic process and my goal was to mimic my traditional pieces. I really enjoy the freedom of working with this medium, how you can combine and explore possibilities without having to recreate the whole image. My portfolio is a blend of traditional, mixed media, and digital artwork.  

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

 A: Picture books are important because they are a gateway to imagination, knowledge, empathy and connection.

.

.

Luciana Navarro Powell is an artist living in San Diego, California, with her husband and two children. She has illustrated many children’s books over the years and has now started writing them as well. Her first two as both author and illustrator are My Dad Is the Best Playground and My Mom Is the Best Circus.

Q: What or who inspired you to become an artist?

A: There was not a single event or artist in particular that inspired me. Ever since I can remember myself as a child I was always drawing and reading, so storytelling through drawing evolved in an organic way. My father is an architect and I remember watching him sketching and marveling over beautiful architectural renderings, so I am sure that played a part as well. When it was time for me to go to college, there wasn’t a school that offered an Illustration major where I lived. I graduated with a degree in Industrial Design, which I enjoyed a lot and it had some classes that offered a good foundation for Illustration. I worked as a designer for a few years while I freelanced doing illustration projects. Eventually I circled back to become a full-time illustrator.

Q: Tell us something about your favorite artistic medium–why you like it, when you first learned it, etc.

A: I worked in a variety of analog media in the beginning of my career – acrylics, color pencils, printmaking;  but most often watercolor and pen and ink for black and white illustrations. When Photoshop came into the picture for me, it was a perfect way to integrate traditional media and digital art. My favorite artistic medium is mixed media, I used analog painted bits mixed with digital brushes. If I work on a book, the final art phase will usually last for about 3 months – when I finish it I usually take a few days off the computer by doing some analog-only projects on the side. Lately I have also enjoyed immensely doing sidewalk chalk art around my neighborhood and also plein-air painting with watercolor whenever I travel. You can check all these side projects at my Instagram account, @lucianaillustration !

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

A: …they offer a merger of imagery and language that will be an essential building block for a child life-long love of reading!

.

.

.

cecilia-02-original

Cecilia Cackley is a Mexican-American playwright and puppeteer based in Washington, DC. A longtime bookseller, she is currently the Children’s/YA buyer and event coordinator for East City Bookshop on Capitol Hill. Find out more about her art at www.ceciliacackley.com or follow her on Twitter @citymousedc

Celebrating 25 Years of the Pura Belpré Award: Book Talk About The Bossy Gallito by Lucia Gonzalez, illus. by Lulu Delacre

.

We are an affiliate with Indiebound and Bookshop. If If you make a purchase through these links, at no additional cost to you, we will earn a small commission.

The Pura Belpré Award is named after Pura Belpré, the first Latina librarian at the New York Public Library. The Pura Belpré Award, established in 1996, is presented annually to a Latinx writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth.

Cover for The Bossy Gallito / El gallo de bodas (Bilingual): A Traditional Cuban Folktale

We have been marking the award’s 25th anniversary in different ways on the blog. Today, Dr. Sonia Rodriguez and Dora M. Guzmán talk about The Bossy Gallito / El Gallo De Bodas by Lucía M. Gonzálezillustrated by Lulu Delacre. The book won honors in 1996 for both narrative and illustration.

You can find our book talks on our new YouTube channel!

.

.

.

.

.

Sonia Alejandra Rodriguez, PhD is an Associate Professor of English at LaGuardia Community College (CUNY) where she teaches composition, literature, and creative writing. Her academic research focuses on decolonial healing in Latinx children’s and young adult literature. Sonia is a Mellon Emerging Faculty Leader.

.

.

.

img_0160

Dora M. Guzmán is a bilingual reading specialist for grades K-5 and also teaches college courses in Children’s Literature and Teaching Beginning Literacy. She is currently a doctoral student with a major in Reading, Language, and Literacy. 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!

.

.

.

.

Spotlight on Latinx Illustrators: Raissa Figueroa

.

We are an affiliate with Indiebound and Bookshop. If If you make a purchase through these links, at no additional cost to you, we will earn a small commission.

By Cecilia Cackley

This is the tenth in a series of posts spotlighting Latinx 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 soon. They come from many different cultural backgrounds, but all are passionate about connecting with readers through art and story. Please look for their books at bookstores and libraries!

.

Raissa Figueroa

Raissa Figueroa is an illustrator and graphic designer based in San Diego, California. Her art graces such picture books as Princess, Unlimited, by Jacob Sager Weinstein, and Oona, by Kelly DiPucchio.

.

Q: What or who inspired you to become an artist? 

A: I recently stumbled on some journals I had written in the 3rd grade at my parent’s house and found these gems:

.

But life happened and I was too scared to succumb to the “starving artist” motif. I continued to sketch in the margins of my notebooks in school, fiddled with Microsoft paint and took a life drawing class in college, but in the end, I switched my major to graphic design so that I’d have a better chance financially. I learned a lot of things that I was able to use in landing my position at the small business I ended up working at from right after I graduated college in 2012 up until March of 2020. But my spark for pursuing art returned to me a bit earlier, in 2016, following a suicide attempt that left me unable to move around very well for a stretch of months. It just so happened that I stumbled across a channel on YouTube that focused on concept art. I was thrilled that such a thing even existed, and I became OBSESSED.

I watched every art-related video I could find on YouTube, blew through self directed online classes, bought books, and sketched profusely. Coincidentally, in the summer of 2016, my friend began a weekly paint night, and that’s where I discovered a love of watercolor. Even after she moved away, I still continued to practice painting, slowly building my confidence from primarily sketches and drawings with pencils, to the wonderfully frightening and exciting world of color.

I began to post to Instagram, and through a series of strange events, too long to list here, I landed a literary agent who introduced me to the world of children’s books. Through an act of God, I landed several book deals within a very short time frame, and so began the pursuit of this life path: returning to my childhood self, who seemed to know me better than I do now.

Art was a literal life-saver for me, seeing me through some very intense ups and downs in my life. There’s something that happens when I’m “in the zone” so to speak that feeds my soul and makes time, to-do lists, wants and worries, fears and anxieties, heck, even life slip away. And if that wasn’t enough, just knowing that my art can be used to bring joy others makes my heart swell with happiness and purpose. I don’t mind starving, but I definitely need to be an artist!

.

Q: Tell us something about your favorite artistic medium–why you like it, when you first learned it, etc. 

A: When I began arting, I had cycled through a few mediums here, dabbled in a few mediums there, but ultimately when I had landed on watercolor in 2016, it was love at first brushstroke. Ironically, because I’ve spent so much time recently in the digital realm completing client work, I sort of stopped using it along with any kind of traditional media. I love how the colors blend and flow together so wonderfully! I hope to do more of it in the near future, and experiment with different mediums I’ve never tried before! Using my hands (and even my whole body sometimes) just gives you a whole different experience that really connects you with the process of creating something; at least for me I’ve been unable to achieve the same thing digitally, but I am *so* thankful for that Ctrl+Z…sometimes when I’m painting, I find myself tapping the page like I would my iPad.

.

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

A: Not only are they a work of art but they give kids a chance to fall in love with reading. My mom was extremely good about that and I remember bedtime very fondly because she always made us an offer. Another hour of cartoons, or a new story for that night. We always chose the latter! That love of reading stuck with me and has undoubtedly helped me in my journey from child to adult. Not to mention you don’t need to plug them in or access the internet to immerse yourself in another world.

.

.

.

.

.

cecilia-02-original

Cecilia Cackley is a Mexican-American playwright and puppeteer based in Washington, DC. A longtime bookseller, she is currently the Children’s/YA buyer and event coordinator for East City Bookshop on Capitol Hill. Find out more about her art at www.ceciliacackley.com or follow her on Twitter @citymousedc

Spotlight on Latinx Illustrators: Erika Meza

.

We are an affiliate with Indiebound and Bookshop. If If you make a purchase through these links, at no additional cost to you, we will earn a small commission.

By Cecilia Cackley

This is the eleventh in a series of posts spotlighting Latinx 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 soon. They come from many different cultural backgrounds, but all are passionate about connecting with readers through art and story. Please look for their books at bookstores and libraries!

.

Erika Meza

Erika Meza is a Mexican Migrant: colorful, bubbly, and a taco connoisseur. After studying graphic design back home (and moving house nearly 30 times) she lived in a dungeon with a princess in Paris to attend the Illustration (Image Imprimée) program at ENSAD, which got her addicted to chocolate éclairs and 2 am bike rides by the river.

She now lives with a cat in the UK where she works with ink, gouaches, and watercolor pencils as an author and illustrator.

.

Q: What or who inspired you to become an artist? 

A: I remember vividly being four or five years old, and watching a making-of my parents had recorded for me on a Betamax cassette (for the younglings, that’s the grandfather of the VHS tape) about the ink-and-paint girls in the Disney studios. All those women having access to all of those paint colors, and creating all those beautiful and precise paint strokes, was for me the equivalent of a dream-world: it quickly became one of the most rewinded tapes of my childhood. Later on, becoming a children’s illustrator turned into the obvious choice: it meant I could write, design characters, and my own little universes: in short, to wear all of the creative hats I wanted.

.

Q: Tell us something about your favorite artistic medium–why you like it, when you first learned it, etc. 

A: Oh gosh, watercolor pencils and inks. I love drawing, I love sketching – the messier it is, the better. But when I paint, I have a tendency to go clean and precise. As a result, people often told me that my final artwork lacked the energy and the vibrancy I had in my sketches.

It took a lot of patience and confidence, but watercolor pencils solved that problem for me. I sketch in my usual way directly on the final watercolor paper, and then allow the splashes of watercolors and inks to flow and help me discover the illustration as I go. It means letting go of a certain amount of control, which is hard for my perfectionistic brain to accept (and probably nerve-wrecking to the art directors who have never seen me work, haha). But the end result keeps being a surprise, and retains all the joy I have in making it, even if I have to paint it again from scratch if something went wrong. And I very much think it shows in the final result.

.

.

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

 A:…because they establish the relationship we will have to books growing up, as well as start helping us understand the world we live in. They are the first window we have to other cultures, other stories, and to our own imagination.

.

.

.

.

cecilia-02-original

Cecilia Cackley is a Mexican-American playwright and puppeteer based in Washington, DC. A longtime bookseller, she is currently the Children’s/YA buyer and event coordinator for East City Bookshop on Capitol Hill. Find out more about her art at www.ceciliacackley.com or follow her on Twitter @citymousedc

Celebrating 25 Years of the Pura Belpré Award: Book Talk About Doña Flor: A Tall Tale About a Giant Woman with a Great Big Heart by Pat Mora, illus. by Raúl Colón

.

We are an affiliate with Indiebound and Bookshop. If If you make a purchase through these links, at no additional cost to you, we will earn a small commission.

The Pura Belpré Award is named after Pura Belpré, the first Latina librarian at the New York Public Library. The Pura Belpré Award, established in 1996, is presented annually to a Latinx writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth.

We will be marking the award’s 25th anniversary in different ways on the blog. Today, Dr. Sonia Rodriguez and Dora M. Guzmán talk about Doña Flor: A Tall Tale About a Giant Woman with a Great Big Heart, written by Pat Mora and illustrated by Raúl Colón. The book won the 2006 Pura Belpré Illustration Award. You can find our book talks on our new YouTube channel!

.

.

.

Sonia Alejandra Rodriguez, PhD is an Associate Professor of English at LaGuardia Community College (CUNY) where she teaches composition, literature, and creative writing. Her academic research focuses on decolonial healing in Latinx children’s and young adult literature. Sonia is a Mellon Emerging Faculty Leader.

.

.

.

img_0160

Dora M. Guzmán is a bilingual reading specialist for grades K-5 and also teaches college courses in Children’s Literature and Teaching Beginning Literacy. She is currently a doctoral student with a major in Reading, Language, and Literacy. 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!

.

.

.