Tuesday, November 25, 2008

It Was Grandma Beetle’s Birthday—to which Señor Calavera came bringing the present she loved the most

Grandparents, crazy teens, teachers, librarians, musicians, authors, artist, children and even a dancing skeleton came to celebrate Grandma Beetle’s Party last Friday in San Francisco.

You didn’t get to come?

It is ok; here are a few things to make you feel like you were there too.

First a picture of Just in Case: A Trickster tale And Spanish Alphabet Book, which released we celebrated at the party, and which we read with the help of musician Miguel Martinez and his group

Here is Sr.Calavera’s newest video, which we showed at the party as a response to many readers who keep asking me, “But really, who is Señor Calavera?”

Well, at last, the answer!

Who Is Señor Calavera from Yuyi Morales on Vimeo.

Images of the party are here by courtesy of Photographers Taft Weber, Kelly O’Meara, and Diane N. Ennis.

I know some of you didn’t come because you had dates with a certain famous vampire. I understand. I would have liked going too. The cake was delicious--how is that?

But even if you didn’t come, you should know that I am still looking for the mysterious sender of these flowers below, which I received at the party in behalf of Grandma Beetle. Was it YOU?

Last but not least, Señor Calavera has his super-chido new website. Go check it out!

Friday, November 21, 2008

It is time to celebrate Grandma Beetle’s birthday!

Can’t come to the party? I dare you to take a quiz instead. Come on, go ahead, see if you do!

Could you?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Señor Calavera and the paparazzi

Come and check an interview with Señor Calavera at Imaginary Blog. The anticipation of Grandma Beetle’s birthday celebration this Friday keeps growing!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Tomas Rivera 2008

Texas knows how to put together a book award celebration. Hurray for San Marcos and Austin!

We also heard that Juan Felipe Herrera was there last year to receive the award, and he kept people in stitches. How do you do it, Juan Felipe? I am sure one has to be born with that magic inside.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

La Chica Banda in San Francisco

Loved Café Tacuba since I was a teenager living in Mexico. This time I went to see them at the Outlands festival with my teenager son, who pushed me above the barricade and told me I am a chica banda too and go a dance like one!

Can you find me? Hint: I am not wearing my mask.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Just in Case: A Trickster Tale and Spanish Alphabet Book--Released

Officially available:

“Even better, if possible, than its predecessor”
-- Kirkus *Starred review

“Part ghost story and part alphabet book, this trickster tale transcends both”
--School Library Journal

Want to find it? Here are a few options (including your public library):
Indie Bound
World Cat
Barnes & Noble

Sunday, October 12, 2008


Two more days until October 14th, and then...Just in Case!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Hispanic Heritage Month Celebrations

Papertigers has a cluster of wonderful features this September, including an essay by me, where I talk about something people often ask me about: my favorite authors from my childhood. A rather complicated response to a very simple question, I would say.

My favorite piece comes from Juan Felipe Herrera, Heritage Apartment. I saw Juan Felipe this last weekend in El Paso, Texas, where, among other things, he illuminated me, and other people, about the true origins of Karate. Apparently, and according to his version, it all started with a tortilla. If you can, go ask him.

While you are there, tell him to tell you about the Chicanization of Obama and McCain.

Here is Juan Felipe doing so at the REFORMA conference on Friday.

And here are the REFORMA ladies calling librarian Ana Elba Pavon to announce her as the raffle winner of an original painting from Lulu Delacre’s The Storyteller Candle (written by Lucia Gonzales.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Making a whish

I want to be a filmmaker. I want to be a filmmaker. I want to be a filmmaker…just like him.

Father and Daughter by Michael Dudok de Wit

Thanks to Maria VanLieshout for the link

Thursday, August 28, 2008

What we brought from Mexico

For the first time in my life I missed my plane—my plane from SFO to Mexico City. Serenely I saw my flight leave without me. It was O.K. Everything has a reason, even if that reason if for me to learn to read the clock correctly.

Besides Mexico was still there when I arrived twelve hours latter, hot and humid like I remembered. The river was still there too, and so were the cobblestone streets, the stray dogs roaming and howling at night, and my mother with a hose in her hand watering her jungle of a garden.

At the Callejon del Diamante I bought a necklace of giant ojo de venado seeds, eyes of dear seeds traditionally tied on children with red ribbons to prevent the evil eye. I believe I am protected now for a hundred years.

Lalo the jewel maker lives in a three story house with a patio with a jinicuil tree. My friend Meche says the fruit might be delicious but those trees are full of hairy caterpillars, the kind that stings you and would give you a fever. Good thing Lalo spends most of his time inside his studio making silver and wooden jewelry, like the rings he made for my husband Tim and I; two rings made of one same silver band with prehispanic seashells design.

Luis Felipe has long hair down his waist (and so does his wife and their daughter) and he makes Jaranas out of one single piece of wood. As the vocalist and requinto player of the group Los Sonex, he is one of the best musicians in town. His group have just released their first album, there one can hear the song La Bamba being interpreted by the by the vocalist of the Café Tacuba . I wanted to buy the CD and so I looked for it all over town, but everywhere I went the album was sold out. Instead Kelly my son took requinto lessons from Luis Felipe and so, at the end we managed to bring his music home.

Did I bring anything else from Mexico? I made new pants sewing together patterned fabrics in many colors, and I have them here with me now. I brought coconut candy that I have been eating carefully and little by little after dinner. I carried a whole suit case full of jars of hot salsa with almonds. I had Señora Bordadora embroidering flowers on one a dress. Manuela gave me a reboso soft and multicolored like a fiesta. We also brought the strength of the river with its floating dragon flies and its singing rocks. We carried inside us the amazing heat of the ancient Temazcal bath that one takes inside a clay little room shaped like belly, where they bring red-hot burning rocks inside and then seal the doors so that one can feel like bring devoured by the earth.

Along we brought the love of our family with their laughs and their jokes, the food shared for hours and hours, the music at the neighbors house that the whole street can hear, the traffic stuck behind the garbage truck in a narrow street, the tortilla soup at the Green Leave restaurant where people can come in with their dogs, the handmade posters on the street encouraging people to walk more and drive less, the ice-cream cart outside the supermarket, which sells the most delicious helado de mamey ever, and the itching stings of a hundred mosquitoes.

And all of these should last us long enough.

Photograps by Kelly O’Meara

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Golden Kite Acceptance Speech

August 3, 2008
Yuyi Morales

At last the time had arrived; it was time to create my Golden Kite speech. The problem was I just kept thinking of two people—thinking about them over and over again. How was I ever going to be able to come up with a decent speech if all I did was think of Brian Selznick and Laura Amy Schlitz at the their Caldecott and Newberry speeches?

Fortunately for me thinking about them began to work—I started hearing advice. I remembered how Laura Amy Schlitz had said that in order to make her speech she had gone to the sea. Well, I would go to the hills! The hills are in my neighborhood, and my friend Chacho the Dog likes to run there, so, up we went. The hills are golden now, a color I have learned to appreciate while running up at the incredible speed of about 30 feet an hour.

Turns out the hills are a very good place to come up with inspiration. For example, there I came up with the insight I ought to run looking at the ground, should snakes slitter by if I am not paying attention. And I have also come up with the bright idea of peeking over my shoulder once in a while, should mountain lions be preparing for a chase. And there I have also come up with the revelation that if I look hard, really hard, I might someday, at last, see the magical creatures that inhabit the mountains.
Needles to say, some things keep proving ethereal.

Yet, it was there, while running under the shadows of trees that touch each other branches for miles and miles, that inspiration for my speech came, and I knew what I wanted to tell you about Little Night, the book that brings me here today.

And so I am going to tell you about Armadillo’s Night, a Peruvian legend that says that a long, log time ago, people were unhappy because they didn’t have a night. The hammocks hung unused, and the mothers had to cook all day for without night’s rest the children and men where constantly hungry. Until one day, when the men, women, and children took turns to look for a night. Not a tiny night, like the one they found inside the mouse’s hole. Neither a big night, like the one they borrowed from the Tapir’s den. But a night that was just the right size. And they found it; yes, they found it! It was enfolded inside the confines of armadillo’s armature—the most perfect night.

I also want to tell you that the Aztec goddess Citlalicue, mother of the Goods and the human race, wears a starry skirt, and that if we look up at night, we can see her in the sky.

Furthermore I want to tell you that my mother always wanted to be a hair stylist. She practiced on my sister’s and I, untangling our hair, putting it up in curls, braids, and buns, and adorning it with felt ornaments or bread-dough flowers that she made, and fragrant flowers from the trees, and that she would have put the planets and the stars in our hair if she could have only reach them.

And, yes, I tell you about all of these things because I took from all of them to create Little Night, a book that was born inside the creative and firm embrace of my writer’s group, the Revisionaries, the good love of Kelly my son and my husband Tim, and the care of Neal Porter and the Roaring Brook Press family.

I know that by telling you all of this, you are already realizing that my biggest talent is to love stories—especially other people’s stories. And that my second talent comes from something I practiced endlessly when I was a child. Again and again, when I found things that amazed me, that caused me wonder, that captivated me, I took my pencil, and with fervent devotion I copied the shapes and lines.

This brings me to Brian Selznick and his advice. His instructions came to me in my way down the hills as I had already quit looking at the ground for snakes, and having stopped looking over my shoulder for mountain lions, and as I had decided that only because I don't see the magical creatures it doesn't mean they are not seeing ME. Mr Selznick’s words were, “Create the speech you want to create.” Really, that is what he said. And I understand that any advice that Selznick offers actually comes all the way from Maurice Zendak, or so I am told.

And now, in honor of Mr. Selznick here I am, tracing with fervent devotion over his lines, to show my joy…

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Nochecita II

more about "Nochecita II", posted with vodpod

This morning I am in my way to the SCBWI summer conference in LA, to receive the Golden Kite medal for the illustrations of Little Night, Nochecita in Spanish.

But I have started my celebration already admiring this video from Teacher Tube of Madres sitting with their children and reading Nochecita to them.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Red Carpet of ALA

The Newberry/Caldecott ceremony has nothing to ask the academy awards or any others. For instance, the speeches this year were the top of the cream—or like we say in Spanish la crema y natanata which we eat it with bread or bananas.

If I ever had to choose among any red carpet, I would always go with the $3.99 red bathmat of the interviews at Caldecott/Newberry. Check it out:

To see more go to On the Red Carpet at Ala with Jim Averbeck and Maria van Lieshout, with guess interviewer Betsy Bird.

My moment at the red bathmat is there too in an individual video segment, but my favorite is audiomalfunctioned Mo Willem’s.

Monday, July 7, 2008

More ALA Views: Pura Belpre Award Ceremony

First a definition/description:
"The Pura Belpré Award, established in 1996, is presented to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth." --from ALA website

And now my report.
At my signings, during the days before the award ceremony last week, I handed out a lot these printed invitations:
Then on Sunday afternoon I combed my hair (which I rarely do otherwise), "ironed my best tie, and pumped the tires of my bike," and the celebration began!

Here is…

...what I saw at the Pura Belpre:
-The California Pavilion in all colors with mexican sarapes adorning the tables and balloons crowning the stage.

-Gorgeous Irania all the way from North Carolina libraries, the Fresno gang, the San Francisco public library—present, Jackie Woodson and her baby, the Harcourt family, my agent Ms. Sheedy, Maria van Lieshout and Jim Averbeck representing my writer’s group, Lisa Brown, the South Carolina gang, my father and mother in law, my editor Reka Simonsen and the Holt group, Suzy from Nevada, Rene Colato and his stories, Visalia—present, the Pura Belpre committee, Fuse#8, my husband, my son and his guitar…I don’t have enough air to name everybody who was in the audience and all of those who helped put this fiesta together.

Here some images from timomeara@gmail.com

…what I heard at the Pura Belpre:
-Suni Paz opening the celebration with her guitar, and her songs old and sweet like the ones my mother always sings.

-My son’s guitar, strumming solemnly the love-declaration song to a ghost, la Llorona.

-A lullaby.

…what was said at the Pura Belpre:

-“When I started submitting my story (Los Gatos Black on Halloween) to publishers, editors would ask me, ‘but what does Spanish have to do with Halloween?’” –Marisa Montes, Pura Belpre text honor speech.

-“I would ask my mother, “mom, would you rather be right or be happy?”, and she would answer, “honey, it makes me very HAPPY to be RIGHT!”
“Una cucaracha!”—Carmen Agra Deedy, text honor speech.

-“If only there were words I didn’t have to say, Like Juan Francisco Manzano, and Cuba, I could do my speech with out crying.”—Margarita Engle, the night before her Pura Belpre speech.

-“De colores, de colores se visten los campos de la primavera…” Audience singing accompanied by the music of the children mariachi band.

...what I brought to give away:
-I had a chance to share my Gatos Black in Halloween bookmarks I designed. They looked like this on each side:

..what I learned at the Pura Belpre:
-Margarita Engle has heard la Llorona cry. After my speech and my mention of the ancient Mexican ghost of the weeping woman, she told me how in the mountains she had heard a female mountain lion's cry, warning against anybody coming closer to her babies, “And you don’t know,” Margarita said, “whether it is a mother lion or la Llorona—the cry so much like a woman weeping.”

-Hope, Esperanza, is a beautiful name for beautiful women. Gracias, Hope for taking care of me that day.

Friday, July 4, 2008

ALA views

Back in my studio after an excellent weekend in Anaheim. Here are a few images of the exhibits from husband’s camera.

And so here are the...

Things I learn in Anaheim: Maps are deceiving. A two block walk in the broiling streets of Anaheim—from hotel to convention center—means a sweaty 25 minute workout.

Things I ate at Anaheim: Ice-cream sundae I made myself at the Roaring Brook Press Bowling Party on Friday evening. I also ended up with stiff right forearm and a 14 point score.

Things I saw in Anaheim: Books by Latino, for Latinos, about Latinos:

Pablo. Pablo Neruda, by Gerogina Lazaro and Marcela Donoso.

Outstanding: The work of Rafael Lopez continues to mesmerize me, wow! Take a lookybook of Our California , written by Pam Muñoz Ryan

And BOOK FIESTA! Celebrate Children’s Day/Book Day; Una celebración de El Día de los niños/El día de los libros

And I also found Rudy Gutierrez’s two first books, feasts to the eyes.

Papá and Me by Arthur Dorros

And Pele, King of Soccer/Pele, El Rey del Futbol, by Monica Brown, of which I don’t have an image of, but I can testify for its magnificence.

My attention went to these books not only because these are Latino, but because they are visually and thematically outstanding.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Montgomery Elementary and crossing haunted lagoons

I visited Montgomery Elementary in Davis before the end of the school year. We had assemblies and a mask making workshop. I was in awe with the skeleton masks the kids designed! Ribbons and pompoms where some of the favorite decorating material and were used so creatively that I couldn’t keep my mouth closed.

And so here are some questions sent to me from the third graders.

What is your favorite book you've made?
It is hard for me to choose a favorite book I have made. Some of them gave me unforgettable experiences, like Harvesting Hope: the Story of Cesar Chavez, a book that keeps making me friends with people who work and honor the legacy of Chavez. And I love Just a Minute with its birthday party theme, just like the cumpleaños I used to celebrate with my family in Mexico. Little Night is a book that reminds me of things my mother used to do and play with me when I was a child. This was a challenging book for me to paint due to its dark and yet colorful quality, and so I especially appreciated the satisfaction it gave me, after all my work and sweat, to do a good job. And Los Gatos Black is a celebration of the many things I used to be afraid of when I was a child, including witches, werewolves, el Coco, and la Llorona. Have you ever been afraid of la Llorona? I have!
My newest favorite is Just in Case, the sequel to Just a Minute. In this new book Sr. Calavera back comes back to the land of the living for this year’s Grandma Beetle’s birthday party. For this occasion—and in his quest to be on time—Sr. Calavera comes riding a bicycle decorated with tassels and bolitas, just like the bicycle I had when I was a child.

What is Señor Calavera supposed to be?
To me Sr. Calavera is a candied skeleton. The inspiration for this character was the Mexican sugar skulls children eat during the celebration for Day of the Death. These sugar skulls are always very colorful with lots of icing decorations. That is why Señor Calavera has decorations on his face, arms, and knees.

Why did you swim across the haunted lagoon?
I swam across the haunted lagoon because I didn’t want to be left behind inside haunted waters! This is how it happened:
When I was growing up in Mexico, my sisters and I became competitive swimmers. Our coach was a very creative person, and he constantly devised trainings that were very out of the ordinary.
For this particular training, the swimming team traveled to a youth camp at the edge of the famous Catemaco Lagoon. Catemaco is beautiful, hot and jungle-like, but it is also known for being land of witches and magical things. In the middle of the lake there are some tiny islands, one with herons, another one with monkeys. North of Catemaco, in the Monte Cerro Blanco, it is said that an annual meeting of witches and healers is held every March.
Our team consisted of my two younger sisters, two other girls, about four boys, and I. We all climbed into a small boat and took a short ride past one of the first islands, before my crazy coach made us jump into the water. “I’ll wait for you on the other side,” he said pointing at the direction where we were supposed to head towards. All I knew was that I needed to start swimming or else I would be left behind alone inside the dark waters of the Catemaco Lagoon. Some of the boys were already swimming ahead. At first I couldn’t even see the shore at the other side. We girls stayed together as a group for most of the swim. But we all, boys and girls, swam cutting through on one side of the lagoon; it is a huge lagoon (28.01 square miles) and it would have taken forever had we swam across the middle. It took us over two hours to reach the other side.

Maybe another I’ll tell you another time about the time our crazy coach made us swim to an island in the sea.

Where was Señor Calavera trying to take Grandma Beetle?
Hmmmm, where do YOU think?

Finally, here are some drawings from the letters I received from Mrs. Carol Stuwart’s 6th Graders. Look at the many interpretations of Señor Calavera!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Capitol Choices: Noteworthy Books for Children

Little Night has been name a Capitol Choices, and as I received the news, I found this book-award talk for Book Week:

Check this one too for Home of the Brave:

What to bring to ALA?

While I wait for Miss fuse #8’s next video blog, where she will tell me what to bring to ALA, here is my own list of don’t-forgets:

I-pod with Maria Bethania’s music from album Brasilerinho

Itinerary, addresses, map
Son with waxed eyebrow (yes, one eyebrow is all he has)
Husband with haircut (hopefully)
Pura Belpre Speech
Skyscraper-heels shoes for no walking at the Caldecott/Newberry
Pictures of Chacho and Luna so that I don’t miss them too badly
Silver signing pens
Lots of bob pins
Handmade purse
Gatos Black’ Pura Belpre printed invitations. Print one of your own here

Am I forgetting anything else?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Edison Charter Academy

I visited Noah’s school at the end of last month.
Noah, is a little boy who 1) loves books 2) bakes cookies and other munchies with the help of his family 3) along with his bother and sister goes out into the neighborhood to sells those cookies and munchies so that he can make money to bring author’s to his school. Who wouldn’t want to come and visit Noah’s school? I came and this is what we did:

We painted tattoos
We wore silly hats. Thanks goodness it was crazy hat day at Edison Charter Academy, so I felt just at home. My favorite hat? An hamburger hat with mustard lettuce and all that a teacher was wearing.

We admired the incredible skeletons made at the art class: dancing, skeletons listening music in their i-pod, skeleton super-heroes... you name it. I wish I had taken the art class too.

and we made faces at the photographer
It was a mighty good day in San Francisco!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Busy May

Much happened in the last month. Things like:
San Benito, Texas, with a beautiful author's festival that looked like...

Terry in her dress

Authors and organizers

Sweet bread, pan dulce, for 600 people

aguas frescas of delicious flavors

My amigo Rene Colato full of stories

And the High School mariachi band that made me cry

And then, one afternoon, when we were free from school visits and festival, we, eight children’s books authors and two organizers, crossed the border and, if only for a few hours, my Corazon was where it belongs: We were in Mexico.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Americas Award and the secret

The America’s Award announced its 2008 winners, honors and commendations. The picture book winner is none other that one of my favorite productions of last year: Yum! Mmm! Que Rico! America’s Sproutings, by Pat Mora, illustrated by Rafael López. I have already ordered the novel winner, Red Glass, by Laura Resau.

I did get an announcement too. And announcement that was first a secret. Here are the specifics:

The keeper of the secret: Dr. Jamie Campbell Naidoo, organizers of the USC’s first Annual Celebration of Latino children’s Literature, and –and unknowingly to me a member of the Americas Award 2008 committee.

What I was doing: I was minding my own business sittin in one of the front rows. I was the closing keynote speaker.

Witnesses: conference attendees including speakers Dr. Katie G. Short and Lucia Gonzalez plus about 300 people who came to this first-time incredible conference in South Carolina.

How the secret was revealed: Jamie introduced the conference, welcomed the attendees, and then proceeded to announced that they had held an announcement until that morning, so that he could let me know in person that Little Night had been selected as an Americas Honor book.

My reaction: “viva!”

Here is the complete winner’s list

Friday, May 2, 2008


Abuela doesn’t want to be called abuela, instead she wants to be called Mamá. Mamacita if you are afraid of her.

Even thought her husband the indio soldier already died, Mamacita still runs the house like military barracks. She shouts orders to her hijos and hijas, to the entenada who is nothing to her but lives in the house since her mother gave her away as a child, to her brother with sombrero, to the service girls who never go home, to the daughter-in-law who goes home only sometimes if she is granted permission, to the parrot before it got eaten by a rat, to the dog Loba tied on the roof, to the chayote plants growing wild in the garden. Mamacita, bellowing with the big drum of her belly, likes to give orders, and the house obeys.

This house, long like a chorizo, smells like carnitas fraying in the stove and candles lighting the Niño Jesus inside a glass box above her bed. But when Mamacita unties her braids at night, tired of giving orders all day long, what she longs for is the dusty smell of soldado indio. The bed feels so lonely since he left. The only thing her cama is good for now is turning around at night and for dreaming—dreaming that she is a child again and people call her Jirafa, giraffe with her long neck rising her eyes above the coffee fields where she works carrying sacks with the strength of a man. To Mamacita the world beyond looks misty and smell like pork.

But Mamacita stopped dreaming a long time ago. So long ago that her old birthday has already arrived and people now call her a pajarito; a little bird with her gray feather plastered to her skin and her hooked beak dipping weakly to the ground. Yet Mamacita likes birthdays almost as much as she likes giving orders, so shaking the flimsy feathers of her wings, she celebrate her pajarito birthday giving more orders. She is almost turning a 100, so her orders are a wish. With faint chirps that take her breath away, as the candles die out, she asks that the day comes for her to sleep with her soldado indio again. And like everyone else, the days obey.

Hermia Fuentes Viuda de Morales
Mach 22, 1914- May 2, 2008

Monday, March 31, 2008

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Tomas Rivera Award for Los Gatos Black on Halloween

We are going to San Marcos to receive the Tomas Rivera Book Award!

Not only is San Marcos warm and beautiful, but they make the best of celebrations.

I was there first in 2004 to receive the award for Just a Minute. The next year my husband Tim and I were brought again for the 10th anniversary celebration. All the authors and illustrators winners of the first ten years were there too. We all took turns being interviewed for a film about the award, we rode together in a big van like if we were a rock band, and we talked, had meals together, attended events galore, and were bonded for ever and until the end of the world. Here are a couple of pictures of most of us.

Alright, San Marcos, here come Marisa, Los Gatos Black and I!