Friday, December 11, 2009
Just in Case: A Trickster Tale and Spanish Alphabet Book is featured in Latina Magazine along with a small selection of other Latino themed and Spanish Language books here. This list also includes one of my favorite books this year: Animal poems of the Iguazu/ Animalario del Iguazu, by Francisco Alarcon and Maya Christina Gonzales.
The BCCB of the University of Illinois has an annotated list of books for youth 2009, here. My Book Just in Case it is there too.
My newest book, My abuelita, written by Tony Johnston appears in the San Francisco Chronicle Holiday Gifth Guide, and it is recommended in Over The River, Through the Woods: A Literary Visit To Grandma’s House by The Bulletin.
The United Farm Workers store recommends, of course, Harvesting Hope: the Story of Cesar Chavez, and so does the Donnelly/Colt Progressive Resources Catalog. While you are there also check the Peace Bank, a terracotta sphere with the word peace inscribed in many languages ( I am putting that one in my own list).
Now, if looking for a Christmas themed book, here come the recommendations for A Piñata In A Pine Tree, A Latino Twelve Days of Christmas, by Pat Mora, illustrated by Magaly Morales (yes, my sister), at the Contra Costa Times, The Horn Book, Grand Rapids Living, Children's Literature, and School Library Journal.
My personal favorite this season? Besides A Piñata In A Pine Tree, which offers a luminous representation of Latino Christmas, I was captivated by the poetry of Diego: Bigger Than Life by Carmen , Bernier-Grand and David Diaz. A powerful book.
Often people ask me where to find my books or those titles that I talk about, and I always send people to their neighborhood independent bookstore. I also recommend that if the bookstore doesn't currently have those books, to ask the clerk to requested them. Most bookstores will have the book available in a mater of a few days, and this is the best way to let local businesses know about more books that people want. But in case you need online help with obtaining books this holidays, I have included links to Amazon; just click on the titles.
Originally post source: my blog Corazonadas
Monday, November 30, 2009
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Yes, that one is mine.
I became interested since lots of children have reported to me (apparently school visits are a great way to collect testimonials) how THEY or someone in their family have seen or hear La Llorona crying. Have you?
Well, Jim and I have finally collected some terrifying footage, and in honor of my abuelita, who used to scared us children telling us stories, and in honor of all of the children who have told me their terrible tales, here is the video Jim and I put togehter. Watch it with caution:
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Nick Glass came visit last spring and we had a day of talking, filming, and working (and some eating of tortas de queso fresco too), and the result of his visit is now my author program available at Teaching Books Net.
If you are not familiar with Nick's work yet, let me tell you that Teaching Books Net is an amazing resource for exploring children's and young adult books and their authors. The program that Nick created about me and my work includes two mini-documentary movies (one of them in Spanish), a written interview, movie transcripts, Bibliography, and many other resources like name pronunciation for children to learn how to pronounce the names of authors like me that have weird names. You can find it all here.
Yeah, there are lots of other authors too, like my beloved Ashley Brian, the incredible Peter Sis, and many more--so worth cheking it out.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Six years, three years—oh dear, some times it takes a lot of time (and a big camera) to illustrate a book
I have been so absorbed in projects that I haven’t had a chance to celebrate that my newest book, My Abuelita, written by Tony Johnston, has hit the shelves this fall. There are many reasons for me to be excited about this book, but the most important one is that it was a challenge to illustrate it, and that I did it.
And so, in the spirit of a little release celebration, I though I would show how My Abuelita was made.
Care to find out?
Six years. In 2003, when I signed the contract to create the illustrations for My Abuelita, written by Tony Johnston, I didn’t anticipate that it would take me this long to see the work completed. But at the time I had other books to finish before I could begin any new project, and so time began to pass.
Time passing is a good opportunity for daydreaming. Daydreaming is an opportunity for imagining. And imagining is how my illustrations start.
During the years I needed to complete other books, I imagined how the illustrations for My Abuelita would look someday. When it comes to my work, I don’t really imagine things like a character’s features or the colors of skin and clothes. Instead, I imagine possibilities. And so I began imagining the possibility of making the illustrations for My Abuelita not with paintings, as I had done with all of my previous books, but utilizing something I had long adored: dolls and puppets.
When I had just arrived in the USA from Mexico, I fell in love with making puppets. I learned about it from books I borrowed from the library. It was through making puppets that I began exploring the creation of my own stories and characters, which eventually led me to create my own books. Yet I have never stopped loving the wonder of inanimate objects moving, posing, and coming alive to enact stories.
The more imagining I did, the crazier the idea of using puppets became. This seemed like a project that would require many different kinds of techniques: sculpting, sewing, painting, photography, digital work. Could I really do this all by myself? How was I going to make rigid puppets have facial expression? What would happen to the curved lines I like to use in my work? Could I still keep a sense of movement flooding my illustrations if I had to build them rather than paint them? Would I need to hire a photographer, and would he or she be in tune with the vision I had of my work? And more important, what would my publisher think about it? (They scratched their chins. “Let us see,” they said. “Try it.”)
In 2006 I finally started working on My Abuelita, a story of a grandmother and her grandchild living together and bonding through imagination and storytelling. By then I had closed my eyes to my own doubts. I had decided to use puppets and props to make scenes, buy my husband, Tim, the camera he’d always wanted, and finish the illustrations using digital media. There were still plenty of things I didn’t know how I would do, but I trusted that I would find a way of learning—I would study or ask people to teach me, and one way or another I would figure it all out.
The work began with bad drawings, as usual. My first attempts always produce the simplest and roughest drawings. They are stick people without features or details—pure shape and energy. Later, based on the text, I began refining my drawings to conjure this grandmother shaped like a pumpkin, her loving grandchild, and their cat, Frida Kahlo.
As I was establishing the look of my characters in sketches, I began working on thumbnails, small drawings where I concentrate on the compositional and storytelling elements of the 32 pages of the book. While in the past I have used my thumbnails as the road map for drawing refined sketches and ultimately paintings, this time my thumbnails were the reference for creating three-dimensional scenes. In these thumbnails, all of the characters, places, situations, attitudes, and objects in every scene were established.
With my general plan for the book visually laid down, it was time to begin building the characters and elements that would appear in the illustrations. I wrote down a list so that I would not forget anyone.
I have made puppets before; papier-mâché pulp is my favorite construction material. But I knew that My Abuelita needed puppets that would withstand extensive maneuvering. I would need to position them in diverse poses and attitudes, and they would need to stay. So I began studying stop-motion animation techniques.
On a wire structure I built by twisting wire and wrapping silk thread, I sculpted my characters. I used polymer clay, which stays soft and malleable while working, but hardens when baked in a kitchen oven. Because I needed my characters to move, I left bare wire joints for the neck, knees, wrist, fingers, waists, and more. Later I would cover the joints digitally. Once baked and hardened, I primed the figures and began to paint them. I decided then to give my puppets features but not expressions (including no eyes), so that later I could create expressions digitally for the different moments in the story.
For Frida the cat, I mulled over how to make her fuzzy. I found my answer in felting. Using a special needle with an indentation on the tip, I learned to clump felt fibers over my wire cat skeleton and sculpt them into the shape I wanted. The hair of Abuelita and her grandchild were also made with this technique.
Next I sewed their little dresses, pants, and shirts. The boy’s shirt is my favorite because I put it together with fabric printed with motifs based on a Mexican Loteria game. El corazón card became the front; el pájaro card is on the back. For many of the linens and clothes, I bought fabrics and laces in Mexico; many are common fabrics that have been used for generations.
Everything from little bedroom slippers to little toys, beds, spoons, a feathered crown, and more had to be created. I painted the image of the artist Frida Kahlo with my computer, printed it on fabric, then sewed it into a lace pillow for Abuelita. Some objects, like Abuelita’s iron bed, I designed while I was in Mexico visiting my family. There I found a metal worker who, following my drawing, cut and soldered the bed for me. Other elements, like the clay dishes Abuelita and her grandchild use at breakfast, are toy crafts played with by children in Mexico. I bought mine in el mercado, my hometown’s market. To create the metal mirror in Abuelita’s house, I embossed a sheet of aluminum foil in the style of traditional Mexican silver works.
My Abuelita is a story that honors both everyday life and imagination. These two worlds come together in the story, and they needed to come together in the illustrations as well, while still being distinguishable from each other. But how? I decided to depict the real world of Abuelita’s family with my three-dimensional creations; their imaginary world would be portrayed in my paintings.
And so the images began developing through an amalgam of different techniques. In my husband’s photography studio, we propped up the walls of Abuelita’s house, which were boards that I textured and painted. Using my early thumbnails as storyboards, we furnished every scene with the props I had made, and we positioned the puppets as they enacted the story in front of the camera. Depending on their complexity, setting up the scenes to be photographed took from one to three days each.
Lighting played a big role. From illuminating the general scene to adding glow and shadows to each puppet, the process was handled by Tim. He listened to and interpreted my lighting wishes, experimented with different approaches, positioned photographic lamps, and even constructed miniature reflectors and small light boxes in order to concentrate light on the smallest of characters.
Eighteen high-resolution photographs were taken to create the book. One by one I uploaded them to my computer so that I could digitally finish in Photoshop. The list of work to do was long:
Abuelita, her grandchild, and Frida Khalo the cat had to be given eyes and expression. Sometimes whole eyelids, mouths, and cheeks were digitally destructed and reconstructed in order to give their faces a more realistic expression.
Skin was built wherever bare wire joints showed. Fingers and toes were repositioned so that they would be in visual tune with what the characters were doing and feeling.
Some scenes required that new glows and shadows be manually redrawn.
Real food was cooked, photographed, and digitally served in the photographed dishes.
A model car that was smaller than we needed had to be seamlessly adapted to the driving scene.
The alligator clamps, clay, pins, strings, and any other tools that kept the puppets, floors, walls, and props in place had to be erased.
And the list continued.
One of the last steps was the blending of the imaginary world with the real one: my paintings had to be integrated into the photographs. Using my computer, I layered every photograph with a painting, one on top of the other, and blended them together as one. I erased some parts and redrew others. I extracted or copied pieces of the images, grabbing colors and textures, and then moved them where I needed them. In a way this felt as if I were sculpting the illustrations—not much different than my adding, extracting, and moving clay when I sculpted my puppets over the wire armature.
Then, after about three years, I was done!
Illustrating is a series of choices. I give voice to my work by choosing ideas, possibilities, and ways of using art (and not my ability to draw, my painting skills, or how good or bad I am at anything). I hope that the way I chose to tell the story of My Abuelita comes out with a voice “as round as dimes and as wild as blossoms blooming” and that even Abuelita would be proud.
Now that My Abuelita is long finished and is already a completed book, what I keep closest to me is that fantastic feeling of being at the studio, setting the puppets in the scenes. No matter how tired I was or how many times we reset the puppets (which often moved or fell, crashing the whole scene), it always made me squirm with pure delight to have Abuelita, her grandchild, and Frida the cat bring to life a scene I had only imagined. How I had dreamed of this perfect moment, ever since I was a child playing with my dolls.
Monday, October 12, 2009
One. What do I know about how other people should write their stories, or make their illustrations? All I know is how I do it. But nobody wants to be me; everybody wants to be themselves, right?
Two. My English is terrible, my words are endless, which means that anybody who is working with me will hear more words from me than he or she can actually understand.
Three. I work even in my sleep. There is not time for anything else. People who work with me in their projects have to put up with me not having time for nothing.
Four. I have a very capricious personal taste for stories and art. My opinions are tinted.
Five. I am the emotional type, I can't do anything without feeling heart pains.
Six. I can't make you published, really.
Seven. I am afraid of sleeping in that hotel in Virginia City infested with ghost--where the mentorship program and conference took place.
Eight. People know better what is best for them. If you are smart, you don't want me as a mentor.
Nine. I am vegetarian.
Ten. People invite me to be a mentor to aspiring authors and illustrators, and then I make videos about it (sight).
If you don't believe me, here is the evidence.
but I recommend you see first David After Dentist, which was our video muse.
And so, here is Art Director After Conference, filmed and produced by Jim Averbeck, Laurent Linn (art director at Simon & Schuster), and Truly Yours.
You are warned now.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
My book Just in Case: A Trickster Tale and Spanish Alphabet Book has been selected as one of the “Top 20 Favorite Read-Aloud Stories” for the New York Times sponsored Great Children’s Read event.
This means that if, on October 4, you go to Columbia University, at exactly 10:45, actor Dominic Colon will be doing a reading of my book. the event is large, so be there for plenty of other readers. Here you can find the books reading list and schedule
Monday, September 21, 2009
Against my request, she did all of the above.
With the diligence of an insect my mother sat at my computer and wrote down a hundred and so pages of the things she remember about growing up. At the end of her visit, and having only recounted half of her life, she wrapped up her writing with a "to be continued" and handed me her witting.
It took me about a year to revise and proof read, format the text and design a cover in my free time, until finally by next Christmas I was able to surprise her with copies of her printed memoir.
Earlier this year I received a notice from the printing house that informed me that now anyone can find it in Amazon, making my mother the first person in my family to released a book this year.
My mother visited us for a few weeks this summer too, and I saw it with my own eyes: she is nearly done writing her second installment.
Then there is my sister, Magaly. She is the youngest of us three sisters; I am the oldest. But very early Magaly grew taller than me, developed feet larger than mine, swam faster than I could attempt, could hold her breath longer too, and when she began drawing at an early age, everybody I knew, including me, were left in the dust.
So, of course, she has not one but two books published this year:
Here is an excerpt from a review of What Can You do With A Paleta, a book written by Carmen Tafolla:
“The lyrical prose is equally beautiful in both languages. Morales uses broad, curvy brushstrokes of contrasting bright and fruity colors to capture the look of Mexican folk art. The characters’ faces are round with slightly slanted eyes and rendered in golden shades of burnt sienna...this joyful celebration of barrio life is a must-have for children’s collections.”
--School Libray Journal
Magaly's colaboration with Pat Mora resulted in her second nook this year, A Piñata In A Pine Tree.
Here are some words from Kirkus review:
"Mora blends Latino holiday traditions of her native Southwest with some from Mexico. The gifts are ethnic dishes like pastelitos, ornaments like paper lanterns-luminarias-and spinning tops-trompos-and Mexican folk-art-styled figures. Morales's acrylic paintings complement the song, showing, in the background, family members engaged in activities that are revealed on the last page along with the identity of the amiga-a new little sister."
Just like I saw my mother's, I also witnessed these books of my sister develop. While Magaly worked on her illustrations, we constantly talked and looked at what she was creating.
Ever since then, I been trying to make my feet grow, and I have also been practicing holding my breath longer, because, you see, my family is leaving me behind and I don't know what else to do...
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Some of the most anticipated events at the American Library Association conference are the award ceremonies for the different children’s books categories, including the Caldecott and Newberry medals. This year I went to the conference to receive the Pura Belpre Medal for my book Just in Case: A trickster Tale and Spanish Alphabet Book. And it was heaven!
I did not exercise, I did not tour the city, I did not shop for souvenirs; instead I ate lots of dinners with librarians, signed books at the exhibit, and found new treasures among new books.
Some incredible books I saw at the exhibit:
Stitches, by David Small. What a book! This graphic novel (not exactly for little kids) is a masterpiece. Not only David has an incredible life story to tell, but he is a master at telling it with pictures.
Chicken Dance, by Tammi Sauer and Dan Santa is a visual riot!
Then for something softer there was Henry’s Night by D. B Johnson and Linda Michelin, with its soft and luminous illustrations. Looked at it for hours.
The book I can’t wait for? The Dreamer, by Pam Muñoz Ryan and illustrated by Peter Sis. Could there be a most perfect match? this book isn't coming out until Spring next year. Too long to wait.
I also saw my sister Magaly’s two new books, What Can You Do with a Paleta? and A Piñata in a Pine Tree.
But, of course, my day was Sunday. The Pura Belpre Award Celebration started at 1:30. Me? I Started with a signing at 11 am, and ended up signing books after the ceremony at about 5 pm, with only a short time to get ready for attending the Caldecott and Newberry banquet that evening.
But it was all so joyful! At the Pura Belpre Ceremony I finally met Rudy Gutierrez, who not only creates striking art, but who gave a much felt acceptance speech for his Pura Belpre honor book, Papa and Me.
I also met Francisco Jiménez for the first time, and people were right. He is so gentle and noble. Amazing just like his books.
Have you ever been at a Pura Belpre celebration? If you haven’t you are missing a great fiesta. There were multicolored ornaments hanging from the ceiling, Latino books on the tables, presenters and award winners—some dressed on rebosos, Virgin of Guadalupe printed dresses; I wore huge red dangling earrings to go with the merriment. Of course there were also speeches, tears (muchas lagrimas, many of them mine), singing, and little girls dressed as Jarochas (a traditional dress from Veracruz, my state) dancing to the son Jarocho tunes.
I created the artwork for the program. This is what the art looked like:
I was the last one to receive my medal and give my acceptance speech (here you can find the list on winners). A few minutes before I also received an honor award for the narrative on my book Just in Case, but they put me at the end of the speaker’s lineup so that I could give thanks for both awards. Except my speech was a trick! Instead of giving only a speech, this year I brought an extra present for everybody; something I made with the help of friends and with mucho corazón. If you were at the ceremony you received it. If you weren’t there, you can still have it here (or here):
I hope you enjoy it!
“I wrote because I wanted to know what happened to next to people I made up”-- Neil Gaiman at his 2009 Newberry acceptance Speech.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
I am in my way to ALA in Chicago this year. I'll be having a a couple of book signing on Saturday and Sunday morning, and then the big Pura Bepre celebration on Sunday afternoon (right before heading to the Caldecolt and Neberry banquet). If you are there, come to the Puira Belpre Award cerebaration! the event is free and the it is a fiesta like no other.
Here is the scoop:
2009 Award Ceremony
Sunday, July 12, 1:30 -3:30p.m.
Hilton chicago Hotel, continental Ballroom A/B
720 Michigan avenue, chicago, IL 60605
So, you comming?
Monday, June 8, 2009
KVIE, the public station from Sacramento eventually came to my house and filmed a testimony where I explained how that happened. I know that my testimony was aired in Sacramento because once I went to do a school visit there, and some parents were telling me how they had seen me in their TV, although it took me some time to figure out what they were talking about!
I have just found out that CPB received earlier this year a PRWeek award for their My Source initiative in which KVIE had participated with one of their spots, and there, featured in the news, is the spot they made with me.
You can take a closer look at article here, and can find more filmed testimonies here.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
It is true!
When I first began learning how to find my way towards the children’s book world, I stumbled upon the SCBWI and have never let go. In 2000, when I was just an aspiring illustrator, I won the Don Freeman SCBWI Grant, which gave me not only some cash to further fund my learning, but also gave me the confidence I needed to see my work as valuable and valid, and keep doing it more and more. In the years I have attended conferences, gone to retreats, joined groups, made strong friendships, given workshops, been a speaker, and won awards given by the organization.
This morning, when my friend Laurent Linn sent me the link for this tribute video to SCBWI, I …how do you put it mildly? OK, I almost fainted from laughing:
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Monday, April 20, 2009
My book Just in Case was nominated in the children’s category. This event is somehow particular (for being a book award, I mean) because they announce the winner “academy award” style. No one knows who the winner will be until his or her name is announced.
The winner this year was Pamela Turner, with her amazing book A LIFE IN THE WILD about animal conservation Schaller.
Ok, I didn’t win, but while I was waiting for the winner to be announced a message was left in my cell phone. At the end of the event I found out that the call was to announce to me that Just in Case is the 2009 Americas Book Award winner! (Chicago D.C. here I come!) I don’t have the information about other books selected yet. The Americas Award committee comes up every year with a rich list of award, honors, and commended book to look for. I look forward to hear more about all of them.
In the meantime I will report another list that Just in Case made it into just recently; the 2009 Notable Children’s Books in the Language Arts. Here the criteria for the selection of these books:
“The charge of the seven-member national committee is to select thirty titles each year that best exemplify the criteria established for the Notables Award. Books considered for this annual list are works of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry written for children, grades K-8. The books must meet one or more of the following criteria:
1. deal explicitly with language, such as plays on words, word origins, or the history of language;
2. demonstrate uniqueness in the use of language or style;
3. invite child response or participation.
In addition, books are to:
4. have an appealing format;
5. be of enduring quality;
6. meet generally accepted criteria of quality for the genre in which they are written."
This has been a busy time of the year, and will only keep getting busier as I approach the end of another book deadline and the ALA ceremony award before the end of my summer in Mexico. But there are so many exciting things happening (like, for example, my garden in bumming all red, and yellow, and fuchsia). So, in the name of good times, here are some images from the Revisionaries, my writer’s group trip to Asilomar.
It is true, our group can’t get enough of being together (even after our bimonthly meetings and numerous of celebrations), so this year five of the six of us went to Asilomar and rented a house. While some of us walked by the beach some others attended the traditional SCBWI Asilomar Conference.
In her way back home from the conference, Jackie Woodson came and visited us. At the beach we found these strange marine plants.
At our little rented house, and unexpectedly, we hosted the faculty and volunteers party for the conference. Here are Maria and Gianna getting ready for the night.
But before the party we found a stray dog! She was running among the cars, but stopped when we called her. She was loving and tame but I couldn’t take her home with me. Eventually we drove her to the police station to wait for her owners.
End of the party. Dishwasher machine dysfunction!
Afterward we had too much free time on our hands.
We began cooking spying plans.
Here is Jim resting and unsuspecting of being a spying target ( Lynn was a target too, but she is not supposed to know about it).
We had a yellow mysterious liquid to deliver to his rightful owner (in reality it is only shampoo, but it had Jim’s name on it)Spying...
Ah, we are already looking forward to next year.
Thursday, March 5, 2009
Consider that, although I have read many many picture books, I still wonder which I might have missed since I began reading them fourteen years ago after I arrived to the USA. Because I was already an adult when I started, I did not grew up with the titles I am about to mention. Instead, I grew some more with them.
These books are in this list because perhaps they made me cry, or because I kept thinking about them years after I met them for the first time, or because I couldn’t stop imagining what it would be like to make a book like those, or because they changed my mind, or my heart, or my body, or taught me something I still live by, or simply because I adore them with inexplicable, irrational fervor. But only ten books? I’ll do my best…
A Small Tall Tale From The Far Far North. Peter Sis.
The most powerful and unforgettable of Sis' books. I literally drank this book with my eyes when I found it.
Amos and Boris. William Steigh
My son and I would read this story at night over and over again, transpired by the sea and the love between this small mouse and a whale.
Chato’s Kitchen. Gary Soto and
Barrio cats in a picture book? I couldn’t believe my eyes the first time I saw this book! Chato is some kind of Pedro Infante of the children’s literature.
The Stray dog. Marc Simont.
Marc Simont is a genius. There is such a simplicity in his art, and yet, no emotion si too big for him. I cheered so much with this book.
A Mother For Choco. Keiko Kasza.
Some of the best endings ever in a picture book.
Calling The Doves. Juan Felipe Herrera and Elly Simmons
This book is soulful. A song itself.
Going home. Eve bunting and David Diaz
There is something in this story that makes me weep. Is it the longing?
Sitti’s Secrets. Naomi Shihab Nye and Nancy Carpenter
I love the letter at the end of this book. I just found that Shihab Nye wrote a different kind of letter one day.
Good Night Gorilla. Peggy Rathmann.
For the longest time I wanted to be just like Peggy Rathmman. I still do…
The Day I Swapped My Dad For A Goldfish. Neil Gaiman and Dave Mckean
Storytelling at its best. There are some many undercurrents in this story.
Dear Fuse#8, ten books would never be enough; a hundred books would never be enough…how could I leave out the following titles?
Lon PoPo. Ed Young
Monster Mama. Liz Rosenberg and Stephen Gammell
Freight Train. Donald Crews.
Madlenka’s Dog. Peter Sis.
The Arrival. Shaun Tan.
Emeline At The Circus. Marjorie Priceman.
Northern Lullaby. Nancy White Carlstrom, and Diane and DianeDillon
Wild Child. Lynn Plourde and Greg Couch
The Mountains Of
John Patrick Norman McHennessy: The Boy Who Was Always Late. John Burningham.