Monday, December 27, 2010

Nosotros--my familia

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Saturday, December 18, 2010

List, more list, and Yuyilist

This is the time when children's books lists naming the best of the year sprout. You might have seen them already too:

The NY public Library 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing10 for '10: Best Books for Youth on social Justice and Intercultural UnderstandingKirkus 2010 Best Children's Books
Publishers Weekly Best Children's books 2010The New York times Best Illustrated Children's Books of 1010
The Huffington Post Best Picture Books 2010School Library Journal Best Books 2010: Picture Books2010 Horn Book Fanfare

Even a couple of my favorite literary people make their own well informed list:

Fuse #8 100 Magnificent Children's books of 2010
Richie's picks: The Best of 2010

and many more.

So, why not a Yuyilist? Ok, unlike reviewers, I don't get to see even a minimal part of the about 5,000 children's books that are published every year. So my list would have to be different; it wouldn't be about naming the best of the year according to me. Instead it will have to be about 2010 books that caught my eye, that surprised me, that kept me reading late at night. And so here they are:

Dear Primo: A Letter to My Cousin. Duncan Tonatiuh (what a magnificent name; The Sun God) illustrated this book with an style that brings to modern days the indigenous art of Mexico. Notice the painting of people facing sideways like in the Mayan and Aztec art. The more I look at this book the more I admire it.

Chavela's Magic Bubble Gum. Yes, this book is illustrated by my sister Magaly, and, of course, I naturally feel close to anything she produces. But when I went to the store and looked inside the shelves, and even though I have seen the illustrations while it was being made, guess which book caught my eye? Yes, it was hers, with its warm colors and the magic of the bubble gum harvested from the sapodilla tress, with Abuelita's sweet face and pretty dresses, and the chicleros's whistling songs while they work.

Henry in Love= Yuyi in Love. To me this book is the epitome of a picture book: simple, elegant, beautiful, charming, carefully illustrated; in my opinion the right direction for picture books. An inspiration.

Me, Frida, to date the best work of David Diaz. Oh-huh, does that mean that he could win the...? He could win anything, indeed!

The Extraordinary Mark Twain (According to Susy). What a book! I loved peeking inside the little pages inserted between spread that show Susy's writing about her famous father Mark Twain. But what I loved even more what the cleverness of the compositions, the play of the illustrating elements, the light, and the use of lines.

Tortilla Sun. This middle grade novel kept transporting myself to the desert to make and savor tortillas in a different style from the one I learned when I was a child. While I didn't necessarily think of this book as magical realism (the way it has been publicized), I enjoyed it for the narrative, the landscapes it portrayed, and the familiarity I felt with the characters in this story.

Shadow. Susy Lee keeps coming with books that leave me thinking, leave inspired, and even leave me a little scared sometimes. There very few words in her books, but her designs makes for great narratives where feelings are abundant.

Petit, the Monster. Is Petit bad or is he good?. He is bad when he lies, but then he is good when he tells stories, right? I used to have the same problem as Petit; as a child I couldn't figure out if I was good or bad. I actually think, like this story suggest that, like in Petit's case, duality simply runs in my family.

Any Small Goodness: A small Novel of The Barrio. OK, I know, I know. This is not a 2010 book. I know! But it was only this year that I read Tony's novel, and I was wowed. This book is a little jewel, like a secret kept inside a little box in Abuelita's closet. What a pleasant surprise to find a book with inexplicable characters like Abuelita who arrived from Aguascalientes on a Norteño bus carrying her prayer book, a photograph of Grandfather, and her lava grinding stone molcajete. Or Mami, who's got possum-pavor, because she is convinced that they will give her tlacuachazos big possum hits when she take the garbage out at night. One of my favorite reads this year.

Now I must confess, I got a soft spot for City Dog, Country Frog. At first I wasn't warmed up to the image in the cover, but open it up and the images are tender, engaging, and funny. A book to love.

Other books I greatly enjoyed:
Little Owl Lost
The Dreamer
Side to Side: The Story of Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez
My Shoes and I
The Boss Baby
Dave the potter (what an elegant and beautiful book)

One book I haven't gotten to see yet, but that I am awaiting to read before the year is finished is Mr. Mendoza's Paintbrush. this is a graphic novel, and I am very taken with the description and the art in the cover. Take a look.

What I am anticipating to see next year are two books with art from two of my favorite illustrators, Rafael Lopez and John Parra respectively, La Cazuela That The Farm Maiden Stirred (just look at this artwork!)

and Waiting For The Biblioburro.

I, for once, can't wait.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Ways to give a book

In preparation for the holiday giving, Mother Reader has posted her 105 ways to give a book, and I am very, very inspired with her ideas. A book has always seemed to me a present good enough to be given on its own, but matching a book with something that relates to that particular book's experience, seems to me the ultimate gift. And, so, in preparation for my own holiday giving, and inspired by Mother Reader's ideas, here I am offering some ideas for giving books. These books are among my recent favorites. They are also particular to what I know; my own cultural experience. I would love to hear your own ideas for your favorite books.

1.Give Chavela and the Magic Bubble with some pieces of Mexican bubble gum. I went to my local Mexican produces store and I found a few choices, but I ultimately decided to order online a bag of Chicles Motita, which were the classic gum I chewed when I was a child. They were not easy to find, but here is where you can order them too.

Now, here is a second idea for giving Chavela and the Magic Bubble; pair it with a hand made doll in a blue dress, like the one that is featured and shared by the protagonist of this book. I am a firm believer and practitioner of handmade gifts and here are some places and tutorials to make a doll:

You can learn how to make a cloth and paper clay doll at Jane Desrosier's online group for a yearly fee of $10 (I am a member of this group).

A tutorial for making a felt doll can be found here at The Purl Bee.

Or perhaps even a corn husk doll. The skirt can be dyed blue following these instructions.

2. Me, Frida.

This gorgeous book can be paired with a handmade portfolio and easel. Tutorial at the Giver's Log.

Or with a Frida paper doll by Donal Hendricks.

3. Diego, Bigger than life is one of my favorite books ever.

This poetic exploration of the life and artwork of the Mexican Muralist Diego Rivera can be given along a set of homemade stripey sidewalk chalk like this one:

Once more find the tutorial for this fabulous chunky clacks at the Giver's Log.

4. Playing Loteria/El Juego de la Loteria book can be wrapped together with a Loteria Game set. Then have a family day of playing loteria. A traditional set can be purchased here, and here, as well as a Day of the Dead Loteria here. But you can also make your own loteria. Here is a tutorial from Maison Celeste. In need of inspiration? Look at this Space Loteria by Chepo Peña!

5. P is for Piñata: A Mexican Alphabet, is a book full of riches. Every time I read this book I find myself traveling trough the Mexican landscape of the paintings of John Parra. It is a nostalgic book for me and I plan to give it to people I love so that they themselves discover the tomb of the Mayan king Pakal, and learn how the Aztecs used to drink chocolate cold, bitter, and mixed with flowers. This book is so packed with information that the choices of what to pair it with are endless. But here I am going with a piñata.

From Simply Modern Mom, here are instructions for a beautiful ice cream piñata.

Except making piñatas can prove laborious. Here is a tutorial for an easy star piñata. And here one to make a piñata from a paper bag.

Now, my mother, who worked for many years as an elementary school teacher in Mexico, also knew that piñatas can be dangerous. So here is a safe piñata version like the ones she used to make for her students. This one from Ikatbag is to be pulled by hanging ribbons rather than hit with a stick.

6.The Dreamer. This novel based in the childhood of the poet Pablo Neruda can be given together with a magnetic poetry kit.

Even better, how about pairing it with these poetry kit cookies? I found the instructions at The Decorated Cookie blog.

7. Since seven is my favorite number, here is (for now) my last book to give away. The Lacuna surprised me, delighted me, infuriated me too! It is a book to provoke many emotions. More than anything else I was surprised at how I believed that the author had been there, at every moment of the story, in a country that is mine, with characters that are part of my history, and yet showing me something new and unexpected.

I would give this book to any adult friend (and also to some big kids I know) along with a box of pan dulce.

Freshly backed Mexican pan dulce can be found at your local Mexican bakery or store. But, if you are adventurous enough to make the beard yourself, here is a recipe from Joy the Baker.

Happy giving.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thank you. Gracias.

Thank you for stories. Gracias.
Thank you for my drawing table. Gracias.
Thank you for my hands. Gracias.
Thank you for my son still sleeping. Gracias.
Thank you for Crazy Luna and always-hungry Chacho. Gracias.
Thank you for my fiery bougainvillea. Gracias.
Thank you for persimmons. Gracias.
Thank you for my husband's warm feet. Gracias.
Thank you for hot pink. Gracias.
Thank you for pastel de tres leches. Gracias.
Thank you for my writers group, The Revisionaries. Gracias.
Thank you for Skype and my sister, my brother, and Monica on the other side of the monitor. Gracias.
Thank you for Pat Mora and her poems. Gracias.
Thank you for my mandolin. Gracias.
Thank you for Ollin. Gracias.
Thank you for Tim's salsa verde. Gracias.
Thank you for my sewing machine. Gracias.
Thank you for John Parra and his paintings that remind me of my childhood. Gracias.
Thank you for books. Gracias.
Thank you because I could never be done saying gracias.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Talking about Ladder to the Moon

It was last September that I began drawing and painting the illustrations of Ladder to the Moon, a picture book written by Maya Soetoro-ng. This fall , as the book is going through the printing process, our publishers, Candlewick, is sharing two video interviews. one with Maya and another one with me, were we talk about the making and the inspiration behind Ladder to the Moon.

I am particularly fond of hearing Maya speak. I love this woman's both strength and tenderness.

For more news and interviews about Ladder to the Moon, you can follow the book's progress in Facebook

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Blog Tour and book giveaway: A visit from an Abuelita and her Chocolate

Latina author Mara Price recently shared with me the joy of bringing to the world her new book Grandma's Chocolate/ El Chocolate De Abuelita. To celebrate, I am opening the blog tour for her book about this traveling grandma who carries ancient treasures inside her suit case--amongst them stories of brown princesses and delicious chocolate.

I met Mara a few years ago at the Feria del Libro in LA, a true barrio book celebration, and she and I talked about books, illustrating, and her work in Iguana Magazine. Mara is also one of the founders of Los Bloguitos, a blog in Spanish where Mara and other authors share poetry, drawings, stories, riddles and much more to children.

Now, Mara not only is giving me a chocolate craving (one of my earliest memories of chocolate is the irresistible smell that came from the old Chocolate Locomotora factory a few block away from where my grandmother lived), but Mara is also bringing presents.

First she is sharing for the first time the video trailer for Grandma's Chocolate/El Chocolate De Abuelita. The second present is a book giveaway. One lucky person who leaves a comment to this post will receive a copy of her delicious book. But remember, we will need to receive at least four comments from different people to give the book away. So, are you game?

See below for more information about where to follow the blog tour.

A toast with hot chocolate (and a sprinkle of chile powder on top, the way the Aztecs used to drink it). Salud.

Blog Tour schedule and information:

Tuesday, November 16
On Beyond Words & Pictures
Chocolate recipe and the importance of chocolate in Mesoamerica
by Megan Frances

Wednesday, November 17
La Bloga
The Story Behind the Story
by Rene Colato Lainez

Thursday, November 18
Out of the Paintbox
Mara Price interview
by Diane Browning

Friday, November 19
Latin Baby Book Club
Book giveaway
By Monica Olivera Hazelton

*Monday, November 22
Writing a History-based Fiction Story for Children
By Adriana Dominguez



Birthday celebration with necklaces

When I went to Texas in October, my school host and escort introduced me to the work of Gabriela Sanchez. I would very much have like one of Gabriela necklaces as my birthday present last week. My husband bought me instead tiny saws, dug out from his tool box an small electric hand drill, and bought me a package of Silver Clay. And so for my birthday I made me birthday necklaces.

I drew the design, a burrito piñata and two flaming hearts. The Precious Metal Clay comes in a small quantity of material not much bigger than a piece of chewing gum. It is very sticky too. I cut the design with an X-acto knife, and then cleaned it with a rubber stick.

I let them dry until next day. They still needed sanding and smoothing the edges.

Then, using a metal mesh I fired them on my stove for about five minutes after they get glowing pink.

Once they cooled off I brushed them with a wire brush and soapy water.

And I finally strung them with beads.

I made me two necklaces. This second one it is not silver clay but silver wire that I learned to make and shape in Mexico last summer at the Taller de Plateria in Xalapa.

It was a very happy birthday for me!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The return of the loved ones dead

The tradition says that today, November 2nd, the dead will return to visit--time to clean the house, prepare the food, turn on the music, and rejoice! What wouldn't you give to have some one you love to be with you again, if only for one day? Today in the Day of the Dead I await for my muertos:

Tia Siria. I remember how you made the most beautiful tortillas, softly round and always rising like a hot balloon. My mother tells me the story of how you and tio Angel eloped one day when you were lefth in charge of taking care of the little siblings.
Tia Siria carrying the baby

Tio Joel, remember how you let me take a poof of your cigarette when I was only six? I do! Then I never wanted to taste it again. We loved you at home.
My tio Joel

Abuelo Felix. The last time I saw you I was walking down your house street with my kindergarten class. You were sitting by the sunlight with a blanket on your lap. I said, "Adios, Papa Felix!" And you waved back. But then I knew you didn't know who I was when you waved to all the other children the same. You were already 104-year-old.
Grandpa Felix

Mama Pita. Legends are said about you. That your son cried in your womb, that you married an old man, that you were called La Bonita, that you raised your children alone killing chickens. What I remember the most about you is that I heard you cry the night I slept with you. I was eight. A few weeks later you were no more.
My Abuela and I

Tio Mario. How everybody loved you. I did too. more than 30 years later I still dream about your return. Will you come visit me tonight? I will play salsa and we can dance together again like when I was a child.
Uncle Mario cutting the cake with my tia Cotita, and his father next to him

Mama Mina. My Abuela Regañona. Believe it or not, grandma, you are one of the most recurrent characters of my life's story. You live grand in all of them.
Mama Mina holding my grandpa's portrait

Maestre Carlos Aceituno, I had been lost in the big city of SF until I found you--at last I was at home. You welcomed me with my toddler son into your class and your dance group, and finally I belonged. Tonight I am dancing at the SF procession in your honor. I miss you.
Carlos and I at the Sf carnaval parade

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Book cover released

My publisher, Candlewick, just released the cover image of the last book I illustrated, Ladder to the Moon, written by Maya Soetoro-Ng.
This picture book will be released in Spring 2011

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Yes, it is true. Public libraries changed my life

During the American Library Association last summer, I was asked to talk about what the public libraries meant for me. I was in my way out of the convention center, and the camera man run after me and catch me by surprise (hence my face). But what is not a surprise is that when I saw the Public Library for the first time, it changed my life.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Inspiration date

My friend Jim and I have inspiration dates each month.

Among the things that don't happen in our inspiration date are the following:
  • French Kissing.
  • Rampant Gossiping.
  • Table dancing.
  • Entering illegally into other countries.
  • The hunting of animals.
  • Tequila drinking.
  • Bungee jumping.
  • Worrying.

Instead, this is what happens in our inspiration dates:
  • We meet somewhere in the bay area.
  • We visit a place where we can find inspiration.
  • Children's bookstores are some of the best places to find what we are looking for. Libraries and exhibit are too.
  • We have adopted the mission to find at least one thing that we love: a story, images with a great style, a new artist, a great book.
  • We bring our object of inspiration home. Some times we bring two or more. And some times they are not for sale.
  • At the end of our date we might have time to create something together, such as this,

And this,

Ay, Llorona from Yuyi Morales on Vimeo.

During our September inspiration date we visited one of our favorite stores, The Storyteller.
There we found artwork that we loved, such as in this book illustrated by Isol

And stories and illustrations that made us laugh

And even some shocking art coincidences.

At the end, I chose my favorite.

But what we found together was rich and hard to choose only one. Here are the books that caught our attention at our date. It was hard to leave them behind.