Category Archives: PICTURE BOOKS +
Today, I’m so pleased to have Chiara Arroyo here with a guest post! She’s co-owner of the wonderful L.A. bookstore, LA librería, which carries Spanish-language children’s books (and has a terrific online store). She’ll be sharing 11 Spanish-language books from small presses to help you build your bilingual library.
Over to Chiara! So happy to have her!
I don’t recall seeing so many beautiful books as a child as there are now. As a book-lover and bookseller who travels seeking quality children’s books in the Spanish-language, I have noticed lately the flourishing of independent publishers in Latin America and Spain. These small presses offer a diverse and refreshing perspective into the children’s literature panorama. They opt for new authors and illustrators with unique voices and experimental styles. They seek to connect with children’s experiences and taste.
It is also encouraging to see how these small presses understand the book as a uniquely crafted and valuable object, made with care, and worthy of being part of a private collection. The visual art within these books is so powerful that they break the boundaries of language such that it has even drawn the attention of adults who are not parents or Spanish speakers.
As the Spanish-speaking population of the United States grows, as you probably already know, the offer of books originally written in Spanish, also called “authentic” literature, is finally expanding. Although LA librería is devoted to exactly that, what I find especially interesting is that several of these stories have been translated and are now available in English, reaching many more readers.
Surrounded by all of these beautiful books, I invite you to observe, get intrigued and finally delve into the magical world of children’s literature from the Spanish speaking world, as everything else around you disappears and becomes silent.
Todas las cosas / So many things. By Maya Hanisch. Published by Amanuta.
Amanuta is a renowned independent publishing house from Chile that combines traditional with contemporary literature and has an exquisite taste for illustration. This bilingual book is a clear example. Created by one of our favorite authors, Maya Hanisch, also from Chile, it invites us to explore this marvelous inventory of everyday objects represented with collage technique and a striking color treatment. Let yourself enjoy every single detail and also note the Chilean regionalisms found throughout the book.
NI GUAU NI MIAU / BOW WOW MEOW. By Blanca Lacasa and Gómez. Published by Nube Ocho.
This charming and funny story has a dog called Fabio as a main character. But Fabio does not want to do what other dogs do. “This is a story about being yourself and understanding others. I started Nube Ocho to give children the opportunity to talk and think about specific and important topics such as the equality of girls and boys, diversity, inclusion and self-esteem,” Luis Amavisca explains as editor and co-founder. This young and small press house from Spain is one of the few publishers that took the brave decision to offer a catalog of titles in Spanish, English and Italian, with great success so far.
Barcelona. By David Pintor. Published by Kalandraka.
This wonderful picture book captures the magic of the city where I was raised. The book takes the reader on an illustrative journey from the streets, to the balconies and rooftops in which the author discovers life behind colorful mosaics, Gaudi’s dazzling buildings, the blue Mediterranean Sea, the Gothic Quarter and calm coffee shops. As I look at the pages, I can picture clearly David Pintor on a bike, stopping time to time to draw in his dear Moleskine notebook. His travels are the inspiration of his work and this book is an invitation to encounter this unique city.
Lo que hay antes de que haya algo / What there is before there is anything there: a scary story. By Liniers. Published by Pequeño Editor.
In this story, a boy’s imagination comes to life at night when he is taken over by his fear of the dark. Creatures begin to form and surround his bed. However, the creature that scares him the most has no shape at all. The illustrations go hand in hand with the text as words and language transform into creatures of the imagination and build suspense until the very end. A story that connects with many children and adults too.
La composición/ The composition. By Antonio Skármeta and Alfonso Ruano. Published by Ekaré.
This powerful story set in Chile has a boy called Pedro as the main character. Pedro loves to play soccer and is the best amongst the other kids. Every night, when he goes home, he sits with his parents to listen to the news on the radio. One day when he is playing soccer, he scores! But, wait. Instead of being rushed at by the other kids, everyone observes how the soldiers come and take his friend Daniel’s father away. That night Pedro asks his dad, “Am I against the dictatorship?” The next day at school, Pedro and his classmates are asked to write an essay about: “What do your parents do every night?”
This timely picture book by Chilean writer Antonio Skármeta presents a situation all too familiar to children around the world. It also provides readers with food for thought about freedom, moral choices and personal responsibilities.
El día en que me convertí en pájaro/ They day I became a bird. By Ingrid Chabbert and Guridi. Published by Tres Tigres Tristes.
The main character of this delicate story falls in love with Candela the day he starts school. Candela loves birds. So, in order to gain her attention, the little boy decides to construct a costume that would transform himself into a bird. He endures the stares and giggles of his classmates, and a great deal of discomfort, but the boy doesn’t care. What wouldn’t we all do to be noticed by the person we love? French author Ingrid Chabbert perfectly captures the emotional essence of a child’s first love. And the minimalist black and white drawings of Spanish artist Guridi picture the voices and tender emotions of this sweet and universal discovery.
Las mujeres y los hombres / Women and Men. By Equipo Plantel & Lucy Gutierrez. Published by Media Vaca.
This is a book that hasn’t been published in English yet but its powerful illustrations speak for themselves. The editors of Media Vaca decided to republish a series of 4 titles published in Spain in 1978, a few years after the dictatorship of Francisco Franco was over and the year the Spanish Constitution was in place. They thought this title would be the most outdated since many changes have taken place in almost forty years and fortunately always for the better. However, I invite you to verify how much things have really changed. Lucy Gutierrez’s sharp and questioning illustrations make this picture book a perfect vehicle to prompt discussion about gender equality.
Dos conejos blancos / Two White Rabbits. By Jairo Buitrago and Rafael Yockteng. Published by Groundwood Books.
Together, Jairo Buitrago and Rafael Yocktheng, both from Colombia, combined their talent once again to create a sensitive story that gives voice to the most vulnerable: the children.
In this moving and timely story, a young child describes what it is like to be a migrant as she and her father travel north toward the US border on the roof of a train known as The Beast. The little girl doesn’t know where they are going. She counts the animals by the road, the clouds in the sky, the stars. It is through her eyes readers will understand the arduous journey thousands of people take in search of a better life.
Soy un artista /I am an artist. By Marta Altes. Published by Blackie Books.
This is the hilarious story about an innocent little boy who can’t stop creating art and his mother who isn’t quite so enthusiastic. In fact, she seems a little cross! But this boy has a plan to make his mum smile. He’s about to create his finest piece yet and on a very grand scale … I love the sharp and expressive illustration of Marta Altes and the truly inspirational message of this story that appeals to children and parents. Art is EVERYWHERE!
El monstruo de colores. The color monster. By Anna Llenas. Published by Flamboyant.
This cute monster is confused. He does not know what is going on. Fortunately, his smarty friend will teach him how to deal with emotions. Anna Llenas’ colorful and joyful illustrations help children recognize when they feel happy, angry, sad, scared and calm by equating it with a color. A final emotion is left unnamed for readers to identify, but pink hearts give it away. Don’t forget to take a picture of your child when you open the pop-up version!
Abecedario a mano / A Daytime Visions. An Alphabet. By Isol. Published by FCE.
This unique and unconventional alphabet was made from the joy of tracing letters on a paper and playing with their shapes. Every letter of the alphabet is connected to the graphically strong and intelligent illustrations by short sentences. Renown Argentinian artist Isol invites readers to think out of the box and complete the meaning of every situation with their imagination. In her acceptance speech of the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award 2013, Isol declared: “What reader could be more demanding than a child? Children have a lot of things to discover and I’d better be on their high level in order to satisfy their huge capacity for curiosity. I get my inspiration from what’s wild, from what’s ridiculous, from that independence of culture that children enjoy.”
Chiara Arroyo has a Master’s Degree in Journalism and is the cofounder of LA librería, a Los Angeles-based bookstore and distributor specialized in children’s literature in Spanish-language. Five years ago, she and her partner Celene Navarrete decided to start this adventure to fulfill the lack and need of quality books from Latin America and Spain among families raising bilingual and multicultural children in the USA.
(photo of Chiara—on the right—and her business partner Celene Navarrete.)
Visit LA librería at 4732 ½ W Washington Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90016 or online at www.la-libreria.net.
Finally, you might also be interested in my first collaboration with LA librería, ISOL’s picture book life!
Sanae Ishida‘s watercolors are enchanting—sweet, colorful, and full of humor and whimsy. In the first book, Little Kunoichi meets Chibi Samurai while they’re both in training at ninja school and samurai school respectively. In the end, they wow the crowd at The Island Festival because they practice—not to be perfect but to have fun.
In Chibi Samurai wants a Pet, Kunoichi’s best friend Chibi Samurai indeed wants a pet, one as sweet and super-duper as Kunoichi’s pet ninja bunny. So he sets off on a quest around the island to find a companion, encountering creatures both real and mythical. He meets a giant salamander, serow, cloth-weaving crane, magical tanuki, and mythical Kappa—but none is quite right! Until he realizes his perfect pet has been close at hand the whole time, just like other things we might seek that have—sometimes—been there all along.
The ending is absolutely charming, but I won’t spoil it!
This book delights with creativity and surprise. Plus, there’s a visual glossary at the back with all the elements of Japanese culture and folklore the story mentions.
Here’s the cover!!
Chibi Samurai Wants a Pet will be out August 8, 2017!
Here’s what Sanae Ishida says about the process of creating the cover:
For the cover, I wanted to show Chibi (as I affectionately call him in my mind, a slang word for “little” or “short” in Japanese) in search mode. I presented several cover ideas, but this swamp version was my favorite because the greenery felt mysterious and dramatic and allowed me to partially hide Little Kunoichi and her pet bunny in there. The swamp is also one of the areas that Chibi actually searches in the book, so I loved the tie-in with the story too. I’m so glad that the publisher liked this version!
My general illustration process starts by painting every element by hand with watercolor and gouache paint. I don’t do a whole lot of sketching or pencil renderings and just dive in with paint. For example, I painted the helmet, the armor, body, outfit, hair, face, and expression of Chibi all separately. I then scan everything in and assemble the elements collage-style with Photoshop. Sometimes I’ll modify the colors in Photoshop or amp up the saturation or add transparency. I often have to clean up smudges and mistakes or alter the scale of different elements. Working this way has been great for me because it makes incorporating changes when I get feedback from the editors and art department so much easier.
Everything about the first Little Kunoichi book was magical for me and I will love it to pieces forever, but this time around Chibi has stolen my heart and this story resonates with me on a whole different level. I hope kids (and adults reading it to them) enjoy it as much as I enjoyed creating it!
And a couple of sneak peeks inside the book:
(click image(s) to enlarge)
Big thanks to Sasquatch Books for images!
Sanae Ishida grew up drawing princesses, reading Japanese comic books, and writing stories she never shared with anyone. She enjoyed stints in wide-ranging fields including illustration, education, technology, retail, and theater arts. When not creating on the page, she sews, frequents coffee shops, and overly shares stories on SanaeIshida.com. She lives in Seattle with her wonderful husband and fabulous daughter—inspiration for Little Kunoichi.
You can check out my feature of Kunoichi, The Ninja Girl, the first in the series as well!
I’m a big fan of Deborah’s textured illustrations and the insight with which she tells and talks about stories.
Today, I’m delighted to present you with a first glimpse of the cover of her next picture book, Rosie & Crayon!
Through rich illustrations and language to match, this story of love and loss explores the way a dear pet can add every color of the seasons to your life. The way everything can seem to turn gray if you lose that pet. The way a heart, with time and just the right nudge, can open again to something new, something different but just as dear.
Look for the book’s release in early April! Just wait ’til you see the spreads inside!
Here’s what Deborah Marcero had to say about creating that sweet cover:
The idea for the cover came initially from an interior sketch. I wanted to showcase Rosie and Crayon embracing to highlight the love and connection between them. I also wanted to include a part of the setting important to the story, and decided to use the forest in the background. “R + C” carved into one of the trees also symbolizes how love can make its mark on our lives in a way that endures. The message of this story is meant to show children how when a loved one or pet is no longer with us, our lives are changed, bigger and more beautiful because of having known them. In coloring Rosie’s life, Crayon becomes part of her story. In this way, the ones we lose live on in us because of how they touched our lives and helped make us who we are.
My process initially involved lots of pencil work. I would draw and re-draw to get the proportions, scale, type, character designs, and emotional expressions just right. After those were set, I used a light table and inked over the lines with a brush and India ink onto a fresh piece of paper. I then chose a color palette using my two favorite media: watercolor and gouache. Since this book in many ways is also about color and the seasons, for the cover I wanted to focus on a spring palette – not only because the book is a spring release – but also in the end, I hope the reader is left with a renewed sense of hope and resilience.
Deborah Marcero grew up in Michigan where from a very young age drawing, writing, and reading filled her time. After teaching in Chicago Public Schools as a Literacy Specialist, Deborah realized that writing and creating books for kids was how she wanted to spend her life. So far Deborah has worked with Peter Pauper Press, Greenwillow (HarperCollins), and G.P. Putnam’s Sons (Penguin).
You might want to check out This Picture Book Life’s earlier post on Ursa’s Light by Deborah Marcero too!
One year, I made a picture book gift guide for grownups. This year, I wanted to share recent picture books that could be read by the young, the grown, or a combination of the two. Perhaps you’ll consider them as gifts for a family that has both!
These are books that can be appreciated for their art, their history, their inspiration, their windows into human experience. Picture books with adult appeal! And several of these are among my favorites of 2016, which I’ll make a note of.
Here goes (in no particular order)! And I hope you’ll add to the list in the comments.
The Journey by Francesca Sanna (*one of my favorite books of 2016). This is a story of a family seeking refuge when displaced by violence, based on interviews the author-illustrator collected. The way Sanna uses darkness to both illuminate and shield us from the terrible things that happen is gentle and effective. And she weaves in whimsical fantasy elements in a way that feels like an offering of hope.
“Every summer we used to spend many weekends at the beach. But we never go there anymore, because last year our lives changed forever.”
A Poem for Peter by Andrea Davis Pinkney, pictures by Lou Fancher & Steve Johnson (*a favorite from 2016). A perfect tribute to The Snowy Day (1962), to its author-illustrator, Ezra Jack Keats‘s life, and to its main character, Peter, who was based on a newspaper clipping of a little boy that Keats kept for twenty years. This is indeed a poem for Peter and for all the children who saw themselves reflected in him for the first time.
“Brown-sugar boy in a blanket of white. Bright as the day you came onto the page. From the hand of a man who saw you for you.”
Some Things I’ve Lost by Cybèle Young (2015). This is a a bit hard to describe. It’s a catalogue of lost everyday objects that, when each page folds out, we find transformed into something else, something that resembles the original object but is now magical, one of Young’s exquisite paper sculptures. An imaginative gem.
The Singing Bones by Shaun Tan (*a favorite of 2016). I’ve never read a Shaun Tan book I didn’t love, and this newest project (though a departure) is no exception. Grimm’s fairy tale synopses paired with Tan’s sculptures—strange, wonderful, haunting, powerful.
Where Do We Go When We Disappear? by Isabel Minhós Martins and Madalena Matoso (2013). One of the ones I’m collecting for a post on existential picture books someday, this explores the way things disappear and reappear and reshape and shift. The artwork really shines and the book cover also works well as decor. A book ostensibly about death and change, but also about the adventures socks go on when they’re “lost.”
Women In Science by Rachel Ignotofsky (2016). Admittedly, I haven’t read this one yet, but I wanted to include it because it seems a perfect fit. Illustrations! Women! Science! Yessss!
Separate Is Never Equal by Duncan Tonatiuh (2014). This terrific book documents the case Mendez vs. Westminster School District, ten years before Brown vs. Board of Education, that desegrated schools in California. But it does more than that. It tells the story of Sylvia Mendez and her family who struggled and fought for what was right, for their rights, for the rights of Latino-Americans to have an equal and not separate education from white Americans. This is a disturbing, enlightening, important, and inspiring book for anyone of any age (especially if, like me, they didn’t know about the case before!). I especially like Tonatiuh’s artwork, “inspired by Pre-Columbian art, particularly that of the Mixtec codex.”
Out of the Woods by Rebecca Bond (2015). A boy lives at the hotel his mother runs in the woods of Canada, home to lumberjacks, trappers, and miners. That boy is the author-illustrator’s grandfather. This is his story, specifically of a day in 1914 when a fire broke out, threatening the hotel and the forest, and everyone retreated to the lake. People. Animals. The boy, Antonio. Together. This book is wow, told and illustrated in a perfect way to suit itself.
The Surprise by Sylvia Van Ommen (2007). This is such fun! It has style and humor and, you guessed it, the whole wordless book ends in a surprise to try and predict along the way.
The Wolves of Currumpaw by William Grill (*a favorite of 2016). A gripping true tale—of a legendary wolf and of a man who had the capacity for change. It is only through a great undertaking and mistake that Ernest Seton Thompson learned to value wolves and protect them. It is by reading this heartbreaking story of Lobo the wolf that any reader will value and want to protect them, too.
Wangari Maathai: The Woman Who Planted Millions of Trees by Franck Prévot, illustrated by Aurélia Fronty (2015). This is a wonderful biography of Wangari Maathai, including her early life and struggles with opposition in creating The Green Belt Movement. The illustrations are breathtaking .
“A tree is worth more than its wood…”
The Surfer of the Century by Ellie Crowe, illustrated by Richard Waldrep (2007). A fascinating and inspiring biography of Duke Kahanamoku, an Olympic swimmer considered the father of modern surfing who introduced the Hawaiian sport to the world and demonstrated grace in the water and on land.
What Is a Child? by Beatrice Alemagna (*one of my favorites of 2016). Alemagna explores what it’s like to be a child in a way that honors children and their experiences.
“Children want to be listened to with eyes wide open…”
“You need kind eyes to console them. And a little nightlight by the bed.”
The King of the Birds by Acree Graham Macam and Natalie Nelson (*a favorite of 2016). An imaginative take on Flannery O’Connor‘s life as a child and a biography of her birds. The voice, the collage art, the peacock, the pink cake, the zingers—all inventive and charming.
Toto’s Apple by Mathieu Lavoie (2016). I read this with my husband at our local indie bookstore and laughed a whole bunch. I think it’s odd, hilarious, well-designed, and clever, and that other grownups might think so too. (Also, terrific surprise ending.)
Drawing from Memory by Allen Say (2011). Say’s illustrated biography is for anyone who loves to draw, who loves comics, or who has had a teacher that mentored them and made everything possible. Like Say’s stories and fiction, his memoir brings me to tears.
Wild Berries by Julie Flett (2014). This one is beautiful—the art, the story of a grandmother and grandson picking blueberries together, the evocative details, the use of bilingual vocabulary from a dialect of the Algonquian Cree language. My favorite part is that the pair thank the clearing when they leave it (as well as the recipe for blueberry jam at the back).
The Sound of All Things by Myron Uhlberg and Ted Papoulas (2016). A memoir of a hearing child and his deaf parents on a day spent on Coney Island in the 1930s. A boy describing the way things sound to his father, and, eventually, turning to the library and literature to find the tools to do so with tenderness and precision.
“I sat on my windowsill, listening to sounds that my parents would never hear…I knew my father would ask me to describe them. I slowly turned the pages of my new book. I couldn’t wait to tell him about the sound of all things.”
Are You An Echo? by David Jacobson, Sally Ito, & Michiko Tsuboi, illustrated by Toshikado Hajiri (2016). A poignant biography of Japanese poet, Misuzu Kaneko, that gives us her poems following and weaved into her history, which was both remarkable and difficult. Her poems are distinguished by their empathy for everything, even like in the spread above, her empathy for snow. It’s a treasure of a book.
Cloth Lullaby by Amy Novesky, pictures by Isabelle Arsenault (*a favorite of 2016). A biography of the artist Louise Bourgeois that is as captivating in words as in pictures (and combines two of my favorite artists in the same book).
Beloved Dog by Maira Kalman (2015). A tribute to and compilation of dogs in Kalman’s life and work. With her signature bold and wonderful paintings and handwritten notes, she tells her own history with dogs too, from fear of them to finally getting one after her husband passed away.
“And it is very true, that the most tender, uncomplicated, most generous part of our being blossoms, without any effort, when it comes to the love of a dog.”
This Bridge Will Not Be Gray by Dave Eggers, art by Tucker Nichols (2015). This one’s a love letter to The Golden Gate Bridge, the amazing things humans make, to collage art and color, and to caring about something that will have a daily impact.
Ideas Are All Around by Philip C. Stead (2016). A book about the artistic process. And walks. And neighbors. And war. This is how one creates, isn’t it? By collecting ideas in your little corner of your world. By caring about people and problems and what’s going on big and small. By chasing the beautiful, mundane blue horse made from spilled paint on the sidewalk. By noticing it.
Any to add to the list? Please share!
I’m super excited that YiLing Chen-Josephson from The Picture Book Club is here to share picture books about mail. It’s a fitting post because the subscription service is all about two wonderful things: books and mail!
YiLing, take it away!
There has never been a time in my life when I haven’t loved mail. I can still remember what day of the week each of the family’s magazine subscriptions would arrive, and the names of all the companies — many long since shuttered — whose catalogs I would pore over. As I got older and started to write and receive letters of my own, the prospect of mail took on a whole new richness of anticipation.
YiLing Chen-Josephson reads hundreds of picture books every month. Her favorites make their way to other families via The Picture Book Club, the subscription service she runs. The Picture Book Club offers completely customizable subscriptions as well as themed packages such as Around the World in 12 Books and the Big Sibling Book Bundle. Before launching The Picture Book Club, YiLing worked as a writer, an editor, and a lawyer. She lives in NYC with her family and many, many books.
This Picture Book Life readers get $5 off any purchase at The Picture Book Club with the code, “Dd.” Hooray!