When I started kindergarten in the fall of 1984 in Queens, New York, I walked into the brick building knowing, perhaps, only a handful of English words. Until that moment, my world had been colored strictly with Spanish. It’s what we spoke at home, between ourselves and with our extended family and friends. I don’t have too many memories of this time, but one sticks out like a blazing sun. My teacher had instructed everyone to prepare for recess, only I had misunderstood her. While everyone filed in a line, I slipped toward the back to get my book bag and lunch box. Then I realized everyone had left. I remember weeping in the hallway because I felt lost and forgotten. Thankfully, a kind teacher found me and reunited me with my class.
The emotional impact of that moment has stuck with me throughout the years, and it’s what inspired Isabel and Her Colores Go to School, which is beautifully illustrated by Courtney Dawson and which releases this July 15, 2021 from Sleeping Bear Press as an English and Spanish edition.
About the book: English, with its blustery blues and whites, just feels wrong to Isabel. She prefers the warm oranges and pinks of Spanish. As she prepares for class at a new school, she knows she's going to have to learn--and she would rather not! Her first day is uncomfortable, until she discovers there's more than one way to communicate with friends. This is a universal story about feeling new and making new friends.
Without further ado…I’m so thrilled to share the gorgeous cover for Isabel and Her Colores Go to School here on Las Musas!
Writing is a Quixotic endeavor.
And I don’t say that because I just wrote a book in which the main character acts like the beloved knight. Writing is indeed a Quixotic endeavor. As writers, we are always in the quest for the impossible dream.
If you get to know Don Quijote up close and personal—really, it’s not such a far-fetched idea, it’s considered the first modern novel—the parallels to the writing life are striking. The book was written by Spanish writer Miguel De Cervantes and was released in two parts, one in 1605 and one in 1612. So long ago, but so many parallels.
Don Quijote is a nobleman who reads, reads, reads. His reading inspires him and teaches him to become a knight. Reading, reading, reading, is part and parcel of the writer’s life. We read to be inspired. To be lifted. To learn how to joust with words and tame them to do our bidding. And many thought Don Quijote lost his mind . . . how many times do we doubt our sanity? Over and over again. Putting ourselves out there knowing that we will work hard and be disappointed time and again . . . Yep. Lots of doubts.
First off, what did you feel like when you first read the manuscript? Did you immediately know this was a book that you wanted to illustrate?
Oh yeah! One of my wishlist items for a book is having a strong girl as the main character so AMBITIOUS GIRL checked that box immediately. The “you can never be too ambitious” message also spoke to me on a really personal level as well, so this project was a no-brainer to work on.
Authors and illustrators then to work separately on picture books, but because this book was written by an author who was more in the spotlight, did you have more communication with her while working on the book?
I get asked this question a lot!
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