To celebrate the book birthday of Alexandra Alessandri's Isabel and Her Colores Go to School, we're sharing this delightful interview between Musas Alexandra Alessandri and Terry Catasús Jennings. Scroll on to learn more about this adorable picture book!
Terry: Alexandra, I have to tell you, this brought back so many memories. I was twelve when I first came to the United States. But I was just like Isabel—drowning in the strange words that surrounded me. Can you tell us about your book?
Alexandra: Aw, I’m so glad it resonated with you, though I’m sorry you experienced this, too. Isabel and Her Colores Go to School is about a little girl who’s starting school, but while she’s excited about it, she’s also really nervous because she doesn’t speak English, which sounds strange to her. Isabel is also artistic and processes everything through color, and it’s this trait that ultimately allows her to bridge the language divide.
Terry: Your Colombian identity is very present in your writing, whether it’s your poems or your picture books. How has your Colombian identity shaped your writing?
Alexandra: My Colombian identity is definitely a huge part of my writing. I was born and raised in the U.S. in a Spanish-only household and with parents who made it very clear to me that I was 100% Colombian. But growing up straddling both cultures comes with a lot of figuring out how to be both and questioning whether you’re Colombian or American enough. When my dad passed away in 2008, I felt this sudden void. I mean, my mom is blessedly still alive and I still have this connection to Colombia through her and her side, but the loss of my dad sparked this intimate desire to really know Colombia and where/how I fit into the equation. I think this led naturally to writing as a way of reflecting and understanding what it mean to be Colombian and American, and how different this experience is between my mom, myself and my son. This spilled over into my poetry and my children’s books.
Terry: The idea of Isabel and Her Colores reminds me of Wassili Kandinski. He connected his art to sound. What was the inspiration for Isabel and Her Colores? When/how was the idea born?
Today, two Musas are sharing a book birthday for their spectacular books, BELLA'S RECIPE FOR SUCCESS and EL CUCUY IS SCARED, TOO! Scroll on to hear from these two talented authors — Ana Siqueira + Donna Barba Higuera — and learn more about their books!
Donna Barba Higuera: Thank you for talking with me today! And huge felicidades on your debut book! In your book Bella’s Recipe for Success, Bella compares herself to her older brother and sister and how they seem to master things she can’t. Are you speaking from experience? Did you experience this as a child?
Ana Siqueira: Hmm… Great question. Well, my older sister was the perfect one. She would never make a mistake. My older brother was a genius who wrote songs and was talented like my mother. My younger sister was super cute and funny and she was the spoiled one, right? So I was the middle one - rebellious and with disabilities (ADHD and dyslexia). I guess I never realized, but Bella, who was inspired by my daughter who always wanted to be the best and perfect, is also me. Hahaha. I never thought of it.
DBH: Your book is being released in a year and a time where so many kids feel like their lives are out of their own control. I know this wasn’t planned, but do you hope your book’s message of trying and trying again until you master something will resonate with kids?
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