Wednesday, February 12, 2020

February #cbadspotlight - Spotlight on My Papi Has a Motorcycle with Author Isabel Quintero & Illustrator Zeke Peña

Today I'm shining the spotlight on 
#cbadspotlight pick 
My Papi Has a Motorcycle,
with author Isabel Quintero & illustrator Zeke Peña 
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A celebration of the love between a father and daughter, and of a vibrant immigrant neighborhood, by an award-winning author and illustrator duo.

When Daisy Ramona zooms around her neighborhood with her papi on his motorcycle, she sees the people and places she's always known. She also sees a community that is rapidly changing around her.

But as the sun sets purple-blue-gold behind Daisy Ramona and her papi, she knows that the love she feels will always be there.

With vivid illustrations and text bursting with heart, My Papi Has a Motorcycle is a young girl's love letter to her hardworking dad and to memories of home that we hold close in the midst of change.

Thank you, Isabel & Zeke, for joining me for a #cbadspotlight author & illustrator conversation today!

Jillian: Both Isabel's words & Zeke's illustrations evoke a specific, yet universal, sense of place, family, & community. How did your two parts inspire or influence each other during the creation process of this book? Did the idea of this book being a read aloud, play a role in the creation process of the book?

Isabel: I had written the book about seven years ago, around the time I was sending my first book, Gabi, a Girl in Pieces, out. That's when I had the first draft of the story done. At that time it was rejected from a few places so I put it away for a while until a couple of years ago. By that time Zeke and I had already worked on Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide together and it turned out that we worked well together. I showed him a draft of My Papi Has a Motorcycle and he liked it, which was a good thing because I really wanted him to be the one who illustrated it. Working with Zeke is a true collaboration. He helped me see holes and strengths in the story. What needed to be read vs. what needed to only be seen? I think that was the biggest influence, knowing where writing or illustrations needed to be doing the heavy lifting in regards to storytelling. From the beginning I imagined the book as a picture book, so it wasn't complete until Zeke was able to help tell that story with his illustrations.

Zeke: It was an honor working on this story that means so much to Isabel and her life. I was really grateful that she would want to collaborate with me on it. Because the story comes from a specific memory and lived experience for Isabel it was important to get some of those specific details into the illustrations. But we also tried to weave in some universal things that many people can relate to in communities all across this country. We want to allow readers to engage with the story and also bring some of their own imagination and experience to it. Isabel plays a critical role in my process by giving me feedback and direction on some of those specific things like the way a character looks or how many more stray cats to add to a page.

Isabel: Yeah. I think Zeke and I have a mutual admiration for each other, and so I have to say the same--it was an honor to be able to share this very special book with him and have him add, or complete I should say, the story. The specificity was important. Zeke was able to take the neighborhood I grew up in, the one that lives only in my memory from 30 years ago, and make it relevant and as vibrant as if we could still walk those streets and see those same things still. Also, I think the color palette, and the choice he made with the markets and homes, captured the essence of the living in a Latinx neighborhood in Southern California and in the Southwest so many folks could recognize neighborhoods in the pages.

I really loved the cats Zeke added. They're fun and add some fun things to find in the book.

Zeke: Thinking about the read aloud was an important concern for us. We wanted this to be fun. Isabel has provided some fun words and sounds for people to imagine and I try to do the same visually.

Isabel: When I write books I often think about how they sound read aloud. It's the teacher and elementary school library tech in me; I can't turn it off. I like to imagine how a teacher or librarian or parent would share the book with the children in their lives. So, when I finish a draft I always read it out loud to my imaginary student/child audience. I think about pauses, cadence, where voices could change, what words would allow for change in tone so that the story isn't so one dimensional. This was definitely true for this book. I thought about the kids I used to serve and how I would've read the book to them.

Zeke: In terms of inspiring and influencing each other it’s a back and forth process like a conversation. Isabel will write something and I'll respond with a drawing, then she will see that and write or edit some text to create a fluid experience for the reader.

Be sure to check out all of the #cbadspotlight choices for this school year!
Visit for more information on #classroombookaday,
a goal to read aloud a picture book every day of the school year, at any grade,
inspired by Donalyn Miller's #bookaday.

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