PB&J EP 2 Transcript: Roseanne Greenfield Thong & John Parra

PB&J Episode 2: Interview with Roseanne Greenfield-Thong and John Parra


C: Hello and welcome to a brand new interview series by the Picture Bookstagang Crew, Picture Books & Justice is a series where we interview a creator from the picture book world and get to know them a little better.  To us there’s nothing better than a beautiful spellbinding picture book that has social justice themes. The picture book world is a big beautiful place, and we are excited to hear different experiences and opinions in a shorter time frame than our full length picture bookstagang episodes.  PB&J is your afternoon book snack, so let’s dig in!

C 0:44: Hey everyone, future Corrie here, I had a wonderful time chatting with our guests this week, Roseanne and John, these two creators are bringing Latinx stories to life and bringing crucial representation.  Last year only 5.4% of primary characters were Latinx according to the Cooperative Children’s book centre so I especially appreciate the own voices lens that John Parra brings to his artwork.  And I know I keep saying PB&J episodes will be shorter than the typical bi-weekly ones but I just get so caught up in chatting with our awesome guests. So I hope you enjoy this chat as much as I did!

1:22: Hi everyone! Welcome back to Picture Books & Justice!  Where we have a chance to chat with creators from the picture book industry about their work and so much more.  I’m Corrie and I’m delighted that I have the privilege today of speaking with author Roseanne Greenfield-Thong and illustrator John Parra.  Roseanne and John thank you so much for joining me today!

J 1:43: Sure. Pleasure to be here.

R:Nice to be here

C: And I guess first, let’s talk a little bit about why you both got into writing and art respectively, Roseanne why don’t you go first?

R 2:00: Gosh I started writing when I was four and I’m not sure it was a conscious choice, it had a lot to do with a rule my mom had in the household basically kids could not get out of bed before 7:00 am it was to give her peace of mind and to give her time to make our sandwiches in the morning and get out to work herself.  Probably sleep in on the weekend.  But what it did was it allowed me time in the morning I would get up about 5:30 or 6 and it allowed me time to think and to create and to invent stories in my mind and I read lots of Dr.Seuss and rhyming books when I was younger and I loved rhyme and rhythm. And I would kind of experiment with a little notebook that I kept next to my bed and I couldn’t write all of the words at that time but I could write ideas. And after when I was allowed to get out of bed I’d run and I’d tell my mom ‘gee I made a poem’ here I wrote down a couple words.  So this really strange household rule led to some really good writing, and I kept a journal by my bedside most of my time in gradeschool and even high school.  And I was very lucky to have a family that celebrated reading and writing they really celebrated literature, so we would go to the library once a week and we would carry as many books home as we possibly could.  So like I think the limit was 25 and my brothers and I would have races who could actually carry 25 books to the counter.  But when I would start writing these little poems, my mom would celebrate them and call every single relative in the family.  “Miriam did you hear she’s got another poem?!” And what the message was that I got, on my end is ‘writing is cool.  You have my support’, and she eventually sent one of my poems in to the Pasadena Star News I grew up in Pasadena California.  They had a special column for kids called “Wellington Woof” and he was like a cartoon dog.  And if he liked your work he would send you a cheque for three or four bucks.  And after some of these poems got published, I really got the message that my parents thought I had a talent, I enjoyed it whether it was talent or just silliness, but, I kind of took off from then. 

C 4:42: I love that, I also  loved the mental image of a dog writing out a cheque for several dollars, and then you know like carrying it to the post office to mail.  That’s so funny. Thank you so much for sharing so much from your childhood, and John how bout you, how did you get into creating the beautiful artwork that you create?

J 5:04: Oh my gosh, I was like Roseanne I started very young I was always drawing I loved, I loved just being creative in that way.  I was actually really influenced by my father.  My father was sort of an amateur artist and he would draw for us.  SO that was like the initial inspiration so I would get so excited, we would all sit around my brothers, he would start drawing and telling us stories.  I just loved that he would you know, be, I was amazed amazed at these little doodles he would do.  We would be at a restaurant, or on vacation especially, with these little doodles.  So initially that was probably was my first inspiration to start doing art.  And this was all before school. I was very young.  And the other thing is I’m sort of an introvert by nature.  And so, but, I through art, through practicing art and getting better and better at it, I found that I had a voice in my art.  And that really helped me, like helped me out. Like my self esteem was very strong with the art.  That was like who I was known as in school, ‘oh John, the artist.” But not just John the artist but also John the Artist with a voice, I could draw things and make people happy and they would like it or they were interested in what I did.  And I just never ever wanted to let that go. I just thought oh this is really fun this is really interesting.  And also my mom would take us to museums at a very young age, or a natural history museum and the library.  So like Roseanne we also frequented the library and I think that my first introduction to art also was through picture books and I can remember looking through like Virginia Lee Burton at a very young age and I was like wow look at these pictures, look at these images, this little house or this little train whatever it was that she had done and I just remember specifically those pictures which I just loved. And so that again, those inspirations would motivate me to do more art and so that I would got home and do more things like that. So as time went on I kept doing art and it was always a part of my school and I had a class or two, but because I didn’t know anybody that was a professional artists I didn’t know that I was actually going to do this when I got older as a grown up.  Until, until, I was in junior college and I was in an art class and a visiting illustrator came to my class and I recognized his work.  And just electricity went through my body, it was like ‘that’s it! That’s what I want to do! This is it! This is the missing piece!’ I should have realized it a long time ago, but this was the missing piece. That was it, and from that moment on I wanted to go down that road, that path, being an illustrator and an artist.

C 8:16: Cool! I love those really transformative moments in education that you can really think back to you know? And have that be your lightning bolt moment, and I can completely relate to you about being an introvert because I feel the exact same way. Where people can be scary sometimes, hahahaha. 

R: Me too.

C:There we go all three of us, we’ll start again with John this time.  So what does a day look like for you?

J 8:48: Well you know it’s pretty typical, I wake up, my wife or I make coffee.  Have to have the coffee.

C: Important very important.

J: I think I’m more creative in the morning time but I do kinda read my emails, just briefly but I like doing a lot of my creativity in the morning.  Seems like I’m fresh, after sleep I come out of the gate and I’m ready to work. So you know it could be just drawing and sketching or painting it depends which stage I’m at on a project.  Usually you go through the whole drawing stages and approval stages first, when those sketches get approved you get on to the painting side of the work, so, so that kinda takes up most of the big chunk of the morning.  Have a lunch, have a nice time talk to, now that we’re otherwise working from home right now, so we have a little lunch together we hang out.  Then sometimes I do kind of like paperwork afternoon sort of thing or just follow up with maybe some of the art depends how dedicated I am to finishing a certain picture.  But I also like to, I also want to make sure I’m looking at other art, other artists throughout the day, especially in the afternoon. I’m still a fan, I’m a fan like anybody else.  I love looking at other peoples art it gets me so inspired. And that’s one of the great things about doing the job that I do, it’s that I now get to meet with them and even consider some of them friends and it’s just, it’s the most wonderful thing in the world, so by the time I get through the rest of the day and you know the day winds down and obviously have dinner, you know, I do a little clean up, and I love a good book at night.  That’s pretty much my whole day.

C 11:00: Very nice, one quick follow up question then I want to know about your day Roseanne. John do you work on more than one book at a time, or do you only work on one book through completion? 

J 11:13: I have worked on more than one book at a time but I like to focus on only one book at a time. It helps me focus. Because I go in deep, like method acting sort of.  I really feel like that I get into the art so much that it’s like really kind of just a deep thing.  So to have another book it’s sort of like, kind of like, churning me in two and putting one of here and one over there.  Not to say I don’t work on a number of projects at the same time, but two books is very heavy because it takes 6 – 8 months for me to complete a book, so again it takes a long time for me.

C 11:57: Which I think is way longer than a lot of people think it takes to create the beautiful illustrations that you do.  Both Roseanne and John have worked together on “Round is a Tortilla” “Green is a Chile Pepper” A handful of other ones I could go on forever but Roseanne what does your day look like?

R 12:18: Well I have some similarities to John, I’m actually a teacher though and I taught for thirty five years mainly English and Social Science.  So I have to conscientiously create a space for writing.  But I do schedule writing I schedule it into my calendar sometimes it might be during Spring Break I’ll pick five or six days.  During the summer is a wonderful opportunity and sometimes just out of the blue, I might be runnign and get a great idea and I come home and I’m up all night until 2 or 3 in the morning and it’s like ‘uh oh I’ve got to wake up in three hours!’ I have a routing that starts the way that John’s does, so if I have a dedicated writing day, when my daughter Maya was younger I would post signs all over the house ‘mom’s writing love you don’t open the door’ unplug the phone, don’t answer the door, basically, this is a special day.  Everybody else go away. Without a cup of coffee nothing happens and I get up very early like John I’m a morning person.  I have to run for twenty or thirty minutes, get on the treadmill if the weather’s bad, go outside if the weather’s good or get on my bike and if I don’t have twenty or thirty minutes of vigorous activity, I make it to about eleven, twelve, you know about lunch time?  And I am just like, ughhh I’ve got to get out of the house!  I’m naturally not meant to be in the house or be in one room or be sedentary.  I don’t know if ADHD runs in my family but I feel the jitters so if I knock myself out it does a few really positive things, first it gets the juices flowing in your brain it really, for me, it really does exercise helps me focus it helps me think I often solve problems when I’m running they might be problems about life, they might be problems about a story that I’m working on and then the second great thing it does for me is to deal with this issue of I’m so jittery in my chair I can’t keep my behind in the chair all day long.  When I was much younger I had to run two times a day so I’d make it to lunch and then I’d eat wait for my food to digest and do another run and come back. So. And I do end my day similarly to John, reading a great book it’s just a part of life.  But Netflix I have to say is always interfering with my reading, and I sometimes say I’m putting three nights aside for reading a great book otherwise I’ll never finish it.  And John also mentioned something, connecting with other examples and seeing examples of other writers or other illustrators.  This is a little bit hard to do.  Harder for me to do now that we’re not meeting in person as often.  I used to go to large or small bookstores and just sit down in the evenings and read stuff from the stacks. I used to connect with writers in person.  Now what I do is I get on Instagram and I follow people including John that I’m a big fan of and I get ideas.  I like, I love this one Instagram site called @savedwithstories and it’s a site that reads books to children every night and these books inspire me! So I’m enjoying having somebody read me a picture book every night.  There’s lots of free sites now that people are putting out it makes me feel part of the community when we are becoming a bit isolated. 

C 16:36: Absolutely maintaining the aspect of community is aI think something all of us have been experimenting with over the last few months and sort of figuring out what works best for us even though Zoom fatigue is so real and I definitely have had it at points.  But. You know? It’s, it’s a wonderful option.  Alright. So I’m gonna give you a hypothetical here, and, you’re going into a store you’re looking at a shelf of picture books and you have to pick out a gift for somebody, you know, sort of what is something that draws you in about a book when you see it on the shelf? And anybody can answer cuz we’re growing rogue here!

J 17:25: I’m always drawn to the artwork, I can’t lie. It’s just something I naturally will do. I look at the artwork if it catches my eye I say ‘oo this looks interesting, just beautiful!’ And I think that’s just natural response that I have, but then it also has to be the subject matter.  Then my second will be ‘what’s this book about?’ And if it’s something kind of cool, interesting, I have to be you know? Have that connection.

C 17:58: For sure, and who would you say are some of the illustrators you gravitate towards. I’m not trying to make you call out anybody or not call out anybody.

J 18:09: Ayye well that’s going to be a list that’s too long to mention.  

C: Hard hitting journalism here

J: well I mean it’s just such a long list, it really is and I always feel bad cuz I probably would probably like leave a ton of people off. But a lot of people that are friends of mine, Rafael Lopez who I’ve known the longest in this business, is one of the top people that I own. When I see his work I always recognize it, a) right away and b) it is just such a pleasure to see because he’s such a talented wonderful artist and person and I love looking at his work.  But again there’s just so many other illustrators that, oh my gosh, just you go down the list, Morales, Juana Martinez, Sophie Blackhall, Donna Flaxton, I’m forgetting all the names now this is terrible! But I mean there’s just this incredible you know, and I love also up and coming artists illustrators that I get to meet and get to talk to.  There, those are also really fun to see how they’re doing their work and maybe they were inspired by, some of us, but they have a new spin on it.  And I just love that I love seeing them come up, and if I can talk to them oh, it’s just such a pleasure.  So. 

C 19:44: I totally agree and I love the list you gave too, which we’ll put down in the show notes so everybody in the shownotes can check out. All the fantastic artists that John mentioned. Ok so Roseanne same question, you walk into a bookshop what would draw you in?

R 20:003: I believe the same things, so I love interesting art, I love provocative titles, something that really draws you in and makes you pick it up and it reaches out to you. I tend to go for either really beautiful beautifully done artwork.  Or seriously funny artwork. Or something that’s drawing you into a different world, a world that’s different than your own, but somehow is making you feel really comfortable and wanting to go on that journey, so I would say the three different things.  But! I’ll read the first page or two if the words don’t catch my interest, then you know I’m onto the next book. Definitely the cover.  The cover art draws me in. 

20:55 C: I agree with you, aslo the colour palette is very important to me, if it’s personal preference, the jewel tones that I really enjoy and I’ll be like ‘ohhh what’s that in mustard yellow?’  So as you probably heard in the title, you know, picture books and justice, I sort of like to ask questions about maybe social justice education and sort of you know different things surrounding that in the publishing industry.  So I wanted to know what you two think needs to change about the publishing industry, because I think we’re in a time of social change and momentum and I don’t want the momentum to slow down and so, I’m wondering if you two have any, have any thoughts on that?

R 21:47: I really do in fact it’s interesting you mention social justice, the highschool that I teach at we’re currently having a school wide PDL it’s Project Based Learning.  Where we stop teaching history or math or science out of a book, for a couple weeks, a year, and we have a different theme every year.  This year we are doing social justice.  I think it’s incredibly important. I think when you’re teaching about history it’s really important to connect the past and the present.  I see a trend kind of pre-dating our voices and Black Lives Matter, it seems like the last four five years the pace has been picking up and publishers have been putting out books that reach a multiplicity of kids from a multiplicity of backgrounds but I think it’s not enough. I think it’s a great trend and I think social justice is a wonderful message.  I don’t think you can be too young to pick up a picture book that exemplifies that being, I’m not sure if I’m answering your question sorry, I picked up on the world social justice and I went off in a different direction.

C 23:13: No, that was great and I completely agree with you.  I don’t think that anybody can ever be too young you know? And especially teaching high school too.  I have early education experience and so, primarily teaching three, four, five year olds. And, it’s like, building that foundation starting young, teaching the holistic histories you know? Instead of just the, the white washed eurocentric education that I think a lot of children grow up with.

R 23:41: You know I think it’s important to have a lot of breadth and depth on your kid’s bookshelves tool. Like I it’s important your own culture’s reflected in the books you’re reading, whatever that is. You wanna have books that represent your world and I think that validates kids’ hobbies and backgrounds and tastes but I also think you wanna have books on the bookshelf that represent the entire rainbow of the community if you will? Cuz we’re never in isolation and we never..so I think to empathize with others we have to understand them first and to understand them, if we don’t have a first hand basis, if we’re not friends with somebody from a different culture because our community demographics are like that, we need to know it through other means and I think kids’ books are a great way to do that.

24:38 C: I completely agree with you, John! What do you think? Weigh in here let us know your opinion.

J 24:45: Well you know it’s a movement, a movement that you know is so important right now it’s wonderful to see the energy and the power behind it and at this time, you know I remember, twenty years, more than twenty years ago now when I started as a professional illustrator.  There wasn’t a lot of voices, especially in the publishing.  Or any industry. It just seemed like for me anyway, it seemed like it was very hard for me to find work, find things, most people didn’t know what to make of my art, they though “oh this is like South Western what kind of stuff are you doing?” So they didn’t understand, nothing like a meanness necessarily, just like it was an unaware kind of a thing and I like that now, we have become aware. Now I always knew that things would change that this was gonna happen. I always felt it in my heart, we’re moving forward it just takes time and sure enough, you know, like Roseanne said about five, four five years ago when there were even talking about, books and diversity in books and things like this it’s like what are you guys waiting for? I’ve been waiting for this for fifteen years? So at the same time I was happy, I was glad to see it starting, starting and that’s the thing, this is a good start. And like Roseanne said, having representation of yourself as well as other people you surround yourself, with these stories, you do find that empathy, to me books are like travelling, the more you travel the more you meet other people from different cultures outside of your own maybe comfort zone.  It’s a great way to destroy racism, build friendships, build connections, this is the kind of thinking and this is the kind of thing we need that books can do! That can do.  And I just love that power and to diversify and see different stories from everyone, from everyone!  It’s a wonderful thing, but I think again it, the more we do it the better it’s gonna be. 

R 27:06: I just wanna mention I think that John’s illustrations, the work he’s doing on his most recent books they’re really the cutting edge of this movement. It’s like every time I see a book that’s about, you know, Social Justice, or really rich in diversity, I’m like “oh wow! It’s John!” I’m your big fan and you’re not just because you make my words look so beautiful. 

J 27:35: Oh I’m so grateful, I mean I get I’m having the time in my life at the same time, this is just a pleasure. When I do pick a project I do just love getting to the heart of stories too, stories that apply to all of us, that we all connect to. I’m not trying to single out anything or anybody or any group, I just love, I love community.  I love that being, yourself, also, is important to me and just, I don’t know? I think there’s so much to celebrate you know? I don’t see a need for…you know…haha, for you know the competition sort of aspect I guess? To me it’s a celebration of all things that are interesting, because I find it all interesting you know?

R 28:28: I love what you said about the universality, what is universal for people of many different backgrounds. And you know the reason I started my, well I started with books that focused on Asia because I lived in Asia for most of my adult life and, I really internalized that culture, and in fact when I came back a few years ago I felt the US was a little bit foreign to me.  But, what was important is that I was teaching young children and including my own daughter, about basic shapes, themes, colours, universal ideas that kids in any country or any culture relate to.  But what’s really weird is let’s say I’m in Hong Kong and we’re reading a book that says round is a pumpkin on Halloween? And the kids are like “Halloween? Pumpkin?” You know? It’s not related to their life, and I just thought it was so important that books be, how do I say, like a two way portal kind of. Where kid’s in Asia can say “round is a moon cake, round is a bowl of noodles, I get that.” But round is also something like a round table or a cup of tea that kids in any country or any culture can understand so, this is how I got started it was meant to… I was frustrated as a teacher and a parent.  John was saying when he got started there wasn’t a lot of multicultural books and people didn’t know to watch you or what to make out of you and to me it’s just common sense! You want kids to make a connection to their real life, they learn faster they relate they become excited, and it’s a two way learning street.  So “Round is a Tortilla” is not just about that particular culture it’s something that kids of all backgrounds can reach out and say, “okay I have round things in my house! Wow! I’ve never had a tortilla before what does it taste like? It looks wonderful!” So yeah I think that we’re on the same page John, for sure.

J: For sure.

30:46 C: So I love that both of you are not only bringing in pieces of your own life but aspects of so many other lived experiences too, and your profession and also into this conversation both of you are creators in the publishing industry doing different things working together, working with lots of other folx and what would be your biggest piece of advice? You know? To parents caregivers educators, about how to make their bookshelf the best bookshelf possible?

J 31:19: I think that Roseanne was hitting on it earlier, just have a diverse, just have books about as many things as you can. You can start by taking your kids to the library. My mom took us to the library when we were young, we didn’t need much encouragement for us to go and grab books we liked we were interested in. But she also picked out books that she thought we might need to see. That’s a key thing, to keep that enthusiasm for kids sometimes, they go ‘oh you know’ cuz they get a little older ‘well you know I’m not into books, you know’ and stuff like that.  But if you allow them to be in charge of what they like plus giving them these other books you think hey this is also interesting or could be related to something you like, I think that’s a big part of it. And just have fun with it also I think, that some of the books that we do have these workshop papers that they come with? Teacher guides, also like art craftings. So you can have a book and do something related to the book, interact with it with your kids. I think that’s kind of a fun way to make it real and  get the educational fun. We do this with our granddaughter all the time, So I have her paint and she comes over and she’s actually, she’s actually painted on some of my books now, because she comes over and sees me painting at my studio. She’s like “oh so what are you working on?” “Oh I’m working on a new book.” “Can I help you paint?” We mix the paints together and I match things up and I let her, put the paint in some of the areas and she knows she did that, so it’s like now she has ownership she feels like “I’m a part of this now.” And I love that! I love that she can be a part of that! I think just making that you know also that extra connection, doing something creative, with the books that you like.

C 33:33: I love that story so much so sweet so empowering. I also feel the same way when I was in the classroom and would garden would kids, the sense of ownership that they felt like “I grew this plant! And now I can eat part of it!” you know? And there parents might be like, “well they don’t eat tomatoes at home!” And I was like “well they grew this tomato, so they’re at least gonna give it a try, or green been, what have you.” It’s sort of like instilling the confidence in children that they can do these things and then celebrating, I love that. 

R 34:14: Now John, your granddaughter, is she going to be listed as one of the illustrators?

J: I’m working on the royalties right now. 

R: Each brushstroke is worth a book.

J: She used to come to my book signings and sometimes if it was okay with the person buying the book, sometimes she would sign the book and I would tell the person that she did part of this painting, they were very kind.

R 34:41: This is exactly what I mean when I say my parents celebrated writing, John is celebrating artistry for his kids I think that’s such a great message.  That, this isn’t just frivolous stuff. John, can I tell you something really sad that a student told me about fifteen years ago?

J: Oh nooo..

R: I was teaching an ESL class, and I asked this one girl to illustrate the little paragraph that she had just written and I said “okay we don’t have enough time take it home and do it.” And she left it on the table, and I called her and I said “come back you forgot it.” She said “No I can’t take that home my parents will be angry because art is not appropriate homework in their minds, they wanna see me writing pages and essays.” And I just went “oh my gosh….tell them that I won’t let you get a good grade unless you do it.”

J: I always have this little, soap box speech about art, and you know, art and schools, at all ages, art in school isn’t necessarily to create more artists when they grow up. Art in school is to create, to teach kids how to think creatively and problem solve creatively. Is it fun? Sure, absolutely, if you continue with it great! If you wanna become a professional artist that is a wonderful thing but a separate kind of conversation but it’s like, with art or music or drama or poetry or writing or whatever it is that those creative, teachings that you have in school are so important that parents, like if I just wanna like tell them this! You don’t understand, this is not so your child will be this, this is so your child will think independently, creatively, problem solve, I mean how many times? This is what we need in the world , this creative problem solving. So I just…it just drives me crazy that people think this is frivolous stuff. It’s not it’s the most important thing I can think of.

C 36:55: My last question to you which also might be difficult to you, because I wanted to know some of the best books that you have read this year so far.

R 37:04: Okay I don’t have as much time to read as I used to and it’s basically teaching kids in China and in the US simultaneously different hours different schedules. But, there are a couple that I loved.  So, I’ll talk about Children’s books mainly and then one little grade three book that we are using at our school that I think is fantastic.

C Fantastic

R: So Miranda Paul that John has illustrated“Little Libraries and Big Heroes” by Miranda Paul & John Parra it’s about the Free Little Libraries Sensation. I am enamoured with people who stick out these little libraries on their front lawn and I just think that the message is community sharing and it’s such a heart warming story, John I’m so glad you got to illustrate it.

J 37:58: As soon as I read it I had to do it, and then when I found out I got to talk to Todd the guy who started this whole thing.  Oh my god…

R: Oh you did!

J: Unfortunately he passed away, but yeah I’m glad I did that story.  Sorry I’m interrupting.

R: Not at all! And she has another book, I don’t know how old it is. But after I read that I started looking at her work.  And I read “One Plastic Bag” and it’s about the women in the Gambia and how they formed this recycling in their community. So I really love Miranda and I’m looking forward to many more of her books. I read “That is My Dream” Langston Hughes & Daniel Mirayes a picture of dream variation, I just got a chance to see that, the artwork, it’s just like, the poem is a bird that has wings. And it’s just it’s done so beautifully, so you asked me earlier what kind of books I look for and the art in that book, would just make me want to grab it off the shelf.  And sometimes I read older books! That I just, love, like I was cleaning out my bookshelf because we’re stuck in doors and have nothing to do half the time! And so I really loved Faith Ringold’s  “Tar Beach” That’s an old book I think it came out in 1991. It just make me start! It’s about a young girl who’s lying on the very top of a tenement building in New York and the tar is referring to the black tar paper as she lies down. And as she is lying there she’s imagining, envisioning that she’s flying all over the city, understanding what’s going on in different people’s lives and going on a journey, so those are the children’s books that have touched me this year.  The middle grade reader that I really loved I wanna get the title right, it’s called “Refugee” by Allen Gratz it’s geared towards maybe 4 to 7th grade that’s basically the range possibly 8th grade. It’s about three journeys of three young refugees in different time periods. One is a young boy fleeing Nazi Germany in the 1930’s the second story is about a young girl in the 1990’s fleeing Cuba and the third one is a Syrian refugee. And it’s very, contemporary, like maybe five years ago.  And what’s interesting is that the book sets it up where you’re reading these three individual journeys of kids who are you know, twelve, or thirteen years old, and then the last chapter, there’s an amazing tie in. Where these three separate lives come together it’s a really beautiful ending. There’s a cross over that connects all three of these stories, so, I really recommend that book.

C 41:16: Wonderful well now I have a few more books to my reading list, my never ending reading list, it only gets longer.  John how about you?

J 41:28: Well I’m just gonna pick a few because there’s so many again that I’ve looked at.  I’ll start with a couple of children’s books “The Day you Begin” by Jacqueline Woodson & Rafael Lopez

By I just again, that book is just amazing just wonderful, Raf and I, Rafael and I were talking about this.  We were having lunch last year.  And so we were just discussing on the concepts and ideas when he was in the book, and it’s interesting how, like, how like some, some of the art director’s thought “wellllll we don’t know about this idea, but what about this idea?” but I totally got it right away! We were like “but that was the best part of this picture!” And of course the story that Jacqueline wrote is wonderful so I love this picture book it’s about, a girl who goes on her first day of school. But it’s also about other kids who feel differently, that are adjusting to this new sort of classroom environment and I just, I think it’s just a really sweet story there.  And an interesting.  I like a story that has that heart. And a little bit of a challenge in it.

“¡Vamos! Let’s Go to the Market” by Raul The Third III, I think he’s a Boston guy up there now!

C: Woo woo Boston!

J: Yea “Let’s go to the Market” it’s a series he’s doing, he’s got this graphic novel style of art, really cool characters that are so great and wonderful.  We did an art trade last year which was a lot of fun.  So he has one of my pieces he has one of my pieces and I have a piece from this book and it’s really cool! I think that that kind of like reminds me a lot of when I was younger and spending time at my aunt’s where they used to put these Mexican dishes out with food. It’s about these characters that go to this market and all sorts of funny things happen in the book and stuff like that but it just has that sort of feel like that and reminds me of that.

There’s another book called “The Little Gardener” by Emily Hughes that I like I was struck by the artwork looking at it, I love plants I love gardening as well. When I was growing up my dad was a landscape contractor so I used to work for my dad, it was work on a lot of projects and he loved gardening and stuff like that. So I kind of got a little bit of that from him and I just sort of enjoy nature.  So that was a thing.  Some of the, other books like older, this is kind of a cheat but it’s “Letters from Cuba” by Ruth Behar

 by which I actually did the book covers for, so I got an advanced manuscript and I got to read that.  And I love to read the whole story, I wanna read the whole story and when I start a project  like that I like to do my research.  I like to get in, do whatever I possibly can to visualize about the book. But I love the story it’s a book that’s coming out next week it’s about a young Jewish girl from Poland who’s just on the eve of WWII she goes to Cuba with her father and she has to start a new life there. It’s a very challenging life at first. So it’s a very, it’s a very heartwarming moving story. So I like that one. The other ones I read was, “Owl’s Outstanding Donuts” by Robin Yardi, sort of like a mystery who-dunnit kind of thing? With a sort of environmental issues going on and it’s set in big Sur and I’m originally from California so I love that area up there. It’s really got that service that we do mystery thing and I love that, it was very well written and Robin did a wonderful job. Such an enjoyable time reading it. The kind of book where you just have fun reading it. And the last book “The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora” by Pablo Cartaya and it’s about a boy in Miami, who works in his family’s restaurant, Cuban restaurant.  It’s about big families and you know also challenges from outside and how there’s a developer that wants to take over the neighbourhood type of thing but it’s just kind of, a really great story it has a lot of heart it’s about falling down and picking yourself up and keep going kind of a story. And those are good stories to tell and I love that, I really like that one as well.

C 46:39: Cool! Well adding all those to my list. Read a couple of the ones you guys mentioned but super interested in the “Letters from Cuba” one that sounds really interesting. So Roseanne and John and I think this brings us to the end of our chat which is a huge bummer because I appreciate both of you hanging out with me, chatting, for Picture books and justice.

J: Thank you very much.

R:Thanks it was great being here.

J: Yeah.

C: Thank you so much for listening to the Picture Bookstagang Podcast and more specifically the Picture Books and Justice Episodes. Don’t forget to subscribe and rate us wherever you listen to podcasts and you can drop us a comment on Instagram and let us know, what are you reading?  

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