Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Authors, Artists and Children Building Peace

First things first.
PLEASE MAKE SURE TO CLICK ON 2010 (18)Under BLOG ARCHIVE (below right) because we want you to see ALL of our posts from children's book illustrators and writers!

As the year winds down we thank all the authors and artists who have helped us with our peace project. You can read our blog to learn more about their beautiful books and we hope you will give them to someone special in your life. We built the book tree in this picture to celebrate books and reading.
December makes you think about giving. The holidays are a chance to share the magic of books with your friends, teachers and loved ones. It's fantastic to think that there is a book for every special person in your life. Here at Kids Growing Libraries we got very excited when we saw a blog post by an inspiring artist and writer Yuyi Morales. She promised to write to us soon and we can't wait to find out what she is working on. You can check out her terrific blog Corazonadas at There is also a link to the post that inspired her to pair books at Mother Reader.
This idea was so much fun we had to give it a try!

There is an Art to Giving Books and we brainstormed these ideas for pairing the books featured this year. Don't forget a great big bow.

Doña Flor. Art by Raul Colón and Written by Pat Mora.
Illustrator Raul Colon used Prismacolor pencils to make this gorgeous book and what kid wouldn't want a set of their own radiant colors. The flat box will nestle nicely on top of this book.

The House in the Night. Illustrated by Beth Krommes and Written by Susan Marie Swanson. Caldecott Medal Winner Beth Krommes sent me Scratchmagic Paper and now I can practice making art that looks like real scratchboard. The little wooden pencils and papers could be bound up with a bow to the top of this soaring book.

¡Book Fiesta! Written by Pat Mora with Art by Rafael López. This book won the 2010 Pura Belpré for illustration. You can organize your own book party and string colorful papel picados. Kids can learn to make their own at Why not include an application form for a local library card? Together we are growing a family of readers.

Gracias. Thanks. Art by John Parra and Words by Pat Mora.
Simply click the CRICKET toy and and you will hear a cricket chirping. Perfect for the text and gorgeous illustration "For the cricket hiding when he serenades us to sleep. thanks!"

Return to Sender. Written by Julia Alvarez. Winner of the 201o Pura Belpré for Narrative.
At supplier list you can find this beautiful folding rainbow colored umbrella for children. Express your love of peace even on rainy days. Ms. Alvarez we are still working on that Read for World Peace bumper sticker.

Waiting for the Biblioburro. Written by Monica Brown and Illustrated by John Parra.
Best Wooden Toys has these charming bookmarks and kids can also make their own unique creations that are the perfect companion to any good book. Alfa and Beto you're next!

The Dreamer. Words by Pam Muñoz Ryan and Art by Peter Sis.
Really Big Words refridgerator magnet poetry is a great way to have fun and start to dream like Pablo Neruda. Your parents will want to read this shiny, beautiful book too-you'll see!

Books can teach you things you didn't know before. If you have a winter cold and have to stay in bed they give you something fun to do and before you know it you will feel much better. When you are traveling over the river and through the woods a book will help you pass the time. Sometimes things get crazy at the holidays and you just need to escape to a quiet place-well a good book will take you there. When you finish reading a book you can keep it on your shelf or pass it on to a library or school because another child might really love that story too. Great books get better when they get old just like people.

Here are some of Santiago's most loved books paired with favorite things your friends and family will simply remember.

Never take a Shark to the Dentist [and other things not to do] by
Judi Barrett with fantastic art by John Nickle and a colorful Plaksmacker toothbrush.
This is the same amazing author who wrote Cloudy with a chance of Meatballs and you will learn important lessons wonderfully illustrated like never hold hands with a lobster or never go to the bank with a raccoon.

Blueberries for Sal by a legendary author/artist Robert McCloskey. Find out what happens on a summer day in Maine when a little girl and a bear cub wander away from their mothers. This book won the Caldecott Medal in 1949 but it is as fresh today as it was back then. Speaking of fresh, pair it with fresh blueberries in a beautiful bowl. In art class with Miss Bell my friends and I made peace bowls and I think it is the perfect book to put with sweet berries.

Iggy Peck Architect makes you smile by Andrea Beaty with clever illustrations by David Roberts. "Young Iggy Peck is an architect and has been since he was two, when he built a great tower-in only an hour-with nothing but diapers and glue". Brio natural building blocks have wonderful shapes to construct you own skyscrapers. Or make your own like my friend Daniel Renner who saved leftover wood scraps and sanded them. I now have an incredible set of blocks in crazy shapes that I never get tired of.

Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears by Verna Aardema with pictures by Leo and Diane Dillon. This is my favorite African tale and I bought the book on a trip with my parents and grandmother to Washington D.C and the National Museum of African Art/Smithsonian Institution. No wonder these paintings won the Caldecott Medal as they take you deep into the heart of the African jungle. You will love the ending and the moral to this story. I love to draw and tell it again and again.
At Rosenberry books you can buy an inexpensive kit to cut and glue amazing handmade papers [some are like tree bark] to make your own African masks.

This is New York, This is Paris, This is London, This is San Francicso by Miroslav Sasek created circa 1958. I love to draw but my Grandad Jer was a mechanic for United Airlines and - I love to travel. I have never been to New York, Paris or London but you would think I know these places after spending time exploring these classic books. Include an inflatable Hugg a Planet Material Globe from Elstead Maps.

Frederick's Fables: A Leo Lionni Treasury of Favorite Stories. Leo Lionni. This was a book I wanted for a long time because the stories and art makes you imagination soar into the clouds. You can learn about nature, peace, community, friendship, beauty, and being your own unique self. More than any other character in books if I were an animal I would be Frederick. I love the part where it is winter and the mice are tired of the snow and cold. Frederick tells them to "close their eyes and sends them the golden rays of the sun, and the colors, blue periwinkles, red poppies in yellow wheat, the green leaves of the berry bush and they saw the colors as clearly as if they had been painted in their minds". I want to learn to draw and tell stories like that! Pair this book with inexpensive Backyard Safari Binoculars to see the world as Frederick does.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Kids Growing Libraries and a Family of Readers

First things first.
PLEASE MAKE SURE TO CLICK ON 2010 (17) Under BLOG ARCHIVE (below right) because we want you to see ALL of our posts from children's book illustrators and writers!

Thank you to all our old and new friends of books who believe in this project as much as we do. Would you like to help us grow our library?
Welcome to our blog Kids Growing Libraries that is all about books.

There are great storytellers here - amazing authors and incredible illustrators!

Take a look at this book wish list or sponsor a book you think is really special. If you click on the links in our list you can also connect to the website of the authors/illustrators on our booklist and read more about them. It's a great way to learn, to see what they are writing and drawing and it took us a long time to get that part done.

You can mail a children's book on our list [new or used] a book of your choice or donation [checks payable to: San Diego Cooperative Charter School] for the
Kids Growing Libraries book fund
Our address:
Santiago & Pierre @ Kids Growing Libraries San Diego Cooperative Charter School
7260 Linda Vista Road San Diego, California 92111

If you have questions or ideas please email them to us at:

Do you know what an ex-libris is? It is a bookplate label that gets pasted in a book to tell who it belongs to. Here is what we paste into every book given to this peace project. Here's to our friends, moms and dads, the aunts, uncles, grandparents and super special book lovers who have been donating books. Thanks for going on treasure hunts to old bookstores and thrift shops and finding some of the award winning books on our list and other favorite books for our book cart.
We knew we could count on all the generous artists and writers who are teaching us about making books and believe in growing libraries as much as we do.
Together we are growing a family of readers and need your help!

Raul Colón and the Power of the Pencil

Hi Santiago,

It's great that you are putting together a library for your school.

As a boy I loved to read all kinds of books. When I was twelve I read in a comic book about a place called The Famous Artists' School. I wrote to them and they gave me a test that would measure how good I was at drawing. Then they sent a cartoonist to my house who said I had artistic talent but I was too young to go to the school. It was in tenth grade that I got my first real training in art, photography and advertising. Many years later I am a busy illustrator and work with watercolors and colored pencils - brand name, Prismacolor. The paper is Arches or Fabriano watercolor paper. I also teach one night a week at the School of Visual Arts.

I spent part of my childhood in Puerto Rico, then moved to Fort Lauderdale and now I live in New York with my family. My childhood asthma did in fact influence my art life. Because I spent so many hours bedridden, I drew constantly and read constantly which helped me develop my style as well as a way of thinking to work out original ideas. As a child I had chronic asthma and would frequently be so ill that I could not leave the house for days or even weeks at a time. But all those times I spent locked up inside, I spent filling up dozens of composition notebooks with all kinds of drawings. I even tried to write my own comic books…. So my illness as a child, which kept me from going outside to play, became a blessing. Ideas are very important for anyone who tries to create art. More so than being able to draw or paint well.

I hope this helped answer some of your questions. Keep asking. Curiosity is good for the brain.
Please keep in touch. Best, Raul

I wanted to show everyone a book you made called
Doña Flor: A Tale about a Giant Woman with a Great Big Heart that is one of my favorites. Pat Mora who wrote the book gave it to me and your illustrations and the story was so fantastic that it won the Pura Belpré in 2009. She is a giant woman who lives in a little town with lots of other families. Children use her flowers for trumpets and her leftover tortillas for a raft.
Just this year I started to practice drawing with colored pencils and I like the way they feel in my hand. They come in so many amazing colors and you can blend them together to make new ones. I like the way you made those rainbow borders around all the artwork and when you look at your drawings close up I see that you scratch beautiful textures into them. I like talking to my dad and mom about art and you said something incredible, that ideas are more important than being able to draw or paint well. It makes me think about where ideas come from. Like your asthma my friends and I have things that hold us back but you are right that sometimes those problems can help us grow even stronger. We think you had so much fun playing with how big and how small things are in this book. Like the picture of Doña Flor holding that tiny little book or the tortilla. I have never seen anyone use colored pencils like you and your pictures have big magic in them.

I was imagining that there was a tortilla big enough to be a boat and my friends Charlotte, Pierre, Tanner and Inika were riding with me down a river. I wanted to be the boy with the straw hat.

See the September 2010 issue of Artist's Magazine to learn more about how Raul Colón works and visit his website at:

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Beth Krommes & Caldecott Medal book The House in the Night

Hi Santiago,

I'm so happy that you like the pictures in "The House in the Night". I will tell you a little bit about how this book came to be.

You may know that most children's books start as words. The author writes a manuscript and sends it to an editor at a publishing house. If the editor likes it, she and the art director put their heads together to decide on an illustrator whose style best compliments the manuscript. When my editor, Ann Rider, accepted the manuscript for "The House in the Night" from Susan Marie Swanson, she immediately thought of me as the illustrator. She knew I wanted to do a book in black and white, and it seemed to her that this little "goodnight" book would work well in black and white. It was Ann's idea to add the gold color. She remembered a book called "Goodnight, Goodnight" by Eve Rice, published in 1980, that was illustrated in black and white with touches of a rich yellow-gold. She thought that adding gold to our book would make it shine.

It was up to me to tell the story through the pictures because the text is like a simple nursery rhyme. I sat for a whole day thinking (brainstorming, actually) about what this story could be. The manuscript had the words "key", "house", "light", "bed", "book", "bird", "song", "dark", "moon", and "sun". I knew that there had to be a main character who had to somehow get from the house out to the moon and sun and then back again. I thought this character could do this on the back of the bird. I knew that on the last page the main character would be tucked in bed, as a proper "goodnight" book should end. I wrote out what would happen before I started drawing.

I made the main character a little girl instead of an animal, because I didn't want our book to be compared to "Goodnight Moon", whose main character is a bunny. Although I have two daughters, I chose to base the main character on myself as a little girl so neither one of my daughters would be jealous. I included Scamp, the dog we had when I was young. There are many objects in the pictures that are meaningful to my family: the violin (my husband and daughters all play violin), the shell mobile that we made after a vacation at the New Jersey seashore, my teddy bear, and the doll that I made for my daughter, Olivia.

I loved drawing the scratchboard illustrations for this book. Scratchboard is a board, or panel, with a thin layer of fine, white clay covered by a layer of black india ink. The drawing surface is completely black when I start. I draw by scratching on the black ink to show the white underneath. The more lines that are drawn, the brighter the picture becomes. The tool I use to scratch with is a regular pen holder with a scratchboard nib inserted. This sharp point removes the black ink easily. It's a bit tricky to make a scratchboard drawing because you have to think backwards. When you draw with a pencil you draw a black line on white paper, but with a scratchboard tool, you draw white line on a black surface. This can be a little complicated, especially when doing faces, but it's a good challenge. An easy way to learn scratchboard is by starting with scratchmagic paper. This paper is completely black and when you draw (scratch) on it with a sharp wooden stick, bright colors appear. You may have used this drawing paper before.

Good luck to you and your friend Pierre with growing your library. It is a wonderful idea and I am inspired by your hard work. I love the picture you drew for me, and I enjoyed reading your blog. It was fun to see the beautiful artwork by John Parra, your father, and you. I would be happy to send you a few of my books for your library. Can you please send me an address?

Your friend,


Dear Beth,
When I was little I used to tell my Dad that paintbrushes were magic wands.
When we first saw The House in the Night at the bookstore my Dad told me-now this book is magic.
The librarians who gave you the 2009 Caldecott Medal in that wooden treasure box were right because this book is so, so beautiful.
Thank you for sending me your photo with your medal so kids can see what a real one looks like. Now I feel very happy and lucky to know more about how you made this book and I especially like the wonderful sketch you sent. I like seeing how your idea grows from a drawing. Your letter is fantastic because at school we are learning how writers, illustrators, editors and publishers work together. Thank you for giving us your books for our library peace project.
Isn't it so cool to know that artists can put little pieces of themselves into their books. It is such a good idea to have treasures like the seashell mobile and handmade doll and to draw pictures of the things you love in your pictures. Like your beautiful daughters who play violins. I can't wait to show my friends the printed pages in your book and the sketch you sent us because your first drawing was like making a map for the final art. I am going to ask my parents to get some scratchboard magic paper so I can try this. Then I would like to try scratchboard when I am ready to feel what it is like to think backwards. It does sound tricky. We had a workshop at school with my dad where we filled the whole paper with crayons and painted over it with a paint called tempera. Then we scratched the black surface with push-pins and could see the colors underneath-it was really fun. With scratchboard you made so many details in your paintings that my eye wants to look everywhere.
I really like the picture where you were a kid riding out your window on the back of a bird across the starry sky. Great idea! Your dog Scamp looks like he wishes he could fly. Don't you think it is amazing how both the artist and writer are storytellers in books?
It is magic.
You can see more incredible work from Beth Krommes at:

Writer Pat Mora teaches us to celebrate books.

Dear Santiago,

Growing all kinds of things is exciting. Some people like to grow vegetables like corn and tomatoes and some like to grow flowers, roses and daisies. Readers like to grow libraries, don't we? Often we grow family libraries at home. I like the idea of growing a school library very much.

Hooray for all of you!

I enjoy connecting all children to books, languages and cultures.

Hundreds of schools and libraries have Día celebrations in April. I hope your school has a good celebration. If it doesn't, start one. In the back of the BOOK FIESTA, we have all kinds of ideas for reading fun. Some places have book parades, some make book marks or their own books. Join the fun! Aren't Rafael's illustrations wonderful?

I'm a writer because I'm a reader. I feel so lucky that I grew up in a house with books. When my three children were little, I enjoyed reading them picture books. One day I thought, "Hmmm. I'd like to write a picture book too."

I tell kids, teens and grown-ups who want to be writers--read, read, read.
Pat Mora

Dear Pat,
I know that in the back of your book-Book Fiesta! you can get ideas about having a party to celebrate books at your school, library or at home. Children's Day/Book Day Celebrations are on April 30th so we should talk to our teachers and start planning. Kids can exchange books as party gifts and play games about our favorite books. Your parents and friends can have a party and decorate with books. I like this painting Dad made for Book Fiesta! where the kids are reading to the moon for our party.
At your school you could have a book festival and parade, where kids could dress in costume like characters from their favorite stories. Invite storytellers in costume or have puppet shows about books. We have a great art teacher at our school Miss Bell and she could teach us book-making at the festival with our parents. Then we could all make bookmarks about our favorite books and have an art show about them.
With our families that week we could read one book together and then talk about it at school. Maybe our school can invite an author or an illustrator who would come to our party and talk about that book. Sound's like fun doesn't it?
Thank you Pat for making such great books for us kids and showing us how to throw a big party to celebrate children and books.

Pat Mora's books have been recognized with the Americas Award and Pura Belpré Honor and you can learn more about them and Children's Day/Book Day by visiting her website.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Gracias/Thanks to artist John Parra

Dear Santiago Lopez,

What a great site for art and for books, two of my favorite things. Reading, just like art, feeds our noggin and our imagination. It inspires us to be great thinkers and to share ideas with others. I think the concept of kids growing libraries is an absolute home run. Life is great when we all look out for each other and share good things.

Being a children's book illustrator I was thrilled when I got to work on the art for Gracias/Thanks. A big part of why I connected to it begins with Pat Mora’s beautifully written story. It tells of young boy growing up in a multicultural Hispanic home and being thankful for all the special people and things in his life. The story closely reflected my own life growing up. Many of the scenes were events and memories that I had as a child and many of the characters were modeled after my own family. The main character is really a portrait of myself and how I saw my life. My two favorite pages from the book are the scene at the beach, where the waves are crashing and chasing the kids as they play, and the other is where the family is dancing and enjoying along with their guitar playing uncle.

I always loved to draw growing up. I was drawing even before I was in school. I would spend hours looking and examining people and landscapes, birds and bugs, robots and fantastic creatures. I would set up still lifes in my room with toys, blocks, books and various objects. I would draw with my brothers and friends. Once a teacher showed me how to draw perspective and I drew pages and pages of railroad tracks and buildings that would disappear off into the distance. Art always brought out this creative and positive energy in me.

For those who would like to be an artist the first step is: start to draw and draw, make sure to have a special place or area at home where you can do art with your supplies ready to go, and remember to feed your ideas for art by reading books, visiting museums and observing the world. You will then see a path to where your creativity and energies lie in becoming an artist.

All the best,
John Parra

This is a very special book John, you are a great illustrator and all my family loves your art. Looking at these pictures makes a kid smile because it makes you think of all the good things in life to be thankful for. Like going to the beach and that feeling you get when big waves come crashing down near you and your friends. You laugh and scream because it just feels so good. I like listening to my Dad play guitar too and we sing and make up crazy songs.
In Mexico people make little paintings on pieces of tin called retablos and even Frida Kahlo made them. We visited her blue house and the wall was covered with them and they paint them to say thanks like your book. When I saw your art I told my parents that I remembered those paintings about miracles on metal.
I like your ideas to keep drawing and reading and looking at all things in our world like bugs because they can look like they are from outer space. I am learning about perspective too and drawing it makes things feel close or far away. What a good idea John to paint pictures of yourself when you were a kid. I think it looks just like you. I know why kids love your drawings because I think you see the world like we do.

Gracias/Thanks Illustrated by John Parra and written by Pat Mora is a 2010 Pura Belpré Honor book and you can see more of John's amazing paintings at:

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Connecting Reading and Peace with Writer Julia Alvarez

Dear Santiago Lopez,
I think it’s so cool you are doing this. I’m with you that libraries are so important. It’s the house that holds all our stories. That’s why we’ve got to make sure all different kinds of storytellers are allowed to live there, on those shelves.

And I also agree with you about reading being a peace project. When you read, you become someone else. Simple as that! So, you get to understand someone else’s world from the inside out. If we did more of that and less making enemies we would have peace. Maybe every ruler of every country should have to spend part of every day in the library reading? It would be a better world, you think? At least, while they are in the library reading, they aren’t out causing trouble in the world.

You asked for a story from when I was a little girl. Well, back then, I lived in the Dominican Republic under a cruel dictatorship. We didn’t have things like public libraries. Actually, people were afraid to be caught reading or talking about ideas. The dictator thought intellectuals, writers and artists were troublemakers. (He was right! Ask your dad?) So it was a culture of censorship.

So I didn’t grow up reading or seeing people reading. But I did grow up surrounded by wonderful storytellers. Since people didn’t dare to write things down, they learn to say what they needed to say by telling stories. Later, when we fled to the United States, and I became a reader, I realized that even though people in my family were not readers, they were expert storytellers.

When we came to this country, I discovered the library! Wow! I knew I had come to a special place. I think more than the United States, it was in libraries that I discovered the great democracy my family had come searching for in this country. No one was barred from reading. And stories were about all of us in the human family. The story of a slave girl or the story of a prince. Every life was full of mystery and beauty, sadness and joy. And when you read, you are reminded that you are part of one human family.

So, you see, I totally agree with you! Maybe your dad—or heck, you!--can devise a bumpersticker: READ for WORLD PEACE!!!

Julia Alvarez

I saw Julia Alvarez talk in Washington D.C. with my parents and she is such a fantastic writer I wanted to learn more about her. She was born in New York City but when she was a small baby she moved to a place called the Dominican Republic for ten years. Her family had to flee because they were in danger. My parents told me she wrote a famous book for grown ups called How the García Girls Lost Their Accents about a family who had to leave the Dominican Republic.

She writes great books for us kids too.
At our school we learn that bullies are wrong and when she came back to America she met people who were mean to her just because she spoke another language and was different. She felt alone and homesick but books became a good friend. There is a very happy ending to this story because she decided to become a writer and this is a book she gave me called Return to Sender. She is a great storyteller and it won the Pura Belpré medal. It is a chapter book so Mom read it to me and it is a beautiful story and we are getting another to put in our growing library. We also listened to Julia Alvarez read part of it on and you can listen too. She is a great storyteller and talks about what she calls a pebble in her shoe. That means an idea. I like the way she uses her words to paint pictures. Writers can talk like they are singing sweet poems .

Click here to listen to Julia Alvarez:
You have to go to Julia Alvarez's website to know more about her books. There is a beautiful drawing of her there with very long hair and many things floating inside it-like her ideas.

Thank you Julia Alvarez for writing to us and I really, really like your books and ideas about peace.