For almost thirty years Lulu Delacre has been writing and illustrating children’s books informed by her Latino heritage and life experiences. Whether working solo or illustrating the work of others, her unique style has garnered numerous accolades. Among her many beloved books are Arroz con Leche: Popular Songs and Rhymes from Latin America; Salsa Stories; Arrorró mi niño: Latino Lullabies and Gentle Games; and the multi-award-winning The Storyteller’s Candle/La velita de los cuentos. Alicia Afterimage is Delacre's latest book, and her first for young adults.
She has lectured extensively throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, and France. She is a grantee of the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County, Maryland, and has been honored both as a “Maryland Woman in the Arts” and as a “Write from Maryland Author.”
A native of Puerto Rico, Delacre currently lives in Silver Spring, Maryland.
The Storyteller's Candle has been selected for inclusion in the 2010 Spirit of PaperTigers Project.
Some of your work as a writer/illustrator of children's books celebrates legends, games and/or songs from Latin America. How close are these themes to your heart and why did you decide to turn them into books?
The island and culture I grew up in, infused my senses with images, sounds, smells, tastes and textures that became embedded in my very core. Unknowingly I acquired a richness in terms of lore and traditions that begged to surface onto the pages of books as soon as I became a mother. I left Puerto Rico to live in the United States, where my daughters were born. It is mostly for children that grow up between two cultures that I create books that celebrate my Latino heritage.
What comes first, writing or drawing?
First comes the spark of an idea. It may be a lullaby that I remember my grandma singing, or the Taino myth that I recall when I see a child reading Greek myths in English. It may even be the flavor of Christmas in Puerto Rico that makes me want to share the island's traditions. As I write or select the text, images form in my mind and the book begins to take shape.
Do you have a favorite illustration technique? How do you choose the style and medium for each project?
You have illustrated several works by other writers, including Lucía González's The Storyteller's Candle and Carmen T. Bernier's Shake it, Morena!. Can you please tell us a little bit about your approach to collaborative work? How different is it from illustrating your own text?
In my opinion, the main difference between illustrating my own and another's manuscript is who does the research for the text. I've learned that researching for a manuscript informs my art. So when I illustrate for other authors I make sure to communicate with them, in order to learn about the subject from them. I strongly believe that books benefit from team work.
What was the experience of illustrating The Storyteller's Candle like for you?
Illustrating The Storyteller's Candle was healing, refreshing, interesting: a challenging and very rewarding experience. Healing because it allowed me to reconnect with the visual artist within me at a time of grief. Refreshing because it allowed me to travel through time. Challenging because it made me explore a way of bringing history to life in an unusual way. Rewarding because not only do the author Lucía González and I work well together, but i had a fantastic time creating the art.
What are you working on at the moment?
I am currently working on three very different projects, all in collaboration with someone else. For the first, a series of interactive picture books for autistic/special education children, I have enlisted a young and talented teacher of autism. The second is a bilingual picture book that features a game about love I used to play with my daughters. My eldest, Verónica, has crafted the English version for it. The third project is a picture book that Lucía González and I are developing together. These are all exciting and challenging projects for which I am in the process of finding homes.
If you could choose a place anywhere in the world to send The Storyteller's Candle, where would it be, and why?
I would like to send The Storyteller’s Candle to Tibetan schools for monks and nuns in Ladakh, India. Their lovely children have no libraries, and live off the generosity of others. They are taught English and the lesson that Pura Belpré imparts at the end of the book might be one they truly connect to.
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