Celebrating Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month: children’s authors and illustrators

Hispanic Heritage Month

Each week throughout September and October we will highlight various achievements in the arts by writers, illustrators, and musicians. In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, we will look at contributions to sports, the sciences, and history by Latina, Latino and Latinx people.

Do you love to write stories or draw worlds you invent from your imagination? Maybe you have dreamed of writing a book or drawing the pictures for a book. These are careers that you can pursue; you can become an author or an illustrator. This week we are sharing books you can check out from the Lafayette Library. Maybe they will inspire you to create your own book as well!

Our first picture book is Pacho Nacho, written by Silvia López and illustrated by Pablo Pino. The author wrote stories as a little girl in her home in Cuba before moving to the United States. Whatever pieces of paper or even receipts she could find she would use to write. Her imagination created worlds around her and the books she read inspired her to keep writing those stories. When Silvia moved to Miami, her love for learning words and a new language came from a dictionary and a visit to the public library. She eventually became a children’s librarian but was motivated to write stories based on centuries-old folktales and all the silly stories in her head. Pablo Pino from Argentina, also self -aught, works digitally but enjoys following his imagination and creating with whatever materials he finds at hand, such as acrylic, drawing paper, and paint. As you can see, both author and illustrator started as children, creating and imagining characters and stories that helped them to be the artist and writers they became today. Check out this and many more of their books!

The next book is No More Naps! by author Chris Grabenstein and illustrator Leo Espinosa.  How did Espinosa become an illustrator? It helped that both his parents were artists themselves: his mother was a high school art teacher and his father, an architect. He was raised with encouragement from his parents to create. In a 2017 article, Espinosa explained “Curiousity has led my career.” After losing his father at a young age, he spent the beginning of his career in graphic design, but eventually moved from Columbia to New York to study visual art, where he eventually met his wife (who is also a designer).

You may be wandering how an illustrator gets started on their designs. Espinosa sketches his ideas out with pencil on marker paper. When he feels ready, he scans them or takes a picture with his phone. The uploaded sketch is used as a template, and then he uses Adobe apps. After so many years of using the same format, he was curious to explore ways to draw more textured and natural shapes,  so he started painting with Photoshop on a Wacom tablet. Being able to try something new changed and opened up his career as an illustrator. He continues to value the art of creating by sharing that with his son, as they have worked together on a short animated clip together.

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A New Kind of Wild by Zara González Hoang, as both author and illustrator, is our next featured book and one of my favorites in the list. Growing up we hear stories from our parents, grandparents or other family members. We don’t always realize how priceless these stories are until we are not able to hear the stories anymore. The author and illustrator Zara González Hoang took her father’s stories of their family and wrote her first children’s book, A New Kind of Wild. in 2019. When she was a child, her father, an excellent artist himself, would get down on the ground with her and draw. Drawing also became a way to deal with difficult situations throughout her life; and, as an adult, retelling her father’s stories was a way to honor him and his memory. The first book she illustrated was Thread of Love and was done digitally; but, for her first authored work she made sure to do the illustrations traditionally, the beautiful drawings. Hoang studied computer science as well as took art classes in college, nurturing both her logical and creative sides (as she described it). Hoang is still new to the world of writing and illustrating; what kept her from pursuing this work for so long was that she felt she wasn’t good enough. Once she had her son, she wanted to create children’s books with more meaning. It opened up a whole new passion, and lucky for readers, revealed a talented artist and writer.

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Luci Soars, written and illustrated by Lulu Delacre

Born and raised in Puerto Rico by Argentinean parents, Luci Delacre credits her Uruguayan grandmother for nurturing her drawing starting at a young age, and for saving all her work. The other influence was when she was 10; when her family returned to Argentina for her father’s sabbatical, a friend of her mother’s who was an art teacher invited her to be part of the classes. This was the first of many teachers to encourage Delacre to draw from real life, and this is also where the author/illustrator found true happiness with her own creations. She continued to study in Puerto Rico and then France, and found that she wanted to focus on writing and illustrating children’s books based on what she knew–her rich heritage and traditions. It was also important to Delacre to write those stories in English and Spanish. In her own words:

I delight in creating books that portray my own culture with authenticity in both words and pictures. And if painting Latinos true to their own beauty, fosters respect; or if sharing some of their stories builds bridges among children, I want to keep on doing it. Because for me, that is the true measure of success. ¡Viva nuestra herencia!

For all you budding artists and writers, whether secretly working away or openly sharing your magic with the world, the common theme with all the writers and illustrators featured here is a childhood interest that the encouragement from someone close to us, or just the passion and desire to let loose your imagination, can lead to a life as an author, illustrator, or both! For more picture books from Latina, Latino, and Latinx authors and illustrators, check out some of the books available for checkout below.

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Find these and other books celebrating Hispanic heritage or written and illustrated Latina, Latino, and Latinx people.

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