Sunday, October 10, 2010

Book Fiesta!

Winner of the 2010 Pura Belpré for Illustration.

BOOK FIESTA! Written by Pat Mora.


"Rafael López utilizes vibrant colors and applies magical realism to show that the love of reading is universal. Through a series of fanciful images, the author depicts Latino children inviting children of other cultures into their book fiesta, leading the reader on a visual journey that shows that reading sparks the imagination across all cultures and has the power to unite us. This informational children’s book will also serve as a valuable resource to those planning El día de los niños/El día de los libros in their communities." American Library Service to Children

"Gorgeous, soaring full-page illustrations are the heart and soul of this book. Rafael Lopez’s magical artwork brings the book alive with lush colors, strong design, and diverse, charming kids. A family floating in a boat listens to the father read aloud, as the son imagines himself in a pirate adventure and the daughter, trailing a finger lazily in the water, imagines herself a mermaid. As darkness cloaks the earth, rooftops come unmoored from their homes and dreaming children float toward the moon, soaring with books in hand. Lovely." Common Sense Media

"I got this book from the library for my 11-month old twins, and they love it. I'm going to buy my own copy. The illustrations are absolutely gorgeous. They're so colorful and creative that my kids' eyes don't stop moving. The message is simple: "Read!" Each page has one or two lines on it in both English and Spanish. It revolves around different places children read books. I love the fantasy element as it shows children reading books on a whale, a hot air balloon, etc. The other terrific aspect of this book is that is depicts a multicultural group of individuals with both girls and boys well-represented in non-stereotyped ways. I'm heading to the library to check out every book Rafael Lopez illustrated" Parent review posted at

The message of this book is simple and powerful-READ! I was excited to work with author Pat Mora once again as I share her vision to celebrate Children's Day/Book Day. She is the founder of the family literacy initiative and I saw this as a chance to encourage children to fall head over heels for books. When you believe in an idea as I did this one you can't wait to grab your paintbrushes.

I want kids to connect to my painting style. I try to speak their language visually and keep things simple, flat and graphic. The texture of the whale's skin, the moon and the clouds is inspired by the well worn walls in the Mexican town where I live.

When you read your imagination has no boundaries. Using a cloud as a pillow and a star for your light source makes perfect sense.

In this spread even the sun has decided it's time to throw a party and celebrate books. I was hoping to express the excitement of getting ready for a fiesta.

When children read books they often dream that they are the characters in fantastic stories. I wanted to express that spirit of magic and transformation when imagining you are a fearless pirate or mysterious mermaid.

Scale and composition are so important when adding drama to a scene. I focus on giving each child a distinctive personality and craft their expressions to communicate those unique qualities.

In this scene I wanted to showcase children interacting with animals. The storyteller in the turban weaves a fantastic tale and the creatures and kids hang on his every word. The world we live in is such a wonderfully diverse place. I choose to show that diversity in my characters because it reminds me of the amazing children I have met in my travels. I want to show these kids in an authentic way and sometimes I realize that I have painted a child I encountered at a library or in the zocalo playing with a wooden toy as their spirit or features really resonated for me.

I'm very inspired by indigenous cultures because they are masterful at creating symbols to convey ideas in a direct and powerful way. I pay homage to their traditions in the shapes and hues of sea creatures. The message here is that you can read anywhere and so I invented this submarine for exploring books deep under the ocean. Emily Dickinson said "There is no frigate like a book" and I agree.

I think of illustrating children's books like making a movie. It is important to bring familiar characters back into the story and here the sun re-appears to watch a young girl reading in the warm light to her animal friends.

I like the element of surprise and so I began always putting just one vertical page in my books. Here the moon sends a subliminal message through the heavens to a child as he reads aloud.

I want to thank everyone who has embraced this very special book: Book Fiesta! and the American Library Service to Children who made the Pura Belpré ceremony in Washington D.C. and unforgettable experience for my family and I. I wanted to share a portion of my speech as it communicates the passion I feel for books and reading.

When I was a child growing up in Mexico City I remember my first experience traveling alone. Taking a rickety train to the metro station past colorful vendors who sold everything from comics and chicklets to medicinal herbs to cure a broken heart. Moving through an ocean of people I took the hour train ride to Zocalo station. Leaving the metro was like stepping back into another time, surrounded by Neo-Classical buildings on my way to the Hemeroteca, the city’s central library. Among the stacks there were ancient, sometimes dusty, heavy leather bound books.

More than just words and pictures it was the grain of the paper, the smell and feel of the way a book ages that awakened my curiosity. On weekends my Father would take me to the Lagunilla flea market. I held his hand tightly as we searched for treasure. On these expeditions we got lost in our quest for old relics and discovered the magic of collecting broken books that other people left behind.

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  1. I love the illustrations on the Children's themed material for the 20122 Summer Reading Program. ¡Te la comiste!

  2. I really enjoyed the illustrations in this book! Beautiful work! I recently read the book to my daughter, and we loved the picture of the moon looking down on the house especially.