Monday, January 27, 2014

Tito Puente Mambo King Wins Pura Belpré Honor from the American Library Association

Sunday started with a boat ride to Coronado Island with my son
Shorts and iced coffee on a January morning in San Diego

Sunday morning started with the ferry to Coronado Island for a bike ride with my son. I returned home to a call from Ruth Tobar the chair of the American Library Association Pura Belpré Committee. It was the best news imaginable...

Growing up I learned firsthand the life changing benefits of music. As a young child I was fascinated by the shapes of instruments. My uncle Ruben was a gifted guitar player and true bohemian.  He had a radio show at UNAM that introduced indigenous music from Mexico, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Puerto Rico, Brazil and Cuba to local audiences. He was an  avid collector of vinyl records and at the time Paris was the mecca of world music. Ruben traveled and studied in France to grow his knowledge of music then shared that passion with others. My uncle taught me to play the guitar at a young age. I have fond memories of weekends where we played music together, poets would recite their work, painters would sketch and my mom's carne asada would fill the air with a delicious aroma. Intermixing with the sounds, exotic and complex, the music got inside me in the biggest way. The surprises I found inside a musical composition impacted me as a young visual artist.

That's me second from the left playing the charango.
For my son, we chose a public school,where parents and teachers believe in a dynamic art and music program.  It has made all the difference in Santiago's education. Now educators recognize that learning music helps support learning in other subjects. It can impact language development and strengthens the ability to communicate. Music helps you understand yourself and expands your world. I've always believed that every child deserves the chance to experience the life-changing benefits of music. If you learn to appreciate different genres of music you also learn to appreciate differences among people.
Happy this book dedicated to those who nurture love of music in public schools was recognized with a 2014 Pura Belpré Honor. I'm deeply grateful to the Pura Belpré committee, American Library Association, my friend writer Monica Brown, my agents Stefanie Von Borstel and Adriana Dominguez and Harper Collins for getting it out there. Thanks to Tito Puente Jr. for giving a thumbs up to the book. Tito Puente's music continues to fill my studio inspiring my paintings with rhythm and energy.
A big shout out to the other Pura Belpré winners, my friends Yuyi Morales for Nino Wrestles the World and Meg Medina for Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass. Congratulations to Duncan Tonatiuh and Angela Dominguez for their Belpré honors.

Mood board imagery I put together to inspire my sketches

It's a long way from start to finish and here
I'm exploring character development.

Using carbon paper to transfer my drawings to hand cut and sanded wood boards.

Painting the largest color area guides the rest of the color palette.

Final painting comes to life
Earlier sketch about Tito in the Navy
Earlier version evolve through editing and refinement.
One of the directions that only went as far as tracing tissue.
An earlier version that shows changes to Tito's mom in the finished scene below

Author Monica Brown wrote "Before he could walk, Tito was making music.
He banged spoons and forks on pots and pans, windowsills and cans."

Wanted to show the life of boys in Hispanic Harlem in the 20s.

Focused on composition with Tito at the apex.

Showcasing the fluid energy of his music.

His music filled the streets of New York.

Paying tribute to Celia Cruz, Carlos Santana and La Lupe who played with Tito.

Work to make everyday the best day of the year


  1. Congratulations on another beautiful book and another Honor!

    1. Jill
      Sorry I'm just getting around to saying thanks. I've been digging in on Drum Dream Girl with 4 paintings to go. Appreciate your support.