by Raquel M. Ortiz
Illustrated by Maria Dominguez
Spanish-language translation by Gabriela Baeza Ventura
Publication Date: May 31, 2015
A young girl is transported from her inner-city neighborhood to Viejo San Juan in this bilingual picture book
When Sofi walks through her barrio to the local store, she always passes a huge mural with images from Puerto Rico: musicians, dancers, tropical flowers and—her least favorite—a vejigante, a character from carnival that wears a scary mask.
One day on her way home from the bodega, she stops in front of the mural. Is one of the dancers inviting her to be his partner? “Okay, let’s dance,” Sofi giggles, and suddenly she’s in Old San Juan, surrounded by dancers and musicians playing bongos, tambourines and güiros. She begins to dance and sing with her new friends, but her pleasure turns to fear when the vejigante—wearing a black jumper with yellow fringe and a red, three-horned mask—spins her around and around! What does he want from her? How can she get away?
This story about an imaginative girl and a magical mural is an engaging exploration of Puerto Rico’s cultural traditions as well as an ode to public art and the community it depicts. Featuring Maria Dominguez’s lovingly rendered, colorful illustrations, this bilingual picture book introduces the topic of community art to children ages 4 to 8. After reading this book, children—and some adults too—will want to make and share their own artistic creations!
RAQUEL M. ORTIZ was born and raised in Lorain, Ohio, and has been making art and telling stories ever since she was a little girl. She holds a Ph.D. in Social Anthropology from the University of Salamanca and has worked at The Brooklyn Museum, the Allen Memorial Art Museum and El Museo del Barrio. Raquel is the author of El arte de la identidad (Editorial Universidad de Granada, 2011), the documentary Memories on the Wall: Education and Enrichment through Community Murals and textbooks and educational materials for children in Puerto Rico and the United States. She lives in New York City and is a professor at Boricua College. This is her first picture book.
MARIA DOMINGUEZ moved from Cataño, Puerto Rico, to New York City when she was five years old. She began her artistic career as a muralist with Cityarts in 1982; that first experience with public art showed her that people can create art together for their community. Over the past twenty-five years, Maria has created over twenty public art murals and in 2001 was commissioned by with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority of New York City. Presently, she continues to work with Artmakers, Inc. in New York City. The recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York Foundation for the Arts, she has also headed El Museo del Barrio’s Education Department. She currently teaches art in New York City’s Public School System. This is her first picture book.