Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Chavela and the Magic Bubble- Interview with Author Monica Brown

By René Colato Laínez

Hola Monica, your new book Chavela and the Magic Bubble is wonderful and full of magic. As a child did you like chewing gum? Were you able to make fancy shapes like Chavela?  

As a child, I loved chewing gum, but I certainly didn’t have Chavela’s talent for creating butterflies and dogs out of chicle!  I could, and still can, however, blow a bubble inside a bubble.

Where did you get the inspiration to write this book?

This book was inspired by my daughter Isabella, my Chavelita, who asked me the question, “Mommy, where does bubble gum come from?” I knew I had to do some research to fully satisfy her curiosity and I was delighted to learn about the wonderful Sapodilla trees of Southern Mexico and Central America.  While most chewing gum is now made from other synthetic substances, I found out that there are still chicleros harvesting chicle from these trees and acting as stewards of nature. 

The other inspiration for this book may surprise you.  I had just written a biography of my favorite writer, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, titled My Name is Gabito:  The Life of Gabriel Garcia Marquez/ Me Llamo Gabito:  La Vida de Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and I wanted to write a story for children that explore my favorite literary genre, magical realism.

I know that your daughter Chavela was eager to hold this book in her hands. What was her first reaction when she saw the final book?

She loved it!  It was the first time she had a character in a book named just for her.

What was the process from manuscript to publish book for Chavela and the Magic Bubble? 

It was an unusual journey because I actually wrote the book many years ago and the manuscript was originally bought by Rising Moon/Luna Rising, an imprint of Northland, an independent publisher.  Before the book came out, Northland was bought out by a larger publisher who only wanted their backlist.  The rights eventually came back to me and the illustrator, Magaly Morales.  We were happy to publish the book with Jennifer Greene at Clarion books, who did a fantastic job.  In essence though, my agent had to sell this book twice!

You use a traditional song, tengo una muñeca vestida de azul, in the story. Why did you decide to include it? As a child, what were your favorite traditional songs? 

I included it in part as a homage to my mother, Isabel Brown, who sang it to me as a child and in part because a doll with a blue dress is central to the story!  It is interesting to note that there are many different versions of this song across the Americas.  I learned this version from my mother, who was born in Piura, Peru and gave it my own interpretation. 

If you were able to chew Chavela’s magic chicle where would you go?

I love this question! Well, I just got back from the Feria del Libros in Panama City, Panama and I already want to go back and spend more time in that country, with it’s beautiful people and rainforests.  But it would only be a stop on my way to Peru to visit family.  It’s been three years since I’ve been there and that’s about three years too long.

Your awarded children’s book biographies are very popular. Is there a different process to write fiction than nonfiction?

It is very different, actually.  With a children’s fiction picture book there are no limitations to where my imagination can take me and in that sense it can be more fun.  In writing about a public figure and sometimes a living person, I must work within the confines of the facts of history.  I need to find a way to create beauty, rhythm, lyricism while honoring the lived realities of my subject. This was a particularly daunting task when writing about one of my personal heroes, Dolores Huerta, who is the subject of my new book Side by Side:  The Story of Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez/Lado a Lado: La Historia de Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez. Ultimately, I love writing both fiction and non-fiction and have several books in each genre forthcoming.

What is your message for all those children who love bubble gum and enjoy reading your books?

As always, I want my books to encourage children to let their imaginations roam free and to feel that they are without limits.  In this book, I also wanted to share some of the history of the Americas—the ancient Mayans chewed Chicle long before we did—and to appreciate the natural world.  The book links to the Rainforest Foundation and encourages children to be stewards of nature.

Where can readers get the discussion guide for Chavela and the Magic Bubble?

Parents, teachers, and librarians can find the discussion Guide for Chavela and the Magic Chicle at:

There are also additional resources for this book and my others.  I am a teacher and a writer, and if my work inspires children to want to learn more, I have those resources available on my website.

What are you final words for the readers at La Bloga?

Thank you for your wonderful support of all books and I hope you enjoy reading Chavela and the Magic Bubble as much as I enjoyed writing it!

Monica Brown is the award-winning author of My Name is Celia: The Life of Celia Cruz/Me Llamo Celia: La Vida de Celia Cruz(Luna Rising), My Name is Gabito: The life of Gabriel Garcia Marquez/Me Llamo Gabito: La Vida de Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Luna Rising); Butterflies on Carmen Street (Piñata); Pelé, King of Soccer/ Pelé, El Rey de Futbol (HarperCollins Rayo); and Side by Side: The Story of Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez (HarperCollins Rayo).

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NPR Interview with Monica Brown

Monica talks about her new book

Side by Side/Lado a lado 

The Story of Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez

La historia de Dolores Huerta y Cesar Chavez

Here is the link. Enjoy it.

KNAU: Children's Book Author Honors Labor Organizers (2010-09-06)

Every day, thousands of farmworkers harvested the food that ended up on kitchen tables all over the country. But at the end of the day, when the workers sat down to eat, there were only beans on their own tables. Then Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez teamed up. Together they motivated the workers to fight for their rights and, in the process, changed history.

Award-winning author Monica Brown and acclaimed illustrator Joe Cepeda join together to create this stunning tribute to two of the most influential people of the twentieth century.

Todos los días, miles de campesinos cosechaban los alimentos que se servían en los hogares de todo el país. Pero al terminar la jornada, cuando los campesinos se sentaban a comer, lo único que había en sus propias mesas era frijoles. Entonces, Dolores Huerta y César Chávez se unieron para motivar a los trabajadores a luchar por sus derechos y en el proceso, cambiaron el curso de la historia. 

La premiada autora Monica Brown y el aclamado ilustrador Joe Cepeda se unen para crear éste impresionante tributo a dos de las personas más influentes del siglo veinte.

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