Saturday, June 11, 2016

Featured Illustrator: Duncan Tonatiuh, part 1: fictional stories

I had the opportunity to hear Duncan Tonatiuh speak at NCTE last year in November (at a presentation, I am sad to share, which was attended by only a handful of educators). He talked a little bit about how he found his inspiration during art school and how he decided to reach back to his Mexico and Mixtec roots to arrive at his stylized work, which is immediately recognizable.


He even opened up Photoshop on his laptop to show us how he uses photographs and scanned textures to digital color his drawings! (Cool insider tip: the black hair is actually a photograph of a black wig, which explains how all the highlights and reflected light get included.) It was great to be able to bring these kind of stories back to my students when we shared some of Duncan's books this year. He even autographed copies of his books afterwards!


One of my students was so inspired by Duncan's books and his artwork style, that she decided to try her hand at using his style in her poster project for a report about the life of the ancient Maya.




Folktales and Stories Illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh


For this first post, I will share some of Duncan's books that are folktales or fictional stories. Part 2 of this series will feature his biographies.


Dear Primo: a letter to my cousin [a Pura Belpré Honor book]. This is Duncan's first book and the one that he created as part of his final project for art school. The story shares letters back and forth between two cousins, one living in the United States and the other in Mexico. Both the letters and the illustrations highlight the similarities between both boys. In the author's note, Duncan explains how he based much of the book on his own childhood experiences, growing up first in Mexico and later in the US.


Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: a migrant's tale (2013)  [a Pura Belpré Honor book]. Written in the style of a fable or folktale, Pancho Rabbit deals with the very real-world issue of illegal immigration from Mexico into the United States. When Pancho's father does not return from "El Norte," Pancho sets out to find him and bring him back, with the help of a coyote he meets along the way.

This was my first year sharing this story with children, and my students and I had some very powerful conversations both before and after reading it. We had studied historical immigration in an earlier unit, so they could make a lot of connections between past and current immigration - and to many of their own family's immigration stories. I cannot encourage you enough to read and share this story with children. (We followed it up the next week with Mama’s Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation (2015) written by Edwidge Danticat and illustrated by Leslie Staub about a young girl whose mother is in immigration prison.)


Salsa: un poema para cocinar / a cooking poem (2015) by Jorge Argueta and illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh. This bilingual poem celebrates the process of making salsa using a molcajete. While salsa does not need to be an exact science of portions and measurements, it would be a little difficult to make just by reading the poem. It seems an oversight to not include a traditionally-written version of the recipe in the back of the book too. (H/T July/August 2015 issue of the Horn Book.)





Stay tuned for part two about biographies by Duncan Tonatiuh or click the "Featured Illustrator" tag for more books by talented illustrators!

DiverseKidLit

Shared with #DiverseKidLit

19 comments:

  1. I love his work, but I think my favorite part of your post was the example of the student who was so inspired to try to use his style in her project.

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    1. Isn't that fun? We had just shared his books that week, so she went and got them to compare as she worked on her drawings.

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  2. Interesting use of style. More info about the 48 HBC at http://msyinglingreads.blogspot.com/2016/06/more-details-about-48hbc.html

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    1. Thanks, and thanks for the headsup!

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  3. I love his illustrations! And even more so how they inspired your students! #diversekidlit

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    1. Thanks, Svenja! It was so fun to see her adapt his style with no prompting from me.

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  4. I especially like the Dear Primo cover!

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    1. Me too. He does a great job of "mirroring" the two boys throughout the book, to really highlight their similarities.

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  5. Thanks for introducing me to Dunca. Love the idea of two cousins sharing letters about their lives in Dear Primo. Great cover!

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    1. Thanks, Patricia! I hope you'll check out part 2 - his biographies are wonderful reads as well.

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  6. I really like Tonatiuh's books. It took a bit to get used to the style of his characters, but it really works with his topics I think. Didn't you just crave good Salsa after reading that book. I know I did. I'm really looking forward to reading part 2 now.

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    1. Ha, ha. Agreed. Except maybe not for the crying onion part! (Part 2 is now live: http://www.thelogonauts.com/2016/06/duncan-tonatiuh2.html)

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  7. It's so exciting to be able to meet authors and illustrators, and to get a glimpse behind the scenes and see how a creation comes to life. Immigration is a major theme in my city as well, though the countries most people come from are different, and I think these stories would likely resonate with kids here too.

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    1. Agreed. I've found that kids really connect to the "immigrant experience" more than a specific country of origin. Kids are so much more apt to see similarities between themselves and books, rather than differences.

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  8. The illustrations are simply amazing. Growing up in Arizona I experienced immigration issues, families separated by a border and of course homemade salsa! :-) These stories would definitely be wonderful edition to any classroom. Thank you for sharing. I can't wait to read the next post.

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    1. Thanks so much, Stacie! I think it's so important for kids to get a sense of these issues.

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  9. The illustrations are simply amazing. Growing up in Arizona I experienced immigration issues, families separated by a border and of course homemade salsa! :-) These stories would definitely be wonderful edition to any classroom. Thank you for sharing. I can't wait to read the next post.

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  10. I love the work Duncan Tonatiuh has done both as an illustrator and an author. His books are great! Thanks for sharing at the Kid Lit Blog Hop!

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