Congratulations to Elizabeth Dulemba on her new book!
Written by Keith Polette, published by Raven Tree Press, and illustrated by the very talented Ms. Dulemba, Paco and the Giant Chile Plant is a spicy retelling of the favorite Jack and the Beanstalk.
My blog is lucky enough to be stop number three on Elizabeth's blog tour, so I had the pleasure of finding out the nitty gritty about e's new book and I'm happy to share my findings:
Hi e! I've just seen all your lovely illustrations for Paco and the Giant Chile Plant, and they're simply wonderful. Congratulations!
I feel a shift in your color palette for this book that really suits the story and the setting. Tell us a little about your process of getting into the mood of a new book project. What types of decisions does the story dictate for you?
Thanks! Sometimes the look of a story will just jump into my head, as was the case with Paco. When I learned it took place in the Chihuahua desert I immediately envisioned hot, spicy colors, warm light and shadows thrust into cool blues and purples. I wanted the reader to feel the extreme temperatures of the place in direct relation to the strong sunlight, almost a mirage-like effect. This mood drove and limited my color palette.
But different stories relay different feelings, and I enjoy the directions they take me.
There are a lot of fun little details in the design of this book (the pepper page numbers, the text pullouts on the torn paper, etc.) How much input did you have on the design of the book?
Do you like to have a blank page handed to you or do you like more art direction?
I had such a strong vision for this book, I actually ended up as the designer on the project. (I was a graphic designer for fifteen years before diving into children's books.) That's highly unusual in this business but luckily my publisher was open to it. It's hard with my background not to think of the final appearance of a book, and I've actually had quite a bit of say with the smaller publishing houses I've worked with.
But more and more (and with larger houses), I hand off my art and the publishers take it from there. I'm quite happy with that because while I know I'm an okay designer, I also know I'm not a great designer. I value the fresh ideas truly talented designers can bring to a project and have a lot of respect for them. So despite my design streak, I actually prefer to work with a team of talented people.
Nowadays, I mostly let out my graphic design steam on my own promotions.
I am particularly fond of the swirls you added to the chile plant.
What were some of your favorite details you added to the illustrations or design?
Oh, I am so glad you asked me about the swirls! I wondered if anybody would notice them. There is a very good reason they are there. "Paco and the Giant Chile Plant" is an adaptation of "Jack and the Beanstalk." A beanstalk is a vine which can grow very tall and thin. It attaches to objects with curly little tendrils which allow it to grab on to things. A chile plant grows more like a bush. At every joint, it grows two new shoots, which then grow two new shoots and so on. But with this growth pattern it doesn't grow very tall. So how to get this chile plant to reach into the sky like a beanstalk? I zoomed in on close ups of the chile plant and added the swirls to imply the idea of those clinging tendrils!
I added a few fun things in Paco. My dog, Bernie, once again makes a star appearance (he's been in all my books so far). And I love the little chickens - they're quite indignant over the whole affair. But I really enjoyed playing with the light in this book, it became another character in a sense. I really pushed the illumination and shadows and hot and cool tones it created.
I heard that you've been learning to speak Spanish to better promote Paco and the Giant Chile Plant. That is above and beyond!
In what ways do you think you'll be able to use this new skill in relation to the book? What about in your own writing?
I always wanted to learn Spanish (I love languages and already speak some French), and several things came together to make it the right time. I recently turned 40 (ouch) and along came Paco. We also have a quickly growing Latino community in Georgia. So, while it may seem a bit extreme, it just seemed like the right time to finally learn Spanish.
It's been intense though. I go to the Latin American Association twice a week for about three hours each time (and I return home with lots of homework!)
It's been an incredible experience. I dove in thinking, "I'll learn Spanish - no biggie." I've since been exposed to so many wonderful people from all over the world and embraced by the local Latino community. I have several bilingual events coming up to celebrate Paco. I just hope I'm up to the task!
Wow! you don't look a day over seven! :-)
What exciting activities do you have planned for school visits and book signings?
2008 is filling up fast with bilingual celebrations for Paco and other engagements. I'll do a storytime for "Nuestra Vida"; speak at the Alabama Book Festival; the Cedar Valley Arts Festival; El Dia de los niños ~ El dia de los libros (with Carmen Deedy and a Cuban band); read at the LAA for Mami y Yo; have Cinco de Mayo parties at Barnes & Noble and my favorite local indie, Little Shop of Stories; speak at ¡Inspira! Summer Amiguitos program... *whew*
And these are just the events for kids! I'll speak at some colleges and conferences and will teach once again at the John C. Campbell Folk School ("Beginning Drawing" and "Creating Picture Books").
I'll be busy, but it's going to be lots of fun!
Whew is right! Do you already have some activities online for kids to visit? How about lesson plans for teachers?
I really enjoy creating follow up material for my books and have several free downloads available here. You'll find free computer wallpaper, coloring pages, a bilingual word-find puzzle and recipes!
The book contains a vocabulary list gathered from the embedded Spanish throughout the story, so makes a great tool to jump start learning in English or Spanish. It is also available in paperback to keep the cost down for bulk purchases (like for classrooms).
Elizabeth, thanks for sharing all this great info with me! Good luck with everything you have planned for Paco!
And if you happen to have a giant chile plant of your own, here's a recipe for Pico de Gallo.
6 medium Tomatoes diced
1 medium Onion diced
1/4 cup fresh Cilantro chopped.
2 to 4 Fresh chiles (jalapeños to us) seeded and minced
garlic powder, salt, and fresh lime juice to taste
Mix, chill, and get out the corn chips.
*If you have a bunch of ripe avocados, you can add them and some mayonnaise to this same recipe to make great guacamole!