Each year a committee of the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) identifies the best of the best in children’s books. According to the Notables Criteria, “notable” is defined as: Worthy of note or notice, important, distinguished, outstanding. As applied to children’s books, notable should be thought to include books of especially commendable quality, books that exhibit venturesome creativity, and books of fiction, information, poetry and pictures for all age levels (birth through age 14) that reflect and encourage children’s interests in exemplary ways.
Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood.
By F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell. Illus. by Rafael Lopez. HMH.
With paint, brushes, and artistic spirit, a muralist transforms Mira’s gray neighborhood into a place of color, joy, and unity. Based on a community art movement in San Diego, California.
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They just started an Action Book Club featuring titles that inspire community change and progress, including Maybe Something Beautiful among the recommendations. Find the Little Free Library in your area and see how books CAN make a difference, starting with just one kid.Visit the Little Free Library website
I was thinking about the many kinds of riches and for me the foremost is the richness of relationships. I’ve been fortunate enough to know Isabel Campoy who along with her partner in love and literacy Alma Flor Ada, have been instrumental in bringing about diversity in children’s literature for many years. They’ve used an asset approach by highlighting the beauty, humor, depth and broadness of Latino culture as exemplified in Maybe Something Wonderful: How art transformed a neighborhood that Isabel shares in this interview. I hope that you feel the love that Isabel shares in her life and work and that I’ve been a grateful recipient of for over 20 years now.
Here’s the less than 12 minute video, followed by a little about Isabel and some of her other books.Read the entire interview
Growing up in Mexico City, Rafael López developed a distinctive artistic style influenced by Mexican surrealism, proverbs, and myths. Today, his paintings can be found in spaces as small as a postage stamp and as expansive as the walls of city buildings. In 1997, the artist and his wife, Candice López, masterminded the Urban Art Trail Project, an urban renewal effort that revitalized their bleak neighborhood, San Diego’s East Village, with vibrant murals, sculptures, and art installations. That project, which empowered paintbrush-brandishing children and adults to brighten their home turf, is the inspiration for a new picture book, Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood, written by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell and illustrated by López (HMH, Apr.).
Howell, now a writer and independent editor, first connected with López in 2003, when, as managing editor of Rising Moon and Luna Rising, she worked with the illustrator on a bilingual picture-book biography, My Name Is Celia: The Life of Celia Cruz/Me llamo Celia: la vida de Celia Cruz, written by Monica Brown.
Maybe Something Beautiful is the triumph of hope, and possibility. It is the assertiveness of identity, as the united voice of a community says: ¡Sí se puede! Yes, we can! It is also the recognition that the search for beauty is a powerful motivator for change, and that ART is a great tool to materialize it.
How did you get the idea to transform Rafael López real story into a picture book?
When Theresa and I talked about this idea we knew that there was more than a story to tell. There was a beautiful effort from a community to create change. Change of how they saw themselves and their physical surroundings, change from single to plural, change from prose to poetry. It took years for all of us, authors, illustrator, agents, and publishers, to materialize the idea and create these pages that are no longer just a children’s story, but evidence of the strength of will power.
How did you connect with Theresa Howell to write Maybe Something BEAUTIFUL?
She talks about it in her interview, it was such a “right encounter”. As a great editor she can recognize where there is a good story to tell, as a gifted writer, she knows how to tell it. I brought to our team those layers that Paulo Freire taught me to see when a human being is set to desire change. Rafael and Candice lead the way and something very beautiful was created.
How long have you been at SDCC? What is your mission there?
For 25 years I’ve taught at San Diego City College, an inner city urban community college. As we have a stop on the San Diego trolley line, I have the great opportunity to work with diverse students from nearby Mexico as well as those from many fascinating countries, different age groups, gender and sexual orientations, abilities/disabilities, people of color and varying socio/economic groups. I lead the graphic design program and many of our students transfer on partial or full scholarship to some of the strongest design programs in the country. We are determined to make an impact on the graphic design field by bringing more diverse people into the design profession who will make a difference with their lives and work.
Do you have any personal stories about that time, when the Urban Art Trail was a dream in your heart?
When we bought an old warehouse in and edgy part of town we spent the first few years fixing the 1930’s car garage into a live/work studio. We then realized the need to change what was happening when you opened the front door. To make real change it is important to empower others to be part of it . Rafael developed a mural style that worked like a giant paint by numbers so children and untrained artists could be directly involved in art making. The grass roots nature of our movement drew good people to us for support, often they were strangers. One time we were painting a mural that required a scissor lift and we had run out of money to buy supplies and get the project done. A passerby chatted with us and returned from the ATM with an envelope full of cash! We were able to complete the Joy of Urban Living Mural and had seed money for the next mural.