My two-question Q&A this month is with author Silvia López and illustrator Paola Escobar, creators of Queen of Tejano Music, a picture book biography of Selena that Little Bee Books has published simultaneously in Spanish as Reina de la Música Tejana.
Silvia, born in Cuba and raised in Miami, had a career as a children’s librarian before becoming the author of books for young readers including Pacho Nacho, Handimals, and Just Right Family. Paola is a Colombian graphic designer and artist whose other books have included Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré. Their collaboration is a Junior Library Guild selection.
Reviewing the book for Latinxs in Kid Lit, Emily Aguiló-Pérez—an assistant professor of English specializing in children’s literature at West Chester University of Pennsylvania—wrote, “Queen of Tejano Music: Selena is a celebration of the singer’s life—her music, her fashion, her memory, and her legacy, still alive and strong 25 years after her passing. A perfect addition to any picture book collection!”
I’m giving away a set of both books to a single Bartography Express subscriber with a US mailing addresses. If you want to be the winner of both Queen of Tejano Music and Reina de la Música Tejana, just let me know (in the comments below or by emailing me) before midnight on September 30, and I’ll enter you in the drawing.
In the meantime, please enjoy my two-question Q&A with Silvia López and Paola Escobar.
Chris: Since you began working on this book, when people found out that you were creating a picture book biography of Selena, how have they reacted?
Silvia: Many people in the Miami community knew about Selena. But I was pleasantly surprised at the enthusiasm I received when I announced the picture book, even from those who might not have been as familiar with Selena’s style of music as her fans in Texas and the Southwest. Friends as far away as New England and the Midwest told me they had gone online and watched her videos and interviews!
I knew then that any book dealing with Selena would be well-received, because she was not only a terrific entertainer but a lovely human being. And when Paola’s beautiful cover came out, I could tell from everyone’s reaction as soon as I showed it that the picture book would exceed even my own expectations.
Paola: The first reaction was that of my family, because we are very big fans of Selena’s music. My brothers and I grew up listening and dancing to her songs, so everyone at home was very excited for me to illustrate this book.
When I talk about this book, the reaction has been wonderful, very positive. I have received many comments full of love, because Selena is a woman who—in addition to being a famous star—is an icon who has inspired the lives of many to fight for their dreams.
Chris: Speaking of family, the musical Quintanilla family has a major presence in this book, as they did in Selena’s life. And you each dedicated the book to family members of your own—Silvia, to your granddaughter, and Paola, to your parents and siblings. I wonder, how have your families influenced your work as creators of children’s books?
Paola: They have always supported me and are my motivation.
My mother has a shelf in her living room with all my published books—she is the number one fan of my work. Since I was a child, she enrolled me in art courses In the schools where I studied. I think she was the first to see my love for drawing.
My father brought books home all the time, and my brothers and I were happy reading them and looking at the illustrations. I remember that one of those books had an illustration of Beatrix Potter, and at that moment I knew that one day I would like to illustrate books.
So, my family has played a very important role in my career as an illustrator, and I appreciate that every day. They are the most excited about this book—we are all fans of Selena and the Quintanillas.
Silvia: Being an only child, I used my imagination to entertain myself a lot. My parents encouraged my love of reading, writing, and tons of doodling! Later I was fortunate to marry someone who supported all my creative endeavors even as we worked hard, raised a family, and coped with the ups and downs that life always throws one’s way.
Through the years I’ve also tried to foster creativity in my own children and grandchildren, as my parents did for me. When researching Selena, it was easy to see that she received lots of support and encouragement from her own family, a factor I identified with and which helped inspire my writing.