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Raúl the Third, 2017 Pura Belpré Illustrator winner, at Cport School

liz

Raúl the Third and Liz the Librarian

On Monday, Raúl the Third (a.k.a. Raúl Gonzalez) was announced as winner of the 2017 Pura Belpré Illustrator Award for his middle-grade graphic novel Lowriders to the Center of the Earth, written by Cathy Camper. Some people go to Disney World. This guy went to Cambridgeport School!

On Tuesday he spent the morning in the library speaking to groups of third, fourth, and fifth graders. He began by talking about his childhood in El Paso, Texas, and Juárez, Mexico — though that’s a spoiler alert. Instead of telling the kids where he was from at first, he simultaneously drew and described the everyday things he saw, mainly in English but with some Spanish words, too (so, another spoiler alert!).

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Drawing the everyday things he saw

His mother didn’t speak very much English — “mine, too!” interjected a child — but she took Raúl and his brothers to the library where he “fell in love with reading.” But his English at the time wasn’t great either, and when the “cool” librarians asked him what part of a story he liked the most, he had trouble describing it. The solution? “Try drawing your favorite part.”

Raúl is also a fine artist and educator. He has taught at the Museum of Fine Arts and the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston. He painted a descriptive portrait for us about another wonderful “museum” from his childhood, one that started him on his path toward a career in art when he first looked up and saw a rack of comics at the 7-Eleven: “If you don’t have a museum around, you’ve got to find one.” You don’t need “fancy schmancy” materials — a ballpoint pen will do. You don’t need to look any further for inspiration than the people around you, your own “supporting cast,” the people who look like you. “There are stories within each of us,” Raúl said, and it seemed like the kids believed him.

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Self-portrait: “Who is that?” “It’s him!”

Liz, Raul the Third, Fida

Liz, Raúl the Third, Firdaus

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Elissa Gershowitz About Elissa Gershowitz

Elissa Gershowitz is executive editor of The Horn Book, Inc. She is a current member of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee.

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Comments

  1. Jen Mason Stott says:

    …and a couple hours later, he came to King Open School and charmed us all! What a busy week!

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