top of page

The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz - Interview with Lawrence Schimel & L.A. Montes + Review of Colorful Mondays

Today, I have an extra special treat for you all. Honduran author L.A. Montes and author/translator Lawrence Schimel have joined me to talk about creating the extra special picture - Colorful Mondays: A Bookmobile Spreads Hope in Honduras.


Lawrence Schimel is a full-time author, writing in both Spanish and English, who has published over one hundred thirty books in a wide range of genres.

Author photo of Lawrence Schimel.

He is also a prolific literary translator. His picture books have won a Crystal Kite Award from the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, been selected for the White Ravens from the International Youth Library in Munich, Germany and have been chosen for IBBY’s Outstanding Books for Young People with Disabilities three times, among many other awards, honors, and distinctions.


His work has been translated into over 60 languages, including Basque, Icelandic, isiZulu Luxembourgish, Maltese, Scots, and Ukrainian.


Lawrence started the Spain chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and illustrators and served as its Regional Advisor for five years. He also coordinated the International SCBWI Conference in Madrid and the first two SCBWI-Bologna Book Fair conferences. He lives in Madrid, Spain, and New York.

Illustrator photo of L.A. Montes.

L.A. Montes is a bookseller in Honduras. Through a chain of serendipitous events, he met children's writer, music teacher, and performer, and the director of JustWorld International's Asociación Compartir mobile library project Nelson Rodríguez and began collaborating with him on children's stories.


Their newest picture book translation, Colorful Mondays: A Bookmobile Spreads Hope in Honduras, released on September 19th.


Welcome Lawrence and L.A Montes, thank you both so much for stopping by to talk about this new picture book and your writing and translating work.


Thank you, Maria, for having me. We are very excited Colorful Mondays is available in English for American children thanks to Eerdmans Books for Young Readers and their new series on Latin American stories. We greatly appreciate your interest in our book.


Tell us a little about yourself. (such as - Where/when do you write? How long have you been writing and translating? What is your favorite type of book to write and/or translate?)


LAWRENCE - I started publishing when I was very young. Basically, I read everything I could get my hands on at the local library and bookshop, and started writing my own stories. My very first professional sale happened when I was still in high school; my parents had to sign the contracts because I was still a minor.


I grew up speaking Spanish (my mother was a Spanish interpreter and teacher, so it was a literal "mother tongue" since my father doesn't speak it) and fell into translation at an ALA conference, back before they became BEA. A comics publisher I knew had a problem because his regular translator had had a heart attack and passed away, and he needed someone who could translate a graphic novel from Spanish in two weeks. Since I was a freelancer, I was able to make time to take on that project, which was published in 1994, and I've been alternating between writing and translating ever since. [Wow!]


Some years I publish more of my own books, some years more translations. 😊


Translation is a lot of work, but I also find the challenges to be fun and less exhausting than creation. For me, it's almost more like solving a puzzle, like completing a sudoku--it's intellectually stimulating but doesn't drain my creative well the way my own writing can (or also dealing with admin or answering emails or interviews--some days I wind up all typed out before I even get a chance to work on my own writing).


The translations I publish generally happen in two ways: 1) publishers ask me to translate something, or 2) I read something and fall in love with it and want to share it with more readers, so I pitch it to publishers until (hopefully) finding a home for it.


LA. MONTES - I am a third-generation bookseller. Promoting children’s literature has been the most gratifying part of my job, but it was not until 2018 that I took an interest in the creative part of the process.

I was lucky to be involved in a project sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which sought to increase the availability of local children’s literature. Since then, I embarked upon an editorial project to publish Honduran writers and illustrators. As an author, I like to think about small details in childhood with an emotional impact that adults may overlook.


I am so glad to meet you both! What do you each like to do outside by yourself or with family or friends?


LAWRENCE - I grew up surrounded by animals--angora rabbits, mohair goats, pheasants, horses--as well as indoor animals like cats and dogs (and also ferrets, turtles, etc.). When I was in grade school, my class actually took a field trip to my house! My mother used to spin the fur from the animals and later knit or weave it.


These days, I live in the city center, but when I can, I like to escape into green spaces. Although, these days I prefer to just catch a glimpse of animals in the wild rather than contain or domesticate them.


LA. MONTES - Honduras has wonderful weather, so I enjoy being mindful of the senses when I am outside. I take time to feel the sun in my face for a few minutes when I take a break from work. I love the gentle chill of misty mornings when I walk our Labrador or breathing fresh air when we step out to our backyard to have coffee. I would like to take advantage more often of being able to swim outdoors year round.


Lawrence, that sounds like an enchanted childhood and L.A. I would love to live where I could swim year-round! L.A. what was the inspiration or your spark of interest for Colorful Mondays: A Bookmobile Spreads Hope in Honduras?

Book cover - kids cheering for the arrival of a bookmobile.

LA. MONTES - I was moved by Emily Style’s formative 1988 essay, which described the two functions of curriculum contents: mirrors and windows. The first reflects students’ own reality and fosters their self-esteem; the second reveals the world beyond their current knowledge and creates empathy. Children’s literature in the Honduran curriculum lacks mirrors. My involvement in the USAID project led me to ask, where can curious Honduran children discover their own culture in libraries and bookstores? Where are their mirrors? I had seen Nelson at work with his group in the soccer field in Villa Nueva. When we met again, we agreed to work on a story he had in mind—he as a writer, I as an editor. I told Luis Zendrera of Editorial Juventud in Barcelona, Spain about Nelson and our project, and Luis had an idea. Why not tell the story of Nelson’s bookmobile?


Nelson wrote his proposal, and I asked him if I could write one from my perspective. He agreed. When we read both our proposals, we saw how they complemented each other and our manuscript, with the working title The Bookmobile, was born.


That's such an excellent way for a collaboration to develop. Lawrence, what was it about Colorful Mondays: A Bookmobile Spreads Hope in Honduras that drew you to translating it?

Titile page - bookmobile and a swirl of colors.

LAWRENCE - This was a book that Eerdmans asked me to translate; although, I do know the Spanish publisher of the book, Juventud, and have worked with them as well. In fact, my translation into Spanish of another Eerdmans title, An Orchestra of Hope by Carmen Oliver and Luisa Uribe, is forthcoming from Juventud in October!


I love that book! I am so glad it is getting translated. Who was your favorite author, illustrator, and/or your favorite book as a child?

Cover of Nutshell Library - boy and lion reading books at a table..

LAWRENCE - The earliest books I remember from my childhood are Maurice Sendak's Nutshell Library and Leo the Late Bloomer by Robert Kraus and Jose Aruego. I also still have my childhood copy of one of Edward Gorey's books that he co-wrote but didn't illustrate: Fletcher & Zenobia, created with Victoria Chess.


Cover image of a winged siler pony.

LA. MONTES - The book I checked out of the library the most was The Silver Pony by Lynd Ward. The Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham were so playful they made me happy to be in school. Later, I read and reread Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume, and my introduction to juvenile literature was The Three Investigators series by Robert Arthur Jr.


Thanks for this wonderful list of great books. L. A. Montes, how long did it take from the first draft to publication for Colorful Mondays?


LA. MONTES - Nelson and I came up with our first draft in July 2019. Elodie Bourgeois, our editor, gave us notes in November of that year, and by February 2020, she had shared the manuscript with Rosana and Carla. They had some suggestions for us that would give them a better foothold for the interaction of the text with their visual narrative and we were happy to comply. The artwork was finished by the middle of 2020, but the global pandemic delayed the Spanish publication until November 2021.


That would have been pretty quick, without Covid's intervention. So, what was the hardest, or most challenging, part of writing Colorful Mondays? Why?


LA. MONTES - Finding a balance between a sending a message of hope and showing respect for the harsh realities of everyday life in Villa Nueva and, by extension, Honduras. The conflict is not in the story, it underlies it, and we recognize that it is not resolved but rather symbolically alleviated. It is a big burden for Luis as a character to carry, and is it fair to expect that much of him?


Interesting conundrum to have to deal with, especially for a young character. Lawrence, what do you find most challenging about writing and translating children’s books?


LAWRENCE - I think it's so vitally important to share with younger readers without talking down to them. Picture books are also often shared between adults and kids, so that's also something important to keep in mind. When writing them, it's important to leave space for the artist to create their own visual narrative, in parallel to the text, so that ideally, the picture book together is something more than either alone.


In translating, my philosophy is to recreate the reading experience. So, if the language is fun and lively, or rhyming, that should come across in the translation as well.

Cover image of The Young Teacher and the Great Serpent.

I translated another book for Eerdmans forthcoming in October, The Young Teacher and the Great Serpent by Irene Vasco and Juan Palomino, and that has a dreamlike quality to the prose and the story. In the translation of both books, I made different choices, whether about vocabulary (“journey” instead of “trip”) or keeping the longer, flowing sentence structure, so as a result, each book hopefully sounds like itself rather than both sounding like ME, even though I translated both of them.


When translating picture books, there's an additional challenge that's not present with translating pure text, which is the illustration. That is, in recreating the text, you can't contradict what the art says. This can be an issue if you're recreating a rhyming text. The words that rhyme in one language don't often rhyme in the other, so you have to often find new rhymes--sometimes picking up on something else portrayed in the art, even if it wasn't in the original text, to recreate the same reading experience.


And obviously, you can't contradict the artwork. Like if I were translating into Spanish a book that portrayed a male figure of the moon--but in Spanish the moon is feminine!


They're tricky challenges, but it's very satisfying when one finds a solution to work everything out!


Thank you so much for giving us a glimpse into the challenges and complications faced in translating picture books. Is there something you both want your readers to know about Colorful Mondays?


LA. MONTES - To young readers, I would say that the children portrayed in the story love books as much as they do, and the bookmobile is, for many of them, the only access these children have to literature and art. To adult readers, I would say that the creation of this book is a small and fortuitous outcome that represents years of dedication by many people who believe that literature and art will lead the way to a better world. To both, I would say thank you for reading the book because a lot of love went into it for them.


LAWRENCE - It's such a joyful celebration of reading--what's not to like.


Hopefully, now my readers can't wait to read this special book! L.A. Montes, did anything surprise or amaze you when you first got to see Rosana Faria and Carla Tabora’s illustrations? What is your favorite spread or one you really like?

Internal spread - swirling ribbons of color surround and spread out from a boy telling happy stories to his cousins.

Text © by Nelson Rodríguez & Leonardo Agustín Montes, 2023.

Image © Rosana Faría & Carla Tabora, 2023.


L.A. MONTES - The first detail I saw of the illustrators’ work was their first proposal for the endsheets. It consisted of the swirls that signify the bookmobile’s path. At once, I knew a lot of care was going into the process. My favorite spread is Luis as storyteller to his older cousins. I like the group’s composition and the background that shows the daily activity in Villa Nueva in a way that makes for great conversation with young readers.


It is an amazing, colorful illustration. Lawrence, which is your favorite spread or one that really draws your attention?


LAWRENCE -Visually, you can see how the color enters the illustrations with the arrival of the bookmobile, and its stories-- it's like visual joy! I imagine that for storytellers, it's probably trying to say (or get the audience to repeat) that tongue-twister-y word: Chocho-rorocho-chochó!

Internal spread - orange and blue wide ribbons swish arcoss the page as kids sprawl across them reading books.

Text © by Nelson Rodríguez & Leonardo Agustín Montes, 2023.

Image © Rosana Faría & Carla Tabora, 2023.


But for me, I love the spread with everyone reading one of the books from the bookmobile.


I am a voracious and omnivorous reader. (Since the pandemic, I've been reading between 400-500 books per year--not including books I write or translate!)


Wow! This is a stunning illustration. Are there any projects you both are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?


LA. MONTES - I am working on several stories at a time. Most of them inspired by family members. My grandmother had a difficult childhood. She worked from the age of six, getting up at 4 a.m. to start her chores. I am writing a day in her life at that age as an amalgam of the experiences of young rural girls who have to help their mothers sell what they grow in their parcels for subsistence.

Book Cover - Lucky Me

LAWRENCE - I have a picture book of my own forthcoming in October: Lucky Me! illustrated by Juan Camilo Mayorga. It was first written in Spanish and published in Colombia, and the Spanish edition was chosen by IBBY for Outstanding Books for Young People with Disabilities. I self-translated it into English, and it's being published by Orca Books in North America and Oratia Media in New Zealand.


Congrats Lawrence and good luck to both of you with your other projects. What is your favorite National Park or Forest, regional park, or city park? Or the one you’re longing to visit. Why?

Photo of Yosemite

LA. MONTES - Yosemite holds a special place in my heart. I camped there as a teen with my family. So much astonishing beauty in one place. I hope to go back. As for a place I have not visited and would wish to go: the Grand Canyon.


Photo of Cuesta de Moyano - street lined with bookstalls.

LAWRENCE - Well, here in Madrid, we have a special street, which is right next to the Botanical Gardens, and is the route up to the Retiro Park (the city's largest park): The Cuesta de Moyano, which is lined with little bookstalls selling second-hand books, like the South Bank of the Seine in Paris.


That said, I only once visited a redwood forest in California, decades ago, but can still feel the awe those ancient, immense trees filled me with.


Thank you, Lawrence & L.A. Montes so much for stopping by and sharing with us. It was wonderful to chat with both of you.

To find out more about L.A. Montes, or contact him:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/iamlamontes

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/iamlamontes/


To find out more about Lawrence Schimel, or contact him:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lawrence.schimel



Review of Colorful Mondays:

A Bookmobile Spreads Hope in Honduras


This beautifully illustrated nonfiction picture book shares the experience of children and communities in Honduras. It vividly expresses the power of stories, songs, and books to bring joy and hope and to encourage kids to create their own stories and "fill the air with color."

Book cover - kids, standing on swirls of color, cheering for the arrival of a bookmobile.

Colorful Mondays: A Bookmobile Spreads Hope in Honduras


Authors: Nelson Rodríguez & Leonardo Agustín Montes


Illustrator: Rosana Faría & Carla Tabora


Publisher: Eerdmans, William B. Publishing Company (2023)


Ages: 5-9


Nonfiction


Themes:

Bookmobile, Honduras, stories, joy, creativity, and hope.


Synopsis:

A beautiful, empowering story about the impact of literacy in underprivileged communities, based on a real bookmobile program in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.


Luis’s favorite day of the week is Monday, the day the bookmobile comes to his neighborhood. In Villa Nueva, sad stories can gather like dark, stormy clouds. But at the bookmobile, Luis hears stories that burst with life, laughter, and color. Maybe today will bring a song or a puppet show! He might even get to pick a book to read on his own. Every new Monday fills Luis and his neighbors with a joy they can’t help but bring back home.


Co-written by the director of JustWorld International’s bookmobile program in Tegucigalpa, Colorful Mondays is an inspiring celebration of the ways books and learning can bring joy to a community. Illustrated in captivating swirls of color, this uplifting book highlights the strength of disadvantaged children and the creativity of those who help them imagine a better future.


Opening Lines:

In Villa Nueva, Honduras, happy stories mix with sad ones.

As in many places here in this country, the sad ones seem to be more abundant—

Luis finds them, like large dark clouds, when he goes to get water from the well

or when he sells the tortillas his mother makes.


What I LOVED about this book:

After all that sunny, swirling color and joy on the cover and title page, this opening spread is a startling contrast. The swirls of stories are still there, but they are grey and foreboding against the blue toned landscape. But even here there is still a ray of hope. The irrepressibly colorful and playful Luis.

Internal spread - blue-toned village with swirls and ribbons of gray in the sky. One boy stands out dressed in yellow.

Text © by Nelson Rodríguez & Leonardo Agustín Montes, 2023.

Image © Rosana Faría & Carla Tabora, 2023.


The following spread, showing the movement of residents of Villa Nueva and Luis and his mother selling tortillas in the street, continues with the same color scheme. Once again, Luis is the only colorfully dressed person sporting a smile. As he's determined to fill everyone's life "with joy and color through happy stories." I love this image, where his stories erupt out of him and bring joy to his family. Even though he still bears a bit of sadness himself.

Internal spread - boy telling a story to his family, as a rainbow of swirling colors and animals swirl between them.

Text © by Nelson Rodríguez & Leonardo Agustín Montes, 2023.

Image © Rosana Faría & Carla Tabora, 2023.


He would love to be able to share it with his papá too, but he’s not here.

For Luis it’s enough to not have any bad news from the place where they’ve told him

Papá went to look for work . . . so far away . . .


Mondays, when the bookmobile chugs into town trailing the multicolored, textured swirls, are Luis' favorite days. He and other children run toward the truck, crossing from the blue-toned buildings through a swirled rainbow and into a world of color, joy, and excitement. And the narrator notes - "One might think an ice-cream truck was arriving!"

Internal spread- kids excitedly running from the blue-toned village through a swoosh of orange, yellow, and teal .

Text © by Nelson Rodríguez & Leonardo Agustín Montes, 2023.

Image © Rosana Faría & Carla Tabora, 2023.


While the dark clouds don't disappear, Gerson and Nelson's Cho . . . cho . . . ro . . . rocho . . . ¡CHO CHÓ! hour of books read aloud, puppet shows, or songs drives away everyone's hunger and poverty. A collection of smiling, colorfully dressed townspeople (young and old), share laughter and hope within a swirling rainbow circle. Then everyone gets to dive into a book (see Lawrence's favorite image above)!


As the visit ends, everyone is reminded to “Fill the air with colors . . . and be careful when breathing sad stories." Something I think everyone, everywhere, could benefit from remembering. I love the way the illustrations vividly portray the bookmobile's transformation of the town and the color of the stories swirling above it, as well as the people themselves. The ending is poignant, touching, and hopeful. Fun and informative back matter includes images of the real bookmobile and co-author Nelson Rodríguez. This beautiful picture book is a joyful celebration of the power of reading.


Resources:

Photo of two homemade journals for kids.

- make your own notebook. Then, like Luis, capture ideas and images to create your own happy and hopeful stories.


- look for places in your community to donate books or perhaps your time, as a reading buddy.


- pair this with The Library Bus by Bahram Rahman, illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard and Waiting for the Biblioburro by Monica Brown, illustrated by John Parra.

Comments


Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

Follow Me

  • Facebook Social Icon
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Instagram Social Icon
  • 1473394675_goodreads
  • Pinterest

Archive

Categories

bottom of page