Born in Xalapa, Mexico, the city of flowers and springs. After migrating to the US in 1994, Yuyi struggled with English and loneliness in a culture foreign to her but found solace in public libraries, where she read children's books with her son and discovered a renewed interest in stories and art. She is now the author and illustrator of many books for children, including the New York Times bestseller Dreamers, Niño Wrestles the World, and she is a six-time winner of the Pura Belpré Medal for an outstanding work of literature for children that best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience. Other honors include the Americas Award, the Golden Kite Medal, the Christopher Award, the Jane Adams Award, and the Tomas Rivera Award. In 2015 she received the Caldecott Honor for her book Viva Frida.
Yuyi will be one of the featured authors at the Los Angeles Libros Festival, a free bilingual book festival for the whole family. L.A. Libros Fest will be streamed live on YouTube on Friday, September 23, from 9 a.m. to 12 noon. The Festival will be in-person at Central Library in Downtown Los Angeles on Saturday, September 24, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., with select Saturday programs streamed live on YouTube.
Our tagline this year is Read, Dream and Celebrate en dos idiomas. How do you think your books and stories help us accomplish this? / El tema del festival este año es Read, Dream and Celebrate (lee, sueña y celebra) en dos idiomas. ¿Cómo crees que tus libros e historias nos ayudan a lograr esto?
Any story that can weave more than one language into a story is based in real life, because we, la gente, when we communicate, we always use many different ways of saying things. My book not only uses words, and images, but they also communicate stories with colors, forms, embroidery, and even silence. I love telling stories where English and Espanol work together to enrich the narratives, and I love it when children can play with all the languages that are part of their lives.
What are some of the things you do to bring to life the world you’ve imagined? / ¿Cuáles son algunas de las cosas que tú haces para hacer realidad el mundo que has imaginado?
Perhaps one of the most powerful things I do nowadays is get together with other people to create. For example, I am learning to create in community and the results are marvelous. Some of the things we do as collectives are painting murals, we collect, carry and read books to children with movil libraries, we plant vegetables, we hold reading circles for women, we even march, protest, and support each other in our fight for dignity, safety and the construction of better lives, and we also celebrate that we have found each other.
What stories inspired you as a young reader? / ¿Cuáles historias te inspiraron cuando eras niño/a?
The stories my mother, my aunts, and uncles told about things that happened to them. I didn't have children's books when I was growing up in Mexico, but my relative's fantastic stories of little people called chaneques, and the stories of hearing la Llorona at night, filled my imagination with a world that was both unbelievable and fascinating.
If your book was turned into a movie/series, who would you cast? / Si tu libro fuera adaptado al cine, ¿Cuáles actores elegirías para interpretar a tus personajes?
Ah, it depends what book that would be, but I would love it if it was all new unknown actors who are starting their career. I sometimes imagine the story of Just a Minute, a trickster tale and counting book and I imagine Sr. Calavera played by a person in a great costume. If Cantinflas were still alive I would want him!
"Libraries have been homes to me, and I love them. I hope you can also experience all of what libraries have to offer. Not only do they have books that you can read there, but with a library card you can take those books home!"
What advice would you give to young writers? / ¿Qué consejo le darías a alguien que aspira a ser escritor?
We all have our very own ways to tell stories, and you will find yours. Honor your heart and your instincts; let your story come out first, and then revise it to make it sing! More than anything else, do what gives you joy. I can't wait to see the way you tell your stories!
How did you feel the first time your work was published? How was your publishing journey? / ¿Cómo te sentiste la primera vez que un libro tuyo fue publicado? ¿Cómo fue el proceso para lograr que tu libro fuera publicado?
I never before imagined that my path would be to write and illustrate stories, but when I saw picture books as an adult at the public library, I fell in love with them. Immediately I began researching how I could make my own books. I didn't imagine I would someday publish a book. Instead, I found books at the library, where I learned how to bind books, and how to write and also how illustrators work. So, my very first books I made them by sewing sheets of paper together and writing stories about my son, and making drawings to accompany my words. Making those handmade books I realized that I wanted to make them for the rest of my life.
"We all have our very own ways to tell stories, and you will find yours."
What are some challenges you encounter when writing? / ¿Cuáles son algunos de los retos que encuentras al escribir?
Sometimes, I am having so much fun reading books with children, or making songs for our pets, or painting my neighbors' houses, or even visiting donkeys that there are days where I am left with very little time to write. Another challenge is that my English is still imperfect, and I always need help from other writer friends in order to make a clear manuscript. Perhaps the hardest challenge is when I doubt myself, and I am convinced that my story will never make it into a book. But I have learned that if I persevere and continue correcting and revising my manuscript, I will end up with a really great book.
What was your experience like getting your book translated into Spanish or English? / ¿Cuál ha sido tu experiencia al lograr traducir tus libros al español o inglés?
I have been very fortunate to have great professional translators to help me have my books made into Spanish. You might wonder why I don't write them in Spanish myself, and while that is a great option too, there is nothing like working with an expert who can make my story in Spanish be the most clear and well told version of my books.
How do you think libraries make our world a better place? / ¿Cómo crees que las bibliotecas hacen de nuestro mundo un mundo mejor?
Libraries have been homes to me, and I love them. I hope you can also experience all of what libraries have to offer. Not only do they have books that you can read there, but with a library card you can take those books home! Libraries are a world where you can be safe and comfortable finding in books the things that you like the most, or things that you are curious about, or you can learn something you didn't know before. That already seems to me a path for a more beautiful world.
What are you working on now? / ¿Cuáles son tus proyectos futuros? ¿En qué estás trabajando?
Ah, I have many stories I want to tell, and right now I am working on a story where I explore joy. I hope you can feel the joy when you read it one day.
Books by Yuyi Morales
Yuyi Morales at L.A. Libros Fest