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21st Century Storytelling: Stirring the Pot of Color by Rafael Lopez

The following post was reprinted with permission.

By…Rafael López Children’s Books: Stirring the Pot of Color

Did you know that it takes an elephant 22 months of waiting before it’s calf is born?

Bringing a book into the world takes just about that long. When the advance copy finally arrives on your doorstep in the well worn hands of the delivery man you rip the package open with a mix of fear and excitement. That happened to me today.

Speaking of reproduction, for me fear usually revolves around the accurate reproduction of my color. Was the brave printer able to reproduce the hues and subtle textures that I scraped, dabbed and coaxed into life? With each and every book I have learned to expect calls from the adventurous art director attempting to match the azuline blue of a Mexican tile or aubergine, eggplant purple of a passing cloud. Proof after proof is sent back and forth from artist to printer until heat of the flames under the pot is just the right radiant shade of amarillo-oro.

For me color is an expression of my identity, my heritage and I believe it is the most direct route to the emotions of children and families who will turn the pages of my books. As a new book enters into this world you feel like celebrating when you recognize a familiar hue that resonates with you. You breathe a sigh when you see the pages where the farm maiden cries “Ay!” and the pot full of arroz con leche simmers, sputters, and bubbles with color on the stove.

I’m so excited to share with readers this new book The Cazuela that the Farm Maiden Stirred from the playful hand of clever writer Samantha Vamos. When a farm girl starts cooking, a bunch of magical animals want to get into the kitchen and help [reminds me of my childhood when my mother made Christmas tamales]. The cow brings milk, the hen her eggs and there’s a duck who heads to the mercado for just the right ingredients. There’s a resourceful donkey in cowboy boots who plucks a lime off the tree to add to the simmering pot. Eventually they break out the spoons, a drum, banjo and maraca and start to sing and dance. At the end of the book you will find the recipe for delicious Arroz Con Leche Latin American Rice Pudding. This book is a spicy tribute to the classic nursery rhyme “The House that Jack Built” and is a bilingual celebration of community and food.

I want to thank my Charlesbridge family for faithfully reproducing my colors and I’m grateful for the patience of art director Susan Sherman for her help stirring up the colors of La Cazuela.

(((Rafael also has another blog post you’ll find interesting onWhy Libraries Count.)))


  1. What a wonderful description of the process of creating the book from the illustrator’s perspective and the importance of getting the colors just right. The textures and hues are so rich and alive, it’s hard to believe these illustrations are now on a printed page – they look like paintings that belong on a wall! Felicidades Rafael and Samantha.