Remembering Armando

The theme of the week is back to school. When we acquired, Armando and the Blue Tarp School in 2006, it was one of those moments when you are simply in awe of certain individuals and the good work they do in the world.

Armando and the Blue Tarp
Armando and the Blue Tarp

Armando and the Blue Tarp School was based on David Lynch, a New York City school teacher, who on his summer vacations would establish an impromptu school on a plastic tarp in the Tijuana dump. Trash communities are home to many all over the world—where families live off whatever they can salvage from the things people throw away. When Señor David showed up, he would spread a blue tarp on the ground for the children the sit on—this tarp was the school. As the children sat on the tarp they would learn arithmetic, reading, writing, drawing, and painting, and slowly the harsh life of the dump colonia would fade away for a little while. Señor David’s commitment to the children of the Tijuana dump was a constant for years and led to an article in The Los Angeles Times, which in turn led to donations from readers, and eventually a school building was constructed for the children.

I remember after reading the manuscript thinking about what a fantastic story this was. I also remember wondering how was it possible I had never heard of this man. Not all of our acquisition meetings are unanimous, but this one was. One of the privileges a publisher has is having the ability to bring worthy stories like this one to a wider audience.

4 thoughts on “Remembering Armando”

  1. Word of mouth is a powerful way to find extraordinary people. Years ago, my Girl Scout troop’s Christmas project brought me in touch with someone who said to me, “You’re a writer? You need to know about David Lynch!” Edith Fine and I talked our L.A. Times editor into letting us do a feature on Lynch’s amazing school on the blue tarp in a Tijuana colonia. The rapt attention of the children, with their eyes riveted on David, despite cows, pigs, and chickens wandering about was something to behold. Today’s kids “get it” when they read Armando and the Blue Tarp School—it leaves them with a feeling of hope and appreciation for the value of learning.

  2. We’re so excited that Armando and the Blue Tarp School is a nominee for the 2009–2010 California Young Reader Medal. Students read the books during the school year, then vote on their favorites in the spring. Just being nominated is a huge honor. (www.californiayoungreadermedal.org)

    Since a Los Angeles Times reader told her husband in December 1985, “All I want for Christmas is a school for those kids,” much has happened. A non-profit organization, Responsibility Inc. (www.responsibilityonline.org), now supports David Lynch in his work educating the children of the colonia by the Tijuana dump. David and his supporters have completed their fourth school. They even have computers so youngsters can learn skills that will carry through to their adult lives. Many of David’s students are now grown. Since he has worked with thousands of children, success stories abound.

    Now there’s a children’s musical by Pat Lydersen and Wendy Woolf based on Armando. This November 14, at UCSD in San Diego, young actors will perform songs and dance numbers from the musical at David’s annual Responsibility fundraiser. The musical itself will debut early next year in Encinitas, California. And in 2010, David Lynch will have dedicated thirty years—three decades—to bettering the lives of the children of the dump.

    David has recently traveled to a dump near Matagalpa, Nicaragua, where kids yearn for an education. He met a young man who was teaching on a blue tarp! This project is in the early stages—David says, “I don’t know how we’ll do it, but we will.” He lives the power of one person to make a difference in the world.

  3. Twenty-five years ago, I met David Lynch through Edith Fine and Judith Josephson. I went to the Dump, suffered the repugnant odor, saw the humble shacks of wood, pieces of tin, and cardboard. In the midst of the hovels was this young man with a broad smile, and children surrounding him. That scene captured me, and I have been a supporter of David’s since then. He is a rare human, full of optimism, undaunting enthusiasm, and a caring love for all his many children, their families and their future.

  4. Five young actors are in rehearsal now for the Nov. 14 preview of “Armando and the Blue Tarp School,” the children’s musical. I get to sit in on these lively sessions and wish you could all teleport in to see and hear how David Lynch’s story is brought to life through acting and musical numbers. (The rest of the week, the songs hum round and round in my brain . . .) Playwright Pat Lydersen and I will be on “These Days” on KPBS radio, 89.5 FM San Diego, on November 3 between 10 and 11. You can podcast to hear one of the songs.

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