Interview: Pat Mora and Raul Colón On Bookjoy and Wordjoy

As a children’s book publisher, we know how powerful and influential words are, which is why we’re so excited to have announced the release of our new title, Bookjoy, Wordjoy this month! Whether we are collecting words, reading favorite books in the library, celebrating holidays, writing poems, sharing secrets, or singing a jazzy duet, words and books can take us on wonderful adventures and bring us joy. Poet Pat Mora and illustrator Raul Colón, two of the biggest names in the Latinx children’s book world, have teamed up to bring bookjoy, the fun of reading, and wordjoy, the fun of listening to words, combining words, and playing with words, to readers everywhere. In a starred review from Booklist, this title was called a “joyous invitation to put pen (or paintbrush) to paper.”

We interviewed Pat Mora and Raul Colón on their favorite words, poetry, and their upcoming projects.bookjoy wordjoy

Bookjoy, Wordjoy is a celebration of words and books. What are some of your favorite words and/or books, and why?

Pat Mora: I feel mighty lucky to have been a reader since I learned to read. Books entertain me, teach me, relax me, and make me a better person. I have happy memories of myself reading throughout my life. I loved biographies and poetry. I continue to read and love poetry, reflective books, books that are beautifully written and expand my vision. I don’t read mysteries or thrillers. I recently re-read HABIBI and was grateful to Naomi Shihab Nye for teaching me again about the Palestinian reality from the perspective of a delightful teen. I love poetry by Mary Oliver and Pablo Neruda.

Favorite words: montañas, mountains of words in English and Spanish. Many are in Bookjoy, Wordjoy: lullaby, spirals, sashay, canta, sparkling.

Raul Colón: A few of my favorite books: Where the Wild Things Are (I learned a lot about how Maurice Sendak put it all together: the writing, and the visuals). David Weisner’s wordless picture books also are some of my favorites. However, I read everything from classic novels, to historical novels, including the likes of Cervantes, Joseph Heller, Garcia Márquez.

Raul, your illustrations are perfect for Pat’s poetry! How did you decide on what colors to use and people to portray?

RC: The colors, and we could say style I used for Pat Mora’s poems were inspired by the works of some Central American artists, including Rufino Tamayo. I also tried to suggest diversity though the use of many different tones or hues for a lot of the characters in the book, not just natural skin colors.bookjoy wordjoy spread

Pat, you have written numerous poetry picture books for children. Is there a place where you go for inspiration? Is it possible to learn to write poetry “better”?

PM: I loved nursery rhymes when I was little, loved reading them to my three children, and like reading them to my granddaughter (when she’ll sit still). Because of the presence of too much media in our lives, it’s hard to hear our inside selves, the place poetry begins. I like quiet and let myself doodle. I believe in my work and let myself explore on the page. No negative talk. We all learn to do things better by studying, looking at what others with more experience do. I try to read poetry daily for the sheer pleasure of it.

There are Spanish words sprinkled throughout in Bookjoy, Wordjoy, which is a wonderful way to learn about a new language. What would you say to someone who claims that people don’t need to see words in a different language, especially since “we’re in America”?

PM: Hundreds of Native languages were spoken in what is the United States before European Americans arrived. Some people seem to be forgetting American history. I’m going to Sweden this fall and look forward to learning new words and phrases. I feel very lucky to be bilingual and wish I were trilingual.

RC: Many folks from different countries can speak multiple languages. We should never disparage anybody for being multi-lingual as opposed to simply mono-lingual. Europe has no problem with this, nor should America.

What new projects do you both have coming up?

PM: Encantado: Desert Monologues comes out this fall. I enjoy writing for all ages. I’m always working on a few projects. Shsh, secretos, secrets.

RC: I’m finishing visuals for a biography and starting another on a little girl who learns about her place in The Universe. Big theme, I guess.

Purchase a copy of Bookjoy, Wordjoy here.

Further resources

pat moraPat Mora is the is the author of numerous award-winning children’s books. She is also the founder of the family literacy initiative Children’s Day/BookDay, El día de los niños/El día de los libros. Mora and her husband live in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Visit her online at www.patmora.com.

raul colonRaul Colón is is a popular children’s book illustrator whose work has also appeared in many national publications. He has illustrated more than thirty award-winning picture books, including those by Dr. Jill Biden and Frank McCourt. Colón is known for his unique mixed-media illustration technique, which creates artwork rich in texture and deep colors. He lived in Puerto Rico as a young boy and now resides in New City, New York, with his family.

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