Author at Work

February 15, 2019
MEET AND AUTHOR TFK talks with Matt de la Peña. He writes children’s books.
HEATHER WARAKSA

Sometimes, the idea for a story comes out of thin air.

Matt de la Peña was talking with a teacher at a playground one day. Suddenly, the wind kicked up. Dandelion puffs filled the air. A boy was standing next to the teacher. He said, “Look, the sky is full of wishes.” To de la Peña, that sounded like a poem. “When I heard that, I knew I wanted to mold a story around that image,” he told TIME for Kids.

Matt de la Peña signs a copy of Carmela Full of Wishes. He has been writing poetry since he was a child.

LAURA SHIPLEY

The Gift of Childhood

The story de la Peña wrote is Carmela Full of Wishes. It is about a girl and her brother doing Sunday errands. Like his other picture books, it is written in poetry.

“A picture-book writer has two jobs,” de la Peña says. “You have to get the story right. Then you have to get the music right.” Reading aloud is like singing a song, he says. “There is music in the way a story is read. It can help you understand the book differently.”

Kids hold up copies of Carmela Full of Wishes at a reading.

CRYSTAL BIRNS

Getting the music right can take work. De la Peña wrote about 50 drafts of Carmela.

He leaves some of the story to the reader’s imagination. The book ends with a sky full of dandelion puffs. Carmela makes a wish. But we never find out what she wishes for. “The point is that she’s free to wish,” de la Peña says. “The gift of childhood is possibility.”

Meet the Illustrator

Christian Robinson draws a cat.

CRYSTAL BIRNS

Christian Robinson is an illustrator. He did the pictures in Carmela Full of Wishes. He also did the artwork for Matt de la Peña’s book Last Stop on Market Street. “I just love that so much can be communicated with an image,” Robinson has said. His pictures help us imagine a story. They show us the world the characters live in.

Robinson starts by making drawings with a pencil. Then he cuts them out. He places them together in a collage. He finishes his pictures with paint. His pictures seem to jump right off the page!

VIDEO COURTESY THE KANSAS CITY, KANSAS, PUBLIC LIBRARY

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