Author-illustrator Maya Christina Gonzalez

I am excited to share with you my interview with award-winning author-illustrator Maya Christina Gonzalez. Her passion for children's books practically jumps off the page. 

I wrote the words in orange, and she wrote the words in black. Thank you, Maya! 

I wrote Call Me Tree/Llámame Árbol because when I lived in the deep woods, trees were my friends until I too considered myself a tree! Trees aren’t just my friends, they’re also great teachers. They teach me how to grow in the deep dark, how to dream big and become tall as the sky! They also teach me that everyone belongs and everyone is different and that’s an awesome thing! Trees pretty much rock!

Click here to download the activity guide. 
The illustrations for Call Me Tree/Llámame Árbol were yet another chance to do something I totally didn’t know how to do! Often when I make art for a book I want to do something I barely know how to do, like take a thousand photographs of stuff in my room and collage them into my paintings like in Nana’s Big Surprise by Amada Irma Perez or do charcoal and ink drawings while keeping the rest of the paper pure white! Like in I Know The River Loves Me by ME! Or how to draw and paint a jaguar or a toad or a kingfisher like in Poems of the Iguazu by Francisco Alarcon. I love doing things I don’t know how to do. In Call Me Tree I combined watercolor, ink and color pencil. I painted the entire book at one time instead of doing it spread by spread. I had no idea if it would all work out and it totally did! yay!

My Colors, My World, Laughing Tomatoes, and From the Bellybutton of the Moon are just a few titles of the over 20 some books that I’ve created. Some I’ve written like My Colors, My World and some have been written by authors from my community, like Laughing Tomatoes and From the Bellybutton of the Moon by Francisco Alarcon. I’ve done 5 books with Francisco. I love his poems!

We need diverse books but even more than that we need diverse authors and artists who can tell us stories about their lives and experiences from their perspectives. Everyone has a story to tell and all stories are important because all stories are connected. I want to hear more stories from the folks we don’t get a chance to hear from as much! 

I think San Francisco is one of the best places in the world to live. I live between the Castro and the Mission Districts. The Castro is a historically gay community and the Mission is historically Latino. There is so much history all around me! For example in the Castro there are large brass plagues embedded in the sidewalk that tell the history of LGBT folks throughout time! Writers, artists, dancers, philosophers, politicians, activists and more! There are also plagues that tell the history of the original people, the Native Americans who lived on this land, the Ohlone/Costanoans before it was taken over by the Spanish and ultimately the whole city of San Francisco. Just two blocks from my apartment is the Mission Dolores Church that is the oldest original intact Mission in California and the oldest building in San Francisco. History, stories, the past mixes with the present and everything in between all around me! and then of course there is the ocean just over the hill! I love it all!

Picture books are one of the coolest ways to tell a story! I think that pretty much sums up my feelings there! Terribly convenient for someone like me who both tells stories and makes art!!! and for kids!!! the coolest people on earth!

Reading is one of the trippiest things on Earth! It still slightly blows my mind that I can put squiggly lines on paper and someone else can know what I’m thinking, even what I’m feeling just by looking at them and figuring out what they mean. And they pretty much mean the same thing every time someone looks at them. Excuse me, is that magic or what?!

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me about the book  I KNOW THE RIVER LOVES ME! I always hide secrets in the art of my books! In Iguanas in the Snow there is an iguana on every single page! In Laughing Tomatoes I hid my very first secret. I’ll give you a clue, someone unexpected is winking at you from me, like a private joke between us! The cool secret in I KNOW THE RIVER LOVES ME is that the river told me the story! Yes, you read the squiggly lines right! The river told me the story! I was visiting one of my dear friends the river and while I was sitting there I heard a story. At first I thought it was my imagination, but it didn’t completely sound like my imagination and then I realized it was my dear friend the river telling me a story inside my head. I wrote it down, but I wasn’t planning on creating a children’s book anytime soon so I thought it must be a grownup book of some kind. But when I got back to San Francisco my editor called me in a pickle. She desperately needed someone who had a story to fill an empty spot in her publishing roster and lo and behold, the river had just told me one! So that’s one of my ‘secrets’ in that book. There are more, but that one is my favies!

I am giving away one copy of Call Me Tree/Llámame Árbol

Rules for the Giveaway 

1. It will run from April 17 to 11:59 PM on April 18. 

2. You must be at least 13. 

3. If you win, please pay it forward. 

Borrow Maya's books from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 


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