Lulu Delacre - Illustrator
Lulu Delacre was born in Puerto Rico, where she grew up catching lizards, drawing pictures, and listening to the evening song of the coquí. She studied art first at the University of Puerto Rico and later at L'Ecole Supérieure d'Arts Graphiques, in Paris, France. She came to the U.S. in 1980. Now living in Maryland with her husband and two daughters, Ms. Delacre delights in bringing her Latina heritage to life in books such as Arroz Con Leche; Shake It, Morena; and Salsa Stories.
RIF: When did you learn to speak English? What do you speak at home now?
Lulu Delacre: English is taught in the school system of the island. I started learning in elementary school. At home we speak Spanish.
RIF: Do you prefer to write in English or Spanish?
LD: English is the language that enables me to get published and reach the largest audience. When writing fiction, the first written version may be in English, but in actuallity I think in Spanish, so I am already translating in my head from Spanish to English. Once I work on the written Spanish version I really try to make it as an original version as possible. I dislike it to read as a translation.
RIF: Did your parents read to you as a child? Did you read to your children?
LD: I don't recall my parents reading to me, although they must have done it. I do recall having grown up in a house filled with books and finding great comfort being in my father's study, a room with floor to ceiling bookcases. I also remember what a treat it was when my father would take my sister and I to the bookstore and would buy us one book each.
I read to my daughters since birth all through elementary school. Sharing a book with a child is a very special experience.
RIF: When you start a book, do the words or the pictures come first?
LD: Well, years ago it used to be the pictures. Now, even if I create the characters by sketching them, prior to writing the stories, I finish the manuscript before I illustrate it.
RIF: Why is storytelling important for Latino families?
LD: I would say that what is important for Latino families raising children in the US is that they keep ties to their countries, and cultural heritage through story. Children that listen to their parents' stories about their folklore and traditions, are more likely to develop strong identities.
RIF: What are folklore stories? Are they like fairy tales?
LD: Folklore is the lore of a people, the traditional beliefs, legends, customs. A folktale forms part of the oral tradition of a people and to my knowledge doesn't deal with dragons, fairies, and magical creatures as fairy tales do.
RIF: How many of your stories are based on your childhood?
LD: "Teatime" from Salsa Stories is a story based on my mother's recollections. I couldn't understand why my Argentinian mother would insist in having hot tea in the middle of the afternoon in the tropical weather of Puerto Rico until I interviewed her for the book. It was then that I realized the importance of the tea ceremony for her immediate family. Everything else is made up. That is how a story is built, combining memory, knowledge, and imagination.
RIF: Many of your books center around games, crafts, singing, and cooking. How are these a part of your family?
LD: The songs and games of my childhood are the ones I showcase in my books. I have taught my daughters the same lore. I love to cook and entertain, for in sharing food with friends and relatives, are built some of the best memories.
Learn more about Lulu Delacre at http://www.luludelacre.com/.