Today I get to share another fantastic author-illustrator with you.
Claudia Rueda is a Colombian author and a New York Times Best Seller illustrator of over thirty picture books. Rueda’s books have been published in the United States, Mexico and Spain and have been translated into fifteen different languages for Asia and Europe. She’s a 2016 Hans Christian Andersen and Astrid Lindgren Awards nominee. Claudia went to Law and Art school and worked as a political cartoonist in Colombia. She then studied Children’s Book Illustration at UC Berkeley. She holds a MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley University and she’s the 2009 recipient of the Billie M.Levy research grant awarded by the Northeast Children’s Literature Collection. Claudia is a professor at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia MFA program in Creative Writing. You can learn more about her at her website.
REDLOCKS AND THE THREE BEARS is exactly what it sounds like: a revisionist fairy tale. Little Red Riding Hood stumbles into the same story as the Three Bears. I really, really don’t want to spoil too much by describing what happens in the plot. This may be my favorite version of the three bears’ story to date! Well … since I have a lot of favorite fairy tale revisions, maybe I should say it’s now in my top ten. This story has many twists and turns I would never have thought of, and yet it left me asking WHY I’d never thought of them. They’re so genuine and obvious! But that is the genius of stories like these. They can be told and retold many times with new angles, new character revelations, and funny new shenanigans. And my love for revised fairy tales endures!
Me: Can you share about your artistic journey? When did you start creating art? How did that bring you to where you are now as an illustrator?
Claudia: As most children do, I used to love making drawings when I was little. My thirty six color pencil box was one of my most precious objects. Maybe the difference from others was that I didn’t quit. I kept drawing during my adolescence and it hasn’t stopped. I couldn’t live without it because it was my deepest form of expression.
Then came the education, education of my drawing and my communication skills. First it was at art school in my home town, then at a wonderful course on Illustrating Children’s Books at Berkeley University. My final class project ended up being my first published picture book.
Me: Wow! That’s quite a journey. What did your illustration process for this book look like? Are you a traditional or a digital artist? Or do you use a blend of both?
Claudia: My first sketches are always doodles with a graphite pencil on a piece of paper. I love the feeling of the pencil tip on the paper grain. Same thing with the storyboard and the sketch dummy. Later on in the process I decide which technique I’m going to use for the final art, or should I say, the story is the one who decides. Sometimes I use digital, but I go for analog more often. For the Redlocks story I used colored pencils. I normally used hard colored pencils instead of soft, since I like to reveal the pencil strokes on the paper.
Me: Interesting choice! I love a good fairy tale adaptation that can still manage to be fresh after so many versions out there. And you definitely changed up the traditional story of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” in your book. How did you come up with wonderful this idea?
Claudia: Thank you! fresh is a good word for a story. One day I was looking at my bookshelves and thought: those books are like little houses for the characters who live inside them. What if I allow them to visit their neighbors? Which book would they like to visit? Maybe a sweet home with warm porridge, a comfortable chair and a cozy bed? And who would like to escape from their book? Maybe a little girl who is about to be devoured by a Big Bad Wolf. And that’s how Red Riding Hood ends up knocking at the Three Little Bears book, asking for help.
Me: I love how little bear is so kind, accepting, and forgiving of everyone he meets all throughout this story. Why is that an important quality you wanted to share with young readers?
Claudia: Kids are much less biased than us as adults. I’ve always thought that the way people saw wolves three centuries ago is quite different from how we see them now days. And it’s nice to say that in the stories we tell ourselves. In my story, the little bear is the one who is open to giving a chance to the wolf. Maybe he is not as bad as we think, maybe if we are kind and generous he will surprise us. And the little bear is right: the wolf is tired of being treated as a bad creature and he feels lonely. I really wanted to invite readers to embrace empathy and to be open minded.
Me: What is one thing that surprised you in writing and/or illustrating this story?
Claudia: There are always surprises when you write a story. I had always been intrigued by the fact that the Goldilocks story was very simple and at the same time so popular and famous. While writing this book I realized how comfy it is, how nice and homey. I also thought of Red Riding Hood, and how tragic and sad that story is. It was so great to give Red Riding Hood the chance to go to a safe place and get new friends.
Me: I love that. Any advice for other new picture book writers and/or illustrators?
Claudia: In terms of inspiration and learning, do a lot of research. Read many picture books. Do not limit yourself to the new releases. Visit your local library and browse the picture book section. Read books about the history of the picture book.
And once you are in front of your drawing table, be open to making mistakes. Work a lot with pencil and paper before going to the final art. Learn about visual narrative and storyboarding. Take it as a process, not as a result. It might take time for you to get your book published, but the most important thing is to write a good story and make a good piece of art. Success is just a side effect, not a destination.
Me: Great advice. When you were a child, who was your favorite fairy tale character? Have you already written a story for them?
Claudia: Maybe the Ugly Duckling is the one I remember the most. I used to have a vinyl record with the audio version of the story and I still remember the cover of the album. I have a sketch of a story. I really don’t like the ending of the original story so I would love to change it.
I would love to read that! Thank you for stopping by my blog Claudia.
Dear readers, if you haven’t had a chance to read this book yet, I highly recommend it. Claudia’s fun fairy tale mashup reminds us all that stories are never too old to be told from a new perspective, and in exploring those new perspectives we may find empathy in places we never expected. You won’t want to miss this one.