Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Monday, June 3, 2019

A Ride To Remember

For however long they are in our lives, their influence grows.  The memory of lessons learned from them and moments shared with them remain with us for as long as we live.  Our fathers, or those men who are father figures in our families, leave this legacy with us hoping the best of it will become a part of who we are.

Their words, actions and time spent with us help to define and direct our intentions as adults.  My Papi Has A Motorcycle (Kokila, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, May 14, 2019) written by Isabel Quintero with illustrations by Zeke Pena is a joyous homage to a father's daily ritual with his daughter.  It honors their shared experiences.

My papi has a motorcycle.
From him I've learned words like
carburetor and carino, drill and 

At the end of every day, as soon as she hears his truck in their driveway, she rushes to meet him.  She carries two helmets for their motorcycle ride through their neighborhood.  He is exhausted from his day working as a carpenter, but he is never too tired to spend this time with her.

As he revs the engine on his bike, Papi calls to his daughter to hold on.  She does as they speed into a sky brilliant with the setting sun.  They weave through familiar streets past familiar buildings.  They greet the librarian as he leaves the market.  A boy calls out


Murals depicting the city and people's history fill her vision.  A tasty raspados shop, to their disappointment, is closed.  They roar away, heading to their evening's destination.  They pass by her grandparents' home, a lemon tree in the yard growing from seeds planted decades ago.  Too soon they come to her father's construction site.  After greetings are exchanged, they continue to zoom along the street, reaching Daisy's favorite part of the trip, a large curve with echoes of past races fueling her imagination.

As they travel home the separate shops blend into a breathtaking blur of color.  Their street, and then their driveway, come into view.  A mother, a younger brother, a daughter and her papi close this ritual with a delectable treat.  Perhaps it will become a part of their daily ride on a polished blue motorcycle through a city changing but remaining the same in a young girl's heart.

Readers will feel the exhilaration, along with Daisy, of this daily motorcycle ride through the vivid descriptions written by Isabel Quintero.  Isabel Quintero mentions the sawdust on Papi and the smell he carries with him after working.  She remarks how carefully Papi tucks his daughter's ponytail under her helmet.  She likens the duo on the bike to a

celestial thing soaring on asphalt.

These are details which connect all of us to this story.  We remember sensory elements such as these from our own experiences.

Writing the narrative using English and Spanish words enriches this tribute for all readers.  We can enter Daisy's world for the time in which the pages are turned, and it remains with its lingering beauty. Isabel Quintero gives us single sentences you want to carry with you always. Here is another passage and a single sentence.

We pass Joy's Market where Mami buys my gummy bears.
Mr. Garcia, our librarian, is walking out the door and nods at us.
We nod back.  This is how we always greet each other.

Even in all that noise, my papi's voice touches everything.

When you see the expression on the face of Daisy on the front of the matching dust jacket and book case, you know, without a doubt how contented she is.  It's the combination of her smile and closed eyes.  The look Papi is giving her is one of devoted affection.  To the left, on the back, on a continuation of the canvas color, the duo is seen vrooooomm- ing down the road, leaning into each other and the speed of the bike.

On the opening and closing endpapers (and throughout the book) artist Zeke Pena has drawn,

with a Wacom Cintiq 13HD with a mix of hand-painted watercolor texture,

a bird's eye view of the circular route with buildings and homes, the landscaping and mountains in the background.  It is blue on blue.  On the first set, on the right, an illustration of Daisy, in full color and holding in her upraised right hand a toy motorcycle with a unicorn riding on it, is shown.  This is also the title page.  The cityscape on the closing endpapers becomes the verso and dedication pages with the text placed appropriately.

The matte-finished paper heightens the sensory reading of this story.  The images created by Zeke Pena in a colorful palette range in size and placement accentuating the narrative and pacing.  Illustrations are layered.  Some are framed in fine black lines within larger pictures.  There are numerous elements in each one to capture readers' attentions.  I love that Daisy is reading Lowriders (Lowriders in Space).  Spanish words are also used as conversation in structured balloons outside of the main text.  From their context and English words comprehension is easy.

One of the most pleasing aspects, of many, are the altered points of view in the pictures.  Sometimes they shift multiple times in two adjoining pages.  We might focus on only eyes or look at feet and legs from a dog's perspective.  Other times we look down from above.   The feeling throughout the entire book is one of delight, pride, warmth and affection.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is at the beginning of the book.  Papi is kneeling and fastening the strap on Daisy's helmet before their ride.  He has a slight smile on his face.  You can tell she is ready to burst with excitement, but she patiently waits, arms at her sides and grinning, as he helps her.  Within this image is another one that is framed and to the right.  Papi is lifting her up onto the seat of his motorcycle.  All we can see are the upper portions of their bodies.  He questions LISTA? and she answers SI!

No matter how many times My Papi Has A Motorcycle written by Isabel Quintero with illustrations by Zeke Pena is read, readers will enjoy it more with every reading.  The love embedded in the words and illustrations reaches out and wraps around you.  The genuine affection between Daisy and Papi and the fondness Daisy has for her community remains.  I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional collections.  You might like to order the Spanish and English editions.   I did.

To discover more about Isabel Quintero and Zeke Pena and their other work, please access their respective websites by following the links attached to their names.  Isabel Quintero has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  Zeke Pena has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  At author, reviewer and blogger Julie Danielson's Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, you can view additional illustrations.  Both Isabel Quintero and Zeke Pena participate in interviews at Publishers Weekly and at The Horn Book.  Zeke Pena is interviewed about this book at Let's Talk Picture Books.  You can see the opening endpapers at the publisher's website.  You might discover some ideas to use in your classroom with this book at The Classroom Bookshelf, School Library Journal.

UPDATE:  I think you'll enjoy this NPR Sunday Weekend Edition interview with both Isabel Quintero and Zeke Pena on August 25, 2019.

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