Meet a little boy named Paco who loves to draw but can’t seem to concentrate during school in this picture book that’s sprinkled with Spanish words! We went behind the scenes with Tracey Kyle, author of A Paintbrush for Paco.
1. When did you first realize you wanted to be an author?
Well, when I was little I wanted to be an editor. I loved reading and writing and thought I would do something in publishing. But then in 8th grade I started learning Spanish and foreign languages became my passion. The idea to write a book didn’t come to me until I was teaching for a few years. I put together a workbook for Spanish teachers and sold it to a company called Teacher’s Discovery, Inc., and eventually went on to write a few more books with them. Writing a picture book was in the back of my mind for a long time, but it wasn’t until I lived in Spain for the summer—a very hot summer—that the idea for my first book grew. I ate gazpacho at every meal to cool off in the stifling heat, and GAZPACHO FOR NACHO was born.
2. How did you come up with the idea for A Paintbrush for Paco?
Paco is like so many of my students! He can’t sit still and he has to channel his energy, so he draws. Many famous painters also struggled in school. These two ideas propelled the story. The plot came from my own experience. When I left high school to teach middle school, I found that the energy level of 8th graders was frenetic. They like to DO things. So we use white boards during lessons, drawing pictures to match the vocabulary and grammar we’re learning. We also do a lot of projects where the students design something and then write an essay about it. During these lessons, I discovered I had some very artistic students who hadn’t yet tapped into their creative side.
3. Which part of A Paintbrush for Paco was your favorite to write? Why?
I loved writing the stanzas with the colors in Spanish because it came easily to me and it was fun, sort of like planning a lesson for my students. I made a spreadsheet with the words I wanted to use in Spanish and English, then worked on different rhyme schemes. Joshua’s whimsical artwork complements those stanzas beautifully. The story went through many revisions, but those stanzas have been part of every version.
4.What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Well, the perfect day for me would be a yoga class after writing, lunch and shopping with friends, a nap (living in Spain made me crave an afternoon siesta) and a good dinner with my husband. I like to cook. I’m also a trained yoga teacher, so in the summer I teach classes once in a while. At night, I read or watch a good period drama. Of course, during the week you’d most likely find me grading papers.
5. What was your favorite book to read as child?
Oh, I can’t pick just one book. Impossible! In elementary school, I read every single TRIXIE BELDEN mystery and still have the books. I also adored the LITTLE HOUSE series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and devoured anything and everything by Judy Blume for most of my childhood. In 7th grade, my favorite book was FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC by V.C. Andrews. But the book that I most treasure is ILLUSTRATED POEMS FOR CHILDREN, first published in 1973. My father bought me a copy in first grade. The illustrations by Krystyna Orska are adorable and the poems are classics. Kids today would still enjoy them.