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Teaching an Author Study

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Eric Velasquez

Eric Velasquez

Eric Velasquez is a contemporary author of children's books who write about the Afro-Latino experience in the United States, based on his own experiences as stateside Puerto Rican! We have four picture books in our collection that Velasquez has authored and illustrated, and a number of collaborations with other authors for which Velasquez has done the artwork. You will notice, if you read Velasquez' original works, his appreciation for music, culture and family; as well as a distinctive shift in style between his first two books and the next two.

While Grandma's Records and its prequel, the award-winning Grandma's Gift, use a more realistic style, Looking for Bongo and Octopus Stew play with size and shape in the oil paintings that cover every page -- which has the effect of "bending" the reality. The stories which use direct representation are stories of remembrance, and so the style works perfectly! Eric's grandmother and family members are depicted just as they appear in the photographs included in the author's notes. But when a different young Afro-Latino boy protagonist, Ramsey, makes a recipe for pulpo guisado with his grandma -- and the pulpo (Sp. octopus) gets loose from the pot in the kitchen -- the world of the story looks just as outrageous as the events being told!

Velasquez is a tremendous visual artist, which is the reason his illustrations are so sought after by other writers. He also tells great stories about Puerto Rican culture that Latinx students will recognize as familiar, especially if elders in their family come from a faraway place, speak Spanish around the home, and have stories to tell about where they come from. And Velasquez includes lyrics and recipes in English and in Spanish in his celebrations of Puerto Rican (and Dominican, and New York) culture, alongside beautiful urban landscapes of Spanish Harlem in summer and at Christmastime. Please enjoy some of his originals and collaborations, and consider teaching an author study on his works with any student -- whether they themselves are Latinx, or whether they just want to get a window in to the vibrant American subculture of Afro-Latinos, a group of people who make up a large part of the community here in Massachusetts, and up and down the East Coast!

Picture Books at the ERC

Further Reading at the ERC