The rules of our Five Questions interview series are simple: we send each of our guests a long list of questions. Some are serious; some are . . . not so serious. They choose their favorites and respond.
Our guest today is Sara Palacios, illustrator of One Big Family. Palacios was born in Mexico City and earned BFA and MFA degrees in Illustration from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. In 2012, she was awarded the Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor.
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1. Why did you choose to work on One Big Family?
I grew up in a big family myself. I was very close to my dad’s two brothers, so I always had cousins around to play with; we went to the same schools, shared birthdays, Christmas etc. We would also to travel to visit my maternal grandparents on vacations. So when I read Marc Harshman’s text I could see my own family reflected in it. And I thought it’d be fun and challenging to put faces to all the characters and work with this text.
2. What are you reading right now?
I’m reading Isabel Allende’s new book, The Japanese Lover. I like to read novels because I like being told a long story and imagining all the characters in my head.
3. What were your favorite books when you were a young reader?
Growing up in Mexico, there was only one bookstore in my town that sold old books and magazines, and unfortunately there were no libraries close to where I lived, so I did not have children’s picturebooks. I think I have more now as an adult! But my parents are both readers, and we did have a lot of books at home from Gabriel García Márquez, Luis Spota, and many other favorite authors.
I would try to read the books my parents had read, but they were too grown up for me at the time. So my dad would buy every children’s encyclopedia he could for us; he also read Archie comic books to my brother and me, and he’d do different voices for every character. Later, as a teenager, I began reading books from Latin American authors and others like Anne Frank’s Diary and Little Women, until I slowly “graduated” to the books my parents read.
4. How did you get your start writing/illustrating children’s books?
I began working with two illustrators as a part time job when I was still in college in Mexico City. Before entering college I had no idea illustrators even existed. A friend of mine encouraged me to show my drawings and took me to be interviewed for the position. It was nerve wracking, but I got it. One of my first tasks was washing the brushes and cutting the paper, until I was finally given a brush and watercolors and allowed to do small touch ups. Little by little I learned the technique and was trusted to draw and paint. I was fascinated with everything about the job and I knew that’s what I wanted to do, and fortunately that’s what I’ve been doing ever since. It’s been a long road to earning my Master’s in Illustration at the Academy of Art in San Francisco. Still here I am washing brushes, cutting paper, doing touch ups, drawing and yes, still learning!
5. What’s one thing not many people may know about you?
I can do 100 burpees in 8 minutes.
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