[Monday Reading] The Subversive Joy Of ChalaRanza’s Art in Award-Winning 2021 Picturebooks


It's Monday! What Are You Reading

Myra here.

It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (new host of Monday reading: Kathryn T at Book Date).


For 2022, our reading theme is #DecolonizeBookshelves2022. Essentially, we hope to feature books that fit any of the following criteria:

  1. Postcolonial literature and/or [pre/post] revolutionary stories
  2. Stories by indigenous / first-nation peoples / people of colour
  3. Narratives of survival and healing, exile and migration, displacement and dispossession
  4. Books written or illustrated by people who have been colonized, oppressed, marginalized

In this CNN article, it says that “Afro Latinx children’s books are still too rare.” The children’s publishing industry is indeed fortunate to have the highly prolific C. G. Esperanza (also known as ChalaRanza), an Afro Puerto Rican illustrator and author, creating quite a number of picturebooks the past year.

Boogie Boogie Y’All [Amazon | Book Depository]

Written and Illustrated by C. G. Esperanza
Published by Katherine Tegen Books (2021)
ISBN: 0062976222 (ISBN13: 9780062976222). Literary Award: Pura Belpré Award Nominee for Illustrator (2022) Borrowed via Overdrive. Book photos taken by me.

I have always been fascinated with graffiti art – and this picturebook is a celebration of finding beauty that others often take for granted or even ignore – maybe because of its ubiquity or the fact that people are too preoccupied with their own thoughts (or mobile devices) to sit up and hear the “boogie boogie y’all” pounding from the city walls.

While all the adults seem oblivious (or even annoyed) with the beating colors, swirling shapes, and exuberant scribbles around them – the children in this book soak it all up, filling them, making them bounce with joy…

… until the art leaps off the wall. I enjoyed the surreal vibe of this picturebook – and its infectious energy. There is a distinct sense of place and also a defiant attention to the discarded, the unrecognized, the forgotten. These children show how this city teems with so much vibrancy, its pulse a rhythmic “boogie, boogie y’all.”

Soul Food Sunday [Amazon | Book Depository]

Written by Winsome Bingham Illustrated by C. G. Esperanza
Published by Abrams Books For Young Readers (2021)
ISBN: 1419747711 (ISBN13: 9781419747717) Literary Award: Coretta Scott King Book Award Nominee for Illustrator (2022). Borrowed via Overdrive. Book photos taken by me.

Most families have this tradition of coming together to share meals on Sundays. Admittedly, this is the one thing we miss living so far from our families, but the rare occasions when we do manage to get-together with family and friends make it all the more special.

What I love about this picturebook is that one will be able to see resonances with one’s own family reflected in the pages: be it the Uncle Grill Master who has music and football serving as faithful companions while the meat is grilled to perfection – to the Grandmother who is ever-patient in the kitchen, preparing soul food for the entire family with deliberate care and affection.

There is joy oozing out of the pages – and the delicious wonder that food preparation brings. One note of warning, though – try not to read this book if you are hungry because you will definitely crave for cheese and meat as you can see in my favourite spreads below:

I was practically salivating as I stared at all those cheeses, making me crave for soul food mac and cheese. And just look at those pork ribs! Sausage links!

I especially liked how Grandmother was teaching a young boy to cook in this story. Too often, young boys are depicted to only come into the dining room once the meals are set out on the table by their sisters or mothers. Here, this young man is learning with his hands, his eyes, his nose – all his senses activated as he is given an opportunity to try out what Grandmother is demonstrating with infinite patience and kind encouragement.

I also appreciated the Author’s Note and her own experience in learning how to cook and the Illustrator’s memories of his own grandmother and the soul food she prepares. Naturally, the story ends with a recipe of mac and cheese. Bon appetit!

Do you have any suggestions for our reading theme? We will be happy to hunt your recommended books down.

#DecolonizeBookshelves: 14/15 out of 100

February 7, 2022 at 06:31AM Myra Garces-Bacsal