Suzanne Santillan's bilingual picture book GRANDMA'S PEAR TREE/EL PERAL DE ABUELA was published by Raven Tree Press this spring. It's a cute story with beautifully sweet illustrations by Atilio Pernisco. Her book has just been nominated for the California Book Award and a Cybil! Since Suzanne is a fellow Raven Tree Press author I've been lucky enough to get to talk with her a bit and she was nice enough to stop by today to tell us about how she came to write GRANDMA'S PEAR TREE...
When I was young, my father thought it was important for his children to speak Spanish. Growing up in Southern California, I can see why he thought this would be a good thing. I remember sitting at our favorite Mexican restaurant while dad taught us the Spanish words for spoon, fork, chips, etc… This information would help me later in life when I became a manager at a restaurant and I was required to communicate with some of the employees. Thanks to my dad I was able to state such valuable phrases as; “No lechuga in the sink” or “Clean the baño, por favor.” Yes, I had truly mastered speaking “Spanglish.”
Years later, I was grateful when I was easily able to speak with my mother-in-law who lapses from English to Spanish in the blink of an eye. I would find myself translating her “Spanglish” for my husband and my children nearly every conversation. I began to see the wisdom of teaching my children basic Spanish vocabulary, if only so that they could understand their grandmother just a little bit better.
Taking inspiration from real life, I wrote a simple story about a boy who gets his ball stuck up in a tree and has to find a way to get it back down and added a few twists and turns. The end result was a humorous story that taught 16 Spanish words and the phrase “Aye Caramba!”
It is my hope that this story will help children in the future so that when they have to communicate they can say in true “Spanglish” style; “Throw el gato into the tree” or “Use la escoba to get your things down.”
You can find out more about Suzanne and her book, GRANDMA'S PEAR TREE, at her website suzannesantillan.com and at her blog, Writing on the Sidewalk. You can also find her on Twitter @suesantillan.