“Guillo, el armadillo”
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A book that inspires children to find their unique talents.
As a local Spanish teacher, mom, and author, Andrea Olatunji has always strived to connect with her community. When schools closed this past March, she found herself teaching six classes from home while helping her five-year-old son with his, and also promoting her recently published book “Omar, el jaguar”.
Looking for ways to help others in her situation, she created a Youtube channel where she reads books for children in Spanish; she participated in storytime events with her book at Children’s Hospital, The Center for Latin American Studies at Tulane University, and UNICEF, among others. And, on top of that, she finished working on her second book, “Guillo, el armadillo,” which will be published this October.
Andrea, tell us about your book? What is it about?
This is the second book in a series that depicts animals that are native to the Americas. The first one is “Omar, el jaguar”, a story about a jaguar that learns to celebrate diversity. “Guillo” is the story of an armadillo, a popular and protected species in my home country, Uruguay. Guillo wakes up on a Monday ready to start school. He is excited and can’t wait to learn new things. However, as the week goes by, he grows increasingly disappointed because he can’t meet the challenges proposed each day by the teacher. He is either too short, too slow, or simply unable to accomplish these activities. By the end of the week, he is convinced that he does not have any talent and he is reluctant to come back to school. Eventually, however, his talent unexpectedly reveals itself.
Which other autochthonous animals are depicted in your books?
The books include a sloth, a toucan, an anaconda, a pink dolphin, and a condor, among others. This is a great opportunity to teach kids about these animals and their environments, and about the reasons why some are in danger of extinction, along with deforestation in the Amazon forest.
Where did the idea for “Guillo, el armadillo” come from?
It is inspired by my students. In my twenty-plus year journey as a Spanish teacher, I have always enjoyed using projects to enhance my student’s learning experiences. One of my favorite activities is called “Mi Talento” (My talent). Here students need to teach their classmates and teacher something they know how to do well. Most of my students loved to show off their talents, but there are always a couple of children who seem intimidated by the challenge. When talking with them, they would tell me “I don’t have a talent. What can I teach?”. This puzzled me. Guiding these students in the process and then seeing them empowered by the discovery of their talents is what inspired me to create “Guillo, el armadillo”.
What makes “Guillo, el armadillo” a special book?
Its empowering message: to believe in yourself and discover your unique talents. As a teacher, I wrote it thinking about those kids who are learning the language. Thus, the vocabulary is simple and repetitive, enabling children to remember it easily.
This is a book specially designed so a child with basic knowledge of the language can understand it. This enables the educators to teach in context and to elaborate as the child progresses. Finally, parents that do not speak the language have found the vocabulary intuitive, which together with the illustrations, has enabled them to understand the story.
The book’s illustrations are fun and eye-catching. Inspired by Panamanian “molas” (colorful fabric panels made by the local Kuna women), and the work of Uruguayan artist Carlos Paez Vilaró, the animals are full of detail and intricate shapes. Yet, there is a simplicity to them. The backgrounds are reminiscent of something that young children do a lot: cut and paste. This tissue paper collage gives the illustrations a nice 3D effect. Finally, there is a guide to accompany the book, which comes with lesson plans, printables, project ideas, and guiding questions.
How have teachers and parents reacted to your books so far?
“Omar, el jaguar” has become an asset in many teachers´ curricula during this pandemic.
Also, several parents that were now teaching their kids at home considered it as an option to help their kids continue practicing their Spanish.
When will “Guillo” be available?
I am doing a crowdfunding campaign from September 15th till October 15th to get funds to finish editing this book and print it. This is a costly process, so I need help.
This campaign is an “all or nothing”. This means that if I don’t meet my desired goal, then the project does not get funded and I won’t be able to print my book. But what I like about it is that people do not just give money to a cause; they get to purchase exclusive rewards. For example, they can pre-order signed copies of the book for less including shipping; they can get a class package that includes an author virtual visit, etc. It is a great way to get help and at the same time give back.
Where can people join this campaign?