On Thursday, Manhattan Country School students in the 5-6s, 6-7s, 7-8s, 8-9s, 9-10s and fifth grade had the chance to meet with award-winning author and illustrator Duncan Tonatiuh. He is the creator of several children’s books including Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale, Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation and Dear Primo: A Letter to My Cousin. Duncan was born in Mexico City and grew up in San Miguel de Allende. He says he draws inspiration for his stories from his childhood experiences.
While at MCS, Duncan read some of his books: Dear Primo to the 5-6s through 7-8s, Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote to the 8-9s and 9-10s and Separate Is Never Equal to the fifth-graders. He then explained his creative process—one that takes about six months. He begins with an idea and writes a first draft of the story. Then there are several rounds of revisions, incorporating feedback from his editor. Once the story is finalized, he begins creating the illustrations, which start as black and white hand drawings that are then scanned and colorized and texturized in Photoshop. Once his book is complete it can take another six months for it to be printed and appear in bookstores.
Duncan fielded questions from his engaged audiences and then provided a demonstration of how he draws the characters in his books. He explained that his unique style, in which all of the characters’ faces are presented in profile, is inspired by Pre-Colombian art. The children were amazed to see how simple lines drawn on a piece of paper become the characters they recognized from Duncan’s books.