Lo­cal color Amy Cór­dova

Pasatiempo - - NEWS - AMY CÓR­DOVA

Amy Cór­dova’s il­lus­tra­tions are a fi­esta of color, and their ef­fect is up­lift­ing rather than cloy­ing. It all makes sense when you meet Cór­dova in per­son. She ex­udes the vi­brancy of her col­ors. “I see col­ors and I know which col­ors like to lie next to each other,” she told Pasatiempo. “Color has en­ergy. I use a lot of blues. Color is life.”

In the early ’80s, Cór­dova be­gan ex­hibit­ing paint­ings in Elaine Hor­wich’s gallery in Santa Fe. She has been il­lus­trat­ing books since 1994 and has il­lus­trated more than 20, in­clud­ing one she wrote ( Abuelita’s

Heart) and five au­thored by Ru­dolfo Anaya, in­clud­ing the pop­u­lar bilin­gual story, The San­tero’s Mir­a­cle. “He’s a very gen­tle, kind soul,” Cór­dova said. “He never ap­pears to have a lot of ego or power.” The same could be said of Cór­dova and her work.

Na­maste! is a dream of a chil­dren’s book that in­tro­duces the mean­ing of the word “na­maste”— “the light in me meets the light in you” — through the story of a Nepalese girl whose father is a Sherpa. The il­lus­tra­tions sparkle with the dis­cov­ery of a new cul­ture. To re­search the book, Cór­dova went to Nepal on a 10-day trip with the book’s au­thor, Diana Cohn. “We hooked up with the Moun­tain In­sti­tute in Kath­mandu,” Cór­dova said. “We hiked to Nam­che Bazaar and stayed there for a few days, and we walked up to the base of Everest. We also went to a vil­lage where a Sherpa friend lived.” All the while, she stud­ied de­tails — shrines, but­ter lamps, and chil­dren go­ing to school — and sketched them. “The peo­ple I met in Nepal are the most blessed, open-hearted peo­ple I’ve ever met,” she said. Af­ter her sketches were done, she shared them with her con­tacts at the Moun­tain In­sti­tute, who said she had done a “very nice” job. The ap­proval meant a lot. “I wanted peo­ple to feel that I had re­spected them.”

Dream Carver, an­other col­lab­o­ra­tion with Cohn, be­gins with a quote from Goethe: “What­ever you can do, or dream you can, be­gin it. Bold­ness has ge­nius, power and magic in it. Be­gin it now.” The book tells the story of a Mex­i­can boy who comes from a fam­ily of wood­carvers, and who day­dreams of pink goats and jackrab­bits in or­ange capes; one day, he sum­mons up the courage to qui­etly carve an­i­mals from wood as he sees them, not how they have al­ways been done. Cór­dova’s il­lus­tra­tions bring the boy’s whim­si­cal dream- an­i­mals to life. “I love an­i­mals; they’re the heart of the spirit of be­ing alive,” she said. “My world isn’t re­al­is­tic, my il­lus­tra­tions maybe aren’t so­phis­ti­cated, but they show my child­like won­der of the nat­u­ral world.” Out­side her house, she keeps a bird­feeder well stocked. “I call my place ‘Bird­land,’” she laughed. “Once, I found a road­run­ner look­ing into my kitchen! A sense of place is im­por­tant to me.”

One of her most de­light­ful books is Fi­esta Ba­bies, writ­ten by Car­men Tafolla (2015 Texas State Poet Lau­re­ate), which was an 2011 Amer­i­can Li­brary As­so­ci­a­tion Pura Bel­pré Honor Book. The award is given an­nu­ally to a Latino/a writer and il­lus­tra­tor whose work best por­trays the Latino cul­tural ex­pe­ri­ence in an out­stand­ing work of chil­dren’s lit­er­a­ture. The book’s spare text — “Fi­esta Ba­bies dance two by two — the cha- cha- cha ... and the choo­choo- choo!” — jumps to life with il­lus­tra­tions of par­ty­ing ba­bies, but­ter­flies, and coronas that “Mama has made.” The chil­dren sing mari­achi songs and later col­lapse into a much-needed siesta. It’s about as happy a book as can be. — Priyanka Ku­mar

“I love an­i­mals; they’re the heart of the spirit of be­ing alive. My world isn’t re­al­is­tic, my il­lus­tra­tions maybe aren’t so­phis­ti­cated, but they show my child­like won­der of the nat­u­ral world.”

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