I had no idea I was going to write a children’s book, much less a children’s book addressing affirmative action. But the story was inside me, waiting for the moment to be born. That time came when I learned about World Ahead, a publishing house with a line of conservative theme children’s books. I was intrigued by the idea of teaching conservative values through children’s literature. I decided to write and submit a story teaching my mother’s lessons of ethnic pride and self reliance.
When I sat down to write, I had only one solid idea and that was Joey’s response to affirmative action. That would be the centerpiece, and I would build the story around it. I figured all I would have to do was lay the groundwork, introduce the backup characters, get Joey to school and set up the confrontation. I had a feeling that Joey would take it from there. That’s exactly what happened. The characters instantly came alive and, from that point, the story wrote itself.
There’s a wonderful part in the story when the character, Sandy talks about her heroes, the Buffalo Soldiers. That was not in the original manuscript. The Buffalo Soldiers came in later when I met with Jim Pryor, the illustrator. Jim has a beautiful painting of a column of Buffalo Soldiers riding two by two up a steep ravine. I really liked the painting and I said I wished I could put it into the book. Jim suggested that I add the Buffalo Soldiers, and he would do the painting. Reading the story now, it seems as though the Buffalo Soldiers had been there from the beginning, as if they had been meant to be there. Maybe that’s true. Maybe Sandy was just waiting for her cue.
The book is beautifully and lovingly illustrated with exquisitely detailed watercolors. Jim Pryor has always painted with oils and acrylics. For this project, he taught himself to paint with watercolors. The quality of the paintings in Joey Gonzalez, Great American show that Jim Pryor is truly a master of his art.
Tony Robles is the author of the children’s book, Joey Gonzalez, Great American. You can visit his website at www.joeygonzalez.us.