1st of its Kind Cross-Cultural Collaboration with a Cuban Creative Team
During my travels in Cuba I met Clarky and as soon as I saw his work I knew immediately that I'd found our illustrator.
With works like these...
The World Needs His Illustrations in a Children's Book!
Since the loosening of the Cuban Embargo a few brazen travelers have been forging connections and, while the Embargo is still in effect, one of the first doors opened to cross-cultural collaborations is the exchange of art and ideas. It's these first steps taken by goverments and individuals that make this project possible. Now let me tell you what it means to us...
Clarky was born in Havana, Cuba, lives there still in a neighborhood called Playa. He lives in a small apartment, just big enough to cook, sleep and work and sometimes he ignores the need to eat and sleep to obsess over his work.
Clarky will not work for the government and does not have access to a market for his art work. Therefore he struggles to get by and sometimes he goes hungry. This success of this project will provide him with an income and could even launch his international career.
Check out the concept art he as done for our book and even come with me to meet him at his home in Havana!
What About the Book?
Baby ¡Babas! is a lovely story about a dog and her Boy that teaches reading in English and Spanish as and serves as a model of service and companionship.
The story of Baby ¡Babas! has three parts - the beginning and end of the book take place in present day Austin, TX as old lady Babas and her Boy take the reader on a reading dog visit to tell their story to a group of children...
After Babas and her Boy settle in and her Boy begins reading, Babas drifts off to sleep...
Throughout the middle of the book she dreams of a time when she was 6 weeks old and she and Boy first met... little black ball of wiry fur. She was sad and scared and missing her mother, brothers and sisters...
When Boy appears...
She barely has time to sniff him before being swept up and carried away - and that was the beginning of a very long day.
I'm not going to tell the whole story here. You'll have to read the book to find out more!
Mother and Child Team Up
My mother is a retired teacher with two and a half decades of experience as a teacher, literacy coach, and curriculum writer. She has an advanced degree in teaching reading and a massive collection of children's books. My mother also works with me on this project as a consultant, an editor and a curriculum writer for the lesson plans being developed to compliment our book.
She is a master teacher and this is a labor of love for her!
Baby ¡Babas! the Teaching Tool
- Co-authored by a native Spanish speaker, not just translated from English, our work addresses a need for high quality bilingual and bi-literate children's books.
- Through careful sentence construction and word choice, the two different settings of the book; the beginning/end is aimed at the fluent end-of-2nd-grade reader, and the middle is aimed at the beginning kindergarten reader.
- Employing a bunch of tricks and devices that only experts in children's literature know, we've created a trade book perfect for teaching story structure - that's characters, setting, beginning, middle and end - a very important concept for new readers to learn and experienced readers to master.
Companion Curriculum and Lesson Plans
As a bonus we are developing a complete curricular suite of lesson plans to accompany the book. There will be a set of lessons for each of the two parts of the book teaching the mechanics of reading through:
- Background Knowledge
- Language Structure
- Verbal Reasoning
- Literacy Knowledge
- Phonological Awareness
- Sight Words
- Global Comprehension: Story Structure
- Map reading (Yes, there will be maps!)
- Geographical features/landforms
That's enough mini-lessons for 20 re-reads!
The Rest of The Creative Team?
I have just enough experience as an educator and enough as a tour operator to pull together the all star team that makes this project possible. Who's with me?
Babas is a 10 year old lady German Shepherd who has lived a life full of adventure - we met in Guatemala where I was an aid worker, an English professor and a tour guide. For the first two years of her life she never left my side. As soon as she was grown enough we were climbing volcanoes and not long after that she was shepherding in support of my tour groups - running the trail, sprinting beside my mountain bike, sharing my canoe. We've been all over North America together in planes, boats, buses and cars.
She's getting older (about 60 in dog years) but it isn't time to put her out to pasture yet. Instead she's enjoying semi-retirement through service in the elementary schools, children's libraries and assisted living facilities near our home in Austin, TX. Babas is a gentle, clever, beautiful beast and the hairy heroine of our story.
I met Bianca as the guide for my company's first trip to Cuba this January and we've quickly become dear friends. Mother and breadwinner for her family, she is working as a tour guide now so that she can return to the psychology practice that she is passionate about. As a tourism professional and fluent English speaker she takes care of her family as well as some friends and neighbors in Havana where she lives with the tips she earns.
She is a highly educated, native Spanish speaker with an appreciation for art and poetry and as such serves as my Spanish language co-author. She also introduced me to our artist.
I don't like talking about myself and this story is going to get long enough without me droning on so just click on over to the 'About Me' section if you want to know more.
Where Did the Idea Come From?
This book has been writing itself in the back of my mind for sometime - the iterating idea to teach kids values through Babas in Spanish and English. But, I'm no artist and, if you don't have brilliant illustrations then you don't have a children's book. Since I met Clarky though and we've been generating concept art for the project I'm on my fourth edit of the manuscript.
With the success of this campaign I will be able not only to finish the project, take it to a publisher and launch a sophisticated marketing and publicity campaign around it.
How Long Will It Take?
The best case scenario is that I enter into a relationship with a progressive, Austin local publisher that uses a hybrid model between traditional and self-publishing. The time line below represents that best case...
Where Will the Money Go?
Budgeting this project has been challenging due to the many possible outcomes and unkowns. I have plans A through Z in place. Below is a possible budget based on a very conservative minimum viable product estimate.
The various costs fall into the following categories:
- Kickstarter fee
- Funds transfer fees
- payments to the creative team
- bonuses to the creative team
- book publication
- merchandise rewards
- web hosting
- Babas visits
- small group trips
Why Is This Project Important?
The success of this project will bring a beautiful and useful piece of children's literature into the world.
It will honor and ensure the continued relevance of the life of a good dog.
The creative process will strengthen the bonds between mother and son.
The financial success of the book will empower a handful of Cubans to pull themselves out of poverty.
What Do You Say?
I've been accused of being 'overly detail oriented' in my storytelling, which is a nice way of saying 'long-winded'. I'll stop here even though I have sooo much more to say about virtually every piece of information I've given so far. So, I'll be releasing a steady stream of updates for those of you who want to know more.
If you have a burning question please message me and I'll build out the FAQ.
If not, what do you say?
Are You In?
Risks and challenges
I live a very risk tolerant life, always have, but I'm not interested in taking risks with your money. What I am interested in is bringing something beautiful into the world and leaving it a better place for my having been.
This project IS funded and WILL happen. Now it's just a matter of how well I can put the book together. My Mother and I have drafted 4 manuscripts now and I have one more revision in mind before reaching back out to my preferred publishers. Clarky has produced about half of the concept art for the book and there is only one more piece that I want to work through before I take his portfolio to the publishers. All that WILL happen!
The challenges of this project lie in the communication and exchange of information between the US and Cuban sides of the creative team. These are challenges that have solutions and whose solutions have been built into the budget of the project.
If you have any questions, suggestions or concerns please comment and I'll write them into the FAQ.
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