The Gullywasher /El
wrote to Joyce Rossi with some questions. She kindly responded. The
following are some excerpts from our letters:
Why is the grandfather called Abuelito and not Abuelo?
I chose Abuelito, rather than Abuelo, because I believe
that this character is probably a great grandfather. Abuelito is a term
of endearment and literally translates to little grandfather. In this
story, Leticia's grandfather and grandmother are probably still at an
age where they might be working, and so Leticia is left in the care
of the dear old great grandfather whom the family lovingly calls Abuelito.
Would you care to share any thoughts about how you
created the story, the characters, or the gorgeous paintings?
I heard a story that sent me into fits of laughter.
It was about a cowhand who ate raw corn and some chile sauce that made
his stomach expand and popcorn exploded from his ears. I discovered
that the author of that story was a cowboy from a ranch in northern
Nevada. So I called him and asked if I could use his idea as part of
an expanded story. He graciously said yes. ( See the dedication.) Abuelito
is very like my own grandfather who, to the day he died, took great
pleasure in joking about his ailments. We remember him with a smile
for all the funny things he said and did. Perhaps it was his last gift
to us. The little girl, Leticia, is modeled after a child I met while
visiting a friend in Safford(Arizona). The paintings were done in watercolor
and colored pencil on hot pressed paper. I did a great deal of research,
some of which was at your own library at the University of Arizona.
It was at the historical library that I found the dwelling of the old
woman who was grinding corn. The little church is the San Jose Mission
a few miles east of Safford. The fictitious home of Abuelito and Leticia
is right across the street from the mission.
I know my future students will ask if you have children
and pets. Did you like art in grade school? Did you like school? Is
it hard to write a book? How long did it take you to write it? What
was your favorite book when you were a child?
Yes, we have had pets which have included dogs, cats,
hamsters, and chickens with a scattering of snakes and bugs. I loved
art from the day I was born. It is very hard to write a book. You have
such a short amount of space to create characters that you care about
and also for some action to take place. It took eight years for my first
book to be published. My favorite books, when I was a child, were the
Old Mother West Wind tales and also stories that were exaggerated like
Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett, and Paul Bunyan.
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