Rose Viña is the author of the new children's picture book biography Alicia Alonso Dances On. She also has written the children's picture book Ice Breaker: How Mabel Fairbanks Changed Figure Skating. She lives in Sweden.
Q: What inspired you to write this picture book biography of dancer Alicia Alonso?
A: Originally, Alicia Alonso Dances On was written during graduate school at Lesley University, in Boston. One of my mentors suggested I dig into researching Hispanic athletes.
It wasn't hard to find Alicia Alonso as she popped up on many websites, news articles, dance magazines, journals, and award announcements. It was very clear from the beginning that this was a very accomplished female athlete.
Learning that she was visually impaired for the peak of her career just blew my mind. How did she become a prima ballerina?!? Further research gave me the answers and thus the first draft began to take form with the topic of her visual challenges and how she faced each obstacle at the forefront.
Q: What do you think Gloria Félix's illustrations add to the book?
A: Gloria Félix's illustrations are perfection. She took exactly what I was looking and hoping for from the text into art.
It's very important that a picture book shows a "marriage" between the art and text, it's how it all comes together for the reader as a package of textual and visual stimulation.
I specifically loved her use of colors, since most Hispanic countries and their people love vibrant colors. I also loved her use of darker pages to symbolize the visual impairments or emotional obstacles that Alicia had in the moment.
Q: How did you research Alonso's life, and was there anything that especially surprised you?
A: I did extensive research online, from old books, news articles, dance magazines, and even watched a DVD about her and her performances.
What surprised me the most was the way in which the recovery of one of her surgeries was handled. That made it into the book, so readers get to learn about a very difficult time in her life and how she got through it.
Q: You've also written a picture book about figure skater Mabel Fairbanks. How would you compare their careers?
A: Excellent question! I find that both their stories are inspiring. Both women were resilient in the face of others and obstacles, determined, hard-working, and never gave up. All important qualities in an elite athlete.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I'm working on a few different projects at a time - probably too many! But one is another picture book, another is a middle grade novel based on true events from my Cuban family history (father's side), and another is a young adult dark fantasy.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: You can find Alicia Alonso Dances On, and Ice Breaker: How Mabel Fairbanks Changed Figure Skating, at any online retailer or from your local bookstore. You can also buy directly from the publisher, Albert Whitman and Co. Both books are on included in their She Made History book series.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb