Monday, June 10, 2024

Q&A with Angela Quezada Padron


Photo by Alberto Padron



Angela Quezada Padron is the author and illustrator of the new children's picture book biography As the Seas Rise: Nicole Hernández Hammer and the Fight for Climate Justice. She is the national director of curriculum and instruction at the nonprofit organization Reading Partners.


Q: Why did you decide to create a children's picture book biography about Nicole Hernández Hammer? 


A: I was interested in writing a children's book biography about a Latina figure who was involved in science in some way.


After doing some searching online, I came across an article about Nicole Hernández Hammer where it stated that she was invited by First Lady Michelle Obama to attend the State of the Union address in 2015.


Nicole was recognized due to her work advocating for climate justice in communities of color and educating others about how climate change was affecting the health of people in Latino communities. That inspired me to learn even more about her, as well as about sea level rise and climate justice. 


Q: How did you research the book, and did you learn anything that especially surprised you? 


A: After I researched more articles about Nicole and listened to interviews Nicole had done, I wrote the first draft of the book.


Then I took a chance and reached out to Nicole through social media to see if she would be willing to speak to me to verify the information I found and provide anything additional. She agreed to an interview, and after we spoke, I felt confident to finish the manuscript.


Nicole provided some photo references and consulted on the book throughout, from text to sketches to final art. I felt that having her as a primary source was the best way to make the book as correct and authentic as possible.  


What surprised me the most was learning about Nicole's childhood. I was fascinated to hear about her years growing up in Guatemala, especially when she lived in the tropical rainforest of El Quiché. She told me that she used to climb trees to pick fruit, and at night she could hear animals walking on top of the trailer where she slept.


Throughout her life, Nicole had a real connection with nature, including the most beautiful and most dangerous aspects of it, which I wanted to make sure to highlight in the book.   

Q: Did you work on the text first or the illustrations first—or both simultaneously? 


A: I started with the text because I wanted to make sure I had the facts right about Nicole's life and work. With a picture book biography, I feel that making sure the book is factually correct is of the foremost importance.


Additionally, my amazing editor (shout out to Sophia Jimenez at Atheneum Books!) and I went back and forth to tighten up the text and determine the pagination so that I knew what to illustrate on each spread.


We wanted to ensure there were strong page turns and that each spread would allow the illustration to partner well with the text to best tell Nicole's story.


Once that was finalized, I began working on thumbnail sketches, which are very small sketches to determine the most effective layout and composition. From there, I began more detailed sketches and, after feedback from my editor and art director, I finalized the sketches and moved to final art. 


Q: What do you hope kids take away from the book? 


A: There are two things I hope readers take away from this book.


The first is to be inspired by Nicole's story of perseverance. When Nicole came to the United States, she had to leave her home and grandparents behind. At first, she had difficulty adjusting to her neighborhood in the United States because she didn't know how to speak English.


However, Nicole persevered. She studied hard in school, and she used her experiences, perspectives, and bilingualism as assets. She relied on her strengths and talents to be successful.


Her connection to nature, which started in Guatemala, led her to a career path in science, in the U.S., and her cultural roots helped her to connect with and empathize with diverse communities affected by climate change.


I hope her story inspires children—especially immigrant children—to realize that their language and culture are assets as well, and that they too have the ability to achieve big things. 


Second, I want readers to know that they can make a difference in the lives of others, like Nicole has done.


Nature is something to take care of and respect, but we need to care for and respect each other as well. We should be concerned about and empathetic toward other people and look for ways we can work together to protect all of our communities.


Most importantly, we need to listen to each other and advocate for one another to have fairness and equity. Too many communities have not gotten the attention and resources they need to fight climate change and become resilient.


Many times, inequalities happen because of racist practices and the thought that if an issue doesn't affect your own home or community, then you don't have to worry about it.


However, we all need to be in the practice of working together in our local neighborhoods, in our country, and globally to ensure a sustainable planet for us and generations to come. 


Q: What are you working on now? 


A: I have my first fictional picture book, Lucía’s Goals, coming out with Lee and Low Books in 2025. I also have another picture book biography with Atheneum Books, From the Fields to the Fight, releasing in 2026.


I am not illustrating either of those books, but the chosen illustrators are perfect for these texts. I am excited and honored to be a partner with them in making these stories come to life. 


Q: Anything else we should know? 


A: I recently sold a fiction picture book that I will be illustrating (soon to be announced!). Also, I'm finalizing a middle grade manuscript that will be submitted to editors in the next few months.


In addition, I am working on a chapter book manuscript, outlining a second middle grade novel idea, and revising several fiction and nonfiction picture book manuscripts, including two that I’m sketching illustrations for.


In between all of that writing and illustrating, I have goals to reteach myself to play the guitar and piano and create some fine art, including pastel drawings, acrylic and watercolor paintings, and batiks. I even have some songs in my head that I want to write down. I plan to make 2024 a very busy and productive creative year! 


People can learn more about me and follow my publishing career by viewing my website Thank you so much for this opportunity.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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