This is the story of two primos (cousins) Charlie lives in America, and Carlitos lives in Mexico. The cousins correspond via letters. They tell each other about everything, from their favorite foods, to how they get to school. Thanks to the letters, the cousins realizes though they live in different countries they have a lot in common.
Carlitos letters are in English, with a few Spanish words included.
In the town from time to time they have fiestas that last two or three days. At night there are cohetes that light up the sky and mariachis that play and play.
I love how the Tonatiuh allows readers or listeners who don't speak Spanish to understand the Spanish words. He also includes a visual image of the Spanish words to make it that much easier.
One of the things that stands out for me in Dear Primo, are the author's illustrations. Tonatiuh uses a style I am not use to. I love his use of color. The more I look at the book, the more I appreciated the art. In the back its says Tonatiuh was inspired by the ancient art of mixtecs and other cultures of Mexico.
I did a quick search , I wanted to know more about mixtecs art but came up empty. So I decided to ask Duncan Tonatiuh about his artistic style.
"My art is mostly inspired by ancient Mixtec codex. Most of those codex were done in the eleventh century I believe. I am attaching some images.I draw by hand but I color and collage texture into my drawings in photoshop. I developed my style while I was doing my BFA thesis at Parsons School of design.
I looked at a lot of Pre-Columbian art from Mexico and the Americas to develop the look of my thesis project. When I saw the Mixtec codex I was particularly struck. Something clicked. I really like the design of the images -the geometry and the repetition of colors and forms. I find them very musical.
I adopted a lot of the aesthetic choices in those codex, like the fact that people are always seen in profile or the proportions, which differ from the classical western standards. I did not want to simply imitate those drawings though. Using digital techniques was a way for me to make those images contemporary and also make them my own.
Basically I try to combine something that looks very ancient with something that looks very modern. I am from Mexico, and Mexico has such a rich visual tradition. I want to keep those traditions alive but I also want to innovate and make those ancient aesthetics relevant and accessible to kids and people today.
I think what I do is a little bit like sampling. The way a dj/producer samples a base line, or guitar section, mixes it with a new drum beat etc and makes a new song. "