Interview: Luciana Navarro-Powell

I am so excited to help kick of  Luciana Navarro-Powell’s blog tour for her book My Dad Is The Best Playground.

Please be aware that reading Luciana’s My Dad Is The Best Playground to children is exhausting. They will force you to act out: Every. Single. Page.

6/10: Watch. Connect. Read

6/10: SharpRead

6/11: Home with the Boys

6/12: Nerdy Book Club

6/13: Ruth Ayres Writes

6/14: Book Faerie

6/15: Random Acts of Reading


Before reading my interview with Luciana, I think you should check out the trailer of My Dad Is The Best Playground. Mr. Schu is featuring it on his blog.

I love this picture of Luciana holding her book for the first time.

I love how interactive My Dad Is the Best Playground can be. Each time I read it to my kids we end up acting out many of the scenes in the book, followed by my kid and I making up more sweet playground moves to act out. Can you tell me a little bit about where this idea came from?

I am so glad to hear that you and your kids are adding to the repertoire of moves for this book. This is the beauty of books, after they are out in the world they develop a life of their own! The inspiration for this story came from observing my husband roughhousing with my two sons, ages three and five. The spark that ignited the idea  happened one night when I was tucking my sons into bed and my husband got home late from work. He was later than usual so he missed our bedtime routine, but he was still full of energy and eager to play with them. I remember thinking “oh great, they are going to get all riled up again, here comes the playground!” As you know it’s hard work to get kids settled down and ready for bed, so I was a bit annoyed with this sudden burst of energy.  However, I was still happy to see them play and have always been fascinated by how kids and their fathers play more physically and with more freedom than they do with us mothers- who are usually worried about someone getting hurt!  So this book is a celebration of the unique father-child relationship as it relates to the playground experience, a constant in the lives of young families.

I feel that the text and illustrations complement each other beautifully. The fact that you can tell such a nice story of a father and his children in less than 100 words boggles my mind. I’m curious as to how what the process for putting this board book together looks like. Did you start by drawing some of the illustrations? Did you write all the text first? A little bit of both?

This is my very first book as an author, previously I had only illustrated books. The general idea bounced  around my head for sometime, and then one day I sat down and wrote it in rhyming style.  Editors generally frown upon rhyming because it’s so difficult to make it right. I felt that it was fitting to the spirit of the story though, adding to the fact that I love reading rhyming books to my kids. My agent helped me with the editing process, which I found to be very challenging.  From draft to draft, it felt like very little changed, but with so few words, the changes were significant because every word counts. Once the text was close to being done then I started sketching, which is completely in my comfort zone. For final art I tried a different style than usual, by using real watercolor washes that I scanned and then assembled together digitally, so it has the warmth and energy of watercolor which I also thought would fit the story.

I spent some time on your blog: Your work is so interesting. Can you tell me a little bit about some of the other projects you’ve worked on and are working on?

Thank you.  Over the past year, I have worked on very different but fun projects. I illustrated a puzzle for Crocodile Creek, and they picked a lady bug character and applied in a large array of products such as bowls, plates, bibs, lunch boxes, balls, etc.  I am a huge fan of this company because all the illustrators they pick are stellar, so it feels great to be in such good company. Another fun recent project was a book app I illustrated for Polk Street Press called “Goodnight Safari”.  This allowed me to see my art animated for the first time. The process was different than what I’m used to for print, as I finished the art I would have to send all the pieces of each animal in separate layers: one for head, neck, torso, leg, tale, etc. The result was great; it’s an adorable bed time story but instead of dad and kids you get to put African animals to bed!  Right now I am just finishing art for a magazine cover for Scholastic, and my next project will be more book apps, at the same time working on my next book as writer – I got the writing bug.

On your website I learned that your choice of media is the digital brush. I am fascinated by how illustrators work digitally. Can you share what this looks like and how it works?

I have used traditional media in the past, mostly watercolor and acrylics, but I was really taken by digital media once I started to experiment with texture.  I will scan leaves, petals, fabric, or photograph cement cracks, wood, earth, and incorporate them into all in my illustrations by mixing the textures with shapes and colors. I also use customized Photoshop brushes, and create my own brushes too.  I find textures and customized brushes make a huge difference in the art looking more organic and not overly “digital”. I love the broad possibilities of experimentation without having to re-paint everything if you make a mistake, and I love the little accidents or unplanned results that I get from the process. The difficulty is learning when to stop, you have to be disciplined or you can end up working on a single piece forever. But that is also something you learn with time.

My favorite question to ask authors and illustrators is about what books they are enjoying as readers. What are some of the children’s books have you enjoyed recently?

That’s a hard one because the list is so long! I have been collecting children’s books for over 10 years now, way before I had kids. Initially I would choose them solely based on the illustrations. After I had my first son in 2007 and started to actually read the books with more attention, my critical sense changed. Words and illustration in a good picture book take turns in telling the story, so they can’t be considered separately. A few that come to mind, that both myself and my boys enjoy for art and text, are “Tickets to Ride” by Mark Rogalsky, “Grandpa Green” by Lane Smith (my favorite of last year, absolutely remarkable), “Cars Galore” by Peter Stein and Bob Staake, “Baloon Farm” by Jerdine Nolen and Mark Buehner, (and anything by Caralyn and Mark Buehner), “Psst!” by Adam Rex, anything by Mark Teague, “How I Became a Pirate” by Melinda Long and David Shannon, anything by Peter Brown, “Olivia saves the Circus” by Ian Falconer, (and any book with Olivia). Other new and notable ones and big hits in our house are “Press Here” by Herve Tullet, and “Shadow” by Suzy Lee, also “Wave”, by her, (I’m in absolute awe of this author/illustrator ). An older one but also favorite is “Bootsie Barker Bites”, the boys laugh out lout at it and so do I!

Thank you, Luciana! I really appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions.


3 thoughts on “Interview: Luciana Navarro-Powell

  1. I meant to leave a comment the other day, Colby & Luciana, but was called away from the computer & never got back. Reading the post on the Nerdy Book Club blog made me remember. The book looks delightful & will be a gift for my son-in-law, who is his girls’ best playground. Thank you!


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