Hispanic or Latino children’s books actually written or illustrated by a Latino/a in the U.S. during the 1990s were rare birds. Though the Hispanic population of the United States was quickly becoming the dominant subculture, not a lot in the arts, design and decor fields reflected that fact. Fortunately, forward-thinking Anglos that were already positioned in the publishing world took notice and did their part. The owners and staff and writers at Beyond Words Publishing in the 1990s were those people.
During the time writer, Susan Strauss was putting together her new book based on a Costa Rican Creation story, she happened to be seated next to me at the brunch of a mutual friend. Our conversation turned to her story and by the time we were done with our meal we had a plan to present to her publisher, Beyond Words. Our plan was accepted and I joined the team as the Latina illustrator.
Though that doesn’t sound like a big deal now that time has passed, it was then. I was so excited. Not only did I get to make a contribution as an artist and mother (my daughter was five at the time,”When Woman Became the Sea,” was published), I got the personal satisfaction of being a published Latina. It was very gratifying. I don’t care for cultural appropriation. Despite the best of intentions when bringing Hispanic products to market, when all of the names attached to the products are Anglo or culturally divergent, it can come across as appropriation.
The book has long since sold out and you can only get copies on Amazon, I am still very proud of the project. The beautiful marriage between Susan Strauss’ elegant writing, the typesetting and my illustrations is holding up well.
Here’s a few of the reviews for “When Woman Became the Sea”:
“A lovely creation myth from Costa Rica is retold in read-aloud rhythm and illustrated with gorgeous, tropical paintings. Sound effects are indicated by the waving, explosive typeface that will inspire dramatic story hours. The rich colors and vivid patterns of Acosta’s illustrations echo Latino pottery and design, making this an irresistible package.”
Kirkus Reviews, September 1998
“Acosta illustrates the tale with swirling, thick-lined tropical scenes in which form takes second place to vibrant, emphatic color. The eye-catching visuals. . . and the author’s natural-sounding language. . . make the tale a promising candidate for reading aloud.”
Booklist, October 1998
“When Woman Became the Sea; A Costa Rican Creation Myth recounts an allegory of the intertwined origins of trees and water in the interplay between Thunder and Sea.”
Bookman’s Weekly, November 1998
“Strauss is a storyteller and her colloquial, rhythmic narrative just begs to be read or told aloud. The vivid acrylic illustrations make the most of strong shapes, swirling brush strokes and clean blocks of color to create a primitive style emboldened by a sense of movement, perfect for a myth about making and doing. The page layout is excellent, with spiraled, script like print balancing and enhancing the kinetic look of the artwork.”
School Library Journal, February 1999
When Woman Became the Sea. By Susan Strauss Illustrated By Cristina Acosta
Published Fall 1998, Beyond Words Publishing, Inc. Hillsboro, Oregon ISBN# 1-885223-85-4
Though out of print, used copies may be found on Amazon.
Original paintings (acrylic on paper) are available for sale and/or exhibits. Contact Cristina with your request.