Preparing for school is out!

     I'm incredibly excited, two years ago I wrote a story about inclusion. I have been included in schools many times, and I needed to make a difference with what I learned. 

     Teachers and other key players were excited to include me, but many times little things would make it harder for me to participate. My device would run out of battery halfway through the school day, and getting supplies might interrupt my work. Then my classmates might not understand my equipment and my tools. 

     Mom and I would solve this as we went but a better way came to me. What if I could write an illustrated book for adults and kids alike? Something we could all share to understand the changes to a classroom and what to think about when planning to include a new student.

     This book was born, I wrote it fairly quickly, and then things began to develop.  My mom asked about finding an illustrator; I found a mentor, a teacher, and a guide in Elsa. 

      Elsa saw my project and excitedly proposed I illustrate the book myself; I was surprised and delighted, actually, maybe I was shocked and scared. Wow! me illustrating. I love to paint but this was next level.

     I started painting with her. Now let me tell you, Elsa is something else. She goes by the nickname "Elsita," but don't let that diminutive fool you. She is a powerhouse. With a gentle voice, an ever-present smile, and a patient heart she transformed my dreams into a reality beyond what I could have imagined. 

     Elsa and I worked for over half a year on each painting. She explored my style and technique and built on that new skills. With canvas fabric that was not mounted, we could fold, press, and create in new ways. 

     We poured painted acrylic, mixed it, used it in isolation, and folded the paint; I really had a chance to experiment and grow as an artist. 

     When all the paintings were done, we started thinking about each illustration and how it would be composed. One by one each page was read and each illustration was crafted with words. It started looking like a storyboard. At least the back layer of it! 

        We also started defining how Alfie would look. One by one each detail was worked on. Then, Ivan was suggested as a third member of our team. Ivan is an accomplished illustrator and painter.  He studied plastic arts with Elsa. He was tasked with painting the foreground. 

     Ivan took some time to read my book, my written description of the illustrations, and to view my paintings.  He was inspired and excited, our team was taking its final shape. 

     A few months later we were ready with all our pieces.  It was time to assemble our masterpiece. We got together at BEE and Colmena Academy's headquarters. For a few hours, we sat and focused on the correlation between art and illustration. The final storyboard with images and paintings was turning into a loose-leaf book. 

     Now it was time to digitize everything. The paintings crossed the border to Roberto Cuen's Studio.  He was going to photograph all the paintings. Roberto was quick! He turned those paintings into files we could maneuver. Ivan then overlapped the photos with the illustrations. 

     My team of teachers at Colmena Academy jumped in.  They were ready to electronically assemble and edit the finishing touches. Two years of work became one PDF.  

     First came the draft book, more edits, and a redesign of the cover. Then came the second draft, we were ready to go! 

     A few more details with the printer and magic, I present to you my new book. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I loved creating it. I hope it becomes a tool of understanding and friendship.  

     Mostly, I hope that the next nonspeaker who joins a classroom goes in with my book in his hand for the reading circle.  I hope he finds himself seen and understood, by way of a simple story.  I hope all children who read my book, grow empathy, compassion, and understanding for all their classmates. 

     During the time I created this book, I made a friend. A friend with likes and interests similar to mine.  Someone who sees me for who I am. I am fortunate to have many friends, but this friend and I embarked on a creative adventure. But that is another story....


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