Flutter and Hum, Aleteo y Zumbido

I have a new book out! Flutter and Hum, Aleteo y Zumbido.Flutter Hum coverI am not a poet and I my Spanish is awkward, but somehow I wrote a book of poems in Spanish and English. Here’s how it came about.

In 2009 I illustrated a biography of Neruda written by Monica Brown. In order to understand and illustrate Neruda I needed to learn Spanish, so I started classes right away. I loved learning Spanish. I loved the structure of the language and the sound of the words. I illustrated Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People using pictures and words. The words, which are integrated into the art, are in Spanish and English and were influenced by the words of his poems.PabloNerudaWhile I worked on this book I swam in the Spanish language and in the poems of Neruda. That experience changed my life.Paschkis neruda by seaSince then I have taken many more Spanish classes including immersion classes in Guatemala and in Cuernavaca, Mexico. I have visited Chile, Guatemala, Oaxaca, Morelia, Cuernavaca, Mexico City and Spain. I would like to return to all of those places! I continue to study and read and write. My vocabulary is large and I understand the grammatical structures, but my speech is slow and simple.Flutter&Hum snake But in a strange way, my awkwardness with Spanish is what allowed me to write these poems.
When I hear a word in English my mind leaps right to the meaning of the word, bypassing the sound. I am ABLE to hear the sound but I have to make myself listen.Paschkis word birdWhen I hear a word in Spanish I notice the sound and feel of the word first, and then my mind gropes for the meaning.palabra

For example the word PALABRA (which means word), sounds like a shape to me. I hear the beauty of the word before the meaning. I see a shape like this:finialThe poems in this book often started with me rolling a word around in my mouth. The word for moth is polilla – such a soft word. And the word for lightbulb is bombilla. Bombastic! I put together words and ideas in Spanish until I had the beginning of a poem. That is how I began all of the poems. I always started in Spanish. Then I would work back and forth in Spanish and in English until I had a poem that I liked in both languages. I threw myself at the light – sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t.Flutter&Hum mothWhen I painted the illustrations for the book I had another chance to play with words in both languages – to pick words in Spanish and English that bounced off of each other and added shades of meaning and emotion.

I submitted the poems to Noa Wheeler who was then an editor at Henry Holt. She liked them, and Holt offered to publish them. It was a leap of faith on her part and I am grateful.
We eliminated some poems and I wrote some new ones. We tried to keep them juicy.Flutter&Hum fresa copyI showed the poems to Marta Seymour, my first Spanish teacher (who is from Costa Rica) and to my friend Fernando Larios (who is originally from Mexico and is married to Julie Larios). They read the poems and pointed out my most egregious errors. Ingrid Paredes also proofread the poems for Henry Holt and offered specific and helpful criticism. The book is dedicated to Marta, for igniting my love of Spanish and for her generosity in reviewing the poems.Marta Seymour

My joy in creating this book was playing with language in Spanish and English, and in painting with words and images. My hope is that the poems and paintings will encourage others to approach both languages playfully and with pleasure, whatever their native tongue.Flutter&Hum parrotIn Spanish you would say that I am a principiante. A princess? No – a beginner.

Flutter&Hum heronP.S. If you are in Seattle please come to a signing for the book at the Seattle Art Museum book store (SAM Books) on September 26th from 1-3. Some of the original art from the book will on display at the SAM Gallery Shop, along with paintings by my husband Joe Max Emminger and some drawings that we did together. There will be a reception for the show from 3-5. And the museum is free that day! The show will be up until October 16th.

P.S. Here is a review of the book by Julie Danielson at Kirkus., and here is a review from Deborah Stevenson at the BCCB . (The Bulletin for the Center for Children’s Books).

23 responses to “Flutter and Hum, Aleteo y Zumbido

  1. Gorgeous, Julie! I’m learning Spanish, too. (Very, very slowly) I love your observation about how a new language gives you a chance to notice the sound of a word before registering its meaning. I like “palabra,” too. Your shape is perfect. I always think of parabola when I hear it.

  2. Many libraries now have free language learning online. My library subscribes to Mango languages…

    • Yes – Seattle Public Library has Mango languages too, and lots of books in Spanish as well. Thanks for bringing that up.

  3. Very excited about this book. i will be out of town on the day of the celebration but am looking forward to seeing these beautiful paintings. Congratulations!

  4. This is a lovely & charming book. I read it at the CCBC (Cooperative Children’s Book Center) at the University of WI, Madison . . .

  5. So awesome! Just love your book. I’ll share it with the people in Pasco Schools too.

  6. Fernando and I will definitely be at the Seattle Art Museum on the 26th to celebrate the launch of Flutter and Hum – it’s WONDERFUL. I love the way words and shapes come together in your head — you’re a poet, Julie!

  7. Deirdre O'Sullivan from Australia

    Just like Italian, Spanish is a very musical, lilting language – your joyful illustrations seem to sing off the page, too! I love your title – ‘ Flutter and Hum’ conjures up all the gentle sounds of nature. And it’s a great idea to show kids that English isn’t the only language spoken in the world. Never too early to remind them of that!

    • Yes – I agree. I also love the sound of Russian. And English with an Australian accent!…
      I can’t tell what American English sounds like to an outside ear.

  8. I love your wandering through another language. Keep going there.

    • Thank you! I will try. I would love to learn Russian, but I’m afraid I only have room for one other language in my brain. I imagine the Russian words jostling the Spanish out of my mind. But maybe the language space could be expanded.

  9. Pingback: Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast » Blog Archive » What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring Julie Paschkis

  10. Pingback: friday feast: Chatting with Julie Paschkis about Flutter and Hum/Aleteo y Zumbido (+ a giveaway!) | Jama's Alphabet Soup

  11. Thanks for all the insights into your process, Julie – I’ve got this on order and can’t wait to receive!

  12. I’m delighted to see your new book. It looks like a stunning one. I once interviewed poet W.S. Merwin who is multi-lingual. He said learning another language turn on a light inside your native language. It sounds like you’ve found that light.

  13. Pingback: Word Watching | Books Around The Table

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