Just in time for Hispanic Heritage month, Alice Perez has released her debut book ‘Vamos a Veracruz’ which chronicles the adventures of a young girl exploring the Mexican coastal city.
Teaching without preaching; it’s what every educator strives to do and Houston native Alice Perez has not only mastered that technique, she has written a book that does the same. Augustina, the main character in ‘Vamos a Veracruz,’ explores the Mexican city of Veracruz while teaching children about the culture there. The cute and colorful illustrations on each page captivate readers, making learning about a different culture not only interesting but fun.
We sat down to talk with Perez about everything from her inspiration to her lessons learned as a burgeoning children’s author.
Why did you decide to write ‘Vamos a Veracruz’?
I wanted to honor my grandmother as well as find an opportunity to help children much like the ones I teach every day in my classroom. After I decided what I wanted to make my book about, the rest was just figuring out how I could incorporate some of my family’s culture and explain it through Augustina’s character in a fun and interactive way.
So, your grandmother was your inspiration behind the book?
Without a doubt. She and I were incredibly close. When she passed away in 2017, I was heartbroken. I wrote ‘Vamos a Veracruz’ as a tribute to her and the many experiences she shared with me growing up.
Will ‘Vamos a Verzcruz’ be followed up by any other locations in Mexico?
Augustina’s next adventure is set to pick up in Italy. My goal is to take children to as many cities around the world as possible through my books. Perhaps in the future we’ll revisit a new city in Mexico, but for now this is where my creative direction is headed.
There are many more children’s books highlighting Latino culture than there were even a decade ago – do you think this trend will continue?
I believe so… It’s fun learning that, even though we’re so similar, we each have our own diverse customs that may be new and exciting to one another.
Why is highlighting Latino culture is important?
Encouraging all children to learn about different cultures fosters intrigue in exploring the world outside of the screens they may see daily. From this, they can learn different languages and ideas that they may not have been introduced to previously.
How long did it take you to write ‘Vamos a Veracruz’?
It took about a year or so. I rewrote the manuscript twice before publishing it.
What was the most surprising thing you learned during the writing and publishing process?
How difficult it was finding an illustrator willing to work with me. Because this is my first book, not many artists leapt at the chance to invest time with something that didn’t seem like a sure thing.
When did you begin writing and is it your full-time job?
My passion for writing was always apparent growing up, according to my family. I began writing at a very early age and have always loved sharing, creating, and reading stories. I am currently a primary school teacher in Houston, Texas. One day I would love to become a full-time writer but until then I will continue teaching.
Cover photo Jessica Parker Photography
Gabi De la Rosa lives in Houston with her husband and three children. You can usually find her at a great local restaurant or out exploring HTX with her family. Visit her on Instagram @gabioftheroses_htx