A Book Made for Me

By Brandon Alpert

When it comes to children books, illustrations play a big part in how a child will react to and comprehend what is written. On March 9th, 2019 the Stuyvesant Bookstore hosted an event that welcomed the community to come and meet Elizabeth Zunon, as well as, get their books signed. There were delectable refreshments available for everyone to partake in. The aesthetics within the bookstore was a great place for this event.

Children books play a big role for young ones as it is their first introduction into the literary world.  Often children relate to characters that look like them or have similar stories. The stories of the various authors Elizabeth Zunon has collaborated with allows her to create this feeling of familiarity with her illustrations for children. Looking at some of the books she has worked on: “The Farmer”, “The Legendary Miss Lena Horne”, “Lala Salama: A Tanzanian Lullaby”, and “Don’t Call Me Grandma”, you can see the pattern of universal relatability being created.

The majority of Zunon’s characters are African-American. When I read picture books while growing up there weren’t too many books that depicted minorities, or their stories. So, it was a refreshing surprise to see that as every page was turned there was a person of color staring back at you. During the event there wasn’t much a discussion of the featured book called, “The Farmer”. Ms. Zunon mostly walked around and met with some of the children and parents who had purchased the books she partnered with other authors to create. At the back of the bookstore there were multiple books illustrated by Ms. Zunon available for purchase. I took the time to read the books listed above and was obsessed with not only the stories in each one but was in awe of the illustrations and the details that this talented illustration had put into them.

There to support her—as her biggest fans—were her mom and dad, Ellen and Dennis. Not only was Elizabeth a burst of sunshine on that wintry day but her parents also embodied that same energy. I had the opportunity to sit with Ellen and she gave me a little back story of her life, as well as, Elizabeth’s. It isn’t often that one gets the opportunity to meet with an author, let alone his/her parents. Getting to know Elizabeth Zunon, the artist, was a great experience! She walked around and described how each illustration differed based on what she used to create that piece. Majority of her pieces within the book, “The Farmer” were created on the base of brown construction paper. She also focused on using black and brown markers, black pens, as well as gel pens to draw the fine features of her characters. She followed up with light brown, beige, orange, and pastel colors to produce the highlights. Just hearing the techniques used in Zunon’s process to create such beautiful work was intriguing.

While up until now she has worked with other authors, Elizabeth Zunon will be releasing her own children’s book written and illustrated by her in May 2019. The title of her debut book will be “Grandpa Cacao”. This new book is based on the life of her grandpa who worked on a cacao field on the Ivory Coast of West Africa, where Elizabeth and her family lived. Be make sure to be on the lookout for her independent work later this year!!