Here I am, on a dusty shortcut somewhere south of Paradise, California, circa 1990. When we lived in San Francisco, we rode all over the state. I recall riding past miles and miles of rows and rows of crops, dotted with the curved backs of pickers. Those scenes came back to me when I worked on a recent assignment for Cricket Magazine.
Francisco Jimenez wrote The Circuit, a memoir of his childhood as an immigrant from Tlaquepaque, Mexico working alongside his family in the fields of California. The power of his vivid writing pulled me in, and I saw those golden suede hills and felt the dusty heat all over again. His experience was hard, long days and always moving with the crops.
For the opening illustration, I drew the family car, the Carcachita, an old Plymouth. They leave at dawn for the next job.
In this scene, he collapses in the heat.
When the picking season is over, he can go to school. He meets a kind teacher, Mr. Lema, who introduces him to the trumpet.
The sound gives him goosebumps. He's eager to learn to play, but upon returning home finds the family's belongings all packed, again.
Francisco Jiminez went on to become a university professor and a writer for children. Illustrating this story gave me a chance to step inside that world, and get the same goosebumps.