“Where Wonder Grows” is author Xelena González and illustrator Adriana Garcia’s follow-up to their 2019 book “All Around Us.”
Their new book follows a grandmother and her three grandchildren as they journey through the magic of their own backyard. Using rocks and representing the four elements of earth, water, fire and air, the book inspired by the children they met while touring for “All Around Us.”
“Over time, the story changed because to be honest, my editor said that it wasn’t ready. They they wanted Adriana to do these other stories first,” González said. “And she was pretty insistent, like, ‘no, we gotta do the rocks story.’ You know, it sort of became something that was a little bit more poetic. And the essence that remained was this idea of these different relics from nature representing the four elements of fire, earth, water and air.”
Garcia said she likes to use a lot of colors, and that readers will experience an explosion of colors that saturate the characters.
“And there’s some magical realism in there,” she said. “For instance, the grandma is talking about a rock that has so many holes that came from a volcano. And in one spread, she looks like she’s holding a volcano in her hand. And then you can see smoke around them in the next page.”
González said she’s trying to instill a message of self-love, that we have the ability to heal ourselves and that there are gifts in nature and lessons all around us.
“You know, we are a part of this, like, really miraculous thing. And it gives us strength, you know?” González said. “We’re not taught those things in schools. And so I feel like it’s really important for these messages to reach our children.”
It was important to Garcia to reflect faces of people who look like her tía, her cousin or her sister – “and not hitting a piñata or in full folklórico regalia or anything like that. They’re hanging out in their backyard.” It’s subtle, but it’s definitely very intentional, she said.
“That there is brown skin, that there’s Native American culture … that all of these things are reflected in our picture books,” is important, González said. “Because diversity is not just the boxes, right? It’s diversity of thought as well.”