Isabel Campoy has been delighting children with her storybooks for years. Her mantra is to provide children with the keys to understanding the world in a fun, and positive (as well as challenging) way—encouraging children to try and a make a difference in their community.
In addition to writing children’s novels, Campoy is also an educator who writes Language Arts, and ESL (English as a second language) textbooks. She frequently presents at national and international conferences on bilingual education.
Campoy was born in Alicante, Spain, where she lived until she was sixteen. She is fluent in Spanish, English, Catalan, and French. In her latest children’s book Maybe Something Beautiful, Campoy combines her love of art and culture—hoping to motivate families to care for their neighborhoods, and breathe new life in their surroundings through art. Below is my interview with this insightful storyteller.
HipLatina: Tell us a little about your background.
Isabel Campoy: I studied Linguistics, and have spent all my life around books—in all kinds of capacities. I have always been in love with ink and paper, with art and imagination, and I am fortunate enough that I have been able to spend my life doing what I love most: creating something, in paper, on canvas, [and] with mud….
HL: Can you tell us what Maybe Something Beautiful is about?
IC: Maybe Something beautiful is [about] the triumph of the voice of a community [who] wanted to transform their environment. Together they changed their world into something more human, more livable, [and] more aesthetic. All done through the magic of art.
HL: How is the Urban Art Trail involved in this story, and what is the project?
IC: The Urban Art Trail is the backdrop of the story we tell (Theresa Howell is my co-author) in our book Maybe Something Beautiful.
It is the manifestation of positive energy put to work for the benefit of a community. As we explain in the book, Rafael and Candice López felt the need to change the somber look of their neighborhood into something where their family could share walks, smiles, and purpose with their neighbors. It took time, many meetings, lots of work…but their efforts won the willingness of a whole community to change their streets, the walls in their neighborhood, the sidewalks, the electrical boxes in the corners…into art! All that effort is now known as The Urban Art Trail.
HL: What kind of project is The Urban Art Trail?
IC: It is a multicultural project that unified a whole community. San Diego—where the program started—has a large Latino population. Rafael López, the creator of the project, and illustrator of the book, is Mexican. I am also Latina, and our main character in the book is bilingual, and bicultural. There are many mural projects around the country that do the same as The Urban Art Trail did. It is fabulous to see what a community can do when they have a goal!
HL: Can you tell us more about the main character, Mira?
IC: Mira is an eloquent rebel. She believed in herself, and manifested herself daily through little drawings that she gave to members of the neighborhood. The drawing of an apple to the grocer in the corner, a heart to the policemen, her drawing of a sun in one of the walls of her street—that sun changed the life of the entire community. Her name means “LOOK” in Spanish, because in order to want to change something you first need to notice what you have around. And she had her eyes wide open!
HL: Do you think this book will motivate families to makeover their own communities?
IC: This book is a great motivator for action. And not only through art, but through any means necessary to change what needs to be changed in our neighborhoods, in our schools,[and] in our lives. The whole book can be reduced to three words: “Yes we can!” “¡Sí se puede!