Jarod Rosello - Red Moon and Panda Bear Review

This will be a perfect addition to the graphic novels in my classroom. I found myself laughing out loud at many parts. I can see my students now loving the adventure, the monster fighting, and the relativeness of being kids going to save the world. I can't wait to put this book on my shelves! 

Two Latinx kids battle supernatural threats to their working-class neighborhood with the power of science, magic, and a pair of very special hoodies.

Red Panda and Moon Bear are the defenders of their community! Together, these brave siblings rescue lost cats, scold bullies, and solve mysteries, all before Mami and Papi get home. But lately... the mysteries have been EXTRA mysterious. All of RP and MB's powers may not be enough to handle spooks, supervillains, alien invaders, and time warps! It'll take all their imagination -- and some new friends -- to uncover the secret cause behind all these events before the whole world goes crazy.

In his first book for young readers, Cuban-American cartoonist Jarod Roselló presents a whimsical and tender-hearted adventure, packed with Saturday-morning action and glowing with Caribbean sunshine.

Q: Tell us about your book, specifically the story behind the title.
A: Red Panda & Moon Bear is a middle-grade graphic novel about two
Cuban American siblings who put on magic hoodies and protect their
neighborhood from evil. There’s no real good reason why the characters
have the names they have, except that when my son was born, we
inexplicably called him Moon Bear, and when my daughter was younger,
we thought she kind of resembled a red panda. Storytelling isn’t
always a logical endeavor, but one that’s often inspired by feelings that
don’t always make a lot of sense. 
Q; How would you describe the process of creating a graphic novel? 
A: It’s pretty messy and chaotic. There’s a kind of dialogic movement
between drawing and writing. I usually start with some character ideas,
things that just emerged in my sketchbook. If I stick around with a
character enough, a story begins to emerge from that character:
who they are, what they way, what they’re afraid of. And that’s how
a story begins. I try to sit down and write out a very brief synopsis,
just something to organize my thoughts on what kind of story I might tell.
Then I create thumbnail sketches, or a visual storyboard for how I
might tell this story. This is where the real writing in comics happens,
where the design of the panels and pages takes place. I’ll usually do a
couple revisions of these thumbnails, then I draw it all out in pencil on
large sheets of bristol board. Once I’ve drawn the entire book, I go back
and ink it. Each time I revisit a page, I revise it a little bit, tweaking the
images and the text. Then I scan it into the computer, and clean it up and
color it digitally, and prep the pages to be printed. It’s a long process, and
it requires rewriting or revisiting the book over and over again, in its various
Q; How big of a part does your culture play in writing? 
A: Who we are as people is integral to our writing process. I was
born in Miami, raised by my Cuban family. I grew up on the border
between cultures, histories, and languages, and so I see and
understand the world in this way. Borderlands can be dangerous
and fraught places, but they’re also places with incredible potential:
where worldviews overlap, where knowledge and understanding is
expanded and tested. There’s a kind of magic to weaving between
and among cultures. And this setting is present in just about everything
I write. I’m really interested in what it means to live in places like these,
how to survive and how to flourish there. Red Panda & Moon Bear takes
place in a fictional town, Marti, that’s a lot like Miami, and the book draws
much of its magic and power from the setting. 
Q; What are some challenges unique to create graphic novels? 
A: I started my creative journey as a prose writer, and moved over into
making comics. Or, I guess, I came back to drawing as an adult. One
of the greatest challenges for me is I have to be able to physically draw
what I’m imagining. When I’m writing, as long as I’ve got the words and
the names for what I want to say, I can figure out how to tell that story.
But drawing requires my hands and body to participate in more involved
ways. Creating comics is a negotiation between the story I want to tell,
and the story I’m capable of telling. I don't’ just illustrate what I’m thinking,
but I let my hands and drawing tools show me the stories to tell. I think
that’s why my comics always start from the sketches in my sketchbook,
and grow out of that space. With every comic I make, my drawing abilities
get better, and I’m able to tell more stories in new ways. 
Q; What makes this book a perfect fit for middle grade classrooms?
A: Red Panda & Moon Bear is a Saturday morning cartoon in book form.
It’s about kids playing and having fun, about the bonds between siblings,
and about defeating monsters and solving crimes. I wasn’t a huge reader
when I was in middle school, but I really loved animation. I was drawn to
the silly and absurd and the charm of the cartoon character. I know a lot
of kids, especially in middle grade classrooms, feel this way. This book
emerges from that space and uses the visual language of childhood to
tell a story. 
Q; What is the biggest takeaway you want kids to get from your stories? 
A: My daughter is 8 years old, and she always says that in the books
and movies she watches, the adults never listen to the kids, and the kids
are always right. I think when it comes to stories about monsters and
cartoon characters and about impossible things happening, adults really
ought to listen to kids. This is their world, one we’ve conditioned ourselves
to try to explain away or resist. I hope kids read Red Panda & Moon Bear
and feel affirmed. This is a book where not only the kids are right, but the
adults go to them for help. I hope Latinx kids see themselves represented
in these pages, and not as disadvantaged or struggling, but as happy kids
who are strong and capable. I hope kids are inspired to use the visual
language of comics (that already belongs to them) to make their own stories,
however silly, strange, or sad they might be. 
Q: What’s the best thing about being a writer?
A: As a storyteller, I not only have the ability to reflect culture, but
to help make it.  Stories don’t just show us who we already are,
they contribute to our collective imagination about who we could be.
And this is what motivates me most to write. I believe very strongly
that if we want to make a better world to live in, we have to be able
to imagine what that world might look like first. And I think this is
one of the jobs of the storyteller:  to contribute to that imagination,
to help forge the path forward. It’s wonderful, but it also means
that writers have a responsibility, not just to their readers, but to
the rest of the world, too. If we want to put our stories out in the
world, then we have to be responsible to that world. 

Cuban-American cartoonist/writer. RED PANDA & MOON BEAR (), THE WELL-DRESSED BEAR () PhD. Literacies researcher.

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