7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #677: Featuring Magdalena Mora

h1 February 9th, 2020 by jules

“Suffragists didn’t / Give up on the fight,
And the Nineteenth Amendment / Gave women the right.”


Today, illustrator Magdalena Mora visits to talk a bit about creating the illustrations for Equality’s Call: The Story of Voting Rights in America (Beach Lane, February 2020), written by Deborah Diesen, as well as share some early sketches and final art. This is Mora’s debut as a picture book illustrator.

In rhymed verse, Diesen brings young readers a basic history of voting rights in America — with an emphasis on the fact that, despite the country’s founders declaring that “consent of the governed was part of the plan,” this deal “was extended to some and for others not real.” Interspersed throughout the text is a growing line of marchers — marginalized citizens, such as people of color and women, all not granted the right to vote — repeatedly declaring equality’s call: “A right isn’t right / Till it’s granted to all.” Though this is a book aimed at very young readers (and, I think, for them would serve as a solid introduction to the history of voting rights in the United States, one that surely can be supplemented with other books and materials), there is no sugar-coating here of how it all played — and continues to play — out. “The dream of democracy,” the author writes wasn’t true, and she notes at the end that the work isn’t over: “Democracy’s dream / Must be constantly tended.” It’s a good conversation-starter, this one.

Included in some spreads are the “group of voices” who spoke up — activists for voting rights and suffragists. Though slavery was declared to be over, Diesen writes, “denial through taxes and tests was widespread” — women’s voices were omitted, and voters of color experienced oppression and suppression. One spread takes us through a timeline, beginning in 1924 with the Indian Citizenship Act and ending with the first extension of the Voting Rights Act in 1970. The book’s backmatter includes a list of voting-related amendments to the Constitution and other legislation. That is followed by a spread showing prominent voting rights activists — from Jane Addams to Ida B. Wells-Barnett (in the image opening this post) and many others in between.

Mora’s illustrations bring these determined activists to life, alongside a group of children learning about voting rights in a contemporary classroom. The page turns are compelling, given how she structures the illustrations. She’s here today to say a bit about that and to share early sketches and such. I thank her for sharing.

* * *

Magdalena: A lot of different considerations went into the art for Equality’s Call. Initially, nailing down a structure proved to be one of the most challenging parts of the process. I knew from the beginning that I wanted the art to tell two parallel stories: 1) The story of the historical figures and events that were seminal in the fight for voting rights and 2) the story of a modern-day classroom learning about the history of voting rights. The book’s editor and art director really helped me clarify my murky semblance of a structure, as did Deborah Diesen’s text with its lyrical refrains. Having a precise structure allowed me to then play and experiment with other visual elements (colors, textures, and hand-drawn type).


Preliminary Artwork:


(Click to enlarge)


(Click to enlarge)


(Click to enlarge)




Three images above: A spread in-process
(Click each to enlarge; third image is the final spread, sans text)


(Click to enlarge)




Three images above: The cover as a work-in-progress
(Click each to enlarge; third image is the cover mock-up)


Some Final Illustrations:


“The states set the rules / About who got to vote;
And your gender, your race, / And your wealth were of note.”

(Click spread to enlarge)


“We heard it, we felt it, / Equality’s call:
A right isn’t a right / Till it’s granted to all.”

(Click spread to enlarge)


“We vote with them all.”
(Click spread to enlarge)


EQUALITY’S CALL: THE STORY OF VOTING RIGHTS IN AMERICA. Text copyright © 2020 by Deborah Diesen. Illustrations copyright © 2020 by Magdalena Mora and reproduced by permission of the publisher, Beach Lane Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, New York. All preliminary images reproduced by permission of Magdalena Mora.

Note for any new readers: 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you. New kickers are always welcome.

* * * Jules’ Kicks * * *

I will try to muster up some kicks this week. But I’m full-on depressed about this country (given the sham impeachment hearings this week) and the fact that our system of checks and balances is undeniably broken.

1) My daughters got two days off from school this week.

2) Actual snow.

3) Reading some unputdownable novels.

4) Getting caught up on blog-related emails (even if it took up most of my Saturday.)

5) Having a friend over for dinner and celebrating his birthday.

6) Cupcakes from Nonie’s Bakery near where I live.

7) Best of all, this poem that my friend sent to me.

What are YOUR kicks this week? Please do share.

6 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #677: Featuring Magdalena Mora”

  1. The timing of this book couldn’t be more perfect. Putting it on my list. I loved see the process of the art and reading MsMora’s thoughts on the process. It needs to be in every school. It’s hard to believe it’s only been 100 years to have that right.
    Jule, I hear you about the country. It’s frightening. And you had snow! Yum, cupcakes.
    My kicks:
    1. My trip last weekend to hang with a college friend (why I didn’t post, totally spaced).
    2. Subbing.
    3. Teaching poetry.
    4. Writing class.
    5. Gaelic lessons.
    6. Writing.
    7. Planning a National Poetry Month Project.
    Have a great week.

  2. Perfect book for this week, and a great reminder that democracy is continually a work in progress.

    Jules – it was a tough week, for sure. So hooray for cupcakes, family, friends and hopeful poems that remind us we are not alone.

    Jone – what a full week of classes as both teacher and student! Yay for trips to spend time with friends.

    This week was definitely a sad and disappointing one for this country, so I’ve been trying to look to the little things for comfort and joy. My kicks this week:
    1) JLo and Shakira’s performance at the SuperBowl was such a joyous celebration.The kids in cages with JLo’s daughter singing “Born in the USA’ while she opened up her coat to show the flag of Puerto Rico on the inside was such a brilliant political protest to an enormous audience. Gives me hope.
    2) Started back working this past week, and while I wish I had more time off, grateful to have the luxury of having time off at all, and being able to ease back into things.
    3) Moments of sunshine.
    4) Planning dinner with a friend tonight.
    5) Phone call from a friend I hadn’t talked to in a while, very fun to catch up.
    6) Cold mornings with coffee, hot cereal and fruit.
    7) Sweet silly snuggly Daisy.
    7).5) This edited quote from James Carville: “Falling into despair won’t help anyone, though. I mean, you can curse the darkness or you can light a candle. I’m getting a [expletive] welding torch. Okay?”

    Whether you are lighting a candle or a welding torch, wishing you all a hopeful, light-filled week!

  3. Hola, Kickers!

    Jules, that David Whyte poem is something else! Have you seen his TED talk? Throat-tightening stuff…!

    Jone: GAELIC lessons? Giving, or taking? Are you doing this in like an actual classroom-type setting, or online, or…?

    Rachel: I’m with Carville! (Although I’m ambivalent about using the welding torch just for light, vs. for forging unbreakable bonds. Conveniently, it work for both. ;))

    Aside from loving the subject and obvious tenor of this week’s featured book, I love the way Magdalena Mora’s illustrations are put together: the single individual becoming several, becoming eventually whole masses of people… And notice that she could have pictured a great number of people as just clusters of heads in a stadium or something — or, haha, the Greatest Inauguration Crowd Ever — but instead she’s done them as whole, distinct individuals, layered one over the other while retaining their, uh, dimensionality. Nice!

    Kicks, let’s see…

    1) The Missus and I are retiring at the end of March, and already have ambitious plans lined up (knock on wood). But over the near term, this week I finally made plane reservations for MY next trip to NJ, to hook up with my sisters and brother for our next every-so-often (Just-)SibFest: no significant others, kids, etc…. plus, this time around, I won’t have to worry about what awaits back At The Desk. (Because THIS time, like the Matrix spoon, There Will Be No Desk.)

    2) This past week really capped off a crappy narrative of American history, didn’t it? And yet I’m greatly heartened by signs of resilience and inspiration on all sides… including this, courtesy of a lengthy FB post from writer Pam Houston: “As Michelle Alexander argued in 2018, we are not the dam holding anything back; they are; they are the resistance and we are the river, not the dam. They are the past trying to strangle the future. So don’t stop. You already know what to do.”

    3) Had a Throwback Saturday Movie night last night: watched Michael Douglas’s The Game, and enjoyed the hell out of it all over even though we remembered much of the general shape. Fun movie to try to stay ahead of!

    4) Speaking of twisty plots… Does Little Willow still stop by here? She introduced me years ago to the wonders of the TV series Leverage. After waiting what seems DECADES for it to finally start streaming somewhere inexpensively, if not for free, I finally threw in the towel and BOUGHT the first season. So I have been wallowing in it ever since.

    5) Books: finished This Is How You Lose the Time War (SF, but not; romance, but not) — and thought so highly of it that I was actually moved to write a lengthy review of it instead of just tossing a handful of Goodreads stars its way.

    6) My Mom — 88 years old and still hanging on in NJ, bless her — has become determined to master video chatting via Google Duo. Today’s our first scheduled test flight. It’ll be WONDERFUL for both our sakes if it works out well; our mutual hearing is so bad that we haven’t spoken on the phone for years. Yet when we’re talking in-person, the difficulty eases quite a bit (mixed lipreading and other visual cues, y’know). So, we’re hopeful about this! (BTW, we’re using Duo because “she’s iOS, I’m Android” — but the Duo app, unlike Facetime, is available to both platforms.)

    7) SEVEN-IMP!!!

  4. Hello, Magdalena! Thank you for sharing your work! That looks awesome.

    Good afternoon, Imps! Everyone vote, please!!

    Jules: That sounds like a very nice week. I’m totally sharing that poem for Poetry Friday.

    Jone: That sounds like a very creative week!

    Rachel: Sending you good vibes. Raise that torch!!

    JES: Leverage is so much fun! Happy approaching retirement. Hope the Duo chat works well!

    My kicks from the past week:
    1) Offers
    2) Direct
    3) Plans
    4) Schedules
    5) Accomplishments
    6) Fortitude
    7) Knowing

  5. JES!!! – happy upcoming retirement!! Hope the facetiming with your mom went well.

    Little Willow – thank you for the good vibes. Love your kicks, especially Offers, Plans, Scedules and Accomplishments, and extra love for Fortitude!!

  6. Here I am, one day late!

    Jone: What is your poetry month project going to be, if you don’t mind me asking?

    Rachel: That Carville quote is perfect. Thanks. I like that second kick, and I’m glad that you’re able to ease back into work.

    JOHN! HELLO! I have missed your thoughtful, smart, observant art notes! … No, I have not seen that TED talk, but I’ll look for it. RETIRING SOON?! Both of you! How exciting. I can’t wait to hear about your adventures. Hope that Google Duo chat went well.

    Little Willow: I reeeeally still want to watch Leverage too. I’m glad for this reminder today. … Sounds like you had a good week. Offers: Oooh!

    Have a good week, you all!

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