Category Archives: Read

Read, Write, Dream, Draw – The book I illustrated has been published!

I missed a pretty awesome opportunity a little while ago. A series of workshops for children’s book authors and illustrators was being offered. If you had an interest in creating children’s books and could commit to all the days of the workshops, the opportunity was available and it was funded through a grant, making it free for participants. I was definitely interested, but sadly could not commit to all the days of the workshops, because like many local artists, I have a day job. – Just a side note, I switched jobs twice last year. It was a year of … transitions.

That was a major bummer until I got a message from a friend, asking me to call her. Victoria Lola Leon Guerrero is the managing editor of University Press, which just created a branch, Taiguini Books, that focuses on publishing cultural books. As it turned out, Taiguini Books decided to choose a few of the stories that were worked on at the workshops to produce in time for FestPac. They picked four stories to publish. At the time of the selection the authors had already chosen illustrators. Lola called me because one of the illustrators had backed out and she needed an illustrator who could turn it out really quickly, like a month. Yeah. Despite the deadline anxiety I enthusiastically agreed. A lot of that enthusiasm was brought on by the story and the fact that I could relate too it.

Guaiyayon Na Trongkon Mansanita is about young siblings and the Mansanita tree that they grow up with. Delores Indalencio Camacho, the author, wrote the first draft of this story over a decade ago. She’s been holding on to it in her mind even longer, since it is in fact the story of her, her sisters, and their mansanita tree. My cousins and I grew up with a siniguelas tree at our grandparents house. It shared a similar life and fate as the Camacho’s mansanita tree. Children played in it’s shade, their laughter carried by the wind through it’s leaves. They climbed it’s branches and were treated to the fruit it lovingly produced. I think a lot of people who grew up in Guåhan, at least my generation and earlier, can relate to this story.

It ended up taking a little over a month to complete the illustrations. It was a fun filled journey. I spent most Mondays in Lola’s office with her and Ms. Camacho going over sketches, the line drawings, and finally the colored and completed illustrations. I’ll explain more of the behind the scenes details in a future post. It was a truly great experience. A lot of that had to do with the support that Taiguini Books provides through Lola’s hard work. I’m honored that Ms. Camacho agreed to have me illustrate a story that was so very special to her.

Guaiyayon Na Trongkon Mansanita was written by Delores Indalencion Camacho and Illustrated by myself, Andrea Nicole Grajek. It is written in CHamoru with english translations in the back of the book. If you’d like to purchase a copy they are available at MARC at UOG, as well as the UOG bookstore. You can also purchase them at Bestseller. They are $17 each. You should also check out the other three children’s books that Taiguini Books published. They would all make a great addition to your children’s book shelf.

In the coming weeks I’ll be posting about the illustration process, the importance of literature for Pacific children, as well as my experience working with the author and publisher. So look out for that.


RDTD: A Grajek childhood favorite

“One with a light.

One with a stick.

One with a rope.”

The Berenstain Bears and the Spooky Old Tree is book that my parents read to my brother when he is was really young. Before he could read he had memorized the story enough that he could “read” it to them. When I was born, eight years later, it was passed on to me. And my parents and my brother would read it to me. When my oldest nephew was born we would all take turns reading it to him. And he would “read” it to us. When the younger boys were born the book was falling apart from love. So a brand new Berenstain Bears and the Spooky Old Tree was purchased for them.

I’m not exactly sure why this was THE book that became the Grajek childhood favorite. Maybe because it was about family, adventure, and home. It’s a bit of a reminder that when things get spooky it will always be okay, because we have each other, family, to come home to.


What was your favorite book as a child? Are there any books in your family that have been passed down?

An Ocean in a Cup / Local Lit

I was so excited when I heard about An Ocean In A Cup. There is an unreasonably small selection of literature being published from Guam. It is not for lack of talent. I know some amazing writers and poets. The opportunities for them to shine just haven’t been flowing abundantly. But it seems like that might be changing. I’ll elaborate more on that in a future post.

reviewsdaytuesdays, guam, historical fiction

Right now I want to talk about this great read. The story is set in the 1890s, when Guam was still a Spanish colony and it presents the timeless themes of passion, tradition, and power through wealth, as well as themes reflecting the loss of sanity and the supernatural. Readers are treated to a roller coaster ride weaving back and forth throughout the life of the main character, Tomas. While Tomas encounters interesting circumstances through out his life, there are a host of other characters that provide comedic relief and other perspectives of the time period. Some of my favorite acquaintances of Tomas are the brutally honest and outspoken Candido, the lighthearted Ambrosia, and the unnamed exiled royal turned botanist.

If I help a child on the road, suddenly there is a complicated and fantastical cultural reason I helped. If we chew pugua around each other, then they will say it is some complicated expression of our people.” – Candido to Ambrosia, An Ocean In A Cup

Tenorio uses the characters in the story to paint this picture of life, in this period of Guam’s history, with a mixture of impressionism, surrealism, and cubism, and at the end of the book you’re thinking “Whoa! What just happened?!” And you love it.

Get the book on Amazon

fun fact about the author: Before Stephen Tenorio Jr. became a lawyer, a Judge Advocate Officer in the Army reserves, an author, or an exhibiting artist, he was a substitute teacher at Untalan Middle School. Seriously, whenever one of our teachers would decide to retire, in the middle of the school year, he would pick up the slack. This happened twice, my eight grade year. He also coached rugby and was the advisor for our drama club.

Bonus: Tenorio’s artwork is on display at the CAHA gallery. It will be up for the rest of April. It is definitely worth seeing!

Pern: The Dragon Riders & The Harper’s Hall

anne mccafrey, dragons, reviewsdaytuesdayThe first time I laid eyes on a portal to Pern was on my parent’s bookshelf. The thick book was old and worn. It actually looked like a well loved bible. I almost passed it over, but decided to take peek. I asked my dad if I could borrow it, once I realized it’s winged characters were covered in scales and not white flowing robes. It’s been years and I still haven’t returned it. This might be because Viva ate the first thirty or so pages, when she was a puppy.

Anne McCaffrey gave her readers this amazing world where fantasy and science fiction meet so perfectly. The Pern series is filled with tender moments of love and loss, and action that makes you cringe in fear and jump in excitement.

“Drummer, beat, and Piper blow
Harper, strike, and soldier go
Free the flames, and sear the grasses
Til the dawning Red Star passes”

I love it when a story seems to go on forever. I like movies with sequels, at least when they’re done right. I hate it when my favorite T.V. Shows get cancelled and the story ends so suddenly. Please bring back Firefly. Please. This must be why I have absolutely fallen for the inhabitants of Pern, the ones with legs, wings, and fins. I love them all. Their stories seem to go on forever. I own quite a few of the books, from the Pern series, but there are so many more missing from my collection. I love that it feels like it may never end. And I have read all of the ones in my collection at least twice. In fact, it is about time I reread a couple of them.

The Beautiful and the Damned

Has anyone read Fitzgerald’s, The Beautiful and the Damned? It was really hard to get through, but I felt that it was worth the struggle. You know, it’s nice being able to say I’ve read some thing of his, besides The Great Gatsby. I think, in some ways, this book showed a less glamorous side to the era and provided a bit of balance. I could relate to parts of the story and at the same time I was just annoyed with some of the actions of the characters. If you start reading it, and have a hard time keeping interested, push through. You can do it!

I actually read it because I heard that it might have been influenced by his life with his wife, Zelda Fitzgerald, who intrigues me. She was a writer also, but she was also a dancer and a painter. They had an intensely passionate relationship, which was hardly ever healthy for either of them.

fitzgerald, reviewsdaytuesday, hand lettering