Morales was born in Xalapa, Mexico in 1968. The influence of her Mexican birthright and culture is evident in all of her titles and helps to identify the power of heritage in the work of children’s picture books. Her family was made of avid storytellers, which laid a foundation of creative communication from the beginning of Yuyi’s life. She loved drawing from an early age, an interest that was encouraged growing up by her father. She studied physical education at university and spent several years as a swim coach because, at the time, illustration was not considered a “successful” career choice.
Yuyi immigrated to the United States as a new mother with her two-month-old son, Kelly, and his American father in 1994. During a difficult transition period, she was introduced by Kelly’s grandmother to a local public library. In the children’s book section, she found a gateway to her new life. Even if she did not know all of the words, she could determine the story through the pictures that communicated despite language barriers. In this way, she learned English alongside her son, Kelly. This initial introduction to a public library would lead her down a path to see her childhood dream of being an artist and storyteller come to fruition.
Yuyi is a six-time recipient of the prestigious Pura Belpré award, and the first Latina to receive a Caldecott honor for her book, “Viva Frida,” in 2015. Her books have been recognized with starred reviews in publications such as Publisher’s Weekly, The New York Times and Booklist.
Yuyi’s stories are heavily influenced by her upbringing in Mexico and give poignant insight from an immigrant’s perspective. “Dreamers,” the recipient of a 2019 Caldecott Honor, speaks to this experience and topic especially. However, pieces of her vibrant past make their way into her other titles as well. “As anyone who comes to a new country carries with her, with him, all those stories, I brought them with me, too, and I put them in my books all the time,” Morales has said.
Be inspired by Yuyi’s extraordinary art at her opening, Thursday, November 14th, during Artwalk. Her opening will include a celebration of authentic Mexican culture so beautifully captured in Yuyi’s books, with a schedule of events attached.