Girl from the Sky

Book #3 of my all time favorite picture book projects.

A love story, a picture book, and a folktale from South America that I illustrated for Childrens Press.

The title is "The Girl from the Sky", a folktale from the Inca people of Bolivia.
Boy meets girl, boy catches girl stealing his potatoes. Girl gets away because she can fly.
Boy catches her again.

 This folktale originated with the Inca people of South America.

I researched the setting and placed it in Bolivia.
It is a story of love found and lost, about a boy and a girl whose different worlds keep them apart.
I painted this art especially for the endpages. It is a stylized rendering of a Bolivian alpaca or llama wool blanket. I also created a border to repeat on all the pages and to unify my images. The border is a dark textured brown, intended to look earthy and potato colored (the story is about potatoes too).

The Girl from the Sky was published by Children's Press, which is no longer in Chicago. The book is not in print any more either, as this fine company was sold and moved and merged into a mega corporation somewhere else.

The story begins with a farmer working in his potato field. It is said that he grows the best potatoes in all the land. He is puzzled to discover that someone is stealing his crop.
He enlists his son to watch the field at night to catch the thief. So the boy begins to sleep out in the field.

On the third night the boy stays awake long enough to see the stars falling down to earth. They are lovely young women holding baskets to carry away his potatoes.

Of course, the boy is quick and catches the closest girl. All the rest of the star girls fly back into the night sky.
"So it was you who took my father's potatoes," he says, but then immediately falls in love as she gazes back into his eyes.
He takes her home and asks his parents if she can be his wife.
They agree, she is so beautiful, and they try to make her feel at home and welcome.
The mother gives her earth clothes and hides away the shining star dress.
Even though the young man loves her with all his heart, she is very sad and begins to die in the earthly home where she does not belong.
I created small black and white icon drawings to repeat throughout the book of Inca images such as llamas, potatoes, jaguar, and guinea pigs. The Andean people eat the guinea pigs they keep in the home, so I put them in a corner.

The beautiful star girl escapes and flies off. She loves the young man, our hero in the story, but cannot live on earth with him.
The young man is heart-broken and starts off on a journey to the end of the earth to find her.
On the top of the highest mountain he meets a giant Andean condor who offers to take him to the sky kingdom.
After a year and a day they reach a marvelous place very high and far away on the shores of a huge lake. The star girl is found living near the temples of the sun and the moon.
She is very happy to see her potato farmer husband and invites him to stay with her in her fabulous house.
As happens so often in such stories, in spite of the good food and love of the beautiful girl, the boy cannot live in the sky. He is sick and must return to earth.Lake Titicaca is a huge fresh water inland lake on the border of Bolivia and Peru. It is 12,500 ft above sea level and has Inca ruins including sacred temples dedicated to the sun and the moon. Reed boats constructed like those of the ancient Incas are still used on the lake.
The hillsides that rise up near the lake are terraced and planted with potatoes. Long stone fences divide the land where alpacas and llama graze.
Another element that went into this story is the story of the models who posed for me as the girl and the boy. My own sister and her husband cheerfully acted this out for me. My sister tried many interesting flying poses, holding her basket and leaping through the air. This is what you must do if you have a family member in the arts.
The happy and true ending is that the model pair are still married, in love, and now the parents of three beautiful children.

Again, our hero has to find his friend, the Condor, to fly back to his home. He knows he will never be able to live with his love from the stars. But he can never forget the beautiful girl who stole both his father's potatoes and his heart.

Along with the research about Bolivia and the Andes, I had to figure out how to portray a condor.

Although a magnificent bird in flight, up close, not too attractive.

The bird was a charming character in the story so I illustrated him with that personality and some spark. I had to work around the homely face and wrinkles.

All of these illustrations were painted with acrylic and colored pencil.