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Cuentosmonos are April’s Wishmakers
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April 29, 2015  |  Written by M. Rodrigo Brao

Our Wishmakers this month, Suani Armisen and Ana Caillabet, are the creators of Cuentosmonos, (Spanish for Cute or Monkey Stories) a site full of collaborative stories. But before it all began, both women worked in different fields: Ana on web design and Suani on online training. A casual conversation over lunch with their husbands led them to write a story together to help the Fundación Mona, a non- profit organization dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of primates.

And ever since, writer and illustrator have worked together to create stories and help others create them as well. What began as a single project, turned into a literary profession, which includes novels, personalized words, visual poetry and texts related to Kamishibai Theatre. They do recognize how complicated it is to make a living with collaborative writing and “handmade” words. But their love for stories has made them unstoppable.

How does Cuentamonos work? How do you put writer and illustrator in touch?

We have created a pool of writer and illustrators. When a writer creates a character for a collaborative novel, we find an illustrator. We think about who will be able to help him tell the story. It´s amazing to see how two strangers, end up working together, creating stories and characters. This proves that we need others to become better. A good example of this is the story SonrisaDeMonaLisa (Spanish for Mona Lisa´s Smile). The writer and illustrator, together, were a perfect match!

What exactly is a Kamishibai? How did you learn about it and what benefits does it have for children?

The Kamishibai Theatre was born in Japan many years ago, before TV even existed. It´s a wooden box with panels, which make up a story. The panels are shown to a small audience while a narrator tells the story. We discovered it thanks to the Ekaré Sur Publishing House in Chile. What surprised us, most of all, is that the box was transported on a bike and taken from one village to the next to tell stories. It was street art for everyone!

The Kamishibai Theatre offers children many things. On one hand, it helps them improve their motor skills (as they have to put the panels in order and move them carefully as the story is narrated.) On a creative level, children can create their own story, draw it and share it with others. Children become the main characters and narrators.

If you had to choose one single story, which would you chose to do Kamishibai style and why?

“La otra orilla” (Spanish for The other Shore, written and illustrated by Marta Carrasco). It´s a very sweet story with beautiful illustrations, which explains how similar we all are even though we´re different.

cuentosmonos.interior.2

You also create hand-made personalized words. Do you believe that one word can bring joy?

Words are necessary because they are a way in which we share our feelings. For us, the word mona (Spanish for cute and female primate) goes well beyond its meaning and it made us develop a technique where each letter is thought-out before it´s created. It´s a beautiful process, a magical one! We´ve created words that are names or words like love or life.

What is the best thing about reading a story to children?

Everything about it is great, really. They have this ability to really get into the story with no expectations. They simply sit there waiting to begin imagining, relating concepts and express themselves… Stories are a good excuse to share moments with children, collaborative moments.  Because a story is, in fact, a collaboration. It´s the result of a writer, illustrator, editor, etc. But it´s also the collaboration between an adult and a child. The adult reads and the child interacts and gives the story meaning through his laughter, through his questions, etc.

Would you encourage other parents to create collaborative stories with their children?

Of course! Collaboration is key! It would make no sense, as a species, if we weren´t collaborative or cooperative with one another. One of the biggest problems we face nowadays is pride or the lack of humbleness. As far as storytelling goes, one needs to keep others ideas and opinions in mind and respect one another.

If life were a storybook…which one would it be?

“La sorpresa de Nandi” (Nandi´s Surprise). It tells the story of a little girl who travels to another village to bring her friend some fruit. It talks about friendship and about sharing. A beautifully written and illustrated story. We aren´t sure life is like that but that is what we aspire it to be.   Sharing and collaborating are the two great pillars that support life.

Photo Credits: Cuentosmonos

 

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