My Special Tamale offers a big message in a little story

My Special Tamale is published in Spanish and English. It was written and illustrated by first-time author and local resident, Mariellen Lopez.

PALMDALE – Mariellen Lopez is reminding us what the holidays are all about – family.

Lopez recently released her first book, titled My Special Tamale, a children’s book about a little girl who shares in the tradition of making tamales with her family during the holidays.

“The tradition of tamale making is very meaningful in Hispanic culture as it is in a lot of other cultures who also makes tamales,” Lopez said. “The way my family makes them, every ingredient means something.”

Lopez describes My Special Tamale as a kid’s book with a little bit more of a message.

“The big message in the little story is to celebrate and embrace your family,” She said.

Lopez shows a traditional tamale doll, which is referenced in her book, My Special Tamale.

“Just as every tamale in this story is made in a unique way, everyone’s family structure is unique, special and important. That’s the main message.”

Coffee Cup Press publisher and author, W. Mark Dendy, met Lopez at one of his book signings. He said he was so moved by the premise of My Special Tamale he asked Lopez if she was interested in publishing it.

“I recognized that Mari had true Christian values and that was part of the appeal making this dream she had of someday writing a book a reality,” Dendy said.

Because Coffee Cup Press is a Christian publishing house, they only want pure stories, Lopez said.

“They want to put the word out,” she said. “And the importance of the family ties in with your faith in God and your sense of belonging, and it all just fit just right.”

“I told her I would be willing to pursue publishing it under a new children’s book imprint, Juice Box Books, (my wife’s idea) which I was initiating within my publishing group Coffee Cup Press,” Dendy said. “I met with my marketing team and together we decided that we would have Mari produce original illustrations based on the story, and we would do two editions, English and Spanish.”

Lopez said she was thrilled to have the opportunity for her book to be bilingual. She worked with Aurora Alvarez and her mother to get down the idiosyncrasies of the part of Mexico that they had lived in.

“Literacy and cultural awareness is very important to me,” Lopez said. “I feel that there can be more books out in Spanish than in English. I like having the two bundled so that if a child wanted to learn Spanish or if a non-English reading child wanted to learn English, they could partner the books.”

Besides the addition of a Spanish version, Lopez has made her book more unique by doing the illustrations herself.

“I was able to put personal touches in,” Lopez said. “The character just came to me and I was able to include certain experiences that I’ve had.”

The main character, Marisol, is basically Lopez when she helped make tamales for the first time. In the story, Marisol’s dad makes a doll out of corn husks, which are used in tamales. Dad presents Marisol with the little tamale doll, and she takes the tamale doll to school, where she does a show and tell with her classmates.

Although My Special Tamale is Lopez’s first published book, she has big ideas for where it could go.

“Mark (Dendy) asked me ‘where do you see this story going?’ and I’m a visionary so I said I’d love to do a cartoon series,” Lopez said.  “I think it would reach a lot of kids and they would learn about other cultures. Marisol learns about her culture in this series, but there are so many cultures out there that [not only] make tamales but other dishes where tradition and family is really important.”

Lopez has scheduled a book signing tour for My Special Tamale starting Dec.1 from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m at the Bella Donna Tea Room in Lancaster and 3 p.m. – 7 p.m. at the Bandstand Coffee and Tea on Lancaster Blvd.

“The book is absolutely beautiful and the story is even more beautiful; the artwork is vibrant and reflects the heart of the woman who has come to appreciate the importance of diversity and culture and family,” Dendy said. “I feel that in working with Mari, this very talented writer and artist, I too have grown tremendously as a publisher.”