Raúl the Third, the Mexican-American children's book illustrator and three-time Pura Belpre Award winner
His books reflect his contemporary Mexican-American experience and his memories of growing up in El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.
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Raúl Gonzalez (El Paso, 1976), better known as 'Raúl the Third,' is a Mexican-American illustrator, author and artist and three-time winner of the Pura Belpre Award, the distinguished award given each year by the American Library Association (ALA) to honor Latino writers and artists whose work "best portrays, affirms and celebrates the Latino cultural experience" in the U.S.
His best-known work is the ¡Vamos! series, three illustrated children's books and two read-alongs aimed at bilingual families nationwide to bring them closer to Mexican-American culture in which he was raised.
“I always say that a large part of my visual education as an artist came from growing up… at the Mercado Cuauhtémoc,” he said in an interview with The Washington Post on November 2021. “I just loved all the intricacies at the booths. How my grandparents set up their wares. … There were all sorts of cool things.”
Indeed, the first book in the series is titled ¡Vamos! Let's Go to The Market, inspired by her own memories. The second is ¡Vamos! Let's Go Eat. The third, published in October 2021, is ¡Vamos! Let's cross the Bridge. All three won the Pura Belpré in their corresponding years.
Since graduating from college, Raul the Third has focused his career on recounting the contemporary Mexican-American experience and his memories of growing up in El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.
"The books offer Mexican-American children the opportunity to see their culture represented in the pages," Gonzalez told The Washington Post. But what he really hopes is that parents and grandparents will read the books and encourage Latino children to become the next generation of storytellers.
“My parents never believed that I could become an artist or an illustrator,” he said. “They didn’t know anyone like them who had made it.”
Obsessed with comics and drawing from a young age, the author recalls that as a teenager he dreamed that his long bus rides from his home in El Paso to the Comic Con in San Diego store would be compensated in the future with a job offer at Marvel or DC Comics. His dream didn't come to fruition, but he hasn't done too badly either. From his home in Boston, where he now lives with his wife and children, Raul the Third makes a living doing what he loves most: illustrating children's books.
In addition to the ¡Vamos! series, which is in the process of being expanded and adapted into a television series, the artist has also collaborated on the graphic novel Lowriders in Space, starring three animal characters who love to work on cars that drive low to the ground where conversations flow in English and Spanish, and has collaborated on the SpongeBob comic book series.
He is currently collaborating with New York Times bestselling author Jason Reynolds on Simon and Schuster's Stuntboy in the Meantime.