John Parra to bring national book tour to Encinitas

John Parra

Illustrator John Parra will be at Barnes & Noble in Encinitas Ranch Town Center Monday, May 30, to share a new book about working with his father and how the experience helped him connect with his creative side.

The book is called “Growing an Artist: The Story of a Landscaper and His Son,” published by Simon & Schuster and released on May 10.

“This is a very personal story,” said Parra, who is from Southern California but now lives in New York. “It’s pretty much my life when I was younger, and it’s about creativity and art and just finding your special path in life.”

The cover of Parra's "Growing an Artist."

Parra drew from the memories of his father, who died last year. He was a landscape contractor. The father-son duo worked together for about 12 years.

“The book is based on a lot of the events and memories that I’ve had,” Parra said. “It’s semi-autobiographical. A couple things were changed to streamline the narrative.”

The main character, Juanito, gets his first opportunity to help his papi on the job. From a nest of birds to a nursery with a wide array of plants and flowers, Juanito sketches a number of things that he notices throughout the day. He then begins to see how his artistic abilities can translate to landscaping.

Parra added that about 95% of the experiences really happened, just not on the same day.

“The little boy and the father work together to develop these landscape plans that became realized,” he said. “So there’s creativity, and also seeing how work and creativity coming together become real. And it’s teaching kids through hard work, through your ideas and inspiration, you can make your dreams a real thing.”

Parra’s past work includes illustrations for “Frida Kahlo and her Animalitos” by Monica Brown, which earned a New York Times Best-Illustrated Book recognition. In addition he illustrated “Marvelous Cornelius: Hurricane Katrina and the Spirit of New Orleans” by Phil Bildner, which won the Golden Kite Award for Picture Book Illustration.

Parra also presented his original artwork and compilation book, “We Are The Change,” to Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. His illustrations were also featured on six U.S. Forever Postage Stamps titled “Delicioso.”

“I just wanted to make this a very personal, memorable book,” “and fill it with lots of heart and creativity and stories,” Parra said

Parra’s event at the Encinitas Ranch Town Center Barnes & Noble will run Monday, May 30, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information, visit Event address: 1040 N. El Camino Real Drive Encinitas, 92024.