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SERGIO Saves the Game!

MAY 27, 2009
My new kids’ book Sergio Saves the Game! is now available here at Amazon.com and through local bookstores.  This book is a follow up to last year’s Sergio Makes a Splash!.  Below are some of the spreads from the book, several reviews, photos from recent events, along with a few preliminary sketches.  The book is both a Junior Library Guild and Book of the Month Club Selection and will be published in several languages by international publishers.  Many thanks go out to the great people over at Little, Brown, and Company, especially my editor Alvina Ling, art director PattiAnn Harris, and designer Tracy Shaw.   Thanks to my literary agents at Pippin—Holly, Emily, and Samantha, and to my family for all the help they provided while I worked on the book.   The book is 40 pages of action packed goodness.  Enjoy!

Publisher’s Weekly
"The sporty penguin of Sergio Makes a Splash is obsessed with soccer, but he's only “a true star” in his dreams. In real life, he “trips, falls, crashes, slips, slides, flips, sets, shoots ... and scores! For the other team.” But Sergio is determined to play and jumps at the chance to “try being the goalie!” The bold, graphic four-color spreads evoke vintage sports posters, and Sergio finally gets to shine during the championship game against a team of overconfident seagulls. Sergio and this smart sequel both deliver. Ages 3–6. (May) "

"Sergio, the little penguin who couldn't swim, splashed onto the picture book scene last year in Sergio Makes a Splash. This, the second Sergio book, is the rare sequel that is as good as the original. Perhaps this is because the author/illustrator chose a subject, soccer, that he and so many young children love. Sergio enjoys soccer and dreams of greatness, but he usually messes up. When he does score—oops!—it's for the other team. Consequently, he is always chosen last, and even with lots of practice he still feels tiny compared with the Seagulls, his team's huge and dreaded rivals. The woodblock illustrations, in lovely shades of wintergreen-gum-turquoise, apricot, red, and navy blue, have a classic feel yet a modern sensibility and a good deal of movement (rare with woodcuts). Sergio's determination is infectious, and young readers will have fun rooting for him throughout this uplifting underdog—underpenguin?—story. "

Junior Library Guild
"Vibrant artwork and clever visual jokes enliven this feel-good sports story. Author/illustrator Edel Rodriguez uses the same fun, bold palette of orange, navy, and aqua that he used in the previous Sergio title, Sergio Makes a Splash!, this time adding splashes of warm red for scarves and soccer jerseys. He also adds fun illustrative details such as ice cookbooks in the kitchen and a reappearing fish.
It’s especially nice to see the perennial “big game” story given such a fresh look.  Sports fans will appreciate the energy and action on these pages. Kudos to Rodriguez for making us believe that a round penguin with stumpy legs can dribble, juggle, and block, and for showing readers that you don’t have to do things like everyone else to be successful.
How does Sergio go from being a hopeless case who slips and falls (“It’s not you, it’s all this ice!” says his mother) to a pretty good goalie? “Practice, practice, practice,” as his coach recommends, and a willingness to get hit with the ball a lot. Eventually Sergio’s hard work pays off during the big game against the nasty, aggressive Seagulls. Rodriguez punctuates Sergio’s triumph with a hilarious image. It’s a fitting conclusion to this cheerful book."    

The first ideas for "Sergio Saves the Game!" came to me while on a plane trip to Brussels a few years ago.  These are the pages from the sketchbook I had with me at the time.  I usually don't write books as a manuscript separate from the art.  I tend to jot down the story and some of the visual ideas at the same time. This is sort of a rough storyboard that I go back to when I'm developing the book further.

My editor asked me if I had any interesting soccer stories to add to my bio on the back jacket flap.  My first vivid memory of an official soccer ball was the one I saw on the first day that I arrived in the U.S. when I was eight years old.  In Cuba, I used to kick around whatever we had available, but I had never seen one of those crisp black and white patterned balls.  The image of the ball, along with many other new things I was given on my first day here (apples, tooth floss, peanut butter) stuck in my mind for a long time.  Above is a picture someone took of me at the INS processing center that day.
This week I read the book to my daughter's class.  It's always fun going to classes and trying to figure out what questions the kids will come up with.  The kids drew their own versions of Sergio (their drawings are below, they're so cool), we kicked the ball around the class, and went out into the playground.  Fun times!
Our friend Carrie Davis created a little program for the local Mom's Club based around the new Sergio book.  The pictures above are from her event.  I dropped by and read for the group of kids that had gathered.

The book was featured in the Junior Library Guild Magazine.

Sergio Saves the Game! is available at:

U.S.: Amazon.com

Canada: Amazon.ca

New York: Books of Wonder, 18 West 18th Street

Miami: Books and Books

Go to INDIEBOUND.ORG for independent bookstores in your area


Also check out Sergio Makes a Splash!, available in English, French, Korean, Japanese, and Dutch


Below is a video interview about my kids' books:

Topical: SERGIO!  
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