Photographer Yaiza Socorro

Daniel Martín: "The stories are not to put children to sleep but to wake up adults."

Daniel Martín Castellano, teacher, narrator and writer.

Booths scattered throughout the Santa Catalina park (Las Palmas de Gran Canaria) form a world apart. Meeting place and where the pages beat words in grayscale and walk around dressed in multicolored, to give dreams.

The Book Fair is expected and held every year, welcoming writers and readers, publishers and bookstores. And among those who make us love words is Daniel Martín Castellano: A man with the soul of a smiling, modest and generous child.

In the tent of the publishing house Bilenio we find the splendid smile of Daniel Martín while two of his readers, mother and daughter, stand in front of the tent and tell him about the last story he narrates and publishes, under the name of “Suelta of Stories ”(Youtube).

Daniel, you are surrounded by creatures all day. You work with girls and boys, you write and encourage the reading of books, mostly for children and young people ... How would the 10-year-old Daniel Martín, the boy you were, see you?

I think you would not be surprised because I am still that child, if it were not like that it would be impossible to write this.

Would you be proud?

Rather satisfied.

What is it like to participate as a writer in book fairs?

I make an effort to hide it but I am very ashamed.


Does it compensate that effort to be able to put a face to your readers?

I love that because I am ... -meditate a moment, surrounded by his latest books-. I am very careless with what I write. Once it is written, I do not usually reread or correct in second editions because I think that the book is no longer mine, so when a reader comes, it is as if he were going to teach me something that is his and it happens that I recognize myself in what I am teaches and I feel shy.

What does children's and young people's literature contribute and that cannot be received from any other type of leisure?

The possibility to choose. I am a consumer of electronic entertainment and there we participate as far as the system wants. We do not have control of the situation because we win or lose at the pleasure of the one who generated the game. However, not with children's literature. What is important is the freedom of the reader to choose: to stop reading, to say that he does not like it, to be able to advance pages and even to become one of the characters. That freedom is not found in many areas of leisure. Literature makes us masters of the moment and the process.

It's been 20 years since your first story. How do you see children's and youth literature in the Canary Islands today?

There is a good level. Many people who want to write and who write although there is a great distribution problem that makes it difficult for these new writers to reach the public. Children's literature is not taken seriously. The sample is that the location of the children's area is clearly at a disadvantage with the area where authors who are not of children's and young people's literature present.

Do you associate with schools?

I believe that it is not yet associated with art or creation. As a writer I try not to disguise myself, to look for myself… I have the same problems, when writing, as any other author who does not write for children and young people. We have come a long way thanks to figures like Ernesto Rodríguez Abad, Pepa Aurora, Cecilia Domínguez. It is worth noting that a Canarias award has published children's literature. But there is still a long way to go for this recognition to be generalized.


Are you talking about more support outside of schools?

Exactly. It is true that children's literature survives and lives off schools because in the Canarian bookstores the great best sellers they eat us local authors. We do not have the possibility of promoting a book as a saga or a youtuber. And, from an economic point of view, we have to combine it with other professions because you cannot make a living from this.

In bookstores the authors of Canarian children's literature are apart, sometimes in the lower part of the shelf. In libraries it happens that they are also apart from the rest of children's and young people's literature.

Three things with which progress could be made in favor of Canarian children's and young people's reading

The layout, support for new writers and visualization.

As a teacher, can you be a teacher when it comes to writing?

It is true that I cannot stop being a teacher because, in addition, I adore my profession. I love my work but when I write I try to forget that didacticism with which many teachers live every day. One thing is pedagogy and another is literature. I flee from the finalist literature.

What is Animalec?

Animalec emerged so many years ago that I think it is the first page of animation for reading in the Canary Islands. I remember that internet explorer was on version 3.0 ... What I was trying and I keep trying is a page for people who want to get closer to children's and young people's literature to find books. With the literary and pedagogical part, it was born when I worked at the Las Palmas I Teacher Training Center and was a consultant for school libraries. In this new universe that was born and that was the internet, I found a way to communicate with the teachers. Right off the bat I started to contact people from Mexico, Peru, Argentina, the rest of Spain and I saw that it was an extraordinary tool.

To this day, is it still a support tool for teachers or is it open to the general public?

Now it is very open: to families, to teachers, to whomever they want. I receive requests for reviews but I do not have time and, in addition, I maintain the initial philosophy of not having publicity or subsidies. I maintain the page with the help of Bilenio and the editor Verónica Rodríguez, for corrections. Now we have had a recognition that was a surprise and a joy. We were awarded the ISSN, which means that the National Library considers it an electronic publication of children's literature.


As for adult literature, you have also written ...

I have published for adults, especially a short story, one of the books, "El callejón del Conde Albrit", but you know what happens that I have never considered that I do children's literature. What happens is that many children read to me. But when I get more excited, and there I can say that I feel proud, is when an adult person reads me and tells me that he has rediscovered his childhood.

Is reading reborn the children that live within us?

Yes, we still have the same needs as then but we are tamed. We still need fantasy, human contact, dreaming, imagining, laughing at things, and kicking. For example, the illustrated albums: "The Fiercest Pirate in the World", "The Drop", "The Monster" ... are for adults.

All your books have beautiful illustrations, not just the picture books. How do you work with these brush artists?

I love when I find an illustrator with whom I am able to work together. My work without the illustrators would not make sense either. I leave you total freedom because I and, Bilenio too, look more for a style of person than of illustration. Many people draw very well but not all of them connect with the story.

In “Laozí y Tse”, my latest book, we have worked with Mónica Hernández who is a very young Canarian illustrator. As a writer it has been important to meet artists, where the connection has given the book another dimension.

How do you get that connection?

Because I make myself known.

Is it important to support illustrators?

Yes, it costs them even more than the writers. At Bilenio we are always looking for illustrators who develop or live on the islands. Or that they are canaries that live outside.


Laozí y Tse is the book that Daniel Martín presents at this fair. Each reader will find his way, his gaze: curious, restless, bright, calm ... For me it has been a story where I learn to trust again, with all its lyrics, in a walk of dragons and butterflies, by the hand of Daniel Martín Castellano and the illustrator Mónica Hernández Díaz.

In the playground or with his hands to heaven, Daniel Martín gives us magic. Don't stop laughing Daniel.

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September 2023

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