Rubin and The Mango Tree

Do you ever keep stories in your heart for years? The kind of stories that just don't seem to want to leave you. I think those stories can be our most precious jewels. I have such a story with Rubin and The Mango Tree. It whispers parts of it to me here and there. When I hear the whispers I grab any scrap of paper and write those thoughts or drawings down.


I haven't quite figured out how to tell it so I work on it a little at a time. This story is my most precious jewel because it's the reason I started taking my writing more seriously. You see, the main character, Rubin, is inspired by my late brother Ruben. He passed away when he was eight years old shortly after I was born. I never got to meet him and he desperately wanted to meet me. The heartbreak feels fresh no matter how much time passes. That's how loss works.

That's how powerful it is. I want to transform that emotion into hope.


I wanted to share his existence somehow and as an illustrator that turned into many drawings and rough drafts of an idea. It's been many years since I started. The main idea in the story is inspired by the real story of how Ruben planted a mango tree over forty years ago. A tree that still stands. This tree is his legacy. To me it's a symbol of hope and the power of belief. No one believed the single mango seed he planted in the clay dirt would grow. Yet, it did!


Below is the progress I've made on a spread. I gave Rubin a turtle friend that lives in the forest Rubin frequents and collects seeds from.

A rough sketch for Rubin and The Mango Tree by Yanuary Navarro
sketch of Rubin and The Mango Tree ©yanuarynavarro

A rough sketch for Rubin and The Mango Tree by Yanuary Navarro
Spread in progress Rubin and The Mango Tree ©yanuarynavarro

A rough sketch for Rubin and The Mango Tree by Yanuary Navarro
final versus original idea for Rubin and The Mango Tree ©yanuarynavarro

Left: Final spread in progress Right: Original concept and color study

I decided to go with a softer tone for the work as opposed to the original idea I had which was more flat and bold.