The new children’s book “The Little Book of Joy” tells the story of two little boys who grew up to be very big deals. One of them is His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The other is the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who died last December. They are two of the world’s most influential and beloved men, so when San Diego artist Rafael López was approached about doing the illustrations for their book, he did what any self-respecting creative person would do.
He said, “No.” “I hesitated at first. Not because they were the Dalai Lama and Bishop Desmond Tutu. It was the fact that they wanted it right away. They wanted it delivered within three months, and I said, ‘I can’t do that. I’m just gonna blow it. There’s no way. I can’t do this to these amazing people I admire so much,'” López said during an interview from his loft studio in the East Village.
“I talked to my agent, and I said, ‘I would love to do this if they would give me a little extra time,’ and they did. They found me another three or four months, and then I got to work.”
What López did with the gift of time became its own kind of windfall, one that rewarded the artist with an infusion of inspiration, heaping portions of philosophy and yes, many jolts of joy.
Released in late September, “The Little Book of Joy” is a picture-book adaptation of 2016’s “The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World,” the thought-provoking bestseller that was the result of the week Archbishop Tutu and the Dalai Lama spent together celebrating the Dalai Lama’s 80th birthday, talking about their lives and contemplating one deep question: