Illustrations by Domi
Publisher: Groundwood Books www.groundwoodbooks.com
The Honey Jar is another collection of stories from 1992 Nobel Peace Prize winner and Maya activist, Rigoberta Menchu and Guatemalan National Literature Laureate, Dante Liano. These stories are re-tellings of ancient Mayan folktales and legends that the author grew up hearing from the storytellers in her village in Guatemala.
I loved the story of Grandfather Sun and Grandmother Moon who were lonely in the sky, a creation tale. It was very tender and sweet. The story tells of how Grandfather Sun and Grandmother Moon created the stars and how Grandmother Moon’s face became marked. There’s another tale called Where It’s Revealed That Each Thing Has A Spirit that I loved as well. Each of the 12 stories in this book entranced me and made me smile. They have a dreamy feel that makes me think of my indigenous ancestors and the storytelling tradition – the one I carry on to my grandchildren.
This book is an important one in that it not only preserves ancient tales, it brings them to a new audience and teaches the ancient love of nature. Any book that teaches and brings old tales to the light of the modern day is a treasure. We’ve lost so much of our history, our folklore and traditions that I really stand up and take notice when someone writes of these things, reclaims them if you will. It helps when the writing is as excellent as in this book, when you can almost feel you’re back in time, sitting with the elders at a fire listening to these stories as the night envelopes you. My favorite quote from the book is this one, “They will know that the earth does not belong to them, but that they are part of it. The earth will be a sacred place, a place created for the dreams of all generations. Chuchuâib, Tataâib! Thanks to your counsel, people will plant their dreams on the earth, and their dreams will blossom as if they were magic flowers”
Domi’s illustrations add to the sense of fantasy, of being swept away in time. The colors of her palette are robust and vibrant, bringing to mind the rainforest, tropical jungles and the smell of the mountains. My favorite of her paintings in this book is the one on page 27 where the eyes in the forest seem are patterned in just such a way that they remind me of the glorious tails of the peacock.
Illustrated by Geronimo Garcia
Iâ€™ve been a big fan of Benjamin Alire SÃ¡enz for a long time. I love all his work with my favorite being In Perfect Light. When I found out about this book, I wondered what his writing for children would be like. I was completely entranced with the very first page. This is a lovely story, touchingly told.
A Gift From PapÃ¡ Diego is the story of young Diego who loves his grandfather Diego who lives far away in Chihuahua, Mexico so much that he thinks of him all the time. Like most boys, he loves his comic books and superheroes. Little Diego misses his abuelito so much that he fantasizes about flying to Chihuahua in his Superman suit and being able to get home in time for dinner. He loves the story of how PapÃ¡ Diego showed up the day Diego was born. The love the boy has for his grandfather just fills the pages with warmth and love. It made me cry.
The story is very real, very much of true familia. Diegoâ€™s sister Gabriela loves to tease her brother but you can see the love she has for him too. The morning of Diegoâ€™s birthday, he wakes to find Gabriela and his mother singing Las MaÃ±anitas while his father plays guitar. That is such a beautiful little detail. The love we Mexicanos have for each other, our traditions and for music.
It made me remember my birthday mornings growing up. Those cold December mornings lying tucked in under a mountain of blankets, opening my eyes to see my tia smiling at me, smelling the favorite lengua de gato cookies I loved with champurrado in the kitchen, hearing my abuela come into my room and singing Las MaÃ±anitas while my Papa rubbed my feet with his sobadorâ€™s hands. Ay! This story of Diegito got me remembering all those good times. I loved the part where his mama is in the cocina making chile rellenos. This is such a beautiful little cuentito!
The illustrations were great as well. Not your typical illustrations, these are done in clay and acrylic paint. They add depth to the story and a 3-d feel that makes the characters pop out and seem almost alive. Strangely enough, they donâ€™t detract from the story, they add to it and give it a touch of whimsy. The artist, Geronimo Garcia hopes that the children who read this book will want to work with clay and paint to make their own art. I think that his work in this book will encourage them to create and more importantly, to dream. I think he will inspire many, many children and it is my hope that he will continue to illustrate many stories for them in the years to come.
As George Bush plans to build a 700-mile wall across the Mexican border, I leave you with the most powerful quote of the book, the one from PapÃ¡ Diego that made my breath catch and my eyes tear up. â€œMijito,â€ he said quietly, â€œtonight Chihuahua is not so far, and I do not feel so old, and it was very easy to cross the border. A border is nothing for people who love.â€
The Legend of Zoey is a fascinating and engaging book. Zoey is a normal thirteen year old girl with a few problems. Her parents are separated and fighting, she can’t handle her mother’s new profession of a midwife and she isn’t comfortable being Native American. For her thirteenth birthday her grandmother gives her a journal which she immediately begins to fill.
There’s a strange comet in the sky and her family has a bad feeling about it. Zoey refuses to have them accompany her on a class trip to Reelfoot Lake in Tennessee where her Grandma Cope grew up because she is worried that Grandma Cope will tell everyone about being Native American.
During the trip something happens and Zoey is transported back to 1811 just as the New Madrid earthquakes are about to hit. Zoey meets a girl named Prudence and the book is written in the narrative of the two girls journals.
I found the whole story completely absorbing. The New Madrid earthquakes actually happened and created Reelfoot Lake as well as drowning a Chickasaw village. The book really gets into the details of the earthquakes and time period. There’s plenty of sensory detail too which really makes it feel real. I loved the two girls voices and they felt very true to their time period. I was so interested, I started doing a little research to find out more about those earthquakes.
Zoey and Prudence are brave, loyal and strong characters that I think readers will love.
I loved the way their stories blended together with the legend of the Chickasaw Chief Kalopin and his curse. The Legend of Zoey is a multi-layered and well woven tale with elements that will make it a oft read favorite.
The Legend of Zoey was inspired by the legends told by the author’s great-grandmother, a Creek Indian born and bred in Tennessee about Reelfoot Lake.
This is Candie Moonshower’s first novel and it won the Sue Alexander Most Promising New Work Award which is given by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. I expect the book may win a few more awards along the way. I, for one highly recommend it.
This review is dedicated to my newest granddaughter Zoey Aaliyah, who I hope will grow to be as brave and resourceful as the Zoey in this book. Grammy will be reading this to you mi Chiquitina Princesa preciosa!
This lush and touching novel by Benjamin Alire Saenz is simply astounding. The book is a story of interconnected stories of a most amazing cast of characters. There is the thoughtful and deaf Diego, living in El Paso, working on his suicide note and making friends with a cholo named Mundo whom he finds stabbed in a dumpster, Mary or the Virgin Mary and wise, irreverent Luz. There is Jake and Joaquin a gay couple struggling with Joaquinâ€™s dying of AIDS, Helen and Eddy the rich couple in Northern California awaiting their first child and Lizzie, the nurse who one day while tending an AIDS patient, finds he was her twin brother, that he has given her his gift of being psychic and that she is really a Mexican named Maria de Lourdes. Each character is a puzzle waiting to be solved and amazing in their reality.
Each of these complex and tormented characters has their own story and each story dovetails neatly into one another into a rich and delicious stew of a novel. The book deals with AIDS, love, secrets and the ghosts of the past. We find that Helen is really Maria Elena or Nena and she is Diegoâ€™s sister. Eddy, her husband has his own past as a molested child to come to terms with and a brother to find. Jake is dealing with his anger and grief at losing Joaquin. And then there is my favorite character in the book, Lizzie. Lizzie can leave her body, she is coming to terms with her new found psychic ability and finds something in herself to give. She holds Jake and Joaquin together and becomes their anchor as they battle with illness and death.
The river too, is a large character in this book. It is the river in El Paso that separates Mexico from Texas. Diego and Luz spend Sunday mornings on the river watching the swimmers from the other side trying to cross over into a better life. The book deals with prejudice and hate, struggling to make a life in this land, gives an amazing view of what people give up to come here and what they find when they do.
Diego is thoughtful, reflective and kind. He speaks without speaking, says much in his thoughts and handwritten notes to Mundo or Luz. He is the heart of the book, the story within a story.
All in all, it is an amazing story, a commentary on life, on the issues that plague us today like border crossings, prejudice, AIDS, being Chicano, being gay, love, death and fear. The dialogue is crisp and interesting, each chapter seamlessly flows like the river into the next. It is poetic which is not surprising considering Saenz is an eloquent Chicano poet. Like his book, In Perfect Light, he has created a masterpiece of imagery, color and a unique and beautiful story revolving around a central theme.
If you havenâ€™t yet read any of Paco Taiboâ€™s Hector Beascoaran Shayne detective novels yet, be prepared for something wildly different than your usual detective fare. This is so much more than a mystery.
In Frontera Dreams, Hector is asked by the daughter of his old high school sweetheart now a big movie star, to track down her mother whom she feels is in danger. He leaves his Mexico City and heads out for the border looking for her. As he travels through the villages heading for the border, he travels through his memories as well. There is the reference to Tlateloco, the Mexico of the late 60â€™s and his memories of the sweetheart turned actress with the unlikely name of Natalia Smith-Corona.
The one-eyed, much scarred Shane battles with narcotraficantes, comtemplates the life these border people have, communes with the ghost of none other than Pancho Villa, recites and remembers poetry, hears the story of the 300 missing Zacatecas prostitutes and learns of the legend of the Chinese guy that jumped the fence of the US /Mexico border seven times in one day all the while doing his job finding Natalia.
Paco Ignacio Taibo, II is one of Mexicoâ€™s foremost writers. His character Shane has been knifed, scarred, wounded, killed â€“ yes killed and resurrected by Taibo yet again. This story doesnâ€™t have the feel of the other Shane novels, but those take place in Mexico City where the pace is different. Taibo captures the meandering crazy desperation of the border towns expertly in this literary and intense novel.