Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Friday, July 7, 2017

A Guarantee Is Given

On those sweltering summer days when nary a breeze to provide relief is stirring, nothing is as tempting as a nap in the afternoon.  It's too hot to even think about accomplishing a single thing outdoors.  Even without the benefit of air-conditioning, the walls and roof of a home provide a cooler sanctuary.

In the forests of South America a group of animals decide to take advantage of a gift from Mother Nature.  The Perfect Siesta (La siesta perfecta) (NubeOcho Books, June 23, 2017) written by Chilean author illustrator Pato Mena based in Barcelona, Spain is a charming cumulative tale.  Promises are made; promises are kept, just not the way you expect.

It was the middle of the day in the 
jungle and the jaguar was very hot.

A cool breeze suddenly rustled through the leaves prompting the cat to wish he could take a siesta.  Seeing a coati resting in a nearby tree he asked the little creature to wake him in exactly ten minutes.  Naturally the coati, clearly intimidated by the jaguar, said yes.

As quick as a wink, the jaguar was sound asleep.  He looked so relaxed and the breeze was a respite from the heat, the coati decided a rest was in order for her too.  She asked a cockatiel to wake her in exactly ten minutes because she had to wake the jaguar in ten minutes.  He did have something very important to do.

The cockatiel graciously agreed to help the coati but when she fell asleep instantly, the bird knew he needed a nap too.  The closest animal to him was a sloth.  (Now, I don't know about you but when I saw the sloth, I knew the possibility of a problem was imminent.)  The sloth was agreeable when asked to wake the cockatiel in ten minutes.

The cockatiel strongly requested the sloth stay awake.  Then he dropped into a snooze.  When the sloth felt the breeze she wanted to take a siesta too but who would wake her up?  She decided she had no choice but to remain awake for precisely ten minutes.  As the minutes ticked by, something ordinary and extraordinary happened.  No one in the jungle will forget it.

The translation of the Spanish text written by Pato Mena by Kim Griffin reveals repetition of key words and phrases supplying readers with a welcoming rhythm.  Each animal recognizes the cool breeze, remarks on the perfection it provides for a siesta, asks for a favor, emphasizes the need of the ten minute wake-up and falls into a sound sleep.  These invite participation and lead readers willingly to the surprise ending which is certain to generate laughter.   The blend of narrative and conversation also encourages readers to actively engage in the story.  Here is a sample passage.

"Of course!" said the kind cockatiel.
"Go ahead and take your siesta.  I'll wake you up"

And just like that, the coati dropped off into a deep sleep.

Then, the cockatiel thought,
"Hmmm...There's no denying it.
That really is a pleasant breeze."

A very distinctive illustrative technique and color palette greet readers on the front of the book case.  We don't know why yet, but the close-up of the sloth indicates her important role in the story.  Her heavy eyelids tell us she is having a hard time staying awake but her smile leads us to conclude she is giving it her best effort.  To the left, on the back, on a canvas of the sloth's body we read the words:

Promising to wake someone up is a big responsibility...

The opening and closing endpapers are incorporated into the body of the book.  On the first we have the publication information preceding the title page.  On the second set the conclusion of the story unfolds in a two-page spread.

In the image sizes Pato Mena creates a type of cadence prior to the appearance of the sloth.  He dedicates his illustrations to two two-page pictures followed by two single page visuals surrounded by liberal amounts of space.  After the sloth the pacing shifts which supplies a gentle tension.  We aren't sure what is going to happen.

Pato Mena's bold hues, nearly geometric landscapes and unique interpretations of the animals' physical traits are fascinating.  The creatures' body postures as they speak and when they are snoozing depict their emotional state as well as disclose a bit of humor.  Zooming in on the sloth on one particular two-page span demands our attention.

One of my many favorite illustrations is of a two-page image.  On a pale yellow (cream) background the sloth is featured.  Along the bottom are rolling pale green hills.  On the left side a green branch with yellow leaves supplies balance.  On the right a tree truck lines the edge.  From this a long branch extends across the gutter.  On the right side the sloth is perched on this branch, hands on her hips.  She wears a look of determination.

A stellar choice for naptime, bedtime or actually anytime The Perfect Siesta written and illustrated by Pato Mena will have readers gladly joining in the story.  They will laugh at sloth's struggles and find joy in the ending.  This title would be wonderful to try as a reader's theater.  This book has been printed in Spanish also.  You should consider having both on your professional bookshelves.  I plan on having both copies on my personal bookshelves.

There is some information about Pato Mena on the publisher's website.  You might also like to read about this particular publishing house which began to distribute books in the United States in 2016.  Teacher librarian Travis Jonker included this title in his 10 to Note: Summer Preview 2017 on his blog, 100 Scope Notes.

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