Quote of the Month

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

Friday, February 5, 2016

Heart To Hands, Hands To Heart 's

Let's fill the tables in a room with scraps of brightly colored fabric and paper, scissors and glue.  Let's open the doors of that room to a group of children.  It will get messy but the results will be extraordinary.  Each item will be fashioned from a mind without boundaries straight from the heart.  What if each child is allowed to bring a favorite person to watch them work?

Let's reverse this scenario filling tables in a room with an array of patterned cloth and paper, scissors, glue and a needle and thread.  This time those cherished children will look as the objects are being created by a beloved mentor.  What results will be different and what will be the same?

I am fairly certain if an exchange is made, those gifts will be treasured.  Maya's Blanket La Manta De Maya (Children's Book Press, an imprint of Lee & Low Books Inc., August 15, 2015) written by Monica Brown with illustrations by David Diaz is a story presented bilingually.  It's a tale of creativity motivated by a willingness to make the best with what you have.

Little Maya Morales had a special manta that she loved very much.  That blanket was blue and green, with purple butterflies that Abuelita had stitched with her own two hands when Maya was just a baby.  

La pequena Maya Morales tenia una manta especial que queria mucho.  La manta ere azul y verde, con unas mariposas moradas que Abuelita le habia cosido con sus propias manos cuando Maya ere solo un bebe.

Maya slept with her blanket every night until it was worn, believing it magically protected her from bad dreams.  With the help of her Abuelita Maya used her own two hands to make something new from the old blanket.  It was a dress which she wore to her cousin's celebration, her quinceanera.

Even though she danced and danced with abandon the dress kept her upright.  To her dismay though she spilled red punch on her dress, staining it beyond repair.  The two, granddaughter and grandmother, working together, made a skirt.  When Maya wore that skirt she could jump rope lifting her higher than the other children.

As time passed Maya grew and the skirt no longer fit her.  As a shawl it cast a spell on the children playing games, making sure everyone was treated equally.  When vigorous fun shortened the shawl's life and size, the duo fashioned a scarf from the remnants.  For some reason on the coldest and windiest days, Maya stayed safe and warm.  With each change in size the material still held magic until it became an object so small she lost it.  It simply could not be found.

With inventiveness born from the altered uses of her blanket over many years, Maya was able to make one more thing with her two hands.  Perhaps red punch would be spilled on it, or it might get worn out or even lost but it no one would ever outgrow it.  The magic would still be present when it was shared by another mother and her little girl; a little girl who had something special.

When the final sentence on the first page is read, readers will feel a tickle in their story memories which is confirmed in Monica Brown's author's note at the book's end.  Sparked by the Yiddish folk song, I Had a Little Coat, and her Jewish and Latina ancestry, Brown adds richness to the original incorporating the magical element each item brings to Maya.  The repeating phrases

with her own two hands and Abuelita's help...that she loved very much

tie the transformations together.  Each time something new is made all the previous things are named again.  

On the left the story is read in English with the object first named in Spanish.  In the course of the narrative the English name is revealed.  On the right the text is shown in Spanish.  Both are beautiful when read aloud.  Here is a sample passage.

So with her own two hands and Abuelita's help, Maya made her vestido that was her manta into a falda that she loved very much.  She wore the skirt to the park, and it bounced as she hopped and skipped rope with her friends.  With her magical falda, Maya could jump higher than anyone else.

Asi que, con sus propias manos y la ayuda de Abuelita, Maya convirtio el vestido que habia sido su manta, en una falda que queria mucho.  Se la puso para ir al parque, donde se balanceaba mientras Maya brincaba a la cuerda con sus amigos.  Con su falda magica, Maya podia brincar mas alto que cualquiera de ellos. 

The matching dust jacket and book case created using mixed media by David Diaz is stunning.  It's a single illustration across the front and back of both.  The blanket extends over the spine to the left.  The blues, greens, and purple with the golden glow about every element are indeed magical.  Each of the orbs looks like tiny stained-glass windows. The butterflies seem to move on the blanket.  Indeed there are several flying on the back.

The opening and closing endpapers are patterned in large butterflies.  On the first it's purple on a blue-green background.  On the later it's blue-green on a lighter purple canvas.  The verso and title page is one image, a flow of the blanket topped with the colors in Grandmother's coat from the jacket and case.  Butterflies are moving among the magical spheres.

Eleven marvelous two-page images extend and enhance the text in a display of eloquent, colorful hues and patterns.  I nearly gasped when in the first illustration the Grandmother is wearing a rose.  It reminded me of December by Eve Bunting which Diaz illustrated. He supplies the same wonder in this book as he did in that title.

Each pictures flows from left to right, filled with happiness.  Details offer further explanation; the fifteen on top of the cake, the tiny words in English and Spanish of a familiar chant woven into the moving jump rope, the soccer shirts numbered in succession, and what appears to be the cover of The Yearling on the top of Maya's book stack.  As Maya grows up, her puppy, shown in the first picture, grows too, always by her side.

One of my favorite illustrations is when the blanket has become a scarf.  A turquoise sky highlights the lacy bare tree branches.  As Maya walks from her home in the background to school with two friends wind and snow swirl around them.  One companion is lifted off his feet, his book opening and blowing in the air.  Maya and her other friend are in the foreground moving along safely.  The scarf is securely tied around her lower face generating its magic.

This story, Maya's Blanket La Manta De Maya, written by Monica Brown with signature illustrations by David Diaz is book to be added to your personal and professional bookshelves.  It speaks to using something beyond its intended purpose by using your mind, hands and heart.  The love between generations makes this a perfect read aloud book.  Students will beg you to hear the English and the Spanish.  This book makes you want to create something for someone you love, over and over again.  At the conclusion is an author's note in English and Spanish along with a ten word glossary providing the translation of Spanish words into English.

To learn more about Monica Brown and her other books, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website. At Kirkus author, reviewer and blogger Julie Danielson chats with Monica Brown about this title and other exciting news.  At Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, Jules's blog, illustrations from this book by David Diaz are shared.  David Diaz is interviewed at KidLit411 in early 2014.  At the publisher's website you can view more interior illustrations.

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