Quote of the Month

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

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Heal Your Heart With Song

A certain melody reminds us of people, places and events.  A single song takes us to a first dance, a shared memory as part of a band or choir, a remarkable concert or a musical production we will never forget.  Music can motivate us to be our best selves as the notes and rhythms help us to focus on our current endeavors.

Time and time again when struggling to find the silver lining in a moment or day, silence broken by music can magically change a mood.  Sing, Don't Cry (Henry Holt and Company, August 22, 2017) written and illustrated by Angela Dominguez chronicles the visits of a very special grandfather, un abuelo.  As a member of Los Aguiluchos Apolinar Navarrete Diaz is remembered with great affection by his granddaughter.

Once a year,
my abuelo would come
from Mexico to stay with us.

This grandfather arrived with his guitar, singing to his grandchildren every night.  As he sang, he talked to them about his life.  If for some reason either of them were sad, his mantra was

"Sing, don't cry."

This man believed that singing was the key to making a sad heart glad.

Song shrank the unknown; the grandfather and his grandchildren knew about moving from place to place. Song made it easier to accept those things unable to be fixed.  Song opened new doors.

As their grandfather talked and played his guitar the children realized song not only helped him become whole, it created connections to others.  It built relationships.  It made a family.  With every note he reminded them about the power of song.

This tribute to a remarkable grandfather, Apolinar Navarrete Diaz, told by Angela Dominguez is breathtakingly beautiful in its simplicity.  She begins with three sentences recalling his visits when she was a child.  The remainder of the story moves from his voice within quotation marks back to her voice as narrator and closes with his final promise.

This movement of the story between her recollections of his visits and his words could be set to music.  It reads like a song.  By repeating the words,

sing, don't cry

they become the chorus, the link of love.

When you first see the front of the opened dust jacket warmth and affection radiate between the three people.  Even though the grandchildren are embracing their abuelo, he is hugging them back with his music.  To the left, on the back, the two children are singing as they hold their grandfather's guitar upright.

On the book case front the image from the back of the jacket is enlarged and placed in the foreground of the illustration.  In the background their abuelo is seated on the porch of their home watching them.  To the left, on the back, their abuelo is standing with legs and arms apart.  In one hand he is holding his guitar.  His grandchildren are hugging him.  All three are exchanging glances of love.

The opening and closing endpapers are done in shades of a darker turquoise.  They feature five original photographs of Apolinar Navarrete Diaz and the author.  The illustrations throughout this title rendered

with pencil and tracing paper on Arches illustration board with digital color

are brimming with remembered joy.

Some of them are full page pictures, edge to edge.  Others span two pages with a heavy black line as a border.  Angela Dominguez also frames smaller visuals focusing on a particular element.  She has included recreations of original photographs.

A lighter background shade adds a glow around the people in some of her images.  Angela's muted colors and heavier lines combined with the matte finished paper add texture to the story.  I particularly like how she includes hurts and losses from all three lives showing how song helped and new opportunities appeared.

One of my favorite illustrations of many is when the children's abuelo first arrives. It spans two pages.  He is leaning over his opened guitar case, lifting the instrument out.  Holding the top of the case is the boy, Angela's brother.  Angela is in front of her abuelo reaching to touch the guitar.  All three of them are smiling.  You can feel the excitement building.  You can almost hear the cheerful voices chattering.

This book, Sing, Don't Cry, written and illustrated by Angela Dominguez is a deeply personal biography of a man who altered his circumstances and the lives of others with song.  The text and illustrations are an invitation for all readers to sing, using the magic of music to inspire change. It also serves to show readers about the lasting relationships between generations.  Angela Dominguez does have an author's note on the final page.  You will want a copy of this for your professional and personal bookshelves.

To learn more about Angela Dominguez and her other work please visit her website and blog by following the links attached to her name. At the publisher's website you can view several interior illustrations.  Most of them are different than those found at Angela's website.

Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher to view the other titles selected by bloggers participating in the 2017 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.


  1. I love books that come out of family history. They have such heart. Can't wait to read this!

    1. Yes, some of the best stories come from our families. It is what connect us all.