Linda Elovitz Marshall’s glorious picture book Rainbow Weaver is a delightful read on two counts: the story is hopeful and uplifting, and Elisa Chavarri’s illustrations are a feast for the eyes.
Ixchel lives in the mountains of Guatemala, where Mayan women have woven beautiful fabrics for thousands of years. This is something she would love to do, as well, but her busy mother has no thread to spare. Undaunted, Ixchel tries a number of substitutes from blades of grass to the wool sheep leave behind as they make their way through hilly pastures, but the results are dull and disappointing. About to give up, Ixchel notices the multitude of plastic bags littering the pathways of her village; their vibrant colors spark a brainwave – she could cut these into the long strips she needs to weave! Ixchel’s weaving sells at the market and she earns a doubly gratifying reward: she can help to pay for her school books AND she can help to tidy up her village.
I loved that each page had its Spanish translation, too – a great benefit for language learners.
In the preface to her book Mama and Papa Have a Store, Amelia Lau Carling writes: “As a young couple in 1938 when World War II was beginning, my parents fled the Japanese invasion of their village of Nine Rivers on the lush Pearl River delta in Guangdong, China. Like other paisanos, countrymen from their own land, they settled in Spanish speaking Guatemala”. Her picture book tells of one day in the life of this store and their family, both of which embrace the traditions of two cultures:
The young narrator weaves a joyous story of the way many traditions come together to make their village life one of cultural acceptance and celebration. Carling’s vivid illustrations add so much to this beautiful story of immigrants making a new life for themselves, adapting to their new homes, and seeking to preserve their cherished memories and ways of life.
Nikki Giovanni’s Shimmy Shimmy Shimmy Like My Sister Kate is a must-have book for every classroom library. In it, Giovanni shares a selection of poems by African Americans from the Harlem Renaissance to today. What I loved about this book was the way Giovanni wrote about each poem to explain its context as well as its personal relevance and connection. Here, for instance, is Robert Hayden’s poem :
Those Winter Sundays
Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.
I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,
Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?
which is illuminated and given such rich residence by what Nikki Giovanni has to say about it:
I thank my good friend Julieanne Harmatz from the bottom of my heart for the gift of this book – it will add so much to our classroom explorations of poetry.