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The remembering day

by Pat Mora; Robert Casilla; Gabriela Baeza Ventura

  Print book : Fiction : Primary school

Another perspective on a misunderstood holiday   (2018-02-09)


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by SuzanneLaPierre


<table class="myActivity" style="table-layout: fixed; color: #181818; font-family: Lato, "Helvetica Neue", Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" border="0" cellspacing="1" width="100%"> <tbody> <tr> <td style="font-family: Lato, "Helvetica Neue", Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; padding: 0px; font-size: 14px; margin: 0px;" colspan="2">This Virginia Reader’s Choice Award winner (elementary category) tells the story in both English and Spanish of Bella and her grandmother, Mama Alma, who lived “long, long, long ago in a small village of the land now called Mexico.” Bella and Mama Alma liked to talk, play and garden together, and her grandmother taught Bella how to weave and use herbs to heal. One day they are looking at the favorite rock and wooden toy that Mama Alma keeps on a little table to remember her mother and father. She seems to be preparing Bella for a day when she will no longer be with her. “That is my remembering place,” said Mama Alma. “I cannot see my mother and father anymore, because our bodies do not live forever. When I hold the rock and toy, I know my parents are always with me.”

Realistically rendered illustrations bring the characters in this book to life, with subtle facial expressions that vary to show emotion in tandem with the story. The gentle colors convey the beauty of seasons, the landscape, and the loving bond between grandchild and grandmother. In the final illustration we see Bella looking happy as she remembers her grandmother. This book is valuable because it corrects often inaccurate popular culture ideas about El Dia de los Muertos, which has become associated with sugar skulls and commercial objects, as explained by the author’s note in the back. This book explains some of the more universal sentiments celebrated during the holiday, such as the idea that loved ones are always with us even when we can’t see them.

I was moved by this book, especially by the rock and toy that Mama Alma keeps to remember her own parents, and by the gentle way she tries to prepare Bella for her eventual passing. It made me wish on some level that we still kept multiple generations close together so that grandparents and grandchildren could enjoy each other fully and older people didn’t feel as isolated as they often do today. I appreciate the book’s contribution to correcting misunderstandings about this holiday. The bilingual text can make this book a valuable addition to libraries that serve children from different language backgrounds as well as schools that have language immersion programs.
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