________________ CM . . . . Volume VII Number 6 . . . . November 17, 2000

cover Barrilete: A Kite for the Day of the Dead.

Elisa Amado. Photographs by Joya Hairs.
Toronto, ON: Groundwood/Douglas & McIntyre, 1999.
32 pp., cloth, $15.95.
ISBN 0-88899-366-8.

Subject Headings:
Kites-Guatemala-Juvenile literature.
All Souls' Day-Guatemala-Juvenile literature.

Grades 1 - 5 / Ages 6 - 10.

Review by Val Nielsen.

*** /4

In Santiago Sacatepeques, Guatemala, where Juan and his family live, El Dia de los Muetos, (the Day of the Dead) is the most important day of the year. Once a year, on November 2, the people of this small village, descended from the great Maya civilization, gather at the cemetery to honour their dead by flying some of the biggest kites, or barriletes, in the world. "Among other things," Elisa Amado tells us in an afterword, "the Maya were great artists ... The kites of Santiago, with elaborate designs of brilliantly coloured paper, are another form of art made by the Maya today." image
    And so it is that Juan and his brothers, who have recently lost their beloved Abuelo (grandfather), must for the first time take over his job of kite building. As the story moves along from the buying of coloured tissue paper, to the kite's painstaking construction and finally to the flight of the barrilete, the simple text is sprinkled with Spanish words, setting the mood for an unusually moving information book. At the end of the story, as Juan gathers up the rope and begins his run down the hill, he prays to his Abuelo " ... make my kite fly. It will fly for you."
    Beautiful coloured and black and white photographs of the Guatemalan countryside, the village, the people and the kites dominate every page. They were taken by Joya Hairs, who visited the village of Santiago Sacatepeques many times during her thirty year stay in Guatemala. It is sad to note that her photographs were made in the 1970's, before the advent of the civil war in which so many Maya were killed.
    Barrilete is a small gem of a book, which should prove a worthwhile addition to the elementary school library's collection of resources on holiday traditions around the world.


Valerie Nielsen is a retired teacher-librarian living in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364