________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 1 . . . . September 1, 2006


Talking With Mother Earth: Poems = Hablando con Madre Tierra.

Jorge Argueta. Illustrated by Lucia Angela Pérez.
Toronto, ON: Groundwood/House of Anansi Press, 2006.
32 pp., cloth, $16.95.
ISBN 0-88899-626-8.

Subject Headings:
Racism-Juvenile poetry.
Children’s poetry, Salvadoran.

Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.

Review by Renée Englot.

**½ /4


Mother Earth Tells Me

Mother Earth tells me,

“Do not be sad anymore

my Indian boy.

You are as beautiful as the wind.”


"The sun,

the trees

the ocean

and the stars are for you.”


"So are the mountains

the flowers

the moon

and the little drops of dew."


Mother Earth tells me,

"Come, play and sing,

sound your drum and your gourd.

Talk to the fire."


Mother Earth tells me,

"All this I give to you, my son.

All my love is yours.

You just be happy."


Talking with Mother Earth is a book of bilingual poetry. Each poem is first presented in Spanish, then in English. The translations are quite close to literal with a sense of poetry retained in either language. The entire book is, in fact, bilingual, from the copyright information to the notes on the dust jacket. Because of the ease of comparing the text from one language to the next, the poems might be useful in a Spanish bilingual classroom setting or for older children learning Spanish as a second language.

internal art

     As the title suggests, the thread which connects the poems is a connection to Mother Earth. While some of the poems are simply lovely odes to nature, other poems reflect the power of nature to heal the wounds of racism. These latter poems are autobiographical. The narrator is the poet as a boy. Argueta is a Pipil Nahua Indian born in El Salvador. His poetry reveals, with some bitterness, the discrimination and taunting he experienced as a child. The poems explore wounds one senses are still raw in the poet. The bitterness is, to a certain degree, countered by Argueta's explorations of how a spiritual connection with nature, taught to him by his Nahuatl grandmother, provides healing.

     These poems could provide an opening to a discussion of racism and discrimination. They could serve as bibliotherapy for those needing to find self-acceptance in spite of discrimination. The poems might also provide insight to children who are either intentionally or casually cruel or racist.

     For those less interested in bibliotherapy, there are poems about wind, water, corn, the four directions and other aspects of nature. The colourful cover and illustrations may draw in those uninterested in either nature or healing. Bright colours fill the double page spreads. The poems are superimposed on the illustrations. There is no white space to be found. The level of detail in the illustrations is a feast for the eyes, extending the text. The cheery colours offset some of the pain inherent in a number of the poems.

     The quality of the poetry is uneven, but there are some jewels, in particular "The Corn."


Renée Englot of Edmonton, AB, is a former junior high school teacher who now works as a storyteller in school settings. She holds a Master of Arts in Children's Literature.


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

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