________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 2 . . . . September 12, 2008

cover Abuelos.

Pat Mora. Illustrated by Amelia Lau Carling.
Toronto, ON: Groundwood/House of Anansi, 2008.
32 pp., hardcover, $18.95.
ISBN 978-0-88899-716-6.

Kindergarten-grade 3 / Ages 5-8.

Review by Ellen Heaney.

**½ /4

Reviewed from Prepublication Copy.

Canadian publisher Groundwood has produced a most “un-Canadian story” about a Spanish-American observance in New Mexico.

      Los abuelos, literally “the grandfathers,” is a regional folk celebration telling of how the old mountain men come down to inhabited areas once a year to make sure the children are being good.

      Their father starts to explain the festival to them:

“They say the abuelos sleep high in the mountains in dark, smoky caves,” Papa says. “Once a year, the sooty, hairy abuelos come down to make sure all the children are behaving.”

Ray whispers, “Da-a-a-ark,” right in my ear.

“Stop it, Ray,” I say. “Don’t scare me!”

“Ya, ya, ya,” Mama says. “That’s enough, Raymundo.”

My father grins and gives me one of his big bear hugs. “No one is going to hurt you, Amelia,” he says. “You know how Halloween is scary and fun? So is the coming of the abuelos.”


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      Raymundo and Amelia have recently moved to New Mexico, and, as indicated by the smattering of Spanish words throughout the text, they are Spanish-speaking, but they don’t know what to expect of the holiday. When an abuelo — who turns out to be Uncle (Tio) in disguise – shows up at the door, an evening of a few shivers and some family fun begins.

      Pat Mora is known for other bilingual titles for children, poetry for children and adults and adult nonfiction. She is the founder of the family literacy initiative El día de los niños / El día de los libros, Children's Day / Book Day ("Día"), now housed at the American Library Association. The year-long commitment to linking all children to books, languages and cultures, of sharing what Pat calls "bookjoy," culminates in celebrations across the country in April.

      Illustrator Amelia Lau Carling is a Guatamalan artist who draws solid if unsophisticated human forms in an almost folk-art style. There are spreads of midnight blue mountains and star-studded skies to set the background for the story, contrasted with cozy bright interiors when the party begins.

      Abuelos would be a satisfactory addition to larger picture book collections as well as where there is interest in customs and holidays of other cultures.


Ellen Heaney is Head of Children’s Services at the New Westminster Public Library, New Westminster, BC.

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