CM . . . .
Volume VII Number 6 . . . . November 17, 2000
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.
All Souls' Day-Guatemala-Juvenile literature.
Grades 1 - 5 / Ages 6 - 10.
Review by Val Nielsen.
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."
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association.
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TABLE OF CONTENTS FOR THIS ISSUE - November 17, 2000.
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