________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 1 . . . . September 3, 2004



Elisa Amado. Illustrated by Luis Garay.
Toronto, ON: Groundwood, 2004.
32 pp., cloth, $16.95.
ISBN 0-88899-548-2.

Grades 1-4 / Ages 5-9.

Review by Alison Mews.

*** /4


When we go back to Abuela Adela's for refacci¢n I sneak into her room while everyone is eating. I kneel in front of the baby Jesus and tell him I'm sorry that I sinned. I look at the rosary lying there. It is so beautiful.

Suddenly I grab it and put it in my pocket.

That night I feel funny when I am eating my supper. My Mimi is reading Little Women, one of my favorite books, but I am not listening. I am not feeling warm and safe. I am not reading the backs of the books.


The Guatemalan author and Nicaraguan illustrator, both of whom now live in Toronto, have produced a book that reflects their dual backgrounds of Latin America and North America. The young (unnamed) girl in this story lives with her grandmother and father in a quiet, comfortable home with many books. After school, she visits her other grandmother in her noisy, bustling house that overflows with her Latin American relatives, including cousin Mariana. She is very taken with the religious artefacts on display there, especially the baby Jesus statue and the moonstone rosary, and is jealous that Mariana, who is Catholic, is about to take her first communion. Inexplicably, she steals the rosary, but her guilt weighs more than the moonstones and drives her to confess to a Catholic priest. All is forgiven, and she is able to anticipate the cousin's communion with genuine enthusiasm.

internal art

     Garay's heavily-textured acrylics have a stiffness that match the formal tone of the text. Most illustrations are tableaux of individuals apparently frozen in a pose, reminiscent of Tomie De Paola, but with richer, layered compositions. He has set the story several decades back in time, when little girls wore dresses with matching frilly socks, and there's no trace of televisions or computers. Even the format of the book is old-fashioned, with a single page of text opposite a full-page picture.

     This exploration of envy and guilt will resonate with any child who has ever knowingly committed a shameful act and suffered the consequences. For children of Latin American heritage, it will provide a sense of recognition, and for others it will introduce Spanish cultural elements. Because of its moral/ religious theme and its period setting, it's more likely to appeal to adults than to today's children.


Alison Mews is the Director of the Curriculum Materials Centre in the Faculty of Education, Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. John's, NL.

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