________________ CM . . . . Volume VIII Number 21 . . . . June 21, 2002

cover The Kite.

Luis Garay.
Toronto, ON: Tundra Books, 2002.
32 pp., cloth, $19.99.
ISBN 0-88776-503-3.

Grades 1-4 / Ages 6-9.

Review by Sylvia Pantaleo.



"Good-bye, Mama. I'll see you tonight. Be good for Mama, little brother." Francisco patted his mother's belly and made his morning wishes: that he would sell all his papers, that the baby would arrive son, and that the kite would still be hanging in Senor Gonzalez's toy stall.

Since the death of his father, Francisco must sell papers at the market to help support himself, his mother and the future baby. Francisco deeply misses his father but tries not to dwell on the past, and looks forward to being a big brother. Every day at the market, Francisco visits the toy stall and looks longingly at a beautiful kite.

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     One day Francisco quickly sells his papers and then assists Senora Ramirez at the market. As he is emptying trash, some boys inform Francisco that he must hurry home as the baby has been born. He anxiously knocks on the door of his house, and, when he enters, he discovers that he has a beautiful sister, Guadalupe. Reluctantly, Francisco returns to work in the market the next day. Senor Gonzalez presents Francisco with the kite, acknowledging his hard work, and celebrating the birth of his sister. At the end of the day, Francisco flies the kite and remembers how he had his father "had watched kites scud across the sky." When he returns home later, his mother asks him if he is happy. "Francisco thought of the wishes he had made on this baby before she was born. He knew that some would never come true. Papa would never hug him again, or swing him high into the air. But life is full of surprises. Some are hard to bear. Others are wonderful."

     Although a heart-warming story, at times the narrative becomes overly sentimental - especially when Francisco thinks about his father. As well, the story is somewhat didactic. Garay has set the narrative in the barrio of his childhood in Nicaragua. Francisco is a believable character living in the barrio - he works, he cannot read, and he has no shoes. The illustrations of the market seem authentic in their depiction of the goods and services offered at the various stalls. Garay uses an interesting fine cross-hatching style in his paintings. However, the illustrations do little to extend the story. In many of the illustrations, the people are inactive and are expressionless or, at best, grinning. Indeed, characters seem to be "posing" in many of the illustrations.

     Garay was born in Nicaragua and moved to Toronto in 1988. He paints, writes and illustrates books that deal with social issues experienced by the people of Latin America.

Recommended with reservations.

Sylvia Pantaleo is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Education, the University of Victoria, Victoria, BC.

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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364