Friday, April 13, 2007

Jorge Argueta's Talking with Mother Earth/Hablando con Madre Tierra

[Note: This review is used by permission of Beverly Slapin and may not be published elsewhere without her written permission.]


Argueta, Jorge (Pipil/Nahua), Talking with Mother Earth/Hablando con Madre Tierra, illustrated by Lucia Angela Pérez. Groundwood, 2006. Unpaginated, color illustrations, grades 1-up

In a clear, child’s voice, Argueta’s poems, in Spanish and English with Nahual words dispersed throughout, are intense, honest and moving. They are about gratitude for Mother Earth, for the four directions and for all the gifts of life. They are about the beauty that is all around. They are about healing from the wounds of racism. And they are about knowing who you are forever. Whether he is called Tetl (by his grandmother), or Jorge (by everyone else), this young boy knows who he is and who his relatives are. And he knows what keeps him strong: “Mother Earth tells me,/’Do not be sad anymore/my Indian boy./You are as beautiful as the wind.’”

Pérez’s vibrant pastel art, on a bright, multicolored palette, perfectly complements Argueta’s poems. Each painting invites discussion. Here is Tetl, wearing a t-shirt that reflects the rays of the sun. Here are Tetl and his friends, sitting and standing on the huge stones that we always knew were alive. Here is Tetl, in the company of the gorgeous macaws, who taught the humans the Nahuatl language. Here is Tetl, contemplating a ripening ear of corn, “a bearded child/laughing with all its teeth.” And here is Tetl, protecting himself from racist taunts.

Don’t hesitate to read and show this beautiful book to young children. It is for them, and for all of us.—Beverly Slapin

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