Family Pictures/Cuadros de Familia
by Carmen Lomas Garza
Children's Book Press, 1990, 2005
Magic Windows/Ventanas mágicas
by Carmen Lomas Garza
Children's Book Press, 1999
Children's Book Press recently published a 15th anniversary edition of Carmen Lomas Garza's Family Pictures. One of the San Francisco-based publisher's most popular titles, the bilingual picture book won a Pura Belpré honor some years ago for its art work. (The Belpré awards are given biannually to Latino writers and illustrators.)
Garza paints vivid, colorful pictures of her growing-up years in South Texas and pays tribute to the closeness of her Mexican American family all along the way. Her style is in the folk-art tradition; think Grandma Moses meets Frida Kahlo. The text, taken from interviews with the artist, tells what is going on in each picture: the fair in Reynosa, picking oranges with grandparents, the birthday party complete with a piñata, a cakewalk (I remember cakewalks! I thought as I read about this one), making tamales, and more. Lots of details and lots of people populate each piece of art.
Having read both editions of Family Pictures (1990 and 2005), I note that the publisher has made some nice improvements to an already-interesting book. The well-known author Sandra Cisneros wrote a new introduction, for one thing. The colors are punched up, the page design is more attractive, and a wonderful painting of a quinciañera celebration is now included. (Quinciañeras are for girls' 15th birthdays.)
My first-grader liked Family Pictures, although he was content to hear it read aloud only once. I enjoyed leafing through it over and over. Both of us looked at another book of Garza's, Magic Windows, with interest; in this one (which won the Belpré award), Garza uses papel picado, a traditional Mexican cut-paper art form, for the illustrations. (Her subjects here are Mexican traditions and family life; again, Spanish and English text is on each page.) Since we're big snowflake-cutting aficionados, I may order the companion workbook, Making Magic Windows. Garza's books are sure to inspire art projects, as well as discussions about one's own family rituals.