Snow Day. Again.
From the Easy Reader Archives: Houndsley and Catina

Picturing La Familia: From the Archives

This morning I went riffling through the files, and found this post from five years ago. "Oh, these books. I love them," I thought. (The first grader mentioned is now a sixth grader.) I'm taking out the papel picado scissors for the next dia de la nieve, forecast for Friday. This time I'm gonna be ready. There's going to be art! fountain pens! Harry Potter 3 on audiobook! cookies! full bird feeders! wacky outdoor sculptures! I hope this will keep at bay the grouch who just yesterday came up with the title "Snow Day. Again."

Review: Family Pictures, and Magic Windows

Family Pictures/Cuadros de Familia          
by Carmen Lomas Garza 
Children's Book Press, 1990, 2005                        
ISBN: 0-89239-206-1                                          

Magic Windows/Ventanas mágicas
by Carmen Lomas Garza 
Children's Book Press, 1999
ISBN: 0-89239-157-X

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.

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