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A Gift for Abuelita: Celebrating the Day of…

A Gift for Abuelita: Celebrating the Day of the Dead / Un regalo para…

by Nancy Luenn

Other authors: Robert Chapman (Illustrator)

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This is a powerful story about the healing powers of the Day of the Dead tradition. Beautifully done.
( )
  JoanAxthelm | Aug 4, 2017 |
The Day of the Dead is rooted in Mexico’s pre-Hispanic past. It is celebrated every year on November 1 (All Saints’ Day) and November 2 (All Souls’ Day). Many customs associated with this festival reflect a mix of ancient culture and Spanish Catholicism.

The heart of the holiday is the honoring of deceased relatives. Gravesites are cleaned, repaired, and decorated with candles, flowers and incense. Inside the home, ofrendas, or home altars, are constructed to welcome back the souls of lost loved ones for a brief visit. Photos and mementos are set out along with special food offerings like pan de muerto ("bread of the dead"), sugar skulls and drinks. (Traditionally pan de muerto is a sweet, yeast-risen egg bread topped by crossed links of dough representing crossbones. There are many variations, however.) The intent is to encourage visits by the souls, and to remind celebrants that death is a natural part of the cycle of life.

This bilingual story is about Rosita, a little girl who was extremely close to her grandmother, “Abuelita.” (As explained in the Glossary at the back of the book, abuelita (ah-bwey-LEE-tah) means little grandmother, used as a term of endearment.) They spent every day together, with Abuelita teaching Rosita crafts, cooking. gardening, and songs. But then Abuelita dies, and Rosita is heartbroken:

"Rosita missed her very much. She missed the soap scent of Auelita’s everyday dress, and the pla-pla-pla of her hands shaping dough for tortillas. She missed the strong warmth of her grandmother’s arms. She wanted to hear Abuelita’s voice whisper ‘good night.’”

Rosita’s grandfather told Rosita that she could show her grandmother how much she missed her by making her a gift for the Day of the Dead. But Rosita couldn’t decide what to make; everyone in her family was already making something Abuelita had loved. Finally she decided to braid a long cord, like how Abuelita taught her to do with yarn. As she worked, she remembered all she had loved about her Abuelita. As twilight came on the Day of the Dead she finished her braid and sat by her grandmother’s grave:

"Closing her eyes, Rosita began to feel warm, as if she were safe in her grandmother’s arms. Soft wings brushed her face like a kiss. Then, in her heart, a husky voice whispered, ‘Buenas noches, Rosita.'"

Rosita is ecstatic that Abuelita came:

"And she knew that, like the braid, the cord of their love was too strong to be broken.”

Wonderful mixed media collages by Robert Chapman evoke Mexican folk art. He explains in an afterword that he cut and carved shapes out of wood, heavy papers, and cardboards, and then added objects like twine and beads to enhance the effect of dimension. The colorful result is mesmerizing.

A glossary in the back as a great pronunciation guide as well.

Evaluation: This story suggests a very nice way for children to come to terms with death, and to learn how to honor the memories of those they have lost. In addition, the vibrant folk art pictures will have them lingering over the pages. Finally, there is the added benefit that each page features the text in both English and Spanish. ( )
  nbmars | Nov 1, 2014 |
Rosita mourns the death of her beloved Abuelita, or grandmother, in this bilingual picture-book about Día de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead), the Mexican holiday in which the souls of the dead are believed to return to their families, who gather together to honor them, and to repair and decorate their graves. Determined to find a gift worthy of her Abuelita, Rosita questions each of her family members about the gifts they themselves are making, to honor various deceased loved ones on this important day. Finally, she settles upon the perfect gift: something that symbolizes the time she spent together with her grandmother...

It seems to be a fairly common practice, in children's books about Día de los Muertos, to incorporate the death of a loved one - an uncle, in Judy Goldman's Uncle Monarch and the Day of the Dead, another grandmother, in Birte Müller's Felipa and the Day of the Dead - into the narrative. I can't say that Nancy Luenn really wowed me with her storytelling, in A Gift For Abuelita / Un regalo para Abuelita - I found Judy Goldman's story had far greater emotional resonance - but the cast paper illustrations by Robert Chapman were really quite fascinating, giving this real visual appeal. ( )
1 vote AbigailAdams26 | Apr 18, 2013 |
  BRCSBooks | Sep 17, 2011 |
This lovely picture book is a perfect way to create a narrative around Day of the Dead practices. Rosita and her Abuelita (Grandmother) are very close. When Abuelita passes away, Rosita cannot bear it, until her parents promise Abuelita will visit them on Day of the Dead. When the day comes, each family member prepares a gift for a departed family member that has special meaning. Rosita follows suit, using the skills her Abuelita taught her, braiding a strong cord that symbolizes the strength of their bond. Many customs of the fiesta, like using marigolds, ofrendas (altars), and visiting and cleaning up grave sites are beautifully rendered in these tactile illustrations of Robert Chapman using handmade and cast paper. Another strength of this book is that the entire text is bilingual- on every page, the text is written in English, and then Spanish, so that this book is perfect for elementary-aged students that speak either language, and it also can be helpful for promoting bilingualism. This book gives a touching, personal, accurate narrative to Día de los Muertos, which makes it seem more of a touching story than nonfiction. ( )
  pacifickle | Nov 20, 2006 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Nancy Luennprimary authorall editionscalculated
Chapman, RobertIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0873586883, Hardcover)

The love and rituals surrounding the Mexican folk holiday-- The Day of the Dead.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:03 -0400)

After her beloved grandmother dies, Rosita hopes to be reunited with Abuelita as she prepares a gift to give her when her family celebrates the Day of the Dead.

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