Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Latin American Literature- Book Review Four

Ada, Alma Flor. Illustrated by Simon Silva. Gathering the Sun: An Alphabet in Spanish and English. Harper Collins Publishers, 1997.

Gathering the Sun: An Alphabet in Spanish and English by Alma Flor Ada is a collection of simple poems for children. There is a different poem for each letter of the Spanish alphabet depicting the lives of Latin Americans in various aspects. The poems are written in both Spanish and English. They are each short in length and are different from one another. They are mostly about migrant workers and they speak of things such as work in the fields, fruits and vegetables, stars in the sky, love, and leisurely activities. There are young boys and girls, men and women seen in the illustrations that depict the main ideas of each of the different poems. 

This book is both written and illustrated by insiders of the culture and is an excellent piece of authentic Latin American children's literature. The poems and pictures address migrant work realistically by depicting the physical labor and long hard hours without giving it a lack of admiration and respect. The poem titled "Thanks" is of a young girl giving thanks for all of the positive things she has in her life. The poem titled "Honor" is of a young boy speaking of the honorable work him and his family do in the fields. While the book portrays the migrant workers as having little on a material level, the poems titled "Thanks", "Pride", and "Honor" show that this did not affect their happiness. This is also reinforced through the illustrations where the characters are depicted with smiles on their faces, as content with their jobs, and as happy when they are together at the dinner table or sitting outside with their families. Another poem titled "Love" speaks of the strong bond and closeness between family members and extended family members. Pride of the Spanish language and Mexico are also themes in this piece of literature. These are all common values that are often held by members of this culture and therefore add to the books authenticity. 

1 comment:

Alma Flor Ada said...

Thanks for the book review of my Gathering the Sun. This book has given me enormous satisfaction for the way in which it has been received and acknowledged by migrant farm working families. Constantly they give me testimonies of their appreciation for the recognition they have received from this book. I have been thanked for having included them and their families, for having seen the values in their lives. A teacher in Southern California insisted she was the child in the illustration of the letter I, and then crying added, "and that man (in the illustration) is my father. How he would have liked to see himself depicted this way." I am asked to sign this book for grandparents, for wedding anniversaries, for quinceanneras, as gifts for new born babies and for babies as yet unborn.
These poems were born after speaking with farm working parents, during many evening meetings, as my book The Gold Coin, they were inspired by the solidarity I saw among these laborers, their respect for each other and for their families, the dignity of their hard labor.
When during school visits children ask me which of my books is my favorite I always answer that all are like my children, but I frequently show this book and say it is the one that has given me more joy because it has given joy to so many who see their values reflected on it.
Thanks again for your book review.
In friendship, Alma Flor Ada