THE MATS by Francisco Arcellana


Age Range: 7 - 9
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Matching a text first published over 60 years ago (and adapted here) with vibrant new illustrations, this brief import from the Philippines offers a moving tale of one family’s memorial to their lost ones. Marcelina and her six brothers and sisters welcome their father home from a business trip. As promised, he brings gifts: hand-woven sleeping mats “for every one of the family.” After the living receive theirs, three mats remain, one for each of the siblings who died young. Alägrä’s art is done in a muralistic style, with simple, monumental forms, stylized facial features, and bright, boldly contrasting colors. The language is sometimes awkward—“Papa’s face was filled with a long-bewildered sorrow”—but the emotions are strong and real. The story’s brevity makes it a promising discussion-starter, and the idea that “They may be dead but they are never really gone” is presented without excess sentimentality. (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: March 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-916291-86-3
Page count: 24pp
Publisher: Kane/Miller
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 1999