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ELSINA’S CLOUDS by Jeanette Winter Kirkus Star


by Jeanette Winter & illustrated by Jeanette Winter

Age Range: 7 - 9

Pub Date: April 1st, 2004
ISBN: 0-374-32118-3
Publisher: Frances Foster/Farrar, Straus & Giroux

A small, intense, original tale that links art, faith, and natural cycles. The women of South Africa’s rural Besotho people paint bright designs on their houses in silent prayer to their ancestors for rain. In the midst of a long drought, young Elsina’s plea to be allowed to paint over her mothers patterns is gently rejected, as rain is supposed to wash the house clean first. Then a new baby, and a new room added to the house, gives Elsina her chance. In Winter’s small, controlled illustrations, Elsina’s careful scenes of clouds and crops differ from, but harmonize beautifully with, her mother’s abstract geometrical designs. And, in time, the rains return, earning Elsina permission to paint—and repaint, as seasons pass—the entire dwelling. “We live in plenty,” she concludes. “The ancestors listen.” Like the child in Catherine Stock’s Gugu’s House (2001), or Patricia Markun’s Little Painter of Sabaña Grande (1993), Elsina is both allowed to express her artistic talent, and respected by her elders for it—wisdom in any society. (Picture book. 7-9)