THE STORYTELLER’S CANDLE/LA VELITA DE LOS CUENTOS

The first Puerto Rican librarian hired by the New York Public Library was Pura Belpré, still renowned for her storytelling and her books of folktales. Set in 1929, this bilingual story follows two Puerto Rican children who live in Manhattan’s El Barrio and discover their local branch library. Their immigrant parents can’t believe that the library cares about its Spanish-speaking community, but Hildamar and her cousin Santiago lead the way after an outreach visit to their school by the Puerto Rican-born librarian. They join in happily as Belpré organizes a special Three Kings’ Day event, complete with a play based on her famous story Pérez and Martina (published in book form in 1932). The evening ends with the blowing out of “the storyteller’s candle,” a New York Public Library tradition. González is a librarian, a bilingual storyteller and author, and the English and Spanish texts both read smoothly. The collage illustrations incorporate a sepia-toned oil-wash technique to give the pictures an older look. (author’s notes, glossary) (Picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-89239-222-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Children's Book Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2008

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THE NIGHT OF LAS POSADAS

A wondrous occurrence, an ancient tradition, and an elderly nun’s abiding faith are the basis of this moving Chirstmas tale from dePaola (26 Fairmount Avenue, p. 629, etc.). Sister Angie is overjoyed when her niece Lupe and her husband are selected to play Mary and Joseph—here, Maria and José—for Las Posadas, the reenactment of the journey into Bethlehem. When Sister Angie becomes ill and Lupe and Roberto become stranded in a heavy snowstorm, it seems as if the celebration will be delayed. However, a couple arrives just in time to take the place of the missing players. The whole village participates in the procession, from the singers who follow Mary and Joseph, to the “devils” who attempt to prevent the weary travelers from finding lodging. After several rebuffs, the couple arrives at the gates of the courtyard; these open and the entire assembly enters to celebrate. When Lupe and Roberto finally show up, the other couple is nowhere to be found. The story takes a supernatural twist when Sister Angie discovers that the figures in the church’s manger scene have come to life, temporarily, for the procession. The mysteries and miracles of the season are kept at bay; this simple narrative spells everything out, resulting in a primer on the tradition. Richly hued, luminescent illustrations radiate from the pages; an introduction and author’s note provide additional information. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-399-23400-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1999

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ONE CANDLE

This Hanukkah story about a family’s ritual reenactment of Grandma and great-aunt Rose’s Hanukkah spent at Buchenwald many years ago during the “bad time” propounds a disturbing view of the Holocaust. Grandma and great-aunt Rose demonstrate to the family how they hollowed out a potato stolen from the kitchen at the camp, filled it with a dab of stolen margarine, made a wick from a piece of thread, and lit a candle to commemorate the holiday. Popp’s (Sister Anne’s Hands, 1998) realistic drawings of the celebration are soft and subtly colored, reflecting the family’s warmth and closeness, while the drawings of the camp are ghostly in sepia tones. Afterwards the whole family steps outside to look at the Hanukkah lights through the window and drink a toast to life. The disturbing piece is Grandpa’s comment that “The Germans didn’t like a lot of people. It wasn’t only the Jews.” For many, this is a deeply offensive statement, implying as it does that the Jews were not singled out by Hitler and the Germans for the very specific goal of total destruction. Even in the context of human history, the single-mindedness, efficiency, and technological resources put to the task make Hitler’s war against the Jews exceptional. Grandpa’s comment would be problematic in any event, but out of the mouth of the husband of a Holocaust survivor it is troubling indeed. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-060-28115-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2002

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