Saludos todos! This week we will be introducing our April themes, celebrating the spirit of Earth Day, El Día de los Niños, and National Poetry Month. The ¡Mira Look! blog posts, however, will focus primarily on celebrating Earth Day with themes of nature and environmental care and consciousness. Our book for this week is Maya’s Blanket/ La manta de Maya, written by Monica Brown and illustrated by David Diaz. This heartwarming story puts an imaginative and seemingly magical spin on the practice of recycling, reinforcing the creativity and importance of repurposing old things. Brown is of Peruvian and Jewish descent and this story not only emphasizes the environmental necessity in recycling and repurposing, but also elaborates on those cultures’ traditions associated with old objects. As Brown states in her author’s note, this story was inspired by a Yiddish folk song that was “written long before Earth Day came into being, but celebrates both creativity and recycling.”
According to Brown, this story follows the old Yiddish folk song, “Hob Ikh Mir a Mantl” (“I Had a Little Coat”), which is “about an old overcoat that is continually repurposed as smaller and smaller items.” Indeed, the story of Maya’s blanket traces the many phases of her beloved manta, from blanket, to skirt, to scarf, and so on. The story begins with a lovely, two-page spread of little Maya sleeping with her blanket while her abuelita stitches purple butterflies onto it. The butterflies seem slightly elevated from the rest of the blanket, as though they’re about to fly off the blanket and out the window. This visual effect nicely complements the narrative: “Her manta was magical too—it protected her from bad dreams.” Many of Diaz’s illustrations, outlined in thick, black contour lines, give the impression of something handmade – an effect that reinforces the values of heritage, memory and identity conveyed through the book’s text. This opening scene also introduces the sentimental value of the blanket, which Brown confirms in her author’s note: “I think of my mother tucking me in each night, telling me stories of her childhood in Peru as I snuggled under my yellow blanket decorated with orange butterflies. I also think of my nana, who, with infinite patience and love, taught me how to sew and embroider.” Brown’s author’s note is provided in both English and Spanish, and on the same page she includes a glossary of Spanish words, such as manta (blanket), bufanda (scarf) and cinta (ribbon), that are found interspersed throughout the English text.