Saludos todos! This week we are kicking off our February themes of love, including romantic love, love of self, love of community, and love of country by featuring My Tata’s Remedies/ Los remedios de mi tata. This wonderful story emphasizes themes of love through community and family support, but also of self love and care by showcasing various natural remedies that have been passed on through various generations of a young boy’s family. Aside from this unique and engaging narrative, My Tata’s Remedies/ Los remedios de mi tata also won the 2016 Pura Belpre Honor Book for Illustration. This bilingual story, written by Roni Capin Rivera-Ashford and illustrated by Antonio Castro, is a sequel to its precursor, My Nana’s Remedies/Los Remedios De Mi Nana, now narrating the herbal remedies and natural medicinal recipes of the young protagonist’s grandfather rather than his grandmother. This informative tale is best for ages 4-11, though its abundant, non-fictional information may also be interesting for older readers.
My Tata’s Remedies/ Los remedios de mi tata reinforces the importance in respecting, admiring and preserving cultural heritage within a community or a family, but also of sharing and communicating that cultural heritage with others through acts of care and kindness. As the young, male protagonist learns of all the things his Tata can do with healing herbs, and the integral part that he plays in the community, he witnesses firsthand the power of tradition. Likewise, with the scientifically-correct illustrations of herbs and realistic recipes for healing, the book itself plays a role in passing on these old traditions to its readers. Overall, however, this story shows how the knowledge of one person can heal the aches and ailments of an entire community.
At the back of the book Rivera-Ashford includes three whole pages of plant encyclopedia, which was prepared by “Armando Gonzalez-Stuart, Ph.D. Professor of Herbal Medicine, El Paso Community College.” Each plant is show with its drawing, its scientific name, and a brief, yet highly informational description of its characteristics, where it’s found, and what it is used for. These descriptions also relate back to the story for context: “Creosote Bush. Tata used the branches to make a wash for Justin’s feet, to help against itching and ‘stinky feet.’ This plant has natural chemicals that can fight the fungus that causes athlete’s foot and other infections like ringworm, for example.”
Furthermore, these encyclopedia-like entries, like with the rest of the narration, are bilingual, including a full Spanish translation after each one, emphasizing the bicultural heritage of many Southwestern communities, and their traditional, natural remedies. The dual-language nature of the story and the encyclopedia entries also emphasizes one of the main themes of this story: communication. To ensure that this knowledge is passed on throughout the generations, they must be taught and told to others, in English or in Spanish.
On nearly each page of the story, a different community member or character comes to visit Tata and ask for his help with a variety of ailments. Not only is the reader (and Tata’s grandson) exposed to a variety of ailments and resources for curing them, but also to many different community portraits. Each person has a different background, a different story, and a different reason for seeking Tata’s help. Castro’s paintings expertly depict these portraits with realistic expressions, emotive shading and convincing detail.
In a review of My Tata’s Remedies/ Los remedies de mi tata, Goodreads comments upon Castro’s life and work: “Antonio Castro L. is nationally recognized for his illustrations of books by Joe Hayes. Teaming up with his son, book designer Antonio Castro H., he uses his exacting illustrative skills to bring to life this story of family and plants. Born in Zacatecas, Mexico, Antonio has lived in the Juarez–El Paso area for most of his life.” The stunning illustrations, which won this book the Pura Belpre award for illustration, compliment the narration’s reliance on non-fictional information by contributing highly realistic human portraits, and scientifically precise plant illustrations. The illustrations are nearly as detailed as the text and draw readers into the realistic community of the protagonist, his Tata and their ailing neighbors. The non-fictional aspect of both the narration and the illustrations further enables readers to think about their own familial or cultural traditions and how they can make more of an effort to learn about them. Finally the detailed portraits of all the community members humanize the various characters, reminding readers of why they love all of their own neighbors and their differences.
For those of you interested in using this book in the classroom, here are some additional links:
Stay tuned for more Pura Belpre awardee books!
Images modified from My Tata’s Remedies/ Los remedies de mi tata: Pages 7, 9, 13, 16, 17