Rosie’s family gathers every Christmas Eve to make tamales with her Abuela. She and her sister soak and clean the corn husks, her cousins chop onions and garlic, her aunt roasts the chiles, her mother prepares the masa dough, and her Abuela cooks the meat filling. The recipe with its secret seasonings isn’t written down anywhere, but her grandmother shares it with everyone in the family. Every year her grandmother shares a story about making the tamales. It wishes everyone that they are flexible, secure, proud, satisfied, loved and supported by family. Now the time has come to make dozens and dozens of tamales together with no recipe, just using your senses. Soon they get to practice patience as good smells fill the house. Finally it is time to eat!
Told with a deep sense of family and generational wisdom, this picture book celebrates time spent around the holidays together. Centered around the grandmother, this book gives her space to share not only her recipe but also her insights into what is important in life. The stories are shared as she creates the first tamale, tying them closely to what she is making with the protective layer, the olive at the heart, the corn, and more. It’s no surprise when you reach the Author’s Note that this is based on his own experiences in his Abuela’s kitchen growing up.
Lora’s illustrations show a multi-generational family and are inspired by her own Mexican family. Using bright yellows, warm oranges, and rich browns, she creates scenes where you can almost smell the spices. The stories are done in a mix of color and black and white, framing them as their own special time.
Full of love, food and warmth. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Moth’s family were all killed in a car accident that left her face scarred. Now she lives with her aunt, who barely acknowledges her presence. She goes to school where is also ignored. Moth used to be a dancer, movement was her way of expressing herself, but she can’t dance anymore. When Sani, a new boy, starts at her school, Moth is immediately drawn to him. Sani too is grappling with his own depression. He lives with his mother whose new boyfriend beats him. So when Moth’s aunt leaves her without even saying goodbye, Sani and Moth set off on a road trip together, heading across the country to Sani’s father’s home with the Diné people. The trip brings them closer together and they both discover the connections that were there all along.
It’s hard to believe this is a debut novel, since it is done with such skill and confidence. Written in verse, so much is left implied and unsaid, unrevealed until McBride is ready for us to understand and the characters are ready to see it too. Combining Hoodoo Black traditions with Navajo/Diné, the book is filled with a deep sense of spirituality and connectivity to ancestors and those who have passed on.
The writing is exceptional, filled with moments that are breathtakingly and achingly gorgeous and others that are difficult and dark. The book is filled with wonder despite the difficulties both characters face. It’s a love story, of two people coming together through their families’ traditions, the way they are initially drawn to one another, and then a slow-building deeper connection they create together.
A book like a moth that will metamorphose right in front of you. Appropriate for ages 13-18.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Feiwel and Friends.