"I cannot sleep unless I am surrounded by books."


Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Girl from Chimel

The Girl from Chimel by Rigoberta Menchú with Dante Liano
Illustrations by Domi
Publisher: Groundwood Books
ISBN: 0-88899-666-7

Human rights activist, 1992 Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchú, with Guatemalan National Literature Laureate Dante Liano’s assistance has written a beautiful memoir of her childhood in Guatemala in a children’s book. The book is a series of stories of Señora Menchú’s parents, grandparents and of her village. There is a strong emphasis on nature, the importance of it and on her culture. Her love for her country shines though and there is a longing wistfulness for the lost childhood. The stories in the book take place before the 36-year war in Guatemala that devastated the country and made exiles of many, including the author.

Each story is short, perfect for small children who are a bit impatient like my three year old granddaughter who can’t wait to turn the pages. Though they are short little stories, they pack a big impact and say much. There is much detail on daily village life, the beliefs of the people and great details. I loved the story of the grandfather sweeping the grandmother off and running away to found the village. The story resonated for me since I grew up hearing the tales of women who were stolen (robada) in Mexico during the revolution.

The indigenous beliefs of the Maya, their spirituality and oneness with nature are clearly defined in each story. There is a joy in the book that comes from living life at one with Mother Earth. This is another one of those books that make a great gift and will be read over and over again. I know that my granddaughter and grandson love looking at the beautiful illustrations and they love hearing the little stories over and over again. This book and The Honey Jar have both become enduring favorites with them.

Domi’s illustrations are primitive, colorful and beautiful. They capture the feel of the village, the stories and the life in nature. I love her work, it always makes me smile to see Domi’s name on a book because I know I’m in for a treat. She seems to capture the essence of nature, childhood and indigenous art in a way that is lyrical. Her paintings of animals and fish are astounding.

Groundwood Books is a publisher in Canada, established in 1978. They are dedicated to the production of children's books for all ages, including fiction, picture books and non-fiction. I love their large multi-cultural selection. Check them out at http://www.groundwoodbooks.com/

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