Pretty Pictures ~ Elisa Kleven

   Elisa Kleven's kaleidoscopic collage illustrations in Abuela y Isla really bring to life the sentimental adventures of a girl and her abuela (grandmother).  With a sprinkle of Spanish vocabulary and a heaping, whimsical geography lesson, we soar over Manhattan and San Juan into the creative mind of Rosalba.

   My affinity for New York (expressed in My Galapagos) drew me to Abuela.  But I never would have expected Arthur Durros's lovable storytelling and Elisa's vivid illustrations to soften the often tough-as-nails city and turn it into a dreamy backdrop glistening with nostalgia- back when Mom and Pop shops outnumbered Duane Reedes and the Statue of Liberty's crown was still open (before it was closed due to 9/11- although the Statue is currently undergoing renovations and it is rumored to reopen at the end of 2012).

   The notations in the book jacket read, "Flying over Manhatten Island, turning somersaults in midair.  Gliding low to race the sailboats, spreading skirts for sails.  Rosalba and her grandmother, her abuela, are taking an extraordinary trip- on Rosalba's imagination."

   "Arthur Dorros once lived in New York, where he enjoyed watching the city from his rooftop.  He is fascinated by the many people living in America who preserve strong ties to their ethnic origins.  He feels they have the riches of two cultures and two languages."

   I was so pleased to discover a sleu of more books illustrated, and even written, by Elisa here and some great classroom activities for Abuela here!  Her illustrations, described so perfectly as having a "vibrant, folkloric look", have earned many awards and praises including the following reviews:

  • A marvelous balancing of narrative simplicity with visual intricacy...the city is transformed into a treasure trove of jewels, dazzling the eye, uplifting the spirits.
         -Horn Book, starred review.

  • Each illustration is a masterpiece of color, line, and form that will mesmerize youngsters. These are pages to be studied again and again...this book is a jewel.
         - starred, Booklist

   In the sequel to Abuela, Rosalba and her grandmother leave their home in New York to travel to the island where abuela grew up in Isla- Puerto RicoElisa ventured to the Caribbean herself to experience all the sights, colors, and culture firsthand.

   Both titles are fantastic stories about the richness of family history, adventures in travel, and finding beauty in nature and different cultures.  Also available en espanol (Abuela y La Isla), these are perfect books to expand your children's, or students', ever-growing horizons (recommended for ages 3 and up)!

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