I fell in love with this book before I read any of the words. That’s the power of the artwork. Abuela’s Weave (1993), by Omar S. Castañeda and illustrated by Enrique O. Sanchez shows a slice of village life in Guatemala. It’s a simple tale – the girl and her grandmother together weave cloth in the traditional way and prepare to sell their goods at market.
The grandmother’s facial birthmark may frighten away customers so she disguises herself with a shawl around her body and face and keeps her distance from her granddaughter on the way to the bus, traveling, on the walk to the market and while the girl spreads out the colorful tapestries, skirts, traditional blouses, and tablecloths.
The girl fears she and her grandmother can’t compete against all the goods made by machine the other people are selling. How can she compete against zippered bags and colorful plastic handles? They of course have nothing to fear, for their cloth is not only beautiful but laden with tradition, folklore, and speak of the loving hands that worked from early morning until late at night in their creation.
I struggle to describe the loveliness of the illustrations. Sanchez’ artwork is acrylic on canvas, but has the soft feel of pastel. The girl’s face is simply beautiful — the large, almond-shaped eyes that tilt toward the wide nose and full lips. She and her grandmother echo the Mayan stone carvings not only in their work but in their faces.
Both the girl’s loom and her grandmother’s are tied to the same tree and they work side by side. The Mayan motifs appear in the canopy of this tree while they work at night to complete their weaves. That is a wonderful metaphor added by Sanchez showing their strong bond not only to each other, but to the ancient traditions that surround them.
This is my library pick of the week.