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Ghost Wings

Ghost Wings

by Barbara M. Joosse, Giselle Potter (Illustrator)
Set in Mexico amidst the monarch butterflies' annual migration and during the Days of the Dead, Ghost Wings, written by Barbara M. Joosse, author of the best-selling Mama, Do You Love Me?, and illustrated with the luminescent artwork of Giselle Potter, is the touching story of a little girl whose very best friend is her grandmother. But one spring,


Set in Mexico amidst the monarch butterflies' annual migration and during the Days of the Dead, Ghost Wings, written by Barbara M. Joosse, author of the best-selling Mama, Do You Love Me?, and illustrated with the luminescent artwork of Giselle Potter, is the touching story of a little girl whose very best friend is her grandmother. But one spring, Grandmother becomes thin as smoke. When she dies, Papa says, "When you love someone they never really leave." But to the little girl, Grandmother seems impossibly far away. Who will sing to her? Who will chase the monsters from under her bed? Then, during the Days of the Dead, something extraordinary happens that brings Papa's words vividly to life. Ideal for one-on-one sharing as well as a group discussion, Ghost Wings' poignant message of the endurance of love and the power of memory is sure to linger long after the book is closed. A discussion guide is included.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Potter's sublimely quirky illustrations adorn this moving tale of death and remembrance set in Mexico and linked to the rhythms of the monarch butterfly. "Grandmother was my best friend," confides the narrator, who treasures their visits to the "Magic Circle" where, every winter, the migrating butterflies "filled the trees with gold." One spring, however, Grandmother becomes "thin as smoke" and soon dies. The disappearance of the monarchs becomes a metaphor for the girl's grief. Later, during the Days of the Dead, the annual celebration honoring those who have died, the girl and her family visit her grandmother's grave. There, a butterfly alights on the girl's arm, melting her sadness: "In my head, I heard Grandmother's songs . I remember how she smelled, like cornmeal and roses." Joosse's (Mama, Do You Love Me?) poetic descriptions ("when they flew away their wings rustled like skirts") and intriguing details of Mexican culture, from tortillas made on a metate to calaveras (traditional skull-shaped chocolate and sugar candies skulls) eaten during the Days of the Dead, inform her sensitively drawn story. (Unfortunately, a key word is spelled wrong the family creates an "alter" to honor Grandmother.) Potter's singular watercolors, rendered in subtle earth tones and accented with pungent shades of red and orange, capture the arid landscape, and her signature characters, with their slightly elongated Modigliani-esque faces, are as graceful as the flight of a butterfly. Ages 3-8. (Apr.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
When someone you love dies, how can you keep alive your memories of that person? Joose offers a rather complicated answer through the voice of a young Mexican girl, whose beloved grandmother has died. This young narrator and her grandmother have shared many experiences, from the daily activity of making tortillas to such rare moments as being encircled by the monarch butterflies that winter nearby. From Grandmother, she has learned that the butterflies carry the souls of the old ones, and the tickle of a butterfly can bring back the memories of a person no longer living. The narrator experiences this firsthand during the Days of the Dead, when a returning monarch alights on her and memories of Grandmother come flooding back. Information pages at the end of the book provide background about the Days of the Dead and the migration patterns of monarch butterflies, followed by a guide to using the book that offers suggestions for questions and activities to extend the text. Potter's spare, naïve-style illustrations include details of the Mexican household and market but contribute a distant feel to the book. 2001, Chronicle Books, $15.95. Ages 6 to 9. Reviewer: Susan Stan
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3-The Magic Circle is a place in the Mexican forest where the monarch butterflies gather. A little girl and her grandmother let the creatures light on their arms and faces and feel the whisper of their legs and wings. When Grandmother becomes ill, they make a last trip to the Magic Circle, where she reminds the child to remember the feel of the butterflies "because they carry the souls of the old ones, and the old ones never really leave." The youngster struggles to cope with the passing of her grandmother and, as the Days of the Dead approach, she and her family make their ofrenda, their altar of offerings. The traditional activities of the holiday don't bring about a remembrance of her grandmother until she spies a golden fluttering-the monarchs have come to the cemetery-and her memories of her best friend return with the magic of past moments. Joosse has created a charming and heartwarming story of love and acceptance incorporating elements of Mexican family and cultural traditions. Potter's characteristic illustrations in ink, watercolor, and colored pencil lend a magical quality to the enchanting story. A study guide is included in the back as are descriptions of the celebration and the migration of the monarch butterflies. A wonderful read-aloud during Days of the Dead or as a tribute to grandparents.-Patti Gonzales, Los Angeles Public Library Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Joosse's (Alien Brain Fryout, 2000, etc.) sensitive tale of love, loss, and remembrance is set in a small Mexican town and intertwined with the lifecycle of monarch butterflies. A young girl and her grandmother have a special relationship: often, they walk through the woods to the Magic Circle, where the butterflies they love spend the winter. And grandmother is the only person who protects her from the monsters under the bed at night. One day, Grandmother "grew thin as smoke." She was too tired to make tortillas and wanted to say goodbye to the butterflies that were ready to leave for the north. The butterflies left; Grandmother died; and the family grieved. Papa's comforting words, "When you love someone they never leave," are meaningless as the child struggles to hold on to her memories. It is only upon the return of the butterflies—who some believe carry the souls of the dead—that the girl can recapture her memories of Grandmother again. Joosse integrates the Mexican customs of honoring the dead during the holiday period known as the Days of the Dead into a narrative that deals with universal feelings about death. Potter's (Kate and the Beanstalk, 2000, etc.) ink, watercolor, and colored-pencil illustrations suffused with pale, warm color complement and extend the text. The stylized drawings of people with oversized heads and expressive, round faces convey great emotion. Delicate butterflies flutter around the child and Grandmother, creating a mood of love and beauty. A beautiful book, suitable for group or individual sharing. It includes a discussion guide and information on the Days of the Dead and monarch butterflies. (Picture book. 3-8)

Product Details

Chronicle Books LLC
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
1.00(w) x 1.00(h) x 1.00(d)
AD390L (what's this?)
Age Range:
1 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

Barbara Joosse is a full-time writer and mother. She lives with her family in a little stone house in Wisconsin. Ms. Joosse has a degree in journalism, but for the past 19 years she has devoted her time and talents to writing nearly twenty books for childr

Giselle Potter she lives in New York and comes from a long line of painters. Ghost Wings is her ninth children's book, her first with Chronicle Books.

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