Grandparents Song

Grandparents Song

by Sheila Hamanaka

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My eyes are green like the sea, like the sea And my hair is dark and blows free, blows free.

Sing of your parents, and your grandparents too, and picture a magnificent family tree. Its roots are deep, nurtured with the lives of ancestors. Some left willingly for the new land, others did not — and many were already here! Their blood flows in yourveins; their

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My eyes are green like the sea, like the sea And my hair is dark and blows free, blows free.

Sing of your parents, and your grandparents too, and picture a magnificent family tree. Its roots are deep, nurtured with the lives of ancestors. Some left willingly for the new land, others did not — and many were already here! Their blood flows in yourveins; their strength lies in your heart.

Inspired by American folk art, Sheila Hamanaka, author and illustrator of the best-selling All the Colors of the Earth, has created vibrant, stunningly beautiful illustrations to tell the story of our country's family tree.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
Grandparents Song, by Sheila Hamanaka, is a lovely, solemn, politically correct book about a girl and her Native American maternal grandmother, Irish maternal grandfather, African-American paternal grandfather and Mexican-American paternal grandmother. …there's a rocking motion and simplicity of focus in both text and illustrations that give this one some weight without making it too heavy. — Betsy Hearne
Publishers Weekly
Hamanaka (All the Colors of the Earth) is in high form with another stirring ode to the beauty of the richly multiethnic world we inhabit. In melodic verse, the girl with green eyes, light brown skin and long black hair pictured in the opening illustrations tells the stories of her parents and grandparents-what they look like and where they came from. "And her mother came/ eyes of black, eyes of black/ on an Appaloosa horse/ with a broad, strong back/ .../ She married a man/ eyes of green, eyes of green/ who had left his own pony/ 'cross the cold northern sea." Bas relief, horse hair and beadwork number among the materials used for the frames (created by additional artists) that border Hamanaka's illustrations; these meticulous works of art are intrinsic to the presentation of each painting. For instance, red cloth decorated with a beaded floral pattern on top and bottom, with brown and blond horsetails on each side, surrounds the painting of the young Native American woman riding her horse. A three-masted schooner sails across a spread between two beautifully carved wooden figures, accompanying the text, "Grandfather's people/ had crossed the great sea/ Their bodies were chained/ but their souls fought free." The overall message of this subtle yet dramatically realized poem is that love, for others and self, triumphs over adversity. All ages. (Apr.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
A young girl seems to symbolize, in the variety of her ancestry, the mixture that makes the people of our country. In her brief, poetic song with repeated refrains, she tells of her mother from the West, riding an Appaloosa. She married a man from across the northern sea. Her father came from the South; his mother from across the Rio Grande. Grandma came "from the sun, from the sun," and Grandfather's people came across the sea in chains. All this is the family tree of the girl whose "eyes are green like the sea, like the sea," and whose "hair is dark and blows free, blows free." Naturalistic paintings, portraits, are presented in a variety of carved frames. Indian beadwork, a few sculptures, some dolls and calligraphy on ribbons all add to the sense of global history. As the reader repeats the "song" there is much to look at as well as think about, including one's own family tree. Sources of the items included in the illustrations are listed. 2003, HarperCollins Publishers,
— Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
K-Gr 4-In rhythmic verses that flow like a song, a young girl recounts the roots of her family tree. Fondly and respectfully, she describes her grandparents-one American Indian, one Irish, one Mexican, and one a descendent of African slaves. Beautifully rendered in calligraphy, the text is clean, simple, and lilting, with appealing use of phrase repetition within some lines. It sounds great when shared aloud but there's also a core of quietness suitable for solo reading. Filled with magnificent texture, Hamanaka's oil paintings are substantial and striking. The artwork sits inside rustic frames featuring details that expand on the poem. Created by several different artists out of sculpted wood, beadwork, and Celtic bas-relief and then photographed, these borders give character and definition to the illustrations. On one spread, a beaded red cloth with horsetails running down the sides surrounds an image of a Native American woman riding an Appaloosa. In another picture, an old handsaw, blade's teeth pointing upward, forms the top edge of a scene depicting the American West, "where the trees talk to heaven." The themes of love, cooperation, human progress, and freedom permeate this offering. The conclusion will resonate in the minds and hearts of many readers: "Yes, my eyes are green like the sea, like the sea/and my hair is dark and blows free, blows free/My hair is dark and blows free."-Liza Graybill, Worcester Public Library, MA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Stunning illustrations inspired by folk art illuminate Hamanaka's song celebrating the diversity of a young American girl's heritage and her roots in the land. "My eyes are green like the sea, like the sea and my hair is dark and blows free, blows free." Many of the pictures are framed with old wood, but one is framed with twigs, another is topped by a saw, and another by beadwork and horse hair on a rich red background. The grandparents' pictures contain intricate cultural details, particularly in the decoration of the frames. The girl sings of her mother's mother and father-one of Native American and one of northern European descent, and of her father's father and mother, one with African and one with Mexican heritage. The grandparents came from the sun, from the earth, and from east and west, and they came in search of freedom. The father's page is breathtaking in its congruence of words and pictures: "Father says he came from the South, from the South where the scent of magnolia lulls the cottonmouth." Father, mother, and daughter stand beside an avenue of trees leading to a stately plantation reminiscent of Oak Alley, Louisiana. Cotton clouds emerge from a basket to float gently over their heads. Barely visible in the foreground are tiny images of slaves picking cotton. Encircling the picture is a sinuous shape marked by the black and brown patterns of a cottonmouth snake that at one point eerily morph into figures with peaked hoods, a noose, and a burning cross. A lush white magnolia blossom fills the snake's open mouth. This is no romanticized vision of the past; it is rich and multi-layered. Like the beautiful child who gracefully combines the sometimes conflicted heritage of herancestors, this lovely work combines diverse artistic traditions to create a whole that is, like the American family tree, beautiful and strong. (Picture book/poetry. 6-9)

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
9.00(w) x 10.00(h) x 0.25(d)
Age Range:
10 Years

Meet the Author

Sheila Hamanaka is an award-winning fine artist whose work has also appeared in Scholastic magazines as well as in Permanent Connections by Sue Ellen Bridgers and Barbara Campbell's Taking Care of Yoki. Ms. Hamanaka lives in Tappan, New York.

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