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Children's LiteratureYoung Julio is eager to go to the mountains with his teacher and master carver, Iluminado, to find just the right piece of wood to carve. He is hoping to win the annual national prize for the best carving. Iluminado has never entered the contest, but this year he really needs the money. Julio finds his wood and carves a jungle which everyone says is his best work yet. Iluminado has carved wonderful musicians, but his failing eyesight makes painting them difficult. Julio helps him and they send the carvings off to the contest. Iluminado is very happy when he wins. Only Julio, and the readers, know that he has not sent his carvings in. They remain under his bed, perhaps until next year. This year he wanted Iluminado to win. Grifalconi creates a form of visual magic through her process of combining modified photographic collage and painting. Although she depicts her characters and settings naturalistically, there is an intriguing interplay between the few unmanipulated color photographs and the impressionistic fields, plants, and buildings involving us in the "different beauties" of her imagination. The few Spanish words are understandable in context, adding flavor to this real picture of the life of wood-carvers in the Oaxaca area today and of a youngster's heart-warming sacrifice. 2005, HarperCollins Publishers, Ages 4 to 9.
—Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz