In a plaintive text that will likely prove ponderous for the average picture book reader, the authors tell the bittersweet story of the Tarascan Indians living along the shores of Lake Ptzcuaro in west-central Mexico. Poor drainage and lack of sewage treatment have polluted the lake, rendering its water unsafe to drink and killing the fish that have provided the residents with food and livelihoods. In order to "honor the past and also make a living today," many Tarascan women stitch elaborate embroideries that depict their lakeside life, primarily in brighter, bygone days; samples of this art, reproduced in closely focused photographs, enliven the pages here. Incorporating quotes from the embroiderers and a generous sampling of Spanish words, the narrative interprets the handiwork's bustling scenes: a local fisherman pulls his catch from the sea; artisans weave shawls and baskets, make ceramics and carve wood; and villagers perform a traditional wedding dance and celebrate religious feasts. While this book is similar in concept to Dia's Story Cloth (Children's Forecasts, Apr. 29), it is less personal a work, reading much like a social studies lesson. Ages 7-up. (Apr.)
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Gr 3-6The Tarascan Indians, who live on the shores of Lake Ptzcuaro in the Mexican state of Michoacn, have depended on the lake for their livelihood, but now their traditional way of life and the lake itself are being threatened by pollution, tourism, and other changes. The authors describe the people's daily activities and special festivals that are colorfully brought to life in the hand-crafted embroideries that illustrate the book. Tiny figures worked in brightly colored thread fill each canvas with scenes of men and women fishing, tending crops, cooking, and celebrating. The text describes Jos Guadalupe as he fishes with nets shaped like butterfly wings and Francisca de la Luz Cortez cooks tortillas to sell door to door, but in the embroideries, individuals appear only as part of a larger pattern. Readers may feel some confusion about what this book is trying to communicate. The appealing needlework shows only an idyllic world in which "...the lake is still large and beautiful, dotted with five islands, and surrounded by green fields." None of the changes in lifestyle or the landscape mentioned in the narrative are depicted. A desire to document and preserve Tarascan culture seems to be what motivated the authors to create the book, but young readers will not feel any sense of urgency, and may have difficulty making connections between the embroideries and the real people whose lives they describe.Kristin Lott, East Brunswick Public Library, NJ
For centuries, the inhabitants around Lake Patzcuaro in central Mexico have depended on the lake for fish to eat, reeds to make baskets, and water for drinking and irrigating their cornfields. But the lake is now in danger. Its water is becoming polluted, its native fishes are threatened by species introduced in recent years, and efforts to dredge the lake have uprooted valuable grasses. The history and traditions of Lake Patzcuaro are being kept alive by a group of women embroiderers, whose colorful, detailed works show homey scenes--a fisherman weaving his net, the town's craft market, a marriage ceremony. Full-page photos of the embroidered pieces balance an informative text about the Tarascan people, which includes lots of Hispanic terms and details about everyday life and special festivals. An attractive presentation that demonstrates the impact environmental changes can have on a way of life. A pronunciation guide and information about the embroiderers are appended.
A glimpse of life in central Mexico is offered through the embroidery of women of the area; their landscapes and portraits of daily life, past and present, are charming.
The needlework has a folk-art vibrancy, and evokes an age, not so long ago, when Lake Pátzcuaro was free of pollution and a source for many kinds of fish. It was a comfortable life, little-changed for hundreds of years. Some scenes show celebrations, while others have more humble subjects: women making tamales, a fisherman and his net. Although it's presented in picture-book format, the text is dense and more accessible to older children; it describes the people and their town in detail, and reflects an anger that a way of life has been spoiled. An unusual cultural record.