Sunday, January 22, 2006

A Season for Mangoes

Hanson, Regina. 2005. A SEASON FOR MANGOES. Ill. by Eric Velasquez. New York: Clarion Books. ISBN 061815972X [Suggested age level K-4]

This wonderfully written and illustrated modern picture book set in Jamaica is a gentle, positive story that helps children deal with the death of a loved one. In this story, Sareen is allowed to attend her first all-night “sit-in,” a Jamaican tradition, to honor her grandmother who has recently died. Everyone in attendance is encouraged to share stories and memories of the deceased, while also sharing traditional foods and participating in customary games and activities. Sareen is nervous and isn’t sure what she will say. After her parents and brother encourage her, she finds the courage to tell, through tears, about her Nana’s love of mangoes and her love for life. Sareen realizes that the more she talks about her memories, the easier it becomes to share.

The message of this story is one of joy; the ability to rediscover joy after the loss of a loved one. The emotions that Sareen feels are normal, and this story allows children to understand that telling stories and sharing memories are good for healing. The illustrations are beautifully done in oil, and are almost portrait-like in nature with pages of close-ups. Because the story’s setting is nighttime, the paintings clearly reflect this in their muted tone, with background light added to reflect moonlight and the passing of time into morning. The characters are depicted in traditional dress and the flavor of the Caribbean is evident throughout. The author’s note at the end of the book gives further information regarding Jamaican traditions and culture. This is a wonderful story to add to any multicultural collection.

Readers are encouraged to bring objects to share about customs, foods, or family from their particular cultures. Stories about loved ones, even pets, can be shared to help with the grieving process.

Some other picture books that deal with death are:
Buscaglia, Leo. THE FALL OF FREDDY THE LEAF. ISBN 0805071954
Fraustino, Lisa Rowe. THE HICKORY CHAIR ISBN0590522485

By Pamela Kemp

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