Come one, come all: the Guelaguetza festival is about to begin. Guelaguetza means ‘to share’ in the Zapotec language, and every July, the people of Oaxaca, Mexico gather to ‘guelaguetza’ their dancing, singing, and music. One man with a balloon announces the welcoming parade has begun. Three musicians pass by playing their instruments. Four colorful, intricately decorated giants follow. Six women with baskets dance, while eight more musicians delight. The happy onlookers are thrilled to join in.
Far more than a simple counting book (bilingual, too!), Count Me In is celebration of the Oaxacan culture as captured by “Great Masters of Oaxacan Folk Art,” the Aguilar sisters – Guillermina, Josefina, Irene, and Concepcíon, ceramic artists recognized worldwide. Each number is represented by the corresponding number of unique, parading ceramic figures created by the renowned sisters – which have recently been acquired by Chicago’s Field Museum.
The literary/artistic collaboration is the result of peripatetic author and educator Cynthia Weill. Her first title, Ten Mice for Tet, co-authored with Pegi Deitz Shea, featured 16th-century traditional embroidery from Vietnam. A Fulbright Teacher Exchange for Mexico led her to discover Oaxacan crafts which inspired her to write ABeCedarios: Mexican Folk Art ABCs in Spanish & English, (2007), Opuestos: Mexican Folk Art Opposites in English and Spanish (2009), and Colores de la Vida: Mexican Folk Art Colors in Spanish and English (2011), all published by the fabulously indie Cinco Puntos Press.
Count makes a perfect bilingual quartet of Oaxacan art-infused titles, especially appropriate for the classroom. As Weill explains, each of her titles target three audiences: kiddie readers, folk art enthusiasts, and teachers. In addition to entertaining children, the indigenous arts and crafts which make the books so vibrant also provide all sorts of cultural learning opportunities. What’s not to love? Count me in, too!