Tag Archives: Cynthia Weill

Mi Familia Calaca | My Skeleton Family by Cynthia Weill, illustrated by Jesús Canseco Zárate

Mi Famlia CalacaCheck out this fabulous overview in today’s New York Times highlighting what real American families look like these days: “Families.” Be sure to scroll through all the imbedded slide shows – you know what they say about pictures and words.

Inspired by all different types of family permutations, the timing seems perfect to share this rather nontraditional one in which the lively members are  … well … maybe not so alive anymore. But don’t fret! Family ties are forever, right?

“In Mexico the skeleton is a beloved and humorous figure. Its origins go back to pre-Columbian times,” explains author and educator Cynthia Weill whose many books celebrate “folk arts from around the world.” Her last title, Count Me In!, highlighted her artistic Oaxacan connections. Those Oaxacan discoveries continue with her latest collaborator, Jesús Canseco Zárate, who spent a month each in bringing these well-dressed, modly-heeled, always grinning sets of bones to life by hand, creating quite the homage to “Mexico’s long history of paper mache or cartonería.

Meet Anita, the rosy-cheeked, red-ribboned, Mary-Janed “big sister,” who will be your guide to her extended family … in both English and Spanish, too! We’re all global citizens, after all. Her brother Miguel, she insists, is “a brat,” but baby Juanito is “so cute!” Her parents “are the greatest,” and her grandparents, “the best.” Her great-grandmother – have walker, will travel! – “tells wonderful stories.” The puppy and kitty make the “wonderful family” complete. Quite the family portrait indeed!

For the youngest readers not yet traumatized by too many dystopic zombies, Anita’s “maravillosa familia” introduces just the right holiday sentiments: this is Turkey week when loved ones gather, and the winter cheer is right around the corner. As scattered siblings and multi-generations gather, here’s an entertaining, uniquely illustrated way to teach the kiddies about some of those neverending family connections.

Readers: Children

Published: 2013

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Filed under ..Children/Picture Books, .Bilingual, .Fiction, .Translation, Latino/a, Nonethnic-specific

Count Me In! A Parade of Mexican Folk Art Numbers in English and Spanish by Cynthia Weill, illustrated with ceramics by the Aguilar Sisters: Guillermina, Josefina, Irene, and Concepción

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 a celebration of the Oaxacan culture as captured by “Great Masters of Oaxacan Folk Art,” the Aguilar sisters – Guillermina, Josefina, Irene, and Concepcíon, who are ceramic artists recognized worldwide. Each number is represented by the corresponding number of unique, parading ceramic figures created by the renowned siblings – 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!

Readers: Children

Published: 2012

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Filed under ..Children/Picture Books, .Fiction, Latin American, Latino/a, Nonethnic-specific

Ten Mice for Tet by Pegi Deitz Shea and Cynthia Weill, illustrated by Tô Ngoc Trang, embroidery by Pham Viêt-Dinh

Ten Mice for TetA simple counting book to celebrate the Vietnamese new year, or Tet, which begins on the first day of the lunar calendar. At the book’s end is a section that explains the various preparations and traditions for the celebration. Illustrated with actual hand-embroidered cloths of amazing intricacy and detail that bring the playful mice to life.

Review: “New and Notable Books,” AsianWeek, November 28, 2003

Readers: Children

Published: 2003

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Filed under ..Children/Picture Books, .Fiction, Southeast Asian, Southeast Asian American, Vietnamese, Vietnamese American