Elsina's Clouds

by Jeanette Winter

Following in the tradition of the Basotho women of South Africa, where this story... read more

Following in the tradition of the Basotho women of South Africa, where this story is set, young Elsina wants to paint the outside of her house. She is eager to make the designs in her head come alive. But Mama says Elsina must wait until the rains arrive and wash away what Mama painted long ago. Mama’s paintings were a prayer to the ancestors for rain. But no rains have come. “Mama’s field has died. Papa’s goats starve.” With Mama expecting a baby, Papa builds a new room on their house. That’s when Mama suggests the ancestors might listen to Elsina instead, and the little girl finally gets her chance to paint. “I paint when the sun peeks over the mountain. I paint when the sun sits high in the blue. I paint until the colors turn to darkness.” Her vision finally becomes reality, but just as waiting to paint required Elsina’s patience, so, too, does waiting for the rains. The downpours finally do come in Jeanette Winter’s small, vibrant picture book about a young African girl’s desire to express herself, and to take her place within a tradition. That tradition is repeated season after season as each time of rain is followed by another opportunity for Elsina to paint again. (Ages 3–7)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2005

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