Grandparents Song

by Sheila Hamanaka

“Mother says she came / from the West, from the West / where the trees talk... read more

“Mother says she came / from the West, from the West / where the trees talk to heaven and the spotted owls nest / And her mother came / eyes of black, eyes of black / on an Appaloosa horse / with a broad, strong back.” And so a young girl, with eyes “green like the sea” and long black hair, launches a lyrical narrative of her family tree, tracing back through her parents and grandparents. Within her two sets of grandparents, she describes a Native American, a European immigrant, a Mexican American, and an African American. This powerful picture book’s depiction of a multiethnic family, perhaps a symbol of America itself, includes those indigenous to this country, those who came here voluntarily, and those who were brought against their will, as in the pages which read “Grandfather’s people / had crossed the great sea / Their bodies were chained / but their souls fought free.” Hamanaka’s folk-art-inspired illustrations are framed—by materials including old wood, twigs, bas-relief, and beadwork—in ways that visually contribute to the impact of the words. Ultimately a celebration of an American family, Grandparents Song recognizes diversity and union in a rich, multilayered tribute. (Age 7 and older)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2004

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