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Saturday, March 5, 2011

Dona Flor, written by Pat Mora and illustrated by Raul Colon. Random House, 2005. $8.99 ages 5 and up

"Whatever she planted grew so
fast, you could hear the roots
spreading at night. Her neighbors
used the sunflowers as bright
yellow umbrellas. She gave the
school band her hollyhocks to
use as trumpets. The music
smelled like spring."

The first of two posts today about a women larger than life.

Pat Mora has created an original tall tale of Dona Flor, who could be related to Swamp Angel (Dutton, 1994). She lives in the mountains of the American Southwest and was much loved by her mother, who taught Flor life lessons that would sustain her throughout her life. Listening to her mother's songs, she grew just as her mother's plants grew...larger and larger and larger still. Her differences (her size and her ability to speak to every living thing) are initially cause for ridicule; but children and their parents soon discover her warmth and supportive manner. She is a blessing to her community.

So, when a wild cat's constant roar leads people to flee in fear and stay in their homes to avoid confrontation and harm, it is Dona Flor to whom they turn for help. True to her nature, she searches for and finds the puma that is terrorizing her village. She discovers his secret power and is moved to provide companionship and love to the 'pumito'.

After a tiring trek to find the source of the noise and calm it, Dona Flor takes a much-needed and deserved break:

"Flor liked a fresh bed, so she reached up and filled her arms with clouds smelling of flowery breezes. She shaped the clouds into a soft, deep bed and into hills of puffy pillows. "Mmmm," said Flor as she snuggled in the clouds."

A sweet and satisfying end to an award-winning tale!

Pat Mora sprinkles her story with Spanish words, which are so appreciated in classrooms where second language learners love a connection to their culture. There is much to be admired in the lovely, lively language and the mixed media artwork of Raul Colon. He gives true perspective to Flor's enormity, often filling frames and even allowing for her head to be only partially seen. The gentle quality of the story itself is perfectly matched by the warmth of the colors and textures so lovingly produced here.

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