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Thursday, November 22, 2018

Auntie Luce's Talking Paintings, written by Francie Latour and illustrated by Ken Daley. Groundwood Books, 2018. $18.95 ages 5 and up

"It is December, the time of
year when I leave the snow and
snowman-making behind. I
step onto an airplane, and
when I step off again a wall
of heat wraps my body and
instantly warms my blood.

Inside the airport, Auntie
Luce waves me to her, and
the metal bracelets along her
arms stand to sing."

It is a welcome trip made by a young girl from America to her aunt's home in sunny Haiti. Though her mother and Auntie Luce have made different choices concerning where they will make their homes, the trip keeps the daughter/niece connected to their homeland and the beauty of it. On one trip, when the child was only 7, her aunt painted her portrait. It now sits on a shelf in her mother's bedroom. 

Ready to leave, the child thinks back on that time when Auntie Luce painted her. Her mother is sure she was too young to remember it. The child insists she was not; in fact, she remembers every detail of that trip. This is her story of that most memorable time.

She feels the warmth, hears the sounds, sees the brilliant color of the island. She loves to think about her aunt's other remarkable paintings that speak to the vibrant island life, its history, and its heroes. The walls in her aunt's studio are resplendent with artwork that reflects the beauty of the island, the struggle for independence it endured and the joy her aunt finds in representing it through her art. 

"I paint to remember what I've seen and heard
and smelled and felt.  The balconies wrapped
around houses which seem to go on forever,
the fists pounding on neighborhood doors and
sending people into hiding.
To paint Haiti takes the darkest colors and the
brightest ones, and all the colors in between."

As the child sits for that first portrait, she worries that she does not feel a strong connection to being from America or from Haiti. Her dear aunt helps her understand that she is a part of both, though she does not make her home on the island.

The incredible artwork, done in acrylic on illustration board, would make anyone want to take her same winter trip to see, smell, feel and be moved by the extraordinary colors and scenes from the island. The images add depth and context to this celebration of Haiti's history and culture.


 An enlightening author’s note tells readers about the Haitian revolution and the importance of never forgetting the past.

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