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Mariana and the Merchild: A Folk Tale From Chile [Hardcover]

Caroline Pitcher , Jackie Morris

List Price: CDN$ 21.50
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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Pitcher and Morris (previously paired for The Time of the Lion) turn to Chilean folklore for this atmospheric story. After a storm, lonely, old Mariana discovers a baby enclosed in a crab shell that has washed up on the beach. The child is a merbaby, and her mother, a resplendent sea spirit ("...tall as a mast. Her hair flamed red and her skin shone as if polished by the sun with mother-of-pearl"). The mother asks Mariana to keep the child, just until the seas calm. Morris's style evokes both the solidity of indigenous art, with heavy, low-to-the-ground characters, and ethereal, fairy-tale illustration, as in the delicate colorations of the merbaby's red tail. Flowing watercolors picture an ocean both bountiful and violent, and lyrically import Pitcher's imagery of sea-wolves that crest upon turbulent waves. Closely framed compositions allow Mariana to dominate most spreads, subtly conveying her initial loneliness and later suggesting her joy in the red-haired merbaby--and her pain when she must surrender the child. Half-page and three-quarter-page illustrations face occasional textile-like borders, finely wrought spot art and narrow vignettes, creating a visual rhythm that mimics the ebb and flow of the sea. Matched with Pitcher's sparkling descriptions (e.g., Mariana's fire "spangles [the merchild's] tail with pink and vermilion"), the art conjures a folkloric world, where nature is no less mysterious than magic. All ages. (Mar..-- tail with pink and vermilion"), the art conjures a folkloric world, where nature is no less mysterious than magic. All ages. (Mar.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Grade 1-4-Old Mariana lives alone in her ramshackle hut on the beach. During the day, longing for companionship, she tries to befriend the village children who tease her behind her back. At night, she hides in her hut, afraid of the sea-wolves that come out to hunt when storms set in. One morning after a vicious storm, Mariana finds a large crab, which splits in two to reveal a Merbaby. Mariana wants to keep the child, and her wish is granted when the infant's mother, a Sea Spirit, asks the old woman to look after her "until the seas lie calm" and it is safe to take her home. As they watch Mariana and her charge laugh and play, the village children overcome their fears, and when the Merchild finally leaves, they comfort the grieving Mariana. At times the language sounds forced, making the rhythm choppy when read aloud. However, Morris's dramatic paintings, done in reds, blues, and greens, make the story come alive. The subtle details in the borders, the clothing designs, and the household interiors provide a sense of setting and time. The realistic portrayal of the people adds to the tale's magic. While not an essential purchase, libraries looking for Latino folktales or stories about merfolk would do well with this one.
Tali Balas, Ethical Culture Fieldston School, New York City
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

The sea washes ashore a mythical child in this retelling of a Chilean folktale. Mariana lives alone on the beach, gathering food and fuel from the ocean. A storm tosses up a shell, which breaks open to reveal an infant mermaid. Mariana leaves the child in the shoals for the "sea spirit" mother, who rolls in on a wave and asks Mariana to care for her daughter until she is old enough to withstand the dangers of sea life. Mariana raises the girl and, in the process, befriends the village children who had always avoided her. Eventually the merchild matures and must go back to her mother, returning often to bring Mariana gifts from the sea. Although the story has a stilted quality, it is made more dynamic by prose filled with glistening visual descriptions and gorgeous watercolor illustrations. Subtle, visceral spreads capture the salt spray and the power of the sea, bringing characters to life in luminous detail that will draw young readers back into the tale. Full-page art matched with insets make this a good choice for both story hours and lap sharing. Gillian Engberg

From Kirkus Reviews

A resonant, evocative tale about a lonely woman and the child of the sea who becomes her dearest companion. Mariana, an old woman, lives by the sea that is a mother to her, providing her with food for the table, driftwood for her fire, and music for her soul. But she is lonely, for the village children mock her and run away. One day after a wild storm when the sea-wolves prowl, she finds a crab shell; within it is a tiny merchild, with pearly skin and hair ``the color of the setting sun.'' Mariana, at the advice of the Wise Woman, places the merbaby where her mother, the Sea Spirit, can see she is safe; every day the Sea Spirit comes to feed her daughter and to teach her. Mariana cares for her the rest of the time, even though she knows the merchild must eventually return to the sea. The village children come to play with the merchild, and warm to Mariana. When the merchild does finally rejoin her mother, she returns daily to Mariana with gifts and greetings. Conveyed in the emotionally rich telling are the rhythm of waves, filial devotion, the loving care of children, and the knowledge of beasts. The beautiful illustrations are full of the laps and curves of the ocean, the brilliant colors of sea and sky, and the gorgeous reds and dusky browns of fabric, interiors, skin tones, and shells. (Picture book/folklore. 4-8) -- Copyright ©2000, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From the Publisher

A memorable story of unconditional love, this poetic retelling of a traditional South American folk tale beautifully conveys the joy that may come if you open your heart to what you cannot keep.
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