Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Layers of Meaning

When I visit schools, I like to point out to students how many layers of meaning that kid’s books sometimes have. Art, whatever the genre, often references outside sources and imagery to add another dimension of meaning. In the book GRANDMOTHER HAVE THE ANGELS COME? Written by Denise Vega, the text shows a grandmother reassuring her granddaughter about the aging process. When I’d received the manuscript the line that stood out most for me was just after the child has asked the grandmother if the angels have come and covered her ears. “Yes, my darling granddaughter they have quieted the sounds so I may hear even the sigh of a butterfly.” For me, and in most cultures, the butterfly symbolizes rebirth. I’d known that in Mexico, the butterfly is often referenced in celebrations of as the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the dead). They are seen as a symbolic of departed loved ones souls. The famous monarch migration to Mexico is at about the same time as the holiday. I thought all these references tied in very nicely with Denise’s text, and was in line with my interpretation of her story. I set the book during the migrations and added butterflies to every spread, hoping to emphasize the imagery; it also has the added bonus of and giving children something to look for in each spread. For me these layers of meaning are important. Kids do pick them up, even if only subconsciously, often faster than the adults reading to them.

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