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Written by Pat Mora
Illustrated by Raul Colon
Dragonfly Books, 2010
Doña Flor is the story of a giant-sized woman who could. Who could do anything. As a child, Flor's size often made her the brunt of jokes. But, as she gets older, the people of her village come to respect her. Doña Flor is a beautifully poetic story of courage and generosity, of looking at one's weaknesses and seeing how they can become one's strengths. In Doña Flor's case, it is her gargantum size. She takes her ginormousness and plays it up as a strength to help the people of her pueblo. Flor, an expert tortilla maker, makes tortillas for her pueblo's peeps. And they find other uses for the huge ones: "People used the extra ones as roofs. Mmmm, the houses smelled corn-good when the sun was hot. In the summer, the children floated around the pond on tortilla rafts." But her biggest claim to fame is saving her pueblo from the wild mountain lion who roars loudly, wildly around town.
In addition to helping the people of her town, she also helps the animals: "That night, she carried her tired friends, the coyotes and rabbits, back home. But just as she started to tuck them in and read them a good-night story, they all heard, 'Rrrr-oarrr!' The scared animals were shaking and shivering under their sheets. She gave each a giant kiss."
The whole story is filled with lively bilingualisms, mixing English and Spanish together in beautiful mash-ups:
--"Some children laughed at her because she was different. 'Mira! Look Big Foot!'"
--"Children late to school asked, 'Por favor, Flor, could you give us a ride?' She took just one of her giant steps and was at the school door. Of course, the escuela shook and the windows rattled."
--"When Flor finally stopped growing, she built her own house, una casa big as a mountain and open as a canyon."
The story is filled with amazing language and imagery; it positively beams with metaphor, with simile, and even synesthesia: "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 artwork grabs the readers' eyes with pointellist paintings, shining with warm hued earth tones. The combination of incredible text and illustrations makes this story absolutely hum and sing, just like Doña Flor does, just as her mother did: "When Flor's mother sang to her corn plants, they grew tall as trees, and when she sang to her baby, her sweet flower, well, Flor grew and grew, too."
Allie Leach is the Poetry Center's Education Programs Assistant and co-editor of the Wordplay blog.