Souvenirs and a Sense of Place
Every time I travel I buy books both to commemorate my visit and to learn more about where I've been. I do the same for my kids. I like it so much better than tourist-y trinkets (although I've been known to buy those, too).
For example, earlier this year when my partner and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary in NOLA, we brought home Confederacy of Dunces and Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas for us ... and Hello, New Orleans! for our girls. In San Francisco a few years ago we picked up M. Sasek's classic This is San Francisco. And in St Louis last summer we bought a picture book about the arch. So on and so on.
Now, you and I both know that I could easily buy most of those books on amazon.com from the comforts of my own home if I wanted to. But I like the idea of buying books in the place that they came from or the regions they represent. Partly a romantic notion. But also partly about supporting local economies as I'm typically making these purchases at independent stores.
At any rate, I'm in San Antonio this week and was on the lookout for a "This is San Antonio" kind of book. Maybe a "Hello, San Antonio!" Or an "¡Hola, San Antonio!" perhaps? (I've begun to see several formulaic franchises of city-specific kids books. I don't care as much for those.)
Instead of all that, I found this on the shelf at the Briscoe Western Art Museum.
I was drawn in by the unique, energetic illustration style. The circle motif. The vibrancy. And the tenderness. The granddaughter and grandfather together. And I got a lump in my throat on the last page. So I bought it.
The salesman told me that the author and illustrator are both San Antonio natives. So I re-read the book and stopped this time on the last page to read the "Dear Reader" post script from author Xelena González. And I realized that this book is as much about San Antonio as any funny little rhyming site-seeing book. It represents an essential quality of the region that comes through very clearly. The family traditions, their connections to each other, to the earth, as well as to their past and future. And the historical context that González provides at the end solidifies this sense of place.
This is a great way to share part of my trip with my girls. I hope they like it. (And the many other picture books I'm bringing home! More on the Children's Literature Association conference in my next post.)