When I think of the hundreds of years of colonial oppression of indigenous cultures around the world, I wonder how some cultures still survive. And then I read a story like Child of the Flower-Song People, and I realize that those cultures, or the knowledge contained within those cultures, still exist because of individuals who understood the importance of their culture and took steps to preserve or promulgate it.
Such is the case with Luz Jiménez.
A girl stared at the stars sprinkling the hammock of the sky.
Like many other nights she listened to the
whisperings of ancient Aztecs in the wind.
She learned their xochicuicatl (shos-chee-KWEE-kah-tul), their flower song….
She was Luz Jiménez,
child of the flower-song people,
the powerful Aztecs,
who called themselves Nahua—
who lost their land, but who did not disappear.
We see Luz as a child, learning the ways of the Nahua.
…learning the stories.
We hear how she longs to become a teacher within her own culture, but is forced to assimilate instead. At one point, she’s displaced by the Mexican revolution (her father is killed as she, her mother, and sisters escape) and takes a job posing for artists like Diego Rivera and Fernando Leal, artists who are interested in her culture, not the culture of her oppressors.
As a result, Luz becomes a bridge to the past, keeping the ways of the Nahua culture and its language and stories alive despite those who would prefer that her culture be erased.
This is a lyrically written and thoughtful story of a strong indigenous woman who dreamed of being a teacher of children, but who instead became a teacher of anthropologists and artists, those who knew the value of all the knowledge she offered. Amescua’s extended flower metaphor is woven throughout the text, creating powerful images that are echoed or magnified by the illustrations.
Tonatiuh’s illustrations create a visual sense of a lost culture reclaimed, and also add another layer of poetry to the lyricism of the text and the flower-song of the Nahua. Images of the breath of stories and of life repeat throughout along with those of flowers. It is such a perfect pairing of art and text!
I usually wait until a book is released to sing its praises, but Gloria Amescua will be presenting this book at Kidquake this year, and once I took a peek at the copies we have to give away to a handful of classroom lottery winners, I couldn’t contain my enthusiasm. So you’ll have to wait for its release date, August, 17, 2021. Pre-order your copy now!!
Think about your family’s culture. What stories would be/or have been passed down for generations? What things do you do or have in your house that reflect your family’s culture? Make a “culture box” that reflects you and your culture(s). Here’s an example of one teacher‘s process.
Check out the additional resources for this book on Gloria Amescua’s website.
Pair this book with Separate is Never Equal by Duncan Tonatiuh. How are these books different? How are they similar?
Title: Child of the Flower-Song People: Luz Jiménez, Daughter of the Nahua
Author: Gloria Amescua
Illustrator: Duncan Tonatiuh
Publisher: Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2021
Ages: Elementary School+
Themes: Aztec (Nahua) culture, poetry, resistance to oppression
For more perfect picture book recommendations, please visit Susanna Hill’s website.