Monday, April 11, 2011

Song of the Swallows by Leo Politi

This multicultural book is a great book for young children getting introduced to Spanish Culture. Although the author and illustrator, Leo Politi, predominately grew up in Italy but at the age of 22 he left for California. On his way he stopped by the Panama Canal and was exposed to Central America. He began drawing at a very young age, he attended the National Arts Institute on a six-year scholarship, and then used this knowledged to begin sketching what he saw in Central America. This is where is began coming up with his stories.

Leo Politi took a real tradition, St Joseph's Day - March 19th, and created a story for children to enjoy.

Juan is a young boy who lives in in the small village of Capistrano, located in California at the foot of the low and soft hills near the sea. Juan had a good friend, an older gentlemen, named Julian. Julian was in charge of ringing the bell for the Mission. Julian told Juan the story of the Mission many times, but Juan listened like it was the first each time he heard it.
"Long, long ago the good brothers of Saint Francis came to this country from across the sea. Father Junipero Serra and the brothers walked along the wild trail through the wilderness. With the help of the Indians they built many mission churches. The Missions were like villages. There the Indians learned to make shoes and harness, blankets and hats, tools and pottery - many of the things they needed in their daily life."

Juan loved watching the birds throughout the Mission but was especially interested in the swallows. Julian told Juan of how and when the swallows come and when they leave each year. He told them that they come each spring on Saint Joseph's Day and they leave each summer. Each time they arrived Juan loved to watch the birds lay their eggs, hatch them, and then teach them to fly. And each time they left he was so sad that he had to wait till the following year to see them again. He thought that if he made a little place at his own home where the swallows could come that was comfortable for the Whole year than they wouldn't leave and he could enjoy them year round.

So, that is what he did! The celebration of Saint Joseph's Day came and Juan anxiously awaited the swallows arrival. They came! And when he went home he discovered that a few had made themselves a new home right where Juan could watch them each day.

I was excited to learn that Saint Joseph's Day was an actual event. And then there is an actual event when they leave called "Jewel of All Missions," on October 23rd.

My father had Purple Martin houses in the backyard when I was growing up. We watched these birds nest each year, much like the swallows. I understood Juan's interest in the birds because we were just as excited year after year watching the bird homes fill up each year.

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