Margarito's Forest/El bosque de Don Margarito

illus. by Allison Havens. 36p. Hard Ball. Oct. 2016. pap. $12.50. ISBN 9780997979701. BL
Gr 3 Up—A reverence for natural ecological cycles, ancestral heritage, and the importance of environmental preservation are the focus of this bilingual biography of Don Margarito Esteban Álvarez Velázquez, or Margarito. Told from the perspective of his daughter, Doña María Guadalupe, the story is set in Saq Ja', Guatemala, and is, in part, a retelling of the Mayan cosmovision of paying tribute to one's ancestral past by loving the earth. Margarito, who devoted his life to planting trees as a way to honor his family and to bestow a gift upon future generations, steadfastly plants more trees instead of giving in to pressure to use the land to grow crops. But when Guatemala is torn apart by genocide and widespread deforestation beginning in 1954, Margarito's forest is destroyed. Worse, Mayan villagers are killed or displaced, including Margarito himself, who dies during the unrest. But his daughter is able to return to the village to restore the forest herself and resettle the surviving indigenous villagers. She continues to plant trees to this day and aids in the education of a new generation of villagers there. Mixed-media illustrations capture the story's cultural essence and are a combination of original drawings, paintings, photography, traditional Guatemalan textiles, and artwork made by children at the Saq Ja' Elementary School. Readers and educators will benefit from thoughtful discussion questions and a study guide.
VERDICT A timely addition to any children's collection, this colorful bilingual biography is as poignant as it is relevant, and will serve as a critical conversation starter for young, eco-conscious minds.

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