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Elsina's Clouds Hardcover – April 1, 2004
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It's been so long since it's rained, young Elsina can't even remember what rain is like: "BLUE. Only blue and the sun. Another day without clouds. I can't remember clouds." Her family needs the rain desperately, as her mother's crop has died and her father's goats are starving. As we learn in a two-line introduction to this small, square book, the Basotho women of southern Africa decorate the outside walls of their houses in hopes that their ancestors will send rain. Elsina dreams of the pictures she will paint on the house someday, and when Papa adds a room to the house to make room for a new baby, she finally gets to paint her first wall. She paints all day, and even dreams about painting at night: "I see the far-off mountain./ I see the sweet sorghum./ I see the spiny spiderweb." Weeks pass without rain, until, finally, "Plop!" and then "SPLAAASH!" Mama tells Elsina that the ancestors heard her prayers. The cycle continues every season... and the ancestors listen. Children will appreciate the fact that Elsina is not only allowed to express herself creatively through her paintings, but also to make a contribution to the family. Jeanette Winter's clean, colorful illustrations are framed by geometric borders, echoing traditional African designs. (Ages 5 to 8) --Karin Snelson
From School Library Journal
PreSchool-Grade 3-An author's note explains that the Basotho women of southern Africa decorate the outside of their homes with designs that serve as prayers to their ancestors for rain. As this story begins, the weather has been dry for so long that young Elsina cannot even remember clouds. "Mama's field has died" and "Papa's goats starve." The girl asks when she can try painting, and her mother tells her, "When the rains come and wash away my designs, Elsina. Then you can paint the walls." Then Papa builds an addition onto the house for the new baby Mama is expecting, and Elsina is allowed to decorate the new walls. Finally, the ancestors hear their prayers and it begins to rain, washing away all of the designs. When the rain stops, the girl once again adorns the addition with pictures. With its universal theme of waiting and its bright colors and geometric patterns, this heartwarming book is reminiscent of Winter's My Baby (Farrar, 2001). The artwork is simple and sweet. Each illustration is contained within a square and bordered by a typical African geometric design. The text is placed within colorful dialogue bubbles and rectangles. Pair this offering with similar titles that provide glimpses into different cultures and climates, including Uma Krishnaswami's Monsoon (Farrar, 2003), Katrina Germein's Big Rain Coming (Clarion, 2000), and Karen Hesse's Come on, Rain! (Scholastic, 1999).-Mary N. Oluonye, Shaker Heights Public Library, OH
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