Have You Seen Marie?
By Sandra Cisneros, Illustrations by Ester Hernandez
Recommended by: Rose Reissman, Ditmas IS 62 Literacy Support, United Federation of Teachers
Suitable for: Grades 4-12, ESL
Why I chose this book: This book boasts a cover design of moon, water and nature - all elements that led me to it. At just over 100 pages, it is a rich mixture of text and gripping poetic illustrations in watercolor, pen and ink and pastels by Ester Hernandez. The book includes Spanish language cultural expressions in a fable of a search for a lost cat. It covers deep universal themes of loss, grief and renewal. This literary treasure is accessible for students of all cultures.
What I like best: In this adult fable, Cisneros searches not only for Marie the cat, a loved being, but for her mother, who died a few months before - leaving her, as an adult, dreadfully adrift in pain. The search for Marie forces her to get out of her house, interact with her neighbors, commiserate with those who have also suffered losses, and ultimately learn that a part of her mother resides in the San Antonio pure spirit of the river, trees, wind and flowers. This short work is deep in life lessons, literacy layers and spirit.
How teachers can use this book: This book is extremely accessible for a broad spectrum of student learners. Readers from grades 4-6 can focus on the vocabulary and geographic neighborhood details to create a similar walk-through with sketches of their own neighborhood. All students can use this work to write memoirs about the loss of a pet or a special individual's death. They can compare and contrast the author's way of dealing with death and loss and her search for the cat with their own experiences.
About the author: Sandra Cisneros, www.sandracisneros.com, is the author of the best-selling The House on Mango Street and Carmelo. She also founded the Macondo Foundation which hosts an annual writing workshop and gives awards to writers in need. Ester Hernandez is a visual artist; see her work at www.esterhernandez.com.
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