Marianthe's Story: Painted Words and Spoken Memories

Aliki, Author, Aliki, Illustrator Greenwillow Books $17.99 (64p) ISBN 978-0-688-15661-9
In perhaps her most personal work to date, Aliki presents two equally moving sides to Marianthe's story, the first as a new arrival to a foreign America, and the second the explanation of why she came. A third-person narrative describes the girl's first days of school; Mari struggles with English until she realizes that art translates to all languages. One day, as Mari prepares to tell her story through her paintings, the sympathetic teacher announces that ""there is more than one way to tell a story. Someday Mari will be able to tell us with words."" Readers then flip the book over to begin the second installment, for which Mari capably uses words to explain her background. Here Mari's first-person narration recounts her early years in the old country, where extended family and community pulled together to grow food and to weather such tragedies as war and famine. Like her character, Aliki spins her tale gracefully in two media, placing words and art in impressive balance, and inventively incorporates a reverse-chronological sequence to fill in the details. Aliki takes an artistic leap, as she paints her characters with a range of extraordinarily expressive faces in close-up portraits, and effectively employs a changeable palette from the dusty grays of troubled past times to the chipper hues of a contemporary classroom. In an America comprised of immigrants, many youngsters facing the same sea changes as Mari will likely find her a stalwart companion, and those with a Mari in their lives may gain a newfound respect for the strength it takes to make the journey. Ages 5-up. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/14/1998
Release date: 09/01/1998
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