cover image DREAM CARVER


Diana Cohn, , illus. by Amy Córdova. . Chronicle, $15.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-8118-1244-3

Inspired by the life of renowned Oaxacan woodcarver Manuel Jiménez, newcomer Cohn and Córdova (My Land Sings) tell of Mateo, a young woodcarver who bravely breaks with a generations-old artistic tradition. The subsistence farmers of the boy's village are known for their juguetes, tiny carvings of wooden animals "so small they could fit in the palm of a hand," carved by men and boys, and painted in fiesta-bright colors by women and girls. But Mateo dreams of carving life-size animals, with surfaces that tingle with vibrant, improbable colors and surreal patterns. "I see animals so big and bright that I will need to carve them with a machete!" he tells his disapproving father. When Mateo ultimately produces a glorious wooden menagerie—including a quetzal with majestic feathers—he wins over not only Papa, but the entire village, and a new way of carving is born. Cohn captures the boy's pursuit with straightforward eloquence, whether describing a child's heady experience of a fiesta or articulating the imaginative forces that set apart and drive a true artist. Córdova chronicles Mateo's artistic development in radiant, double-spread tableaux, setting off the text with festive decorative borders. She borrows the highly stylized characterizations and flattened perspectives typical of Mexican folk art, but she animates the compositions with big, bold shapes and electric, saturated colors. A fitting tribute to the energy and power of an artist's distinctive vision. Ages 4-8. (June)