Saturday, April 17, 2010

Gugu's House - Catherine Stock

Clarion Books, 2001
$14.00 (probably more, now)
32 pages
For: kids, cool book
Endpapers: Black and white African designs covering the entire pages

Set in Zimbabwe, Catherine Stock tells the story of a real-life woman that she has known for many years, Mrs. Kosa. She changes the story, now told from the point-of-view of a granddaughter visiting her grandmother.

We first encounter beautifully-designed endpapaers, elegant black/gray and white designs. The two-page title shows a bus traveling through the Zimbabwe landscape, brown scrub with mountains on the horizon. The next two-page spread begins the story, of Kukamba folliwing Gugu home, suitcases on their heads. And then we see Gugu's home - a rambling house/compound decorated with brightly-painted mud and dung sculpted animals, walls painted black and blue and green with amazing African designs. We spend time with the two of them, learning how to create the paints, shape new animals, paint designs wherever they please. But at night when the men come home from their undernourished cattle and the women come home from thei wilting crops, spirits are low. Gugu tells stories to cheer everyone up.

And then the rains come. They pour down for days, finally nourishing the fields and animals. However, Gugu's home has become a muddy brown mess, all the colors and sculptures washed away. Gugu takes Kukamba out to see the wildflowers and growth that have appeared because of the rain. And they are able to begin again decorating Gugu's house in any way they desire.

This has messages for kids and messages for people like me. Live in your home the way you desire. Decorate for yourself, not for others. Create beauty around you that is YOUR kind of beautfy. Don't be afraid. Go for it. Although I wish I could build mud and dung walls around my property wherever I wanted! Don't think that'd be possible here....not to many dung piles handy.....

This is a great introduction to African designs. Time to discover more of Catherine Stock.....

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