All Around Us
Reviewed by Emmy Gay
By Xelena González, illustrated by Adriana M. Garcia. Cinco Puntos Press, 2017. 32 pages. $17.95/hardcover or eBook. Recommended for ages 3–7.Buy from QuakerBooks
I read All Around Us to the children in our First-day school (ages four through eight) at Brooklyn (N.Y.) Meeting. They said they liked the colors and the words. In All Around Us each page is a mural filled with color and words about family, circles, and what we cannot see. Xelena González uses dialogue to tell the story of a Mexican American grandfather teaching his granddaughter about circles in the world around them. He points out the parts you can see and the parts you cannot. Between them, the reader experiences the knowledge of one generation being passed on to the next.
The story is a poem, a prayer, and an affirmation of life. The story encourages the reader to imagine what we are not able to see. It is also a book about math pointing out the repetition of circles in our human experience.
After reading the book with the First-day school class, we looked around the room, and the children were able to point out circles they had not seen before. The reader is supported in seeing and imagining the circles all around us in Adriana Garcia’s magical illustrations. An accomplished muralist, Garcia transports the reader to a world of whirling images. Each page is an explosion of colors.
The author and illustrator expertly take us through indigenous memory and experiences. We learn in the simplest way about the characters’ native traditions for growing food, childbirth, death, and the life cycle. In All Around Us, the words are powerful, and the reader discovers something new every time the illustrations are examined. All Around Us is one of those rare books that children will want to read again and again, and adults will be happy to accommodate.