2020 has certainly brought with it many challenges–a global pandemic, many natural disasters, and the loss of more Black and Brown lives to police brutality just to name a few. We, (Patricia in Caguas, Puerto Rico, and Dorea in Tucson, Arizona struggled to come up with a theme that could even possibly begin to touch on all that we are currently experiencing. As we shared stories of what was happening in each of our home contexts, we recognized that while specific events are tied to 2020, the bigger context and varied emotions that accompany each of these are not unique to this year and have, in fact, been part of our worlds for a long time. This month, we turn our attention to four picture books, Why Do We Cry?, Small Things, Rabbit and the Motorbike and Rabbit Listened, that explore emotions not as simple categories such as “happy” and “sad” that can be easily remedied but rather, as complex and dynamic, with no single road map with which to experience them.
DOREA: In Why Do We Cry? young Mario poses this simple question to his mother. While we are accustomed to reasons such as “sadness” and “hurt”, his mother responds with many answers, all of which capture the multitude and range of emotions–frustration, anger, loneliness, confusion and happiness–that can produce tears. Author Fran Pintadera offers rich descriptions with her words, descriptions that open the space for all readers to find connection:
“Often we cry when we run into a wall.
When that happens, we don’t cry because we’re hurt,
But because the wall seems impossible to climb.
For me, as the semester gets underway in a new-to-me virtual setting, I have faced many seemingly impossible to climb walls as I navigate new technologies, teaching in new modalities, new parenting and homeschooling challenges, rising Co-Vid 19 numbers among my students and so many unknowns still lurking. Patricia, as you read these pages, I’m wondering which reason you most connected with and why?
PATRICIA: This reading evoked in me reflection on the emotions that I have lately experienced and reaffirmation of the importance of vulnerability. The author Fran Pintadera simultaneously exemplifies that emotions go along with actions. For example, the importance of voicing emotions that make us look deeper at the world and ourselves. This is precisely what the book invites the reader to do. It is interesting how the story unfolds through the child’s and adult perspective. Curiosity is an important element, also. Young Mario uses the question to make sense of his world.
DOREA: Patricia, your point about vulnerability is such an important one. While this book is told through a conversation between the mother and her child, the illustrations that illuminate each possible reason for crying show the mother as a young child. To me, it feels as if the mother is tapping into the vulnerability of childhood to remind us that while the specific reasons for these tears may shift and change, the emotions still accompany us into and through our adult lives. At the end of the story, Mario notices his mother is crying. In this small act–of allowing her child to see her tears–she bestows what I see as the greatest gift: normalizing the act of crying, even when we don’t know why we are.
Title: Why Do We Cry?
Author: Fran Pintadera
Illustrator: Ana Sender
Publisher: Kids Can Press
PubDate: April 7, 2020
Throughout October 2020, Dorea Kleker and Patricia Castrodad give their takes on picturebooks that contain a theme of Emotions. Check back each Wednesday to follow the conversation!