Ode to an Onion: Pablo Neruda & his Muse, by Alexandria Giardino, illustrated by Felicita Sala

Ode to an Onion: Pablo Neruda & his Muse
Written by Alexandria Giardino,
 illustrated by Felicita Sala
Review Copy from Abrams Kids
Story: Giardino's book about a gifted poet and the source of his inspiration, as well as the way that his relationship with another person provided both emotional and creative support, is written in a wonderfully cheerful, straightforward way that will engage young listeners/readers immediately. Hard at work on a poem, Pablo pulls himself away from his work to have lunch with his friend, despite his gloomy mood. He tries to hide his mood with a bouquet of poppies, but his friend with a "smile as wide as a guitar" senses his mood. Matilde leads Pablo into the garden to gather the ingredients for lunch, introducing him to the unlikely symbiotic relationship plants like garlic and roses and peaches and onions share. When Pablo confesses his heart is heavy because he is writing a poem about poor miners who do very hard work, in the dark, underground. While slicing an onion for lunch, thinking of the luminous onion that came "from the dark earth to shine bright like the moon," he thanks Matilde for reminding him that, "even though there is so much sadness in the world, there is so much happiness." Back matter includes a brief biography of Pablo Neruda and folk singer Matilde Urrutia as well as Spanish and an English translation of Neruda's Ode to the Onion.

Illustrations: Sala's illustrations are magnificent! Filled with design and detail, the homes and garden of Pablo and Matilde are so inviting. Pablo is gloomy without being depressing and Matilde is a exuberant ray of light. Her garden is a delight and the natural world finds its way onto all the pages (as do references to Neruda's works) adding a richness to the story. The design of Ode to an Onion: Pablo Neruda & his Muse is perfectly paired with the story and illustrations. Removing the dust jacket reveals an illustration of an onion on a black background on the front; an illustration of a rose on a light background on the back. Open this lovely book and a sheet of transparent onionskin covers the title page, while another page at closes the book.
Why Read? Why Buy?: I can't recall the last picture book I read that did such a spectacular job of presenting the creative process, from the hard, sometimes emotional work to the sources of inspiration and creativity, be they people, places or things. This book is rich with so many important things, from recognizing the hard work of others, to the ways people support and lift up each other and the many ways nature does the same thing. And, for me, best of all, this is also a book about FOOD and Pablo and Matilde's sumptuous lunch appears spread across the table on the final page of the book.

If you are a teacher or librarian, this book is an invaluable resource that does triple duty as a biography, a book about creative inspiration and a book about poetry. I love this book SO MUCH I almost don't want to let my students get their hands on it...

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