Sunday night we returned from a two-week trip along the Pyrenees Mountains in France, Andorra, and Spain and while in Barcelona, I purchased a remarkable picture book. It is by author Fran Pintadera, who is from Gran Canaria, one of the Spanish Canary Islands off the coast of Africa, and illustrator Ana Sender from Barcelona.
¿Por Qué Lloremos? (Why Do We Cry?) uses poetic imagery in both words and art to show a deeply human interaction between a little boy and his mother.
A thoughtful, quiet Mario asks his mother the question he has been pondering. Her responses form a list of reasons both open ended and deep. The illustrations show a young version of the mother, so she is sharing with Mario her own perspective and wisdom gained through living, using metaphors like the storm clouds we are when we are filled with rage and like those clouds we must unload in order to feel better, or the sea that we are who cannot avoid the tempest, but after the storm the sea makes drawings on the shore.
The story does not shy away from some of the harsher reasons one would cry. Sometimes the sadness is too big for our bodies; or we don’t understand the world, so our tears help us search for answers; or because all the painful blows outside our bodies or inside need the balm of tears.
Throughout, the feeling is that we all cry sometimes, for good reason, and that this is natural and helps us heal. Without the ability to cry we might turn to stone. Tears help us heal and grow and are balm for emotional wounds. Pintadera’s origins in poetry suffuse the simple text with poignant richness and Ana Sender’s visual metaphors, delicate use of warm and cool color, and inclusion of imaginary animals – perhaps pictograms of our emotions – lend this book its special beauty.
The final pages show the boy strongly embrace his mother, kiss her on the nose and tell her she is the best mother in the world. And then he asks why she is crying. She answers that it is because she is happy, yet another reason for tears.
On the last spread is a page of scientific analysis of tears and crying as notes for readers, including the benefits of crying. That is followed by suggestions for discussion about this emotional topic.
In Barcelona at the end of our journey my husband, daughter, son-in-law, and I waited at a fine restaurant for a special guest. Natalia, who is from Madrid, had been an exchange student for a year at our home when our daughter was in high school. Melody and Natalia had been in touch, but had not seen one another for twenty-six years. When Natalia arrived, all of us were like clouds filled too full with leaking emotion. Our gracious waiter provided tissues for all.
¿Por Qué Lloremos?
Fran Pintadera, author
Ana Sender, illustrator
Akiara Books, Barcelona