Maya’s Blanket / La Manta de Maya

author: Monica Brown
translator: Adriana Domínguez 
illustrator: David Díaz 
Children’s Book Press / Lee & Low, 2015 
kindergarten-grade 4

In the old Yiddish tale I know, a poor tailor finally saves enough to buy some cloth to cut and sew into an overcoat. As decades pass, his coat wears out, so he cuts and sews what’s left variously into a jacket, a vest, a cap, a button and finally—a story. In the song, “Epes fun gornisht,” the refrain is “Makhn vir epes fun gornisht azai,” “That’s how we make something from nothing,” and in the end, he makes a song. The unstated teaching is about poverty, thrift, repurposing, determination, and perseverance.

Although Maya’s Blanket / La Manta de Maya contains some elements of the traditional Yiddish story—involving the recreation of an item into one that becomes smaller and smaller until nothing is left—its characters, scenarios, particular rhythmic pattern and cumulative word structure are Brown’s own. Here, Abuelita sews a blanket, imbued with a touch of magic, for baby Maya. As young Maya matures, she and Abuelita cut and sew what’s left of the blanket into other creations, all with a touch of magic: a dress, then a skirt, then a shawl, then a scarf, then a hair ribbon, and finally a bookmark, which Maya eventually loses. Coming full circle, she creates a picture book called Maya’s Blanket, exactly like the one young readers hold in their hands.

In her cumulative word structure, Brown incorporates the Spanish term in italics for each creation and the English translation for the last on the list: “So with her own two hands and Abuelita’s help, Maya made her bufanda that was her rebozo that was her falda that was her vestido that was her manta into a cinta that she loved very much. Maya wore the ribbon tied around her long, brown hair…”

Domínguez’s Spanish translation is idiomatic and reads naturally. As she did with Brown’s Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match / Marisol McDonald no combina, I would like to have seen the Spanish terms on the English side flipped into English on the Spanish side, like this: “Así que, con sus propias manos y la ayuda de Abuelita, Maya convertió su scarf que había sido su shawl, que había sido su skirt, que había sido su dress, que había sido su blanket, en una ribbon que quería mucho. Maya usó la cinta mágica para recogerse el largo pelo castaño…”

Young readers and listeners will enjoy the entirety of this warm little story. Maya’s Blanket / La Manta de Maya is recommended.

—Beverly Slapin
 (published 9/24/15; paragraph redacted and note added 2/15/18)

Note, 2/15/18: Multiple women have come forward with public statements that David Díaz sexually harassed them. After investigating claims against Díaz, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) removed him from its board and conference faculty, and expelled him from the organization. Several other conferences have banned him as well. We have redacted our references to his art in this review.

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