Monday, July 2, 2007

Module 3: The Rainbow Tulip

Mora, Pat. 1999. The Rainbow Tulip. Illustrated by Elizabeth Sayles. New York, NY: Viking. ISBN 0670872911.

Plot Summary
Estelita is a first grade girl who is different from her classmates. Her parents are from Mexico and do not speak English. Estelita's mother is quiet and wears long dresses and no makeup. Estelita loves colors and wants to have all of the spring colors in her May parade tulip costume. She is proud of her costume until she goes to school and sees that she if different. Estelita worries about being the only rainbow tulip, but when she weaves the Maypole with her classmates she concentrates on doing a good job so that everyone will be proud of her. She realizes that although being different is hard, it can be positive.

Critical Analysis
Estelita is the narrator of the story. She says that her parents are from Mexico and do not speak English. Estelita and her brothers speak Spanish at home and English at school. Spanish words are incorporated into the text and are usually translated within the same sentence. Sometimes Spanish words are used with the expectation that they are understood. An example of both of these situations occurs on the first page with the sentence, "My father gives us an abrazo, a hug, and says, "Buenos dias, hijos."" Many of the words and phrases are used more than once so the translation is only provided the first time the word or phrase appears in the story.

Only a few characters are referred to by name. Estelita says that she is called Estelita at home and Stella at school. When she speaks about her parents Estelita calls them mother and father, but when she speaks to them directly she calls them mama and papa. Both Estelita and her mother refer to her aunt as Tia Carmen.

Only two foods are mentioned, cod liver oil and lime sherbet, and they do not necessarily reflect Mexican-American culture. Estelita is given a spoonful of cod liver oil every morning since her mother thinks she is too thin. Estelita enjoys eating lime sherbet as a snack. It is described as being sweet and sour, and Estelita's mother compares sherbet with being different since it too is both sweet and sour.

The illustrations in The Rainbow Tulip use soft colors and lines. Estelita and her family are portrayed with a light, natural skin tone and dark brown hair. The pictures of the mother fit her description from the text. "She does not wear makeup. Her hair is tied in a bun, and her dresses are long. My mother does not wear colors that sing and dance. My mother like to wear black, brown, gray, sometimes light blue." Estelita is not shown in the same formal manner as her mother. She wears blue and pink dresses that only go down to her knees and she wears her hair down.

Nothing in the illustrations of the house or other areas represent Mexican-American culture. Bowls that look ceramic with various designs are included, but these can be used by any culture. The illustrations do hint at a place and an earlier time period, though. The outsides of the buildings indicate that the story is probably taking place in the southwest. In one picture there is a dirt road and a car from the early 1900s. In another there is a sewing machine in the background that operates with a foot pedal. In the author's note the reader learns that the story is based on something that really happened to Mora's mother when she was a child in El Paso, Texas in the 1920s, so the illustrations do match the story.

Review Excerpts
"The scenarios in words and soft-toned pictures show the warm, loving family and also the fun and success at school. At first, the child is ashamed of her quiet, old-fashioned mother, but her parents keep a piece of Mexico at home, and Estelita/Stella comes to value her dual heritage, even though it is hard to be different." -Booklist

"Based on a story from the author's mother's childhood, and perfectly extended by soft, warm pastel drawings framed in white, this tale of family love and support crosses cultural boundaries and may remind youngsters of times when their families made all the difference." -School Library Journal

Use Rainbow Tulip for story time when the theme is spring. Read it with Did You Hear Wind Sing Your Name?: An Oneida Song of Spring by Sandra De Coteau Orie, Long-Long's New Year! A Story about the Chinese Spring Festival by Catherine Gower, and Skunk's Spring Surprise by Leslea Newman. Before each story share a poem from the book Laughing Tomatoes and Other Spring Poems by Francisco Alarcon. For the craft have children make a May Day crown or pole. Instructions and templates for these crafts are available at

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