In this beautifully conceived and executed collection, author Maria Paz Eleizegui Weir has combined
Mahala Urra's colorful cartoon pictures with bilingual adages remembered from her childhood. Her Fillipina grandmother “sincerely believed that
dichos, with their unique blend of sound and sense, delivered important lessons of useful and last value.”
The charm of this book is in the multi-layering. Wrapped around the sayings that the author recollects from her childhood in Manilla with her
abuelita (dear little grandmother) is a brief story of those early years when, for reasons unknown, she was taken to live with her grandmother. That idyll came to an end when Weir got a scholarship to a school in the United States. Her
abuelita packed her a box with handkerchiefs, a sewing kit, and a jar of mentholatum, as though she were going to a dangerous, primitive place. In between these memories are the
dichos (sayings) Weir heard often from her cautious, wise, and at times rather romantic elder. Each saying, written in Spanish and in English, occupies a page and is accompanied with an instructive, sometimes amusing, drawing by Mahala Urra, a film artist here presenting her first book of illustrations. The sayings are divided into six categories: Youth, Friendship, Manners, Work and Strife, Wisdom, Love, and Destiny.
Many of these proverbs will be familiar to English/American readers: Escoba nueva barre bien (A new broom sweeps better);
En boca cerrada no entran moscas (Flies do not enter a closed mouth); No todo lo que brilla es oro (Not everything that shines is gold). Others speak of distinctly Old World cultural values:
Casamiento y mortaja del cielo baja (Marriage and death come from heaven);
Del árbol caído todos hacen leña (Everyone makes firewood out of a fallen tree);
Camarón que se duerme acaba en la paella (A sleeping shrimp ends up in a dish of paella). Some, like our own “old sayings” actually originate from Biblical, Shakespearian, or other written sources:
El favor recibido debe ser correspondido (A favor received should be repaid);
El que presta a un amigo, pierde el dinero y pierde el amigo (Loan money to a friend, and you may lose your money as well as your friend).
Weir’s book has many uses; a grandmother born outside the US may wish to share it with her bilingual
nietas (granddaughters). Parents may see it as a good way to reinforce Spanish being taught in school. The pictures make it attractive to young children, but geared to teens,
Lo Que Mi Abuela me Dijo would be suitable for older girls as well. Adults will read the book to learn both Spanish and folklore, or to grasp a foreign
(but readily accessible) cultural overview before a trip abroad.
This grandmother thanks Weir and Urra for the perfect gift for her granddaughters—a book of timeless hints about life that grannies think modern children ought to know.