Thursday, July 5, 2012


Zubizarreta, Rosalma. The Woman Who Outshone The Sun. Illustrated by Fernando Oliveria. San Francisco: Children’s Book Press, 1991. ISBN# 0-89239-101-4. $13.95.

See another review of The Woman Who Outshone the Sun on this site here.

This book is about a beautiful young woman named Lucia Zenteno who appears at a village and the villagers are amazed at her. Her long hair outshines the sun, and she is mysterious to the villagers. Every time Lucia goes to the river to bathe, the water and the fishes in it begin to flow through her hair. When she finishes bathing, she combs her hair and the water and the fishes in it return to the river.

Some of the villagers are afraid of Lucia's powers, and they begin to mistreat her, ultimately driving her from the village. Lucia goes to say goodbye to the river before leaving. The water and the fishes flow into her hair again, but this time they won’t return to the river. When Lucia leaves the village, a dry riverbed is left behind. The villagers no longer receive the beauty of nature and they experience a drought. They realize that the river had loved Lucia and the only way to get it back is to search for Lucia and ask for her forgiveness. The villagers find Lucia and seek her mercy. She tells the villagers that just like the river gives water to everyone, they must learn to treat everyone with kindness, even those who are different. Lucia returns to the village, the water and animals return to the river, and the villagers are happy again. Lucia disappears but is not gone; the elders explain that although Lucia can’t be seen, she guides and protects them. She helps them to live with love and understanding in their hearts.

Other information:
This book is a fiction children’s picture book, retold from a Mexican folktale. This book would be ideal for students learning about folktales from other cultures. The book is also written in both Spanish and English, perfect to use in bilingual classrooms and even in bilingual instruction.

For language learners, this book could be used to introduce vocabulary. The translation is accurate; both languages portray the same tone and story. The colorful illustrations go along very well with the story. The font size and format is clear. One of the morals children can take from this tale is to treat everyone, even those who are different from themselves, with kindness. A second moral is that people should live with love and understanding in their hearts. A third moral is that one shouldn’t take for granted the nature that surrounds them. I highly recommend this book; it is enjoyable to read and the morals that it portrays are valuable.

Reviewed by Diana Derner

This review is part of the Special Section: Books in Spanish, featuring a collaboration with Policy and Language Studies students at San Diego State University. Read more about it here.

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