Pura Belpré Honor author Laekan Zea Kemp (Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet) offers a sweet ode to the special bond between grandmother and grandchild in A Crown for Corina, her first picture book.
Corina is celebrating her birthday in Abuela’s garden, where her grandmother helps her select meaningful blooms to incorporate into her flower corona, her very own crown. Abuela’s garden is the perfect place for a party, so full of flowers that Corina thinks it looks like “la tierra is throwing una fiesta.”
At Abuela’s urging, Corina begins by choosing flowers that represent her family. There’s a happy sunflower for Mamá, who loves the color yellow, a bluebonnet that reminds Corina of her pet rabbit’s fluffy tail, morning glories that pay tribute to Abuelo’s trumpet and more. Next, Abuela asks Corina to add flowers that symbolize who she wants to grow up to become, and Corina picks sunny esperanzas for hope, daisies for strength and mistflowers for their sweet scent that draws butterflies. As Corina explores Abuela’s garden, she discovers a language she never knew before, “one spoken not in words but in the prick of a cactus needle, in the bright orange plums of a bird of paradise, and in the sweet scent of a chocolate cosmos.”
Finally, Abuela places the corona on Corina’s head and reminds her granddaughter that to wear a flower crown is to “become its roots, reaching back through time to hold on to the things that matter.” Corina realizes that she will carry the memory of this day spent with her Abuela forever.
Kemp incorporates Spanish words and phrases throughout the text as she welcomes readers into Corina’s family’s stories. Kemp’s use of sensory imagery is especially well done, enabling the reader to experience not only the way Abuela’s garden looks but also how it smells, sounds and feels. Kemp’s lyrical prose blends seamlessly with Elise Chavarri’s cheerful, detailed watercolor artwork to create a lively Eden bursting with hummingbirds, honey bees, blossoms and butterflies. Her spreads are filled with vivid greens and warm, saturated magentas and oranges that reflect Corina’s own feelings of lightness and joy.
Just like Abuela’s garden grows with care, Corina feels supported and loved by her family as she grows another year older. A Crown for Corina is a moving portrayal of the connections between family members, generations, the earth, the past and a very bright future.