My Day with the Panye

My Day with the Panye
Tami Charles and Sara Palacios
Walker Books

Fallon lives with her family in the hills of Port-au-Prince where we meet them on a market day when her Manman has invited her elder daughter to accompany her to the market. The girl narrates what happens, talking especially about her desire to be able to carry the panye on her head (a kind of rite of passage) as her Manman does.

Her first attempt is a failure but Manman quotes her own manman,: ” ‘Pitit, pitit, zwazo fe nich li’ Little by little the bird builds its nest. Not everything is learned fast. “

Desperate to learn the skill, Fallon envies Manman’s grace as she moves with a sway of her hips, panye perfectly balanced, through Sara Palacios’ busy, richly coloured Haitian landscape

and into the bustling market also awash with its vibrant colours and patterns

including those of mothers and daughters ‘Their feet are graceful. Their panyes are still, even as the wind swirls through the city.’ (I love the author’s lyrical language)

After the purchases are complete and the two are ready to begin their journey home, Fallon begs to be allowed to carry the panye. Finally her mother agrees, assisting with the balancing; but the full basket is very heavy and down it crashes sending vegetables flying all around.
Now it’s Manman’s turn to do the urging when Fallon wants to give up, and with the reloaded panye, slowly, slowly … success! Feeling like a queen she makes her way back home. “The panye means we are graceful when the load is heavy. We are strong, even when the earth is not. We are family, fed from love.”

There is so much to enjoy about this book in both words and pictures (look out for the antics of the dog): the warmth of the mother/daughter relationship especially the encouraging of perseverance when learning something new.

The author ends with a note explaining the tradition of panye carrying and telling us that Haiti is her husband’s homeland and why she wrote the story.

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