REVIEW BY HEIDI HENNEMAN
From the weathered hands of an Argentine cowboy to a sleeping child's palm and beyond, a moon-shaped necklace -- and its ageless message -- passes from one generation to the next in C. Drew Lamm's newest title for young readers, Gauchada.
An Argentine word for a gift or favor given out of love with nothing expected in return, gauchada has long been a cultural symbol of the South American country.
Originally handcrafted by a gaucho, or cowboy, during his days riding the pampas (the range), grazing his cows in the quebrada (a wide valley) or resting under an ombu (a shade tree), the gift was fashioned out of whatever the cowboy could find -- bone, leather, discarded pieces of metal or rock.
Nowadays the term encompasses a much wider spectrum of gifts -- favors done in business, compliments offered in the street -- but the meaning is still the same.
Lamm was inspired to share the history of this Argentine tradition by a gauchada that she received -- a necklace.
It was not merely the beauty of this moon-shaped piece of jewelry, similar to the one illustrated in the book, that peaked her interest, but the tale of where the gift had traveled, through whose hands it had passed and whose lives it had touched.
Allegedly fashioned by a gaucho, Lamm's necklace was given to someone the cowboy loved. That person, in turn, passed it along to someone she cared about, and it traveled, likewise, until it reached the author.
The book's lively illustrations, created by Argentine native Fabian Negrin, bring to life the legendary traits of the historic gauchos.
The colorful depictions of the landscape capture the enchantment of the country where Negrin spent his youth.
Gauchada offers an insightful and romantic look into Argentine culture.
But even more important is the gauchada's message: such a gift can never be purchased.
It is the bearer's love that gives it value -- and the gauchada, like love, is meant to be shared.
Heidi Henneman is a freelance writer in New York City whose work has appeared in Fitness, Glamour, Men's Health and Cosmopolitan.