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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
Ninos: Poems for the Lost Children of Chile
by Maria Jose Ferrada
Age Range: 9-11
“Many children feel afraid, suffer tragedies, and even lose their lives because of political violence.” In Chilean author María José Ferrada’s Niños: Poems for the Lost Children of Chile (originally in Spanish), readers learn upfront that 34 children under the age of 14 disappeared and were arrested and executed during the 17 years of dictatorship in Chile that started in 1973.
Lawrence Schimel’s English translation of the story allows those who speak English to learn about and make sense of this horrible phenomenon by letting these 34 children not just be a number but a collection of dreamers, players, and inquisitors. “This book is a homage to those thirty-four Chilean children, who in these pages play, dream, and listen to the voices of their mothers. Because this is what we think children should do. ”
When readers open each subsequent page after the introduction, they find each child’s name with a snippet of their most delightful musings underneath, alongside María Elena Valdez’s softly-coloured illustrations. Each illustration has a very slight greyscale over them, almost hinting that they are memories. From comparing the difference between an orange and the sun to planting words in a flowerpot to declaring love for the sound bubbles make when they disappear, each of the 34 mini-stories contains the power to ignite a memory of these children before tragedy—a memory of these children as children.
Niños: Poems for the Lost Children of Chile is part of the Reading the World: Picture Books and Translation at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, 2022.
Catherine Hurwitz (March22)