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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)
Book of Questions: Selections
by Pablo Neruda
Age Range: 6-8
If you asked an English-speaking child which poet they know, they might tell you that they know Shel Silverstein, Dr. Seuss or Michael Rosen. Few to none would say, Pablo Neruda, the late Chilean poet. Translator Sara Elisabeth Paulson and Chilean illustrator Paloma Valdivia help the words of Neruda come to light for English readership, all within publisher Enchanted Lion’s Book of Questions, Selections.
Neruda’s Book of Questions (Libro de las preguntas) was his last work of poetry completed in 1973 (just before his death), and it was comprised of 74 poems only asking questions. 39 poems of the 74 are represented in this version, all present in vastness, open-endedness, and immense creativity—nothing like the more mundane questions we think of on a daily basis. This inquisitive nature is highlighted in Enchanted Lion’s version, posing short questions that are mind-blowing to any reader, no matter the age level. For instance, Neruda asks whimsical questions, such as “does smoke strike up conversations with clouds? ” and “why don’t they teach helicopters how to draw honey from the sun?” Yet, he also poses more philosophical questions, including “where does the stuff of dreams go? Does it pass into the dreams of others?”
Valdivia, the illustrator, comments at the back of the book that “there are no answers, only more questions arising from Neruda’s questions. ” In other words, the more questions you ask, the more your world will expand, and in a positive feedback loop, the more questions you’ll have. The illustrations support the atmosphere of the wondrous questions, housed on large pages with dark colours.
Book of Questions, Selections brings Neruda’s genius to a whole new generation of readers who may have never heard of Neruda otherwise. And the best part of this edition is how it includes the original lines in Spanish alongside the English text, paying homage to Neruda’s work in its full package.
Catherine Hurwitz (June22)