BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

From Another World by Ana Maria Machado, translated by Luisa Baeta, with illustrations by Lúcia Brandão

From Another WorldIf the writing is a bit stilted and uneven in this middle grade novel, Ana Maria Machado – one of Brazil’s preeminent writers for children – has a plausible excuse. Her fictional writer/narrator here is a schoolboy named Mariano who is “only writing – or trying to write – because I made a promise.” He’s not much of a student, and he’s definitely not much of a reader, so fulfilling his pledge proves to be an arduous task. And, yes, he doth indeed protest far too much throughout his exposition.

The story, however, proves highly intriguing … and haunting – literally. Mariano, his best friend Leo, Leo’s sister Elisa, and their mutual friend Tere make up a tight weekend foursome. Mariano’s parents and Leo’s mother have agreed to convert Leo’s family homestead – once an important coffee plantation – into an inn; the kids spend their weekends on the property helping with the endless work, but always manage to have a memorable time together.

One stormy night, all four children begin hearing inexplicable sounds … and, not surprisingly, the electricity suddenly goes out. Elisa lights a candle and with the resulting soft light appears Rosario, “black skinned and barefoot … Perfectly clear. But kind of transparent.”

In spite of what their brains are telling them, the four eventually must accept that Rosario is ‘real.’ So, too, is her tragic story – over a century old – when she died in the annex, her short life spent as a tortured slave to an evil master. When she finishes her story, she has specific requests of the children from which they cannot turn away … for only then can she finally rest.

Machado, who has written over a hundred titles for children and adults, won the 2000 Hans Christian Andersen Award for Writing, the highest international recognition given annually to an author and to an illustrator of children’s books “whose complete works have made a lasting contribution to children’s literature.”

At least in English translation, Machado’s writing here is overly didactic, heavy with thudding messages about race, equality, and freedom. As valuable as these life lessons are – no one would minimize or deny such importance – a smoother integration into the story would surely have made for a more successful novel.

Readers: Middle Grade

Published: 2002, 2005 (United States)


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