Created to benefit the International Board on Books for Young People’s Fund for Children in Crisis program, this picture book presents provocative images and ideas regarding the violence many young people encounter.
Twelve Mexican artists each depict a different scene from a single child’s dream about how life could be: A life-sized pistol emits a butterfly; scarred and weapon-toting drug lords sell and blow soap bubbles; a cloud of laughing mouths outwits a kidnapper. Each spread varies stylistically, from cheery pop art to dark caricatures, but this works in the dream context. The narrator wakes to a reality of skeletal arms rising from the earth, attended by crows—a composition symbolic of the nightmare lived by many. The concluding message of inspiration uses the metaphor of city trees that “fight back” (an unfortunate word choice, given the book’s mission) “and break open the sidewalks… / and grow despite everything,” unlike those that are “crushed by the pavement.” The challenge will be matching this to the right audience—more mature children or those who have lived through the worlds evoked. The cover illustration of lacey, white dandelion fluff does not hint at the dangers within, and this purposeful book is not an all-purpose read.
Bibliotherapy is a tricky business, as is the desire to shield young children from images that may cause nightmares. This is sure to arouse passion in both camps. (editor’s note) (Picture book. 7-12)