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DIFFERENT by Mónica Montañés Kirkus Star


A Story of the Spanish Civil War

by Mónica Montañés ; translated by Lawrence Schimel ; illustrated by Eva Sánchez Gómez

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2022
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5598-5
Publisher: Eerdmans

In alternating chapters, siblings Paco and Socorro narrate their eight-year journey from the Spanish Civil War’s terrors to freedom in Venezuela.

Translated from Spanish, child’s-eye perspectives on daily life are overshadowed by danger: The children’s father, a “Rojo” who sides with the Republic against Francisco Franco’s rebels, has fled for his life to France, forcing the family into an impoverished, secretive existence. Paco, 9, exchanges child’s play for sudden status as “man of the house.” Constantly hungry (as the wife of a Rojo, his mother isn’t allowed a ration book), he fantasizes about stealing a classmate’s mouthwatering lunch. Socorro, 7, who manifests stress through food aversion, calmly provides day-to-day details that belie the brutality of life as the uprising births the fascist regime. As World War II concludes, Paco’s hopes of Franco being overthrown wane. Montañés beautifully conveys time’s passage through Paco’s sad stoicism. His father manages just five letters in eight years, but the fifth, from Venezuela, announces that he has a job and has obtained emigration papers for the family. The long journey culminates in a new life for the now teenagers, who marvel at having ample food and constant electricity. Though their accents reveal their refugee status, “being different had stopped being something dangerous” at last. Gómez’s accomplished, somber-toned illustrations inject occasional levity, capturing Socorro’s clever scheme to change schools and exaggerating Paco’s imagined sandwich theft.

The well-crafted narrative, nuanced art, and appended historical context combine for a salient, important work.

(publisher’s note, historical overview, glossary, resources) (Historical fiction. 9-14)