A debut picture book depicts a well-known leader from the history of Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
This work presents a bilingual biography of Anacaona, a cacique, or chief, on the island of Quisqueya (Hispaniola) at the time of European contact. The book, which presents the text in English and Spanish on facing pages, begins with Anacaona’s birth and childhood, continues through her successful leadership of the community and her death at the hands of the Spanish, and concludes with an assessment of her portrayal in Haitian and Dominican culture in the centuries since her rule. The narrative has the feeling of a legend that has been passed down through generations, with a clear sense of destiny from the moment Anacaona is born to parents who, though they had other children, felt something “was missing in their lives.” Her achievements follow naturally from that beginning, and the ending, while tragic, fits entirely into the tale’s framework. Torres has a firm grasp of Anacaona’s history and does an excellent job of highlighting key moments and making them accessible to young readers. (The text includes descriptions of cruelty and violence that are not excessive, but may be too intense for some children.) The 10-year-old author’s writing in both English and Spanish is strong and elegant. And the brightly colored images by debut illustrator Ocampo complement the text and bring the story’s Caribbean setting to life.
A bilingual tale deftly illuminates the life of a famous figure in the history of the Americas.