Beagles and Books is excited to be part of the blog tour for Along the Tapajós written and illustrated by Fernando Vilela and translated by Daniel Hahn. Released on October 1, 2019, this picture book is published by Amazon Crossing Kids, a new imprint for children’s books in translation. Special thanks to Amazon Crossing Kids and Barbara Fisch of Blue Slip Media for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Cauã and Inaê are a brother and sister who live in a small community along the Tapajós River in Brazil. Here, the homes are on stilts and everyone travels around by boat—even to school! When the rainy season comes, they must leave their village and relocate to higher ground for a while. But after moving this year, Cauã and Inaê realize they’ve left behind something important: their pet tortoise, Titi! Unlike turtles, tortoises can’t swim, and Cauã and Inaê are really worried. So the pair sneaks back at night on a journey along the river to rescue him. Will they be able to save Titi? This picture book, first published in Brazil, offers kids a unique look into the lives of children who live along Brazil’s beautiful Tapajós River.
As Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop wisely stated:
“Books are sometimes windows, offering views of worlds that may be real or imagined, familiar or strange. These windows are also sliding glass doors, and readers have only to walk through in imagination to become part of whatever world has been created and recreated by the author. When lighting conditions are just right, however, a window can also be a mirror. (1990, p. ix)”
From the very first page spread, Along the Tapajós is definitely a window teaching my students a different way of life. As I read the text beautifully translated by Hahn, there was an immediate reaction from children.
“They have to take a boat to get to school?”
“I wish I could have a tortoise for a pet!”
At my school, students mostly walk or ride in a car to get here. We actually have very few bus riders compared to other schools in our district. Of course, the children were utterly amazed by Cauã’s and Inaê’s boat ride especially the alligators and porpoises! When the siblings arrive at school, the students quickly noticed how different their schoolhouse is compared to theirs.
Vilela’s vivid illustrations quickly convey the change from serene to turbulent as the season quickly changes from summer to winter with nonstop rain. I heard some gasps from the children as they saw Cauã’s and Inaê’s family pack up their house and boat to dry land in the rainforest.
While the first part of the book exposed all my students to a contrasting way of life, Inaê’s concern for their pet tortoise Titi immediately was a mirror for some of my students who later shared how their own pet had been lost or missing. The illustrations of their journey back home are breathtaking and strikingly show the aftermath of the massive rain. When the siblings find Titi, the illustrations clearly indicates that aside from the roof, their home is entirely under water, which again shows the severe impact of the winter rain. The rescue of Titi may be frightening to very young children, but my students were mesmerized at Cauã’s risky but heroic act. After reading, we did discuss whether leaving their parents without permission was a good or bad choice.
At the end of the story, Vilela includes backmatter which includes facts about the Tapajós River and the inspiration for writing this story. After reading, my students had so many reactions that I knew this story would be talked about for a long time. I was proud that one student made a connection to our virtue of the month.
“I think all the people in the book showed unity because they worked together to get the kids to school, the kids home when it rained, and the families packed up and moved to a rainforest. Then the brother and sister had to work together to save Titi.”
There is no doubt that my students thoroughly enjoyed Along the Tapajós. As a teacher, what I love is the story was a window into a different way of life, but was also a mirror when the siblings showed concern for their missing pet. It also reinforced the virtue of unity, which is important as we continue to build our classroom community. I highly recommend Along the Tapajós..
Praise for Along the Tapajós!
★The vibrant colors in Vilela’s illustrations and the expressive faces of Cauã and Inaê bring lightheartedness to their dangerous journey and the cyclical living it prescribes. A riveting journey.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“This is one of those engaging titles that offers a glimpse of a location new to most American readers. More translations like this one, please!” —Fuse #8 Production
Meet the Author/Illustrator and Translator:
Fernando Vilela is an award-winning author and illustrator from Brazil. Published in Brazil under the title Tapajós, this book was inspired by one of his trips to the Amazon rainforest. He has received many awards for his books, and he has exhibited his artwork at home and abroad, including at the MoMA in New York and the Pinacoteca of the State of São Paulo. For his picture books, he has received five Jabuti awards (Brazil) and the New Horizons Honorable Mention of the Bologna Ragazzi International Award. He is also a plastics artist, and he teaches courses, lectures, and workshops on art and illustration. Learn more about him online at www.fernandovilela.com.br.
Daniel Hahn is an author, editor, and award-winning translator. His translation of The Book of Chameleons by José Eduardo Agualusa won the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize in 2007. His translation of A General Theory of Oblivion, also by José Eduardo Agualusa, won the 2017 International Dublin Literary Award. He recently served on the board of trustees of the Society of Authors. In 2017, Hahn helped establish the TA First Translation Prize, a new prize for debut literary translation. Learn more about him online at www.danielhahn.co.uk.
Enter a Giveaway!
One lucky winner will receive a copy of Along the Tapajós, courtesy of Amazon Crossing (U.S. addresses). Enter the giveaway by Friday, October 11, 2019 at 8 p.m.