About the Book:
Title: The Caiman
Author: María Eugenia Manrique
Illustrator: Ramón París
Translator: Amy Brill
Pub. Date: July 1, 2021
Beagles and Books is excited to be part of the blog tour for The Caiman published by Amazon Crossing Kids which aims to increase the diversity of children’s books in translation and encourage young reading from a range of cultural perspectives. Special thanks to the publisher and Barbara Fisch of Blue Slip Media for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
In the small town of San Fernando de Apure in Venezuela, a young girl finds a baby alligator, a river caiman, who is believed to be an orphan. Just as the girl was about to return the creature to the water, the town jeweler and watchmaker, Faoro passes by and immediately offers to take the baby alligator home. The animal was so small that it not only fit in the palm of his hand but also in his shirt pocket. Faoro names her Night for her dark skin. Night accompanies Faoro to his workshop and business booms. How many places can you get a clock fixed, jewelry mended, AND pet a baby alligator?
Night grows to more than six feet long and during this time, Faoro falls in love with his neighbor, Angela. Would Night accept Angela? With support from Faoro, Night gives her approval and the couple marries. I especially love this illustration because with the exception of one guest, all those invited to the wedding are smiling as Night holds Angela’s veil. Clearly, the guests are comfortable with Night too.
Their little family is blissful full of song and laughter for many years, but then Faoro falls ill. Night is distraught refusing to leave Faoro. Faoro’s parting words to Night are “Don’t be afraid; Angela loves you and will take care of you.” Night mourns Faoro’s passing and goes into hiding for weeks, but finally resurfaces when Angela is moved to sing after reading an old card written by Faoro. The gift of song helps both Angela and Night heal keeping Faoro close to them.
Gorgeously written and illlustrated, The Caiman is a heartwarming story about the incredible bond between loved ones. While I admit that an alligator is not a typical pet, the message shines through, for Night loved Faoro unconditionally which is a true gift. Another important lesson is we all react to a loss differently. Angela stopped singing, and Night retreated to a storage room refusing to leave or eat. Each needed their own space to grieve, but I love that Faoro, through his words, was responsible for their initial healing.
París’ illustrations are absolutely beautiful, and the landscape format is perfect for a book that features an alligator that grows to ten feet long. The tip of Night’s tail is actually on the back of the book cover showing her immense length. After reading each page, I noticed my eyes lingered longer to take in the artwork; each page spread seemed to be its own scene in Night’s life from baby to adult. And pay close attention to locate the animals drawn in black and white on a few of the page spreads. Can you find armadillos, a turtle, an iguana, hedgehogs, and chickens?
One last observation-if you typically skip an author’s biography or any backmatter, I highly suggest you take the time to read them. Valuable information about the origins of this story are shared (and I don’t want to give it away). The Caiman reminds us what where there is love, there is also grief, but the love is always worth it.
Praise for The Caiman!
A New York Times Globetrotting Pick!
★“The striking illustrations…have a wild and whimsical feel about them, featuring lush foliage and expressive characters, including the eventually enormous caiman. It’s a memorable and unexpected demonstration of the universality of love, grief, and kindness.” —Booklist (starred review)
About the Author:
María Eugenia Manrique is one of the girls portrayed in this story. She rode the caiman when she visited her family in San Fernando de Apure. She was born in Caracas, Venezuela, and currently lives in Barcelona, Spain. She studied fine art in Mexico City, specializing in xylography and engraving; Eastern painting at Nankín University, China; and sumi-e and calligraphy at the Nihon Shuji Kyoiku Zaidan Foundation in Japan. Her work has been exhibited in museums and galleries around the world. The Caiman is her first children’s book. For more information, visit her website: https://mariaeugeniamanrique.wordpress.com/.
About the Illustrator:
Ramón París was born in Caracas, Venezuela, and as a child lived in Barinas, a plains state like Apure, where he also heard the story of the caiman. He currently lives in Barcelona, Spain. Hismost recent book for children, Duermevela, was selected for the Bologna Book Fair Illustrators Exhibition. His books have been recognized with honors including Los Mejores del Banco del Libro and the IBBY Honor List, among others, and they have been translated into numerous languages. Visit him at: ramon.paris.
About the Translator:
Amy Brill’s fiction and nonfiction have appeared in numerous publications including the Washington Post, Medium, Real Simple, Oprah.com, and One Story. Her first novel, The Movement of Stars, was published by Riverhead Books. A native New Yorker, Amy lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two daughters.
One lucky winner will receive a copy of The Caiman courtesy of Amazon Crossing Kids (U.S. and Canada addresses). This giveaway is open from Friday, July 3 through Friday, July 10, 2021 ending at 10:00 p.m. EST. Please note that book may take longer to ship so patience is appreciated. Enter below or head over to my Twitter account, @lauramossa and retweet my The Caiman post.