CM . . .
. Volume XIX Number 31. . . .April 12, 2013
This book is beautiful. It is illustrated by 12 renowned Mexican artists who donated their work. Their styles vary immensely, from computer-manipulated mixed-media collages to Matisse-esque cut-outs to caricatures that would be at home in a newspaper editorial. These gorgeous illustrations create a very powerful picture book.
The images also successfully evoke emotional states. For instance, Alvaro Rocha Buitron illustrates the page "[I dreamt] jokes are the best way to drive a kidnapper away" (24-25). The double-page spread is almost completely filled with gaping mouths which are drawn in realistic black and white sketches. The mouths are overlaid with coloured "HA"s and "HEE"S. These mouths begin to merge into pointed hands, some detailed, some heavy black silhouettes, all gesturing to the bottom right hand corner of the page. In this corner, a masked figure cowers, his revolver forgotten at his side. The strong repeated visuals, diagonal lines and clever of use of both black and white and stand-out colour create an ominous and threatening mood.
Each double spread features a different illustrator and explores one dream: drug lords who only sell soap bubbles (10-11), bombs bursting out in gales of laughter (16-17), phones that can turn hurtful words into songs (18-19). The disparate styles of illustration make the book a little disjointed. The different media and aesthetics of the artists change the mood of the text, from scary to uplifting to contemplative, etc. It is disconcerting to find the mood and style change so frequently. The last four double-spreads break both the written and visual patterns. They are all illustrated by Alejandro Magallanes, and their words suggest that children learn from city trees to be resilient and to create change. These pages offer an uplifting and hopeful resolution to the picture book.
As the examples I've discussed indicate, I Dreamt . . . contains heavy content about violence and war. I wouldn't recommend this book for younger children who have not experienced trauma. It might be successful for older children who are interested in fictional depictions of war and violence. It could provide an understanding of the emotional weight of violence and the gravity of war.
The book has a very specific audience in mind; I would recommend it highly for children who have experienced trauma. The strategy of naming and reframing traumatic experiences has much emotional and artistic strength. The blurb explains that the book" was created in Mexico, where the war against drugs has brought tragedy, fear and insecurity into the lives of many young children."It is part of a project" which supports bibliotherapy projects that use books and reading to help children who have lived through wars, civil conflicts and natural disasters to think and talk about their experiences. This beautiful book would be very useful for these children.
Lian Beveridge is a recent PhD graduate from the University of British Columbia. Her primary research interests are children's literature and queer theory.
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