March 24, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Walk with Me by Jairo Buitrago | SLJ Review

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redstarBUITRAGO, Jairo. Walk with Me. tr. from Spanish by Elisa Amado. illus. by Rafael Yockteng. 32p. Groundwood. Mar. 2017. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781554988570.

Gr 1-4 –A girl invites an imaginary lion, a metaphor for her missing father, to accompany her on her PB-Buitrago-WalkWithMelong walk home. Along the way, she must pick up her baby brother from child care and purchase groceries, and when they arrive home, she prepares dinner before her mother returns from the factory. The illustrations are all full-bleed spreads. Sketched in pencil, scanned, and then redrawn and colored digitally, they depict a run-down neighborhood, with buildings in disrepair and clothing drying on a rooftop near rabbit-ear antennas. The necessity for the young girl to assume so many adult tasks and the spare apartment with cracked walls, a broken cabinet, and one bed shared by mother and children are evidence of the poverty they experience in the absence of the girl’s father. While the text contains no Spanish words, there are Spanish signs on buildings and advertisements, and though the time and place are not specified, there is much that can be inferred. In a family portrait, the father’s bushy hair closely resembles the mane of the lion the girl invents to help her brave the difficult and scary aspects of her life. What might have happened to her father? Details in the illustrations hint at the many cases of “los desaparecidos” in Latin American history. How can readers cope with their own life challenges? VERDICT With guided discussion, youngsters can see beyond the deceptive simplicity of this poignant story. A strong choice for all collections.–Marianne Saccardi, Children’s Literature Consultant, Cambridge, MA

This review was published in the School Library Journal March 2017 issue.