I Lived on Butterfly Hill

tr. from Spanish by E. M. O'Connor. illus. by Lee White. 464p. S. & S./Atheneum. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781416953449; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9781442494763.
Gr 5–8—Celeste is a sixth-grader living in Valparaíso, Chile. Her life is idyllic, full of a loving, multigenerational family, a home she finds inspiring, and good friends. Things take a drastic turn when Valparaíso starts being affected by what Celeste's parents call "earthquakes of the soul"—the country falls under the grip of a ruthless dictator who is determined to eliminate dissent. Friends start disappearing, and Celeste's parents, who are seen as subversives for their work helping the disadvantaged, go into hiding. Celeste is sent to live with her aunt in the United States, where she struggles to acclimate, and to understand the larger picture of what is happening at home. Agosín has woven a historical story that draws on her own life experiences, with themes of exile, the quest for justice, and the power of the written word to preserve history. The story mirrors, but does not directly reference, the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet and its accompanying turmoil. The language is poetic and full of imagery and, while the book is long, it moves at a smooth pace. Occasional illustrations reflect the mood of each phase of the story. This is Agosín's first book for a younger audience, and she has managed to capture the wide-eyed curiosity and confusion of her narrator. Given its length and weighty themes, this book is best suited for serious readers.—Jenna Lanterman, formerly at The Calhoun School and Mary McDowell Friends School, New York City
Eleven-year-old Chilean girl Celeste faces upheaval when a brutal dictator rises to power, her parents go into hiding, and she is shipped off to Maine. Threads of mysticism lend an interesting element, but the book is best when rooted in reality, transporting readers with sensory-steeped settings and Celeste's vividly evoked feelings of alienation. Black-and-white illustrations depict the turmoil but with a soft touch.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing