Do you remember not being able to read? I certainly don’t…
Most of us have been reading for so long that we can’t remember what it felt like not to be able to understand everything we saw around us. Nor do we have any inkling of what the mysterious world of visual symbols looked like when we couldn’t decode them.
This sweet picture book for ages 3-6 by Ruth Rocha revisits that time of life, putting to paper a young pre-literate child’s world view and simultaneously giving the adults who are reading the book aloud a whimsically empathic glimpse of that perspective. The bold, blocky illustrations by Madalena Matoso go far to help readers enter that world as well.
At the start of the story, beautifully translated by Lyn Miller-Lachman for Enchanted Lion Books*, Pedro sees the world as a mystifying mixture of colors, designs, marks, and symbols. Some of them make sense; others he can’t decipher. But all this changes when he goes to school… When he learns the letter “A,” he starts to spot “A’s” everywhere. Next comes the letter, “D,” and he spies “D’s” all over the place. (The illustrations echo these magical discoveries.) We get a ringside seat to Pedro’s wonder as he learns to decipher the world of symbols around him. By the end of this short, marvelous picture book, readers are deeply touched, cheering when Pedro realizes he now knows how to read: he can maneuver his way around his world–and those lines, squiggles, letters, and words are no longer a mystery to him.
Originally published as O Menino que Aprenden a Ver (i.e., A Boy Who Learns to See), Lines, Squiggles, Letters, and Words is about the magic of vision, perspective, learning and meaning–all packed into only 40 brightly illustrated pages.
By Ruth Rocha
Illustrated by Madalena Matoso
Translated from the Portuguese by Lyn Miller-Lachman
2016, Enchanted Lion Books
*Kudos to Enchanted Lion, the only publisher I know of that honors its translators by devoting a page on its website to them, in addition to pages for its authors and illustrators as well.
Award-winning opera singer Nanette McGuinness is the translator of over 40 books and graphic novels for children and adults from French and Italian into English, including the well-known Geronimo Stilton Graphic Novels. Two of her latest translations, Luisa: Now and Then (Humanoids, 2018) and California Dreamin’: Cass Elliot Before the Mamas & the Papas (First Second, 2017) were chosen for YALSA’s Great Graphic Novels for Teens. Upcoming translations for her are Little Josephine (Life Drawn, 2020), The Sisters, v.5, M.Y.O.B. (Papercutz, 2019) and Who Killed Kenny? (NBM, 2019).