Life can change suddenly and without warning. I know because it happened to me.
So begins Different: A Story of the Spanish Civil War, a book for upper middle grade and young adult readers based on author Mónica Montañés’ family history. Montañés’ father had resisted Francisco Franco’s forces in Spain when Franco attempted a military coup against the democratically elected government, starting the Spanish Civil War.
When Franco’s forces won and his authoritarian regime took control in 1939, Montañes’ father had to flee Spain:
I stopped short when I saw my father looking very serious, standing next to a suitcase. He called me Paco, not Paquito, which is what everyone calls me. He said that he had to leave Spain. That from this moment on, I would be the man of the house, and that I would have to take care of my mother and my sister.
I felt afraid. I wanted to cry. I was nine years old.
Different relates Paco’s and his sister Socorro’s experiences after their father left, alternating their viewpoints until the family is finally reunited in Venezuela eight years later. Socorro doesn’t even recognize her father when she sees him. She had imagined that “he would be a tall, strong man, almost a superhero. The man my brother pointed at was thin, gangly, and had completely white hair.”
Montañés fleshes out the history behind her story with impressive back matter. She tells readers about the Spanish Civil War, its aftermath, and what has happened in Spain since Franco died in 1975. A final page talks about today’s millions of displaced refugees fleeing dictators and their oppressive regimes. The back matter ends with a brief glossary and two bibliographies (for younger readers and older ones).
Beautifully written and with hauntingly authentic young voices, Different chronicles relevant events from the recent past that we would do well never to forget. Although the book itself is small, its topic and impact are large and mighty.
Different: A Story of the Spanish Civil War
Written by Mónica Montañés
Illustrated by Eva Sánchez Gómez
Translated by Lawrence Schimel
2022, Eerdmans Books for Young Readers
Reviews: Kirkus Starred Review
Review copy kindly provided by the publisher.
You can buy a copy here* or find it at a library.
*Book purchases made via our affiliate link may earn GLLI a small commission at no cost to you.
Award-winning opera singer Nanette McGuinness is the translator of over 80 books and graphic novels for children and adults from French, Italian, German and Spanish into English, including the well-known Geronimo Stilton Graphic Novels. Two of her translations, Luisa: Now and Then and California Dreamin’: Cass Elliot Before the Mamas & the Papas were chosen for YALSA’s Great Graphic Novels for Teens; Luisa: Now and Then was also a 2019 Stonewall Honor Book. Recent translations include Tiki: A Very Ruff Year; Alice on the Run: One Child’s Journey Through the Rwandan Civil War; Makhno: Ukrainian Freedom Fighter; Rosa Parks; Magical History Tour: Titanic; Magical History Tour: First Steps on the Moon, Bibi & Miyu#2, LGBTQ YA manga Alter Ego, and the critically acclaimed A House Without Windows.