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The Composition

by Antonio Skarmeta
Illustrated by Alfonso Ruano

Published by U.S. edition: A Groundwood Book/Douglas & McIntyre, 2000
36 pages
ISBN: 0-88899-390-0

Ages 9 - 16

Best known to U. S. audiences as the author of Il Postino, Chilean author Antonio Skármeta's chilling short story about a nine-year-old boy growing up in a military dictatorship will provide plenty of food for thought for young readers. Pedro is an ordinary kid who likes to play soccer and wishes his parents would buy him a real soccer ball. He doesn't understand why his parents spend so much time huddled around the radio listening to news until his best friend's father is taken away by soldiers. For the first time, Pedro begins to understand the political implications of his parents' actions, even though they try to shield him from such things. "Am I against the dictatorship?" he asks his mother. "Children aren't against anything," she tells him. "Children are just children." When an army captain shows up at Pedro's school and demands that the students write a composition entitled "What My Family Does at Night," Pedro does his best, hoping he will win a prize that will allow him to buy the soccer ball he wants so badly. suspense builds throughout the story, right up until the final line of text which packs quite a punch. Alfonso Ruano's full-color illustrations perfectly complement the tone of the story by zeroing in on small deatils and by suggesting that there is much more going on underneath the surface. A note at the end of the book helps to put the story into a broader context by describing some of the challenges faced by people living under a dictatorship where children are rewarded for turning on their parents. CCBC categories: Issues in Today's World.(KTH; March 12) ©2000 Cooperative Children's Book Center

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