cover image From Another World

From Another World

Ana Maria Machado, , trans. by Luisa Baeta, illus. by Lúcia Brandão. . Groundwood, $15.95 (128pp) ISBN 978-0-88899-597-1

One of Brazil's best known writers mixes magical realism with history to tell about the evils of slavery. Narrator Mariano finds reading "boring and tiring," but becomes "slave to a promise made to a ghost" who orders him to write down her story so it will not be forgotten. Mariano and his friends encounter Rosario, while helping their parents convert an old coffee plantation into an inn. Before the first guests arrive, the four kids test-drive a building they refer to as "The Annex," but which they learn was once the senzala— the slave quarters. During their first sleepover, they hear pitiful crying. On the next visit, a storm cuts the power and a lit candle brings Rosario into their presence. Gradually, she shares her horrific biography. Born free to enslaved parents, she lived to learn of Princess Isabel's 1888 law abolishing slavery, but the cruel master who owned her parents made sure they never got to taste freedom. Rosario has haunted the scene of her family's death ever since, waiting to speak. Machado's message is nicely balanced with Mariano's naïve voice. "Writers have no rest," he complains after hearing a new detail he'll have to add to the story. By the end, he's figured out that knowledge of the past is important to understanding the present. Brandão's half-tone illustrations, interspersed throughout the narrative, are as gentle as Rosario's death is rough. Ages 8-11. (Apr.)