cover image Head in the Clouds

Head in the Clouds

Rocio Araya, trans. from the Spanish by Sarah Moses. Elsewhere, $19.95 (38p) ISBN 978-1-953861-90-0

Araya, making her English-language debut in this work reminiscent of Jostein Gaarder’s Questions Asked, imagines a dreamy student and an on-task teacher clashing in the classroom. When the student remarks that they’d rather ask questions than sit through lessons, the teacher responds, “Oh, Sofía! You must see so many birds with your head in the clouds! And what might those questions be?” The queries flow forth, ranging from the simple (“Why are grown-ups always in a rush?”) to the philosophical (“Can I be good and happy at the same time?”) to the quirkily curious (“Does a cow’s baby know I drink its mom’s milk?”). Fine art spreads combine sly, childlike line drawing, collage, and fiercely stroked paint that suggests the greens of institutional corridors and the free, endless blue of the sky. When the teacher asserts an alternate position (“I’m not like you. When there are many paths, I always pick the same one”) and describes an obliviousness to life’s beauty (“when I take a plane I don’t look out the window”), Sofía offers a special gift that hints at the child’s strengths as well as the limitations of the authority figure’s worldview. Protagonists are portrayed with pale skin. Ages 3–6. (Sept.)