[Monday Reading] Providing Refuge To The Broken And Wounded: True Stories from Venezuela and Brazil


It's Monday! What Are You Reading

Myra here.

It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (new host of Monday reading: Kathryn T at Book Date). Since two of our friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have been joining this meme for quite awhile now, we thought of joining this warm and inviting community. 

A week ago, we launched our reading theme for April – June 2021. We are on the look-out for books with the following themes:

  1. Stories of exile and movement from one place to another – either by choice or by circumstance

  2. Narratives on im/migrants, belonging and exclusion

  3. Tales of people who are in transition and displaced from their homes

  4. Stories of seeking refuge and sanctuary and finding forever homes

  5. Narratives of loss and dispossession

While these two narratives may not exactly fit the themes above – they still fit our overarching theme on #SurvivalStories2021 – as they both feature how abandoned, wounded, broken animals were given sanctuary and refuge, allowing them to not only survive – but thrive – thanks to unlikely friendships.


The Old Man And The Penguin [Amazon | Book Depository]

Written by Julie Abery Illustrated by Pierre Pratt
Published by Kids Can Press (2020)
ISBN: 1525302086 (ISBN13: 9781525302084) Bought a copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.

Told in rhyming text, this book begins with an old man named Joao walking down the beach, and hearing a pitiful screech coming from an oil-soaked penguin who was unable to swim and was barely breathing.


Joao provided refuge to this hapless penguin and nursed him back to health and life. Knowing that it was wild, Joao brought him to the middle of the ocean when he was healthy enough to find his own kind. However, the penguin decided to stay. Joao named him Dindim.


While the rhyming text did not particularly appeal to me, I was taken by the Author’s Note at the end of the story, revealing even more details about Joao being a retired bricklayer, and how he found Dindim on Proveta Beach in Rio de Janeiro.


This is a lovely interspecies story of how a small act of kindness, a gentle gesture, and genuine warmth could build a friendship so formidable, that it is able to transcend distance, time, language. The constancy of their love and how each one shows up for the other, always, made even the most cynical of readers such as myself, smile with hope for the future of humanity.


The Caiman [Amazon | Book Depository]

Written by Maria Eugenia Manrique Illustrated by Ramon Paris Translated by Amy Brill
Published by Amazon Crossing Kids (2021)
ISBN: 1542031583 (ISBN13: 9781542031585) Review copy provided by publisher. Book photos taken by me.

In this story, a group of young children found a baby alligator, known as a river caiman, while they were playing hide-and-seek in a tiny city called San Fernando de Apure in Venezuela.

Faoro, the town jeweler, volunteered to take care of the baby alligator when it was clear that none of the children felt inclined to take it home. Faoro encouraged the children to visit the baby alligator in his home while he took care of it.


I was fascinated by how tiny a baby alligator can be that it fit Faoro’s palm perfectly. Faoro named it Night, owing to its dark color. While I confess to not being a fan of alligators (I mean, seriously, who would be?), Faoro managed to domesticate Night so thoroughly that it actually turned into a house pet – which I found amazing.


Such was the intimacy between Faoro and Night that the former built an actual pond in his home to serve as Night’s play area. Faoro also made certain that when he decided to get married, his future wife and Night would get along well. The Author’s note made the story even more incredible given how the author happened to be one of the girls who visited Night in Faoro’s home in this story.


While I am deeply familiar with the bonds between dogs and cats and their human companions – this kind of unlikely friendship between a human and a pet alligator – happens only once in a lifetime. I would suggest readers to pair this story with Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor (Amazon | Book Depository) and read about Joan’s affinity with her komodo dragon (see my review here).

While I still probably would not have reptiles as pets, The Caiman demonstrates how interspecies compassion and love can blossom among those who are brave enough to reach out to creatures different from one’s self.

#SurvivalStories2021 Update: 41/42 out of target 100

May 3, 2021 at 06:30AM Myra Garces-Bacsal