Pedro sees all sorts of lines and squiggles in the world around him, but he is not able to make real sense of them until he starts school – and learns to read!
Reading is an amazing skill. Through our ability to decipher letters and then words, we are able to make more sense of the world around us. Words can help us to navigate our way across cities, decide what to pour on our breakfast cereal, and determine which packet contains the washing powder. Just by looking. But, unlike speaking, reading does not come naturally; it is a learnt skill that requires teaching and practice. And, as young Pedro discovers in this story, that learning often starts at school.
Pedro is fascinated by the world, but he struggles to understand some of the pictures he sees around him, such as street signs and bus blinds. All he sees is a bunch of drawings. That is, until he goes to school! The class teacher starts with ‘A is for apple’, and when Pedro leaves school for the day, we share in his excitement as he suddenly sees A’s everywhere. The same happens the next day with the letter D, which the children repeat again and again in class. Now, Pedro notices D’s as well as A’s among the lines and squiggles on signs and billboards in his neighbourhood. And so it continues until he realises he can read. He knows what the street signs say and he knows which bus to take to school. Just by looking.
Pedro’s excitement as his newfound skill develops is infectious:
‘He tugged at his mother’s skirt.
“Look at all the A’s on the wall!”’
My pre-schooler, Miss 4, loves to spot the A’s and D’s in the illustrations along with Pedro; Miss 7, who has been reading for a while now, takes great pride in reading all the signs she can see. (She reads the street sign in Portuguese too!)
Madalena Matoso’s colourful and distinctive illustrations add striking visual appeal to the story. Posters and billboards catch the eye in busy urban scenes, while other pages are dominated by a single object, such as a big red bus, or washing machine. And Pedro appears throughout, at home, at school and in his local neighbourhood – the illustrations provide a lovely glimpse into his little world. Cleverly too, the lines and squiggles of early illustrations become letters and then words mirroring Pedro’s progress as he learns to read.
Lines, Squiggles, Letters, Words is a great book for getting young children fired up about reading, learning and school!
Lines, Squiggles, Letters, Words by Ruth Rocha, illustrated by Madalena Matoso, translated from the Portuguese by Lyn Miller-Lachmann (Enchanted Lion, 2016)
Ruth Rocha is a prolific author of books for children, with more than 130 titles to her name. She was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil in 1931.
Madalena Matoso is a children’s book illustrator, graphic designer and co-founder of the children’s publisher Planeta Tangerina. She lives in Lisbon, Portugal.
Lyn Miller-Lachmann is an author, editor, translator and teacher. She has translated five picture books from Portuguese into English. Lyn is the author of three YA novels: Rogue, Gringolandia, and Surviving Santiago. She and her husband divide their time between New York City and Lisbon.