The Rebellious Alphabet

The Rebellious Alphabet

by Jorge Diaz, Ivind S. Jorfald

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Diaz, a Chilean exile who now lives in Spain, takes on the subject of censorship in this universal parable of freedom. Here, an illiterate dictator known as the Little General bans reading, writing and printing in his village. He doesn't suspect that a man named Placido (``peaceful'') will foil his plans to keep the people in ignorance. Placido owns seven canaries which wear letters of the alphabet on their feet; he dictates his ideas to the birds, which hop from inkpad to paper until a leaflet or poem is complete. Placido's messages of ``liberty'' contrast with images of the Little General and his troops burning books and protest letters. Norwegian illustrator Jorfald combines collage and a cartoon technique similar to--though not as disturbing as--the work of German satirist George Grosz. He renders scenes of oppression in drab grays, reserving a more variegated palette for spreads supporting nonviolent revolution. While he and Diaz paint a simplistic, soft-hitting portrait of fascism--especially considering the target audience--the book's symbolic content will challenge young Americans. Ages 12-up. (Dec.)
School Library Journal
Gr 5 Up-Reminiscent of The Bomb and the General (Harcourt, 1989) by Umberto Eco and Eugenio Carmi, this unusual picture book tells of a small, illiterate general who rules over a large village. He controls the minds of his people by banning reading, writing, and printing. But an elderly man, Plcido, puts letters and punctuation marks on the feet of his seven canaries and has them jump on an ink-filled sponge and then on pieces of paper to form the words of his poems and leaflets. When the soldiers find the source of these outlawed papers, they jail the man and his birds and burn the letters. The ink from them forms a black cloud that rains down words on the villagers and black prisoner's stripes on the general. With their ruler a prisoner of his own ignorance, the people are free to read. There is much to keep older readers interested in Jorfald's whimsical, cartoon illustrations. The military men are depicted in grays and blacks, with hats, a twisting pipeline from the general's mouth to the town crier, and other accoutrements that poke fun at their ridiculous position. In contrast, the villagers are rendered in bright colors. Plcido's writings appear in many languages, attesting to the universality of the message. However, the text is didactic and contains the gratuitous generalization that ``...people who are free love nature.'' The translation is stiff. In addition, the deus ex machina solution is simplistic. Would that illiteracy and repression were so easily eradicated! Still this fable, soon to become a film, may spark discussion in a unit on censorship.-Marianne Saccardi, Whitby School American Montessori Center, Greenwich, CT

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Product Details

Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
Edge Graphics Ser.
Product dimensions:
7.95(w) x 10.57(h) x 0.38(d)
Age Range:
12 Years

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