2003 Brazil

Books: The World in an Enchanted Network

I was a small child, but I don't know how old I was… Just tall enough to stand before my father's desk and rest my arms on it with my chin on my hands. Right in front of my eyes there was a brass statuette: a very thin knight holding a javelin and riding on an even thinner horse, followed by a small donkey carrying a short fat man who was holding his hat as if he was cheering.

In answer to my question, my father introduced them:

Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.

I wanted to know who they were and where they lived. I learned that they were Spaniards and had been living for centuries inside a book. Then my father stopped what he was doing, took an enormous book down from a shelf and began showing me the pictures while telling the stories of those two people.

One of the illustrations showed Don Quixote surrounded by books.

- And who lives inside those books? I asked

From his answer, I realized that there were all kinds of books. Inside them were infinite lives. From then on my parents helped me to get to know some of them. Robinson Crusoe on his island, Gulliver in Liliput and Robin Hood in his forest. Then I found out that princesses and fairies, giants and djinns, kings and witches, the three little pigs and the seven little goats, the ugly duckling and the big bad wolf, all of my old acquaintances from the folktales that I used to listen to, also inhabited books.

When I was able to read, it was my turn to live inside books. I met fairy-tale characters from the whole world who made me wander from China to Ireland, from Russia to Greece. The stories of our famous writer Monteiro Lobato were so much part of me that I could say that I lived at the Yellow Woodpecker Farm where they took place. It was a free territory with no boundaries. From there it was very easy to move to the Mississippi with Tom and Huck, to ride a horse in France with D'Artagnan, to get lost in Bagdad's marketplace with Aladdin, to fly to Neverland with Peter Pan, to travel over Sweden riding a goose with Nils, to go down a rabbit hole with Alice, to be swallowed by a sea monster with Pinocchio, to chase Moby Dick with Captain Ahab, to sail the seven seas with Captain Blood, to look for treasure with Long John Silver, to travel around the world with Phileas Fogg, to remain for years in China with Marco Polo, to live in Africa with Tarzan, on top of the mountains with Heidi or in a little house on the prairie with the Ingalls family, to be exploited on London streets with Oliver Twist or in Paris with Cosette, to survive a fire with Jane Eyre, to go to the Cuore school with Enrico and Garrone, to follow a holy man in India with Kim, to dream of becoming a writer with Jo Marsh, to be part of the gang of the Sand Captains with Pedro Bala on the hills and beaches of Bahia. Just like that. No boundaries and no age groups. Skipping from here to there. Everything somehow linked in a strong network and a powerful web.

Little by little, from so many worlds, I developed my own world. And in the books that I write I share with other people everything that lives inside me.


Written by Ana Maria Machado
Poster illustrated by Rafael Fabrice Yockteng Benalcázar

The poster by the Peruvian artist Rafael Fabrice Yockteng Benalcázar, was selected in a competition among Latin American artists. Andersen Award winner Ana Maria Machado wrote the message. 

Download poster here