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(Writer of children’s books: 1882 – 1948)
by Fanny Abramovich
Translated by John D. Godinho
THE DISCOVERY OF ENJOYMENT
Something so good happened this week
that I had to tell you right away! When
I was in the school library, I picked up a book called
As reinações de Narizinho (The
High Jinks of Miss Cute-Little-Nose), by Monteiro Lobato.
I started thumbing through it, but kind of looking down my nose at
it because it was so thick and looked like it would never end and it would
be a real pain.
But I read a teensy bit of the beginning
and then a bit after that and a little more that came afterwards and
before I knew it the bell had rung to go back to the classroom and I
couldn’t take my eyes off that delicious delight.
With a sigh, I checked it out from the library and took it home. I didn’t do anything alse all day. Not even at night. Not
even the following morning, nor the one that came after, nor the one that
followed. I couldn’t even
blink until I finished it.
There is so much pretty stuff that it
gives you goose bumps, like
when Miss Cute-Little-Nose marries the Scale-less Prince and Mrs. Spider
makes her a gown all made of colors, so beautiful that even the mirror was
wide-eyed at the sight and cracked into six pieces.
When I get big, I’m going to have one just like it.
If I don’t, I’ll simply die.
When they both go for a walk in the Land of the Clear Waters, I
really feel like going with them and go for a spin in all that beauty...
When Emília, the doll made of
camomile herbs, takes a speaking pill and talks like a machine gun,
you die laughing. And before
you know it, she becomes real people.
She is always up to something, she invents a lot and she looks
people straight in the eye. She’s
The book is all one big surprise.
You think something is going to happen and then...something else
Much more fun and “marvelful”
than anything I could imagine.
It’s pure deliciousness!
All of this happens in the Yellow
Woodpecker Farm, a place where you only have children and grandmas, and
the Marquis of Short Tail, a
little pig that eats everything is sight, and Emilia, always flippant, and
a corn-cob who is a wise man wearing a top hat and knows everything about
everything – he is the Viscount of Corn-cob.
When I grow up, I’m going to live in the farm and be happy.
There’s no place like it in the whole wide world... “The farm
is as comfortable as an old shoe.”
It’s hard to believe that I’m over 8
years old and only now I read a book by Monteiro Lobato.
I’ve lost most of my life. If
you haven’t read anything by him yet, rush to the nearest bookshop and
buy one and you’ll be hugged by feelings of joy.
Love and kisses,
|THE FLAVOR OF ENCHANTMENT|
Today was a glorious day for me!
I graduated from elementary school and I received the present I
most wanted in all my life – a complete set of all the children’s
books by Monteiro lobato. Seventeen
books that make me want to lick them and caress them gently.
I’ve read them all! I
swear I have! Now I’ll be able to read them again and read them over as
many times as I want. They are mine!!!
I can pick them up whenever I feel like it. And I always do.
I’ll start with the ones I like best.
It was so wonderful to go with all the folks from the farm and
visit the Milky Way and see St. George fighting the dragon and
meet the little angel with the broken wing, he’s such a
sweetheart, and then come back and eat Aunt Nastácia’s cupcakes.
I went along with them on Viagem
ao Céu (A Trip to the Sky)! I
really wish I had my own fairy dust so I could travel to wherever I wished
whenever I had a strong urge to get away...
I really envy Emília because, all by
herself, she carried out A reforma
da natureza (The Reformation of Nature). Boy, she’s really a bold
one. She invented and
rearranged and experimented. She’s
afraid of nothing and faces everything and everyone.
She makes and remakes things as she sees fit and goes on, happy as
a lark, waiting to see what happens.
She gets scolded but she pretends she doesn’t hear, opens her
thready eyes as wide as can be and says something foolish that leaves
people speechless. I’d give anything just to have a tiny bit of her courage.
I wonder if I ever will, someday???
Another book that I’m going to read
real soon is A chave do tamanho (The
Size Key) and see everybody become teensy-weensy and have to shift for
themselves in an oversized world because of their new size and lack of
energy. They are forced to
come up with new ideas all the time.
Lobato is so clever. He
keeps prodding us constantly so that we keep thinking and thinking...
sítio do picapau amarelo (The Yellow Woodpecker Farm)
is one of my loves.
That letter from Little Thumb asking permission to live in the farm,
the arrival of all the heroes from all those wonderful stories, Cinderella,
Snow White, Peter Pan and Captain Hook, Alice in Wonderland, Alladin,
those Greek monsters, and Nana Benta calmly welcoming them all - the
adventures, the scares, the fights, the great surprises, the intrigues and
gossip, everything dazzles you and makes you shiver at the same time!!!
I love it, I love it, I love it!
It’s been a long time since I read my
first book by Monteiro Lobato. I’ve
grown older, I’ve changed schools, I’ve move to a new house and I’ve
replaced my toys, but one thing remains as firm as ever – I want to go
and live in the Yellow Woodpecker Farm!
Lots of kisses which you made so happy
with your great present that I deserved so much.
MAGNITUDE AND BEAUTY
My dear Leninha,
It’s incredible how we’ve
been writing to each other for so many years...exchanging important
happenings and itching discoveries. Today
I graduated from the School of Education.
I am now an accredited teacher.
I just want to see how well I do in a classroom chock-full of
children without the presence of Miss Cute-Little-Nose and Little Pete.
I only hope that I have the patience and the wisdom of Nana Benta
and the creativity of Aunt Nastácia.
I hope they show me the way!
My final assignment in
school was to write about Monteiro Lobato.
It was like hitting the jackpot!
I re-read all the beloved and dusty books from my childhood and,
once again, they left me open-mouthed.
I laughed, I smiled, I was bowled over...
What impresses me most now
is how he does not separate reality from fantasy.
There are no frontiers. He
leaves one, jumps into the other in one fell swoop.
It’s delicious! I
had to study thousands of articles about the games children play, but
I’ll bet he didn’t have to read even one.
He just went right into it and started playing.
Children and animals enjoy the type of fun that makes them discover
things and they feel the joy of going out exploring...and then return
peacefully to the farm when they hear Nana Benta’s loud call to come in
and have some cupcakes.
And what about the talking
and acting animals: the quiet
Polled Cow, Quindim, the brawny rhinoceros, the competent Dr. Seashell,
the gluttonous Marquis of Short Tail, the insights of the Talking Donkey,
the philosopher counsellor, all of them behaving just like people, living
together as if they were members of the family, butting in and joshing
like everybody else. Cool! Deserving
of applause and an encore!!!
And how delicious is the
way he writes. Now it’s a
hug, now it’s a smile – his words captivate you right away. He
doesn’t go for nonsense or retarded conversations with children, in
tacky, sentimental ways straight out of a Maxican soap opera.
Far from it. I noticed
that he uses difficult words, knowing that his child-reader will look up
the meaning and understand everything just right.
And how he invents beautiful words!
Let me quote just a bit from Reinações
(High Jinks): “And the
canaries singing, the humming birds humming and kissing flowers, and the
shrimps shrimping, and the crustaceans crustaceaning and everything
that’s small and does not bite smalling and not biting.”
Nobody ever wrote for children the way he did...Never, never.
I read many of his books
for adults. I was familiar
with a couple of them, but the others I had never even seen.
They don’t carry you away, they are not breathtaking...I liked
one or two of his short stories, I was nudged by some letters, some things
in his articles made me think, but there was nothing out of this world. It was kind of like a lot of other writers.
It was not like discovering new worlds as he makes us do when he
writes for children. When it
comes to that, nobody comes even close.
He’s the greatest, the best!!!
He’s all by himself!
Oh, I almost forgot...My
favorite book now is Memórias de Emília
(Emília’s Memoirs). I
think I’m going to have it by my side for the rest of my life...Emília
– that’s who I’d like to be! I adore her!
A big kiss from “the
CRITICAL MINDS AND BRAZILIAN FEELINGS
My dear Leninha,
Time is whirling and flying by fast.
I’m now 25 and I’m working with children in the 4th
I change the teaching methods, I change the verbiage and what I
expect from them, but I never change the required readings of Monteiro
They are indispensable!
When I was teaching pre-schoolers, I
used to tell stories about the Yellow Woodpecker Farm.
I used to tell a whole chapter at a time and I’d see their little
eyes wide-open begging for more.
Now that I teach older kids, I work a lot with Greek mythology.
And who is better than Lobato to introduce them to the mysteries of
Everything I know about Ancient Greece I learned by devouring O
minotauro (The Minotaur) and
Os doze trabalhos de Hércules (The
Twelve Labors of Hercules). My students are just as charmed by them as
I am. And
they cheer and get excited and learn their lessons lovingly, not just by
I tried to work with Lobato’s textbooks.
They are better, far better, than those being published today.
It’s too bad that the concepts are now obsolete.
no longer possible to use his A gramática
and A aritmética da Emília
(Emílias Arithmetic) or Geografia da Dona Benta (Nana Benta’s geography).
But these books prod you
into inventing lessons that are more interesting, much more fun, and less
of a pain.
Surprise is the secret!
I always read his Fábulas
(Fables) whenever I can.
There’s nothing better to make the students criticize, demystify,
reach their own conclusions...and laugh at Lobato’s brand of mockery and
at his blend of humor and simplicity.
a master at dispensing the exact amounts of these ingredients...
Something that has always impressed me
about Lobato is how well he writes – without “grammaticabilities,”
without being tethered to some silly and conventional rule.
The other day I found one his letters in which he says:
“You can’t imagine how I struggle to extirpate ‘signs of
literality’ from my books for children.
Each time I revise a new edition, I still find ‘literalities’
that spoil the work and I kill them as I would kill a flea.
This is how I want my students to write:
be free, be humorous, be “imaginating,” kill all “literalities.”
Something else that impresses me about
Monteiro Lobato is his attachment to everything that’s Brazilian.
No other author who’s come into my life has brought me so much of
Brazil without alienating me from the rest of the world.
Ah, to bask in the sun like a lizard; to eat jaboticaba berries and
climb trees and make fun of those who, like monkeys, imitate foreign words
and ways, and to relish our folklore in his Histórias
da Tia Nastácia (Aunt Nastácia’s Stories) and
in Saci, and to see all
of our natural wealth in O poço do
visconde (The Vistount’s Well), and to feel him nudging us toward a
patriotism that’s consciencious and contributive rather than imbecilic
I think he says that, very clearly,
through Emília’s mouth:
“They say I don’t have a heart, but that’s not true.
I do have a heart and it’s beautiful.
Except that it’s not made of bananas.
It is not impressed by petty little things;
but it hurts every time it sees an injustice being done.
It hurts so much that I’m sure the ‘evilest’ thing in the
world is injustice.”
I’ll always be grateful to him for my
feelings as a Brazilian, which scream loudly every time I see an injustice
Unfortunately, this has always happened in the past and continues
to happen in our country...
And to think that he was arrested for
his visceral participation in the campaign for the protection of Brazilian
was arrested for being a patriot...If that is the price, I’m willing to
I learned from him not to run away from my convictions, to go into
a fight with everything I’ve got. To go for broke!
Lots of the very best Brazilian kisses,
UNIQUENESS AND PERMANENCE
Monteiro Lobato is arrested for his patriotism...
My dear friend Leninha,
Years have gone by and I’m still in
the mood to talk with you about Monteiro Lobato.
I’m over 40 now, but the other
day I decided to read all of his books once more.
I’m talking about his books for children, of course.
These are the 17 volumes that I keep and show to my friends as my
My eyes are no longer so inocente and so
easily charmed. I notice
details that I had never seen clearly before.
His insights are incredible. There
are only two smart, curious children living in the farm, no different from
thousands of other children. Miss
Cute-Little-Nose is an orphan and Little Pete has a mother somewhere who
shows up at the very beginning of the first story and then vanishes, never
to be heard from again. Nothing
about his parents...The children are brought up by their grandmothers, two
ladies who are light-hearted, playful and not at all repressive.
Lobato also knows how to get around any
problem. For example, Nana
Benta is cultured, wise, prudent, very neat, and is white.
Aunt Nastácia is easily frightened, is superstitious, homely and
is “black with thick lips.” It’s amazing how he always manages to
avoid any situations of racism. It’s
enough to give you the shivers. And
remember that Aunt Nastácia is the only person who works in this
farm-wonderland. She is also
the most creative. After all,
she created Emília and the Viscount.
Speaking of the Viscount of Corn-cob,
you can see that he is the character Lobato likes the least. He is a
busybody, a pedant, a complex person unable to deal with the concrete
world, a coward. An
academician! On the other hand, Emília, who is a doll, not a child, is
irreverent and always speaks her mind.
She is totally independent and in charge of her own life, the first
feminist in Brazilian literature.
The most vanguard of all! She was in the front lines for women’s rights.
The love-hate relationship between her and the Viscount is
wide-open and delicious!
The Yellow Woodpecker Farm, where I’ve
always wanted to live, bothered a lot more people than you can imagine.
The other day, I read an article saying that in 1942 the book A
história do mundo para crianças (The History of the World for Children)
had been removed from all public libraries and Catholic schools.
And they lit bonfires to burn all of Lobato’s pages.
Pure vandalism. All to no avail. He
survives to the this day. And
probably having a few laughs.
In today’s schools they don’t light
up bonfires anymore. But then,
they don’t read Lobato as they should.
He’s been set aside, put away.
The children hardly know him now and they are losing so much...The
fault lies with their mothers and teachers, too lazy to handle a longer
text, afraid to be nudged into doing any thinking, fearful of Lobato’s
reproaches, unwilling to deal with untrammeled and discerning children
like Little Pete and Miss Cute-Little-Nose.
The farm is a utopian possibility for a
harmonious, intelligent and dynamic
civilization, where everyone wants to take refuge.
In Emília’s words: “The
secret, my friend, is only one: freedom.
Here we have no leashes. The
greatest misfortune of all is to be in a leash.
And how these leashes have spread throughout the world!”
Monteiro Lobato, upset with indignation,
but in tune with the future and aware of children’s intelligence and
capabilities, has given his best to this child-reader: his irreverent
humor, his touching stories, his prodding knowledge, his unpredictable
characters, his fantastic blend of the real and the imaginary, his belief
in freedom. I know he was the
pioneer in children’s literature in Brazil.
I also know that no one has yet taken his place.
He has only followers who are eager to reach his level, where his
indispensable presence remains as the object of great admiration,
affection, adulation and deserving of applause on the part of every
child-reader (whatever the age, like me...).
Oh, my most favorite book is still Memórias
da Emília (Emília’s Memoirs).
And my ambition, as a human being, is to be “independence or
death,” as Emilia describes herself. Someday I’ll get there!
Kisses from Lobato’s eternal reader,
* Fanny Abramovich writes books for children and only
wishes she could give her readers one tenth of the pleasure that Lobato
has always given her.
OF THE PORTUGUESE-SPEAKING WORLD
informs our visitors that Fanny has sold more than one million
copies of her books.