Helen

The Capybaras by Alfredo Soderguit

This book is one of the best examples of the picture book format that I’ve read in a long time. Spare text complimented by evocative – often hilarious – illustrations, convey a simple story with a subtle but complex metaphor.

On the surface we have chickens – roof over their heads, fed, enclosed, safe. Occasionally one will disappear. Otherwise, all is well.

On the other hand, the capybaras are being hunted. They flee and appeal to the chickens for sanctuary. The chickens are not pleased. The capybaras are big and there are lots of them and they are non-chickenish. Initially, the grown-up chickens resist. The chicks and young capybara are not so reticent. They get along famously. Whilst playing, a dog threatens. Capybaras can swim! A chick hops on a young capybara’s back and they swim away from the dog behind the capybaras. They are big and there are lots of them. The chick is safe! The chickens are pleased. The capybaras hide quietly in the chicken coop. One assumes the business of chickens disappearing is discussed. Hunting season ends. The capybaras leave and their new chicken friends leave with them.

This story offers lovely wisdom. Initially, of course, there are the obvious truths that it is “the right thing to do” to offer sanctuary to people who need it, prejudice and racism are wrong, etc. Beyond that, societies would do well to follow the example of children – who are generally open and accepting of other people and could care less about differences. The story further offers the truth that refugees, or migrants, new Canadians of any stripe, tend to strengthen and enhance communities they join in surprising and wonderful ways, given the slightest opportunity.

Picture Book pr6154628

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