I chanced upon this international picturebook title while at the library and was absolutely thrilled, having reviewed Guridi’s picturebooks previously (see here for my review of The Day I Became A Bird and here for Eye Glasses, and Fats’ review here of Guridi’s collaboration with Ingrid Chabbert). It also fits our current reading theme on storytellers, books, and romance with the written and spoken language.
Once Upon A Time (Amazon | Book Depository)
Written and Illustrated by Guridi
Published by Tate Publishing (2018, first published 2016) Original Title: Érase
ISBN: 1849765138 (ISBN13: 9781849765138) Borrowed from Zayed Central Library, Al Ain. Book photos taken by me.
The reader is introduced in the beginning to Bard who loved words since he was born. The entire community appreciated his gift and he took pleasure in weaving stories to the delight of everyone in the village.
The description of Bard reminded me a little bit of the wandering poets usually found in Europe who ask for random words from lovers strolling in the streets, which the poets would then craft into verse.
There came a day, however, when for some inexplicable reason, Bard simply decided to stop speaking. The people were flummoxed (Bard would have loved this word) and alarmed, and tried everything they could to get him to speak again, but silence reigned throughout the village.
As a clinician, I can not help but see resonances of this story with children diagnosed with elective mutism. One of the research projects I am involved in right now here at the United Arab Emirates is to search for titles that depict various exceptionalities and the culturally/linguistically diverse in picturebooks. This is one classic example of a story that does not ostensibly discuss the disorder, but simply demonstrates poetically and poignantly the sudden absence of words, and how the people around Bard reacted to his decision to not speak.
Whether or not Bard regained his facility for words and love for the spoken language, I shall leave for you to discover. Guridi also dedicated this book to “our storytellers – for it is they who keep our imagination alive.” A lovely picturebook that is worth adding to your diverse bookshelf.
#ReadIntl2020 Update: Guridi is from Spain and the book is translated from Spanish.