#SurvivalStories2021 Books Early Readers Genre Lifespan of a Reader Picture Books Reading Themes Stories Of The Dispossessed

An Allegorical Tale Of Refuge, Integration, and Liberation

"The Capybaras" by Alfredo Soderguit.


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The Capybaras [Amazon | Book Depository]

Written and Illustrated by Alfredo Soderguit Translated by Elisa Amado
Published by Greystone Kids (2021)
ISBN: 9781771647823 (ISBN10: 1771647825) Borrowed from Overdrive. Book photos taken by me.

Written in the same vein as Chris Naylor Ballesteros’ The Suitcase (Amazon | Book Depository) and Issa Watanabe’s Migrants (Amazon | Book Depository) (see my review of both books here) – The Capybaras is an allegorical, sparsely-written story about what it is like to seek refuge, what it means to be treated with suspicion (not to mention derision), and the realities of inter-species cohabitation.

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As I was writing this piece, I discovered more information from the National Geographic website about the capybaras:

These impressive semi-aquatic mammals are found throughout much of northern and central South America, though a small invasive population has been seen in Florida. They’re closely related to guinea pigs and rock cavies, and more distantly related to chinchillas and agouti. Like beavers, capybaras are strong swimmers.

Apparently, they are real – not mythical/make-believe creatures. In this narrative, the capybaras are being hunted and sought refuge in this backwater farm with chickens who regarded them as hairy, oversized animals. There is simply no room for them, as declared by the chickens, given their carefully-maintained, orderly existence.

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The chickens eventually relented – but with very detailed stipulations listed. This is very reminiscent of everything that im/migrants have to go through – an exercise that I already know by heart.

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I love the gradual and credible build-up of the narrative: how the capybaras transformed from being objects of pity/derision, to something regarded as a threat, then as potentially useful – gradually redefining the relationship dynamics among these widely different species. It is a testament to how diversity necessarily transforms – and ultimately liberates both the ones seeking refuge and the so-called “natives” of a particular place.


#SurvivalStories2021 Update: 56 out of target 100

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

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