The Capybaras by Alfredo Soderguit

Cover image.

The Capybaras by Alfredo Soderguit (9781771647823)

The farm was a safe place where life was comfortable and everyone knew their role. There were chickens who had plenty of food and a rather vicious dog who guarded them. Then one day, the capybaras emerged from the swampy part of the pen. There was no room for them there and they were not expected. The hens found them too big, too hairy and too wet. But the capybaras couldn’t go home because the hunting season had started. So the hens set some rules where they would not share food, or their dry pen, or tolerate any noise. Then one day after a chick had a misadventure, everything changed. The capybaras had saved the chick and now they were allowed to sleep in the chicken coop, share food and live together. Then hunting season ended and the capybaras prepared to leave. What were the new friends to do?

This picture book was originally published in Spanish in Latin America. Soderguit has a marvelous gift for wry understatement or in fact just stating the opposite of what is actually happening in the illustrations. This contributes to a sense that horrible things are happening off the page and the characters live in real denial, even before the capybaras arrive. The entire book works beautifully as a statement about refugees, tolerance and building a community.

The illustrations are a marvel of quiet moments with a lot of the power of the book being the things in the illustrations that go unremarked upon in the text. The illustrations are done in pen and ink with pops of orange color and the deep browns of the capybaras. The wide-eyed capybaras contrast impressively with the white chickens and their delicate life balance.

Profound and remarkable. Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Greystone Kids.

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