VALERIA

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Valeria, whose worlds at school and home are depicted in crisp linework with a bright, spring-colored palette, may excel at knowing her colors, numbers, and letters, but she lacks any self-confidence. She isn’t aware that she is “as pretty as a spring morning” (both her shiny hair and sparkly eyes are noted) and repeatedly hides her face; she isn’t aware of her sweet voice and speaks too softly; and she isn’t aware of the power of her laugh or the strength of her physical affection, so she withholds them. She looks down at the ground too much (though in the spread noting this, she, confusingly, is depicted as looking up at everyone’s feet above her). When the wind, described as dangerously bored, carries her hat away, she finally sees her classmates for who they are—and hugs Raul, her friend with a bandaged leg and crutch. Rid of her shyness, she discovers “a new world.” The story, which places a moderate emphasis on Valeria’s physical appearance, may disappoint readers who see more value in other qualities. Moreover, children may take away a baffling message about bodily autonomy, since the story explicitly notes Valeria’s inability to give away “her hugs and her kisses.” Finally, some children may think Valeria is doing fine precisely as she is, with an introspective, shy personality not necessarily in need of fixing.

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