Review Blog

Aug 05 2014

Emilio by Sophie Masson

cover image

Through My Eyes series. Allen & Unwin, 2014. ISBN: 9781743312476.
Thirteen year old Emilio's life, in Mexico City, is much like that of his friends. They attend school, 'hang out' together and plan weekend trips to the beach. Having been the man of the house since his father's death three years earlier, however, Emilio often feels he shouldn't join them. Instead, he feels the need to support his mother, owner of a travel business. When, instead of his mother, his aunt arrives at their home one evening, accompanied by a policeman, he feels a sense of dread and discovers that his mother has been kidnapped by a local drug gang. Against his wishes, Emilio must stay with his Aunt and her family, whilst they negotiate with his mother's kidnappers. With the support of his family and the American branch of the travel company, Emilio's strength, intelligence, resilience, love and hope all work together as he joins with the police to try and effect his mother's eventual release.
At times, I felt the story was quite slow paced and wondered if it was perhaps a tad too long. In hindsight, this may have been a ploy on the part of the author, to highlight the frustration of the protagonist at having no control over the situation and needing to wait for the kidnappers to take the lead.
The motivation behind this series is the desire to inform children about some of the contemporary issues faced by similar aged children in other countries which are currently experiencing conflict. I believe these books do so admirably and appreciate the diverse range of cultures and issues explored thus far. The comprehensive teaching notes are a real boon for any educator. Direct links to the Australian Curriculum in the areas of English and Geography, civics and citizenship and global education, the provision of background information about Mexico and current relevant websites looking at culture, religion and the drug war are also provided. The teacher notes state: 'Although the Mexican drug war is the background setting for this text, there are no explicit references to illegal drug use or the trafficking of such drugs in the story of Emilio.' As a result, this text could potentially be used in classes from Year 5 through to secondary students. If a paired text were required for upper primary classes, Deborah Ellis' books Diego's Pride and Diego's Run could perhaps be considered, although they do contain explicit information about drug use and creation. Inquiry learning, information technology and tools and apps are included as are a variety of graphic organisers and other strategies to assist students in organising their thinking. This series provides a very neat teaching package!
Jo Schenkel

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