Review Blog

Sep 19 2014

Emilio by Sophie Masson

cover image

Through My Eyes series. Allen & Unwin, 2014. ISBN: 9781743312476.
(Age:11-14) Sophie Masson continues the excellent work in this series by providing readers with an action-packed and vivid account of one boy's experience in Mexico City. Emilio Lopez lives with his mother, a moderately successful businesswoman, in one of the world's most dangerous cities. Rife with crime, conflict and ongoing raging drug wars, Mexico City is a place of stark contrasts between the have's and have-not's, the criminals and the law-abiding citizens and the guilty and the innocent.
Kidnapping for ransom is an increasingly used tactic by drug gangs particularly in this city. When Emilio's mother is kidnapped purely on the basis of her upcoming partnership with an American company, their family is plunged into intense despair and a frightening nightmare. Working closely with the family, the police and a sympathetic liaison officer, support the family as they work against the clock to save their loved one.
Emilio is an engaging character with a strength and determination that is both mature and admirable. The warmth of his family is a bulwark to his distress in this awful episode of his young life.
Not so graphic nor confronting as to be disturbing, but realistic enough to impress on young readers the dangers faced by other children in less fortunate circumstances, this novel would shape the reader's understanding of the conflicts experienced in other countries. Further, there will be some students who have come from similar situations for whom this novel will resonate. Caution would be advised before sharing this with some who may find it too strikingly traumatic in an echo of their own personal experiences.
Additionally, readers are introduced to the vibrant and colourful Mexican culture and traditions, enhancing their world view (connecting to the Australian Curriculum in the Literature strand as well as Geography).
Allen & Unwin have provided excellent teaching notes here and a book trailer here. There is also a video interview with Sophie Masson here.
This is No. 4 in the Through My Eyes series conceived by Lyn White and a portion of the proceeds goes to UNICEF. While I have not read others in the series, if they are of this calibre, I believe they would all be a very worthy addition to your shelves for Upper Primary to Lower Secondary.
Sue Warren

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