My Uncle Is Coming Tomorrow/Mañana viene mi tío is an incisive English–Spanish dual-language picture book for older readers, dedicated to “those who, because of forced disappearances, were never able to come.”
Waiting by a closed door, a child anticipates a family visitor. The minimally drawn cartoon figure, with a round head and mild smile, expectantly sits on a bare stool and thinks of fun activities and happy news he will share upon his uncle’s imminent arrival: “Great! Then I can ask him how to stop a penalty shot./¡Genial! Así le puedo pedir que me enseñe a atajar penales” and “Great! Then I can show him how I’ve been doing in school./¡Genial! Así le puedo mostrar cómo me está yendo en la escuela.” Time passes with every expertly paced turn of the page. Tethered to the same spot, staring straight ahead at the door that never opens, the boy grows old holding onto life milestones he wishes to share with his uncle: his graduate diploma, keys to a new home, the birth of his son, becoming a grandfather. The haunting final image of the stool – now starkly empty – proves the wait for the loved one’s return never ends.
Originally published in Spanish in 2014 by award-winning Argentinian author and visual artist Sebastián Santana Camargo and translated in this bilingual edition by Guatemalan-born Elisa Amado (who lives in Toronto), this arresting social justice picture book distills difficult subject matter to its emotional essence. The white, unadorned scenes have a naive economy of line, and the simple declarative sentences radiate an undying love and hope. The light only dims with the gut punch of the blackened closing page.
An afterword by Aldana Libros publisher Patsy Aldana outlines the history of forced disappearances, its development as a tool of political terror, and the ongoing disappearances of people around the world. The book has as much to say to adults as it does to children, and it opens a door to education, conversation, and action. As Aldana writes, “Let us inform ourselves about where and when this crime is taking place and insist that no child ever again has to wait his or her whole life for an uncle who never comes.”