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The Kite

by Luis Garay

Francisco is a poor Nicaraguan boy whose mother is expecting a baby. Since the recent death of his father, Francisco must help support his family by selling newspapers (which he cannot read) in the market where his father had a fruit stall. Every day, he wishes that Papa could swing him in the air again, that his baby brother would arrive soon, and that a certain kite – unattainable but so beautiful – would still be hanging in the toy stall. Eventually, Francisco learns that although some wishes can’t come true, “life is full of surprises. Some are hard to bear. Others are wonderful.”

Following the precedent set by his previous books Pedrito’s Day and The Long Road, Nicaraguan-born Luis Garay attempts to create an awareness of the hardships faced by many Latin American children. He succeeds, yet this story far surpasses the label of “social issues” literature. It has all the elements of an excellent story – tension, pathos, well-drawn characters, arresting dialogue. Straightforward prose is peppered with poetic images, such as the kite, sky, clouds, and Papa’s spirit being a chain, of which Francisco is a link. The themes are universal and timeless, inviting discussion on many levels. Garay’s distinctive paintings glow with vibrant tropical colours, but there is darkness beneath the colour, seeping through the cracks and holes of the alleyways and shabby huts, underlining the difficulty of these characters’ lives. In spite of their poverty, however, the people of Francisco’s world are visually portrayed as sturdy and dignified, members of a proud, caring community.

The Kite is highly recommended for libraries, classrooms, and personal book collections.