When I first began shopping for children’s books in Brazil, I had a hard time finding books by Brazilians. It was crazy. I was in Saraiva, one of the major chain bookstores in Brazil, and I noticed the books I’d picked were all translations from American authors. So I began hunting for books by Brazilians. I picked up one book after another. Published in France. Published in the UK. Published in Italy. I picked up one with a Macaw on the front. Macaws are from the Amazon. It had to be Brazilian. Nope. Published in Columbia.
There are of course many amazing Brazilian authors writing for children, but despite amazing native authors and children’s lit community, I had to research and order books by Brazilians. My local chain bookstore in Vitoria was no help, which is just wrong.
So I’d like to introduce five of my favorite Brazilian children’s book authors. I’ve included links for English translations when available. Based on what Spanish speaking friends have told me, a native Spanish speaker should have no trouble reading the Portuguese, but I’d love to get more Brazilian kid lit translated into English. I’ll add it to the list of life goals.
Machado was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1941 and has written over 100 books for children. In 2000, Machado won the international Hans Cristian Andersen Award, which designated her one of the greatest children’s authors in the world. She began writing in 1969 and wrote specifically for children because during the military dictatorship in Brazil, children’s literature along with poetry and song, “were amongst the few literary forms with which, through the poetic and symbolic use of language, you could make the ideas of a joie de vivre, individual freedom and respect for human rights known.” Some of her most famous books include A Menina Bonita do Laço de Fita, about a white bunny who desperately wants to become a beautiful black like the little girl next door and the advice she gives him, and Bisa Bia, Bisa Bel, about a girl’s internal dialogue with her great-grandfather and her own great-granddaughter. A Menina Bonita do Laço de Fita is available in English on Amazon.
Born in Rio de Janeiro in 1901, Meirelles published her first work at the age of 18, and she was every bit the genius you’d assume based on that fact. She’s known in Brazil primarily as a poet, but she was also a professor, journalist, painter, playwright, and fiction author. There aren’t many types of writing she didn’t publish in. She could do it all. Meirelles was one of the first women in Brazil to be recognized as a great literary voice. Some of her most famous works for children are “O Cavalinho Branco”, “Sonhos de Menina”, and “O Menino Azul”. The musicality of her lines is so strong, that “O Menino Azul” still sounded lovely when I read it aloud. (And as all adult learners of a second language know, nothing is harder to read aloud in a foreign language than poetry.) I haven’t been able to find any of her children’s works translated into English, but you can find many of her most famous poems translated in this anthology of Brazilian poets.
Furnari is an Italian-Brazilian author-illustrator. I’ve been able to forgive her for hoarding so much talent (author-illustrators seem so unfairly awesome) because her characters are so delightfully quirky. Born in Rome in 1948, she moved to São Paulo at the age of two and has lived there ever since. She came to children’s books in the early 1980’s through art and initially worked exclusively an illustrator before creating her own characters and stories. One of her most famous characters is A Bruxinha Zuzu or Zuzu the Little Witch, who never quite seems to master the power of her magic wand. Many of Funari’s books are textless, including our favorite A Bruxinha Zuzu e o Gato Miú, and can be enjoyed regardless of what languages you read. One of her most famous and award winning stories, Felpo Filva, is available in English as Fuzz McFlops in both the US and UK.
Born in the state of Minas Gerais in 1945, Junqueira published her first book at the age of 37 and has gone on to write more than 100 children’s books. She worked as a professor and editor before becoming an author. My daughter and I discovered Junqueira through a book swap at school. My daughter, always the animal lover, picked up a book with a cute cat on the front porch. I was the first story in verse that was more poetry than story and I honestly wasn’t sure how well she’d like it. A Poesia na Varanda was a hit and inspired me to buy Where the Sidewalk Ends during our Christmas trip to the US. I haven’t found any English translations but many of her world are available outside Brazil in Portuguese through Kindle.
Stigger is not really known as a children’s author. She’s a journalist, art critic, and writer primarily for adults known for challenging rules of genre and format in her work. Born in the state of Porto Alegre in 1973, Stigger began working as an essayist for radio and television. She then pursued a PhD in Art theory and Criticism and pursued research and various post-doctoral work before publishing her first collection of stories for adults in 2004. So not a career kid lit writer. However, one of her most recent books, Onde a Onça Bebe Água, Where the Jaguar Drinks Water, is one of the best books I’ve read for teaching empathy and seeing the world through a another’s eyes. In the story, Jaci is forced to consider the world from the perspective of the Jaguar he’s ends up dining with. Unfortunately, there isn’t an English translation of it or any of her books that I can find but several of her adults works do have Spanish versions available on Amazon.