Children/Young: Luces en el canal

Author: David Fernandez Sifres
-Ediciones SM
-US Release Date: 06-06-2013
-Reviewed by:Roxana Benavides
-Review Release:March 25, 2014

David Fernandez Sifres’ the Lights in the Canal is a children’s book, but the theme and storyline would also appeal to adults. The reader will follow the friendship between a child called Frits, and Jaap Dussel, an old man who lives with his wife in a boat in the canals of Amsterdam.

Frit has learned to do a lot of tricks on his crutches. Sometimes when he is at the plaza, people will stop to look at him sadly and leave him some coins. He does not remember anything, but his mother told him that a bicycle had broken the tibia in his left leg when he was a year old and had to be amputated.

Fernandez Sifres captures the reader’s attention with Frits unprejudiced, sweet and honest ways; and his friendship with the mysterious Jaap Dussel whose character in the story provides the elements of mystery and magical realism.

In the first chapter of the book, the boy approaches the old man and calls him Mister. The man says it's not mister, just Dussel. But the boy points to the hat that is collecting coins from passers-by on the sidewalk, and says:  “if you have a hat then you are a mister, Mister Dussel. My name is Frederick, but you can call me Frits.”

Some have accused Dussel of practicing witchcraft, of being a monster; others of being a bicycle thief. His relationship with the Dussels let him into their secret.  In order to survive, Dussel fished out things from the canal including the old boat and Frits’ gift - a beautiful refurbished bicycle. Frits witnessed the couple’s daily struggle to survive.  In the days when Dussel did not catch a fish, and had no money to buy food, he would catch doves, pigeons to eat but never storks. The Dussel liked storks because they mated for life and found them to be almost human. 

Frits is intrigued by the old man in the boat, by the lights and the strange monster - like figure with a large rectangular face that shows up some nights in his boat. 

 But Frits and the reader will find out, and learn that the reality is much more than what you see. 

What happened to Jaap Dussel and his wife? Did Frits imagine the strange successes surrounding their disappearance?  The local newspaper reported that two storks did not migrate this year, and that it was proof that the winters were no longer cold in Amsterdam.  

An original and well written story with twists and turns, mystery and secrets and an unexpected event; divided into 14 nicely illustrated chapters and an epilogue, that will keep young and adults readers engaged.