AUTHOR: Jaume Copons
PUBLISHER: Combel Editorial
GENRE: Children’s literature
READER’S NAME: Patricia Mason
Barcelona-born Jaume Copons is the author of many novels, stories, and songs for children. He has worked in radio and television, and was a scriptwriter for the Spanish version of Sesame Street. Some of his books have been translated into English, including Todo lo que sé de la caca (English title, “Everything I Know about Poop”), the first book in this series.
The second book, Todo lo que sé de la gente, which www.amazon.es recommends for children aged between five and seven, takes up the issue of diversity. The young narrator (a boy) sees the many differences there are among people. Nevertheless, at the same time he is being told that people are all alike. How can both of these things be true? After looking at some of the many ways in which people differ from one another (age, looks, habits, fears, where they live, food preferences, etc. etc.), he reaches the conclusion that the one thing we have in common is that we are all different.
The book is illustrated by Raúl Guridi. Since the text is focused on the differences among people, it is perhaps inevitable that there is occasional racial/ageist/ethnic/sexist stereotyping in the cartoon-style drawings. For the most part, coloration is limited to the background color against which the figures are drawn, with shading and highlighting done in a different color or hue. The color palette is not particularly attractive (background colors include mustard, puce, and dark grey) and sometimes the coloring is so subtle that on the page showing different eye colors, for example, the differences are barely visible.
On the positive side, the 28-page book is written in an uncomplicated sentence structure; both lower and upper cases are used, and the typefaces are large and clear; the vocabulary—even those words which may be unfamiliar to a young child—is related to the point in question, with a fair amount of repetition. The last page of the book has a moveable element—a wheel that the reader can turn to reveal eight illustrations of how the narrator might look as a grown-up. Since it’s a boy, the illustrations consequently all depict males.
While it seems churlish to criticize a book that is attempting to expose a child to the important subject of diversity, there is nothing particularly new or enticing about the way the topic is presented here, even leaving aside the unappealing illustrations. The book contains no dialogue and hence there is no discussion or exploration of the issue. All we have are the child narrator’s observations on the differences people exhibit, plus an additional first-person comment on the difference in question from another character (some of these are caricatures of recognizable figures like Cyrano de Bergerac and Michael Jackson).
What would seem to be the most important point, namely, that in spite of all our differences, we nevertheless share certain commonalities—we all think, laugh, suffer, love, and want to be loved—comes not as a realization arrived at by the young narrator on the basis of his observations, but as a comment from the Charlie Chaplin caricature. And to immediately follow this (in what seems like a nod to the “poop book”) with a gratuitous comment from the Groucho Marx figure that another thing we have in common is that we all use the bathroom, only undermines the serious point that’s being made.