I Lived on Butterfly Hill
by Marjorie Agosin, published 2014
“Everyone in Chile has an explanation for earthquakes. I say that the earth has the right to yawn and stretch just as I do in my bed when I don’t want to wake early for school, and also has the right to sneeze as we all do when covered in dust.”
Profound and poetical are the best two words to capture the new children’s book by Chilean author Marjorie Agosin. A prolific writer, poet, and Latino activist, Agosin has directed her talents towards young people in an outstanding children’s book that stirs the soul. Somewhat autobiographical, the book captures the life of an 11-year-old Chilean girl who goes into exile when the Pinochet dictatorship takes over Chile. .
This children’s book deals with very serious issues: dictatorship, persecution, exile, loss. And yet, it does this with careful and thoughtful language, uplifting messages, and always a ray of hope. I was amazed at the scope of topics which were handled with the right emotional tone for young children to take in and contemplate, rather than with terror.
Adding to the appeal of the book is a liberal use of the power and trust in the unseen world, in intuition, and faith. Calling on several traditions, including the native Chilean beliefs, and Jewish traditions, we see the power that faith can have when disaster strikes.
There are a few moments in this children’s book where the message is perhaps a bit too direct, sounding a little like preaching. And yet, it feels okay, as the real events portrayed in the book must be elevated and understood for future generations.
I sincerely hope this book finds its way to the hearts and minds of children, and adults as well. The past must be acknowledged so that it is not repeated.