Zaira and the Dolphins, by Mar Pavón, Ill. by Cha Coco

July 9, 2012

Zaira y los delfinesThe Book

This 32-page picture book, originally written in Spanish, is intended for children ages 5 and up, according to Amazon.

It was written by award-winning author, Mar Pavón, and illustrated by Cha Coco. Publisher Cuento de Luz has made this picture book adaptation available in English (in Spanish it’s titled Zaira y los delfines).

The Story

Zaira’s imagination has her seeing dolphins playing in a fountain, spending time with a cadre of imaginary friends, and taking joy in everything around her. But the town’s children keep making fun of her when she describes how the dolphins jump and play in the fountain. When Zaira’s world suddenly changes because she no longer sees water or dolphins in the fountain, the other children’s mockery truly begins to sting.  None of her imaginary friends are near and she is all alone…until a fairy appears. Will the fairy help bring back the dolphins?

The Good

This book can be appealing for kids who enjoy fairy tales. The writing is clear and kid-friendly. The descriptions of Zaira and her world encourage the reader to see the world from her point of view, despite the comments from the other children. The plot can help encourage conversations concerning friendship, bullying, and self-confidence.

The “hmm…”

I thoroughly enjoyed this book until the fairy made an appearance. What first gave me pause was her name: “Takethat”. I chuckled to myself thinking, it’s the revenge fairy. Then she used magic to wipe the smiles of the children who were laughing, followed by a proud “take that!” I wasn’t chuckling any more. I was puzzled.

I won’t give away the rest of the story, but the bullying was never addressed in a constructive way (actually, we never see the kids again). It was simply magicked away in an act of revenge. The story then continues Zaira’s journey to find her dolphins again, which involves paying attention and being a good girl.

Again, I am puzzled. Zaira had not misbehaved at any time in the story, but the fairy insisted that she observe and behave.

Perhaps this is part of the “whimsical” in this story. Then again, “whimsical” does not mean that issues like bullying should be downplayed. I can’t help but think that the story lost its way as soon as the bullying was simply shrugged off with magic.

The Art

This was my first time seeing Cha Coco’s work and I am now a fan. I must admit, the drawings are what first drew me to this book and I was never disappointed. She created a bright, whimsical, and colorful world for Zaira and her imaginary friends. Sometimes they were larger than life and helped illustrate Zaira’s fantastic view of the world.

Have you read this book?

If you have read this book (in either language), I’d love to know what you think.

Would  you recommend this book to parents and their children? Why?

Do you have reservations when it comes to this book?

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