Along The Tapajós (Fernando Vilela)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Along The Tapajós by Fernando Vilela, translated by Daniel Hahn, a riveting tale of riverside life in the Amazon.

Cauã, our narrator, and his little sister Inaê wake in their stilt home on the Tapajós River in Brazil, one of the largest in the Amazon rainforest. They eat breakfast with their parents, then head to school by motorboat. Along the way, they “play” with the alligators and remark on a priest traveling to town to perform many weddings in a single weekend. At school, however, the weather begins to turn dark and stormy, and it’s clear that the yearly rains have arrived. The siblings race home to help their parents pack up everything in their home and move it to their boat; they will head to a safer part of the river for the season, where the entire village will construct temporary shelter and continue their lives. But once they arrive and set up their new home, Inaê makes a heartbreaking discovery: in the commotion, the family’s pet tortoise Titi has been left behind! She pleads with her parents to go back, but they say it is not possible. Unwilling to leave Titi to the mercy of the river, Cauã and Inaê come up with a rescue plan – but it will pit them against great dangers, the like of which they’ve never faced before…

Fascinating! Taking a peek into a culture that little (or big) readers may not be familiar with, this tale of life on the river takes a rather gripping turn into an adventure that’s not for the faint of heart. It’s a clever tactic that allows the reader to learn and connect with Cauã and Inaê, rather than simply observing their life in a clinical way. The sequences at the end during Titi’s rescue may be a little intense for the youngest readers, but older kids will be riveted (JJ and I certainly were). The artwork, which blends classic illustration with hints of traditional South American art, is simply beautiful; spreads showing the torrential downpours, friendly porpoises, and the reflections of flooded structures against still waters transport the reader to this unique part of the world. The length is good, and we loved it – Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by a representative of the author in exchange for an honest review.)