The world of Abuelo, written by Arthur Dorros and illustrated by Raúl Colón, is warm, windy, wild and free. The story depicts the affection between a boy and his grandfather, his abuelo, as they ride horseback across the colorful and wide-open backdrop of the Pampas, the vast, low-lying grasslands of Argentina.
The boy is lucky to have an abuelo gaucho—a grandfather cowboy. Together the boy and his abuelo don ponchos and ride with the wind washing their faces. The pair “ride into the clouds” with el cielo wrapped around them. Grandfather is larger than life and full of laughter, even when his grandson gets off the trail. “That happens to everyone,” he says. He is a gentle man who leads his horse and his young grandson with a calm touch and calmer voice. Even a showdown with a mountain lion doesn’t threaten them. They stay back and stand strong. Grandfather assures the boy that there are many ways to be strong, fuerte.
Sadly, a time comes when the boy’s family must move to the city, but his grandfather’s lessons from the Pampas travel with him. Abuelo’s laugh makes him forget his worries, and at night the boy finds the lights of the city as dazzling as las estrellas sparking in the night sky at home. When a bully threatens him, the boy stands fuerte like a mountain tree, and as he grows to know his new city, Abuelo’s lessons remain with him.
The charming story, sprinkled with Spanish words and paired with gold and blue-hued textural illustrations, is imbued with a gentleness and sense of place that gives it a comforting and palpable feel. Dorros’ language and Colón’s sculptural drawings evoke a time and place of love and safety where any child would like to live, or at least linger.
Billie B. Little is the Founding Director of Discovery Center at Murfree Spring, a hands-on museum in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.