The Composition

by Antonio Skarmeta and Alfonso Ruano

Best known to U.S. audiences as the author of Il Postino, Chilean author Antonia... read more

Best known to U.S. audiences as the author of Il Postino, Chilean author Antonia Sk < rmeta has written a chilling short story about a nine-year-old boy growing up under a military dictatorship in an unnamed country. Pedro is an ordinary kid who likes ot play soccer and wishes his parents would buy him a real soccer ball. He doesn’t understand why his parents spend so much time huddled around the radio listening to news until his best friend’s father is take away by soldiers. For the first time, Pedro begins to understand the political implications of his parents’ actions, even though they try to shield him from such things. “Am I against dictatorship?” he asks his mother. “Children are just children.” When an army captain shows up at Pedro’s school and demands that the students write a composition entitled “What My Family Does at Night,” Pedro does his best, hoping he will win a prize that will allow him to buy the soccer ball he wants so badly. A note at the end of the book helps to put the story into a broader context by describing some of the challenges faced by people living under a dictatorship where children are rewarded for turning on their parents. (Ages 11-16)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2001

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