Published January 30th 2003 by Groundwood Books
Pedro is a nine-year-old boy whose main interest in life is playing soccer. The arrest of his friend Daniel's father and a visit to the school of an army captain who wants the children to write a composition entitled "What My Family Does at Night" suddenly force Pedro to make a difficult choice. The author's note explains what a dictatorship is and provides a context for this powerful and provocative story.
I read The Composition a few years ago and decided to re-read it since I almost didn't remember the story. It was a gift from my mom, she wanted me to have it since it has meaning to my family's story.
It's a short and beautiful illustrated book. The artist is Alfonso Ruano and he managed to paint a feeling. The story was written by Antonio Skármeta, a Chilean author. The protagonist, Pedro, is a young Chilean boy who spend his days playing and not worrying much, as innocent kids do, until his best friend's father is taken by military man and he heard the word Dictatorship for the first time. He doesn't understand the meaning, but he obviously notices all the changes in his house. His mother cries and his father listen to the radio every night. He's pretty confused, is a dictatorship wrong? Should he support it or not? and then a captain visit his school and asks the children to write a composition called "What My Family Does at Night".
Pedro is a very innocent boy at the beginning, and I was stressed about him all the book. Is he going to say something wrong? Is his family safe? It's very short, only a sneak peak into the life of all those families who has been through a political situation as this, but I'm sure any adult would feel protective and worried about Pedro. The end leaves you smiling, which was a great surprise to me.
I definitely recommend The Composition. It has background, maybe that makes it more intense to the people who is connected in some way to that history, but still, in a few pages it gives you a glimpse of how a boy sees a dictatorship and how it affects his childhood.