Maxy Survives the Hurricane/Maxy sobrevive el huracán
Written by Ricia Anne Chansky and Yarelis Marcial Acevedo
Illustrated by Olga Barinova
Translated by Yarelis Marcial Acevedo, Francheska Morales García & Sharon Marie Nieves-Ferrer
Piñata Book, 2021, 32 pp
This bilingual picturebook tells the story of a puppy named Maxy who lives in Puerto Rico in a happy house. On sunny days Maxy explores the outdoors. On rainy days he takes naps or play games and read books with his favorite person Clarita. One day people begin prepping for a hurricane. They store objects that could be blown away by strong winds, fill buckets of safe water for drinking, secure windows, and gather canned food, candles, and batteries in case there is an electricity outrage. The night the hurricane passes is dark as “Thunder rumbled, the wind blew hard, lighting struck and it rained hard for hours and hours.” Hurricane María causes severe destruction with fallen roofs, trees and electric poles and flooded houses. Maxy and Clarita wait in long lines to get food, gas, and drinking water. The day the electricity comes back is Maxy’s favorite day; however, Maxy is now terrified of rain, wind, and thunder. Clarita and her grandmother help Maxy cope with his fear by listing “the reasons why we need water to live.” Little by little Maxy internalizes that “you don’t have to be scared, not every rain is a hurricane.”
There are several elements that make this book phenomenal. First, the relevant use of Puerto Rican Spanish through the incorporation of the word sato (a mixed-race dog) in the written text; however, there are other instances where a more standard Spanish is used instead of the common Puerto Rican word. For example, the translators use the word ventiladores, rather than abanicos (to refer to the fans) or refrigerador instead of nevera (to refer to the refrigerator). These decisions could have been made by the editors, rather than the translators. Still, these decisions can prompt conversations around languages and linguistic repertoires. Another strength is how this story addresses trauma and stress after a natural disaster through an animal rather than a human character. This strategy offers readers, particularly young ones, a distant and safe space to connect with the difficult experience and range of emotions experienced by Maxy. It also positions Clarita as a strong child able to cope with trauma while she supports her beloved pet. While not explicitly stated in the story, their relationship can be a source of reciprocal kindness and recovery because Clarita and Maxy are both healing through Abuela’s reminder that, “There is no need to fear rain. Not every rain storm is a hurricane.” In addition, Maxy offers a perspective on the changes that affect animals and ecosystems after a storm.
The illustrations are also a strength in this picturebook. Clarita’s house is modern with windows that were very popular in the 1990s and short pillars on the balcony that are still common in many houses across the archipelago. Clarita, her family, and community members have different body shapes, hair styles, heights, and skin colors. In addition, the double spread showing the community after the hurricane accurately depicts houses made of different materials, like cement, wood, and zinc sheets. Toward the end of the story there is an image of an animal that looks like a coquí. Luckily, the written text does not mention the coquí. Otherwise, the visual representation would have not been ideal because coquíes are not green. Perhaps, another layer of light brown would have helped with the representation. However, the population of young coquíes drastically declined after Hurricane María (Agencia EFE, 2018). Therefore, the coquí-ish illustration could create an opportunity to explore ecosystem-wide damages through the eyes of this beloved small arboreal frog.
Maxy Survives the Hurricane/Maxy sobrevive el huracán can be paired with other picturebooks addressing hurricanes such as Alicia and the Hurricane/Alicia y el huracán by Leslea Newman and Elizabeth Erazo Baez (2022) and The Tree of Hope: The Miraculous Rescue of Puerto Rico’s Beloved Banyan by Ana Orenstein-Cardona and Juan M. Moreno (2022). Both stories are about community, recovery, and rebuilding after Hurricane María. Hurricanes! (Gibbons, 2019) is an informational book about how hurricanes are formed and categorized. Over in the Wetlands: A Hurricane-on-the-Bayou Story by Caroline Starr Rose and Rob Dunlavey (2015) describes families of animals in the wetlands of Louisiana preparing for a hurricane in their bayou habitat, and Marvelous Cornelius: Hurricane Katrina and the Spirit of New Orleans by Phil Bildner and John Parra (2015) focuses on a garbage man whose kindness and dedication made a huge impact in his community in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina.
Ricia Anne Chansky is a professor of English at the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez, and directs the large-scale humanities project “Mi María: Puerto Rico after the Hurricane.” This project is part of a larger curriculum of disaster pedagogy that highlights the role of self-narrating and witnessing in recovery processes. The curriculum creates spaces for students to support the narrators as they reposition themselves as protagonists in their life stories and re-envision themselves as active agents after experiences of trauma (https://mimariapr.org/).
Yarelis Marcial Acevedo is completing a Master of Arts in English Education at the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez. She collaborated with Ricia Anne Chansky in the “Mi María: Puerto Rico after the Hurricane” project, including the creation of the Children’s Literature Exhibition.
Olga Barinova is a freelance children’s book illustrator based in Calgary, Alberta, who has illustrated over five picturebooks. She likes to design fun and quirky characters that can entertain readers. Her work is inspired by traditional, hand-made illustration, as well as bright color palettes and lots of details. Visit http://olga.barinova.ca/ to find more about Barinova’s illustrations and characters.
Agencia EFE (August 31, 2018). Nuestro coquí también quedó afligido después de María. Primera Hora.
María V. Acevedo-Aquino, Texas A&M University-San Antonio
© 2022 by María V. Acevedo-Aquino
WOW Review, Volume XIV, Issue 4 by Worlds of Words is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Based on work by María V. Acevedo-Aquino at https://wowlit.org/on-line-publications/review/xiv-4/7
WOW review: reading across cultures