Different: A Story of the Spanish Civil War – Mónica Montañés and Eva Sánchez Gómez

Different: A Story of the Spanish Civil War by Mónica Montañés, Eva Sánchez Gómez, Lawrence Schimel
Also by this author: Niños: Poems for the Lost Children of Chile, One Million Oysters on Top of the Mountain, It's So Difficult
Published by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers on November 1, 2022
Genres: Children's, Children's Educational
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four-stars

A resonant, captivating book about a brother and sister caught in a dark chapter of world history.
Between 1936 and 1939, a civil war raged across Spain. For almost three years, ordinary citizens lived in fear of bombs dropping from the sky. When fascist dictator Francisco Franco declared victory, he began to persecute everyone who had once opposed him. Spain became a country of secrets, where anyone who was different was in danger.
Different explores this turbulent period through the voices of seven-year-old Socorro and nine-year-old Paco. Because Papa has fled Spain due to his political beliefs, the siblings and their mother must hide the truth in order to survive. Paco is always hungry, and Socorro is never good enough for her teachers at school. But they can’t ask for more food or better treatment: someone might find out who they are, or—worse—why their father isn’t home anymore. At last a letter from Father arrives, with a chance for their family to reunite in Venezuela …
Dramatic oil-pastel illustrations and poignantly chosen words express the emotions of two children coming of age in a time of extremism and fear. Based on the author’s family history, this middle grade story is a stirring depiction of the Spanish Civil War, its tragic aftermath, and the timeless struggle for freedom from political violence.

A few years ago, Eerdmans Books for Young Readers has published a book called Mexique that chronicled the story of children who were sent to Mexico as refugees of Spanish Civil War. Different tells the story of the children who stayed, exploring the war through the voices of Socorro and Paco, siblings whose father has been forced to flee the country because of his political beliefs. Life in fascist dictator Francisco Franco’s Spain is difficult. Their family is broken. Their bellies are empty. They live only on the charity of others and in fear of Franco’s soldiers. Finally, hope comes in the form of a letter from Venezuela and the family packs up in secret to flee across the world.

Different is best described as a short, illustrated chapter book, best intended for middle elementary students. Some of the vocabulary is a bit difficult for young readers and could have been a bit simpler. Regardless, Socorro and Paco’s story is compelling, offering young readers an immersive and much different perspective on life. The narrative is a bit choppy and I wonder if some of the story elements are lost a bit in translation.

Different is a book that I would use to teach the Spanish Civil War. There are numerous talking points that are raised through the story and the book’s postscript includes a nonfiction sketch of the war, a glossary, and resources for further reading. While it’s maybe a bit stale as a standalone book, its serviceable as an educational resource and capable of getting young readers to realize that history doesn’t just happen to famous adults but also regular children.

four-stars