DESCRIPTION OF THE BOOK (from Goodreads): After walking for days across the harsh Brazilian landscape only to be rejected by his last living relative, Samuel finds his options for survival are dwindling fast – until he comes to the hollow head of a statue, perfect for a boy to crawl into and hide…
Whilst sheltering, Samuel realizes that he can hear the villagers’ whispered prayers to Saint Anthony – confessing lost loves, hopes and fears – and he begins to wonder if he ought to help them out a little. When Samuel’s advice hits the mark, he becomes famous, and people flock to the town to hear about their future loves. But with all the fame comes some problems, and soon Samuel has more than just the lovelorn to deal with.
MY TWO CENTS: This was a great read with a little bit of everything—mystery, romance, long-lost relatives, miracles, good guys, and villains. Although it is a relatively short book, it packs a lot into the 179 pages. The village of Candeia has a presence that almost makes it another character, and certainly it goes through as many changes over the course of the story as anyone else. Readers will root for Samuel as he struggles first to simply survive, and then to understand and control his visions and power. With themes of faith, power, and destiny, this is a book to read, share and discuss for both teens and adults.
TEACHING TIPS: Acioli began this book as part of a workshop with the great South American writer Gabriel García Márquez, and it would be an interesting exercise for students to compare Candeia and its residents with other insular towns in Latin American fiction. The multiple points of view in the novel are a good discussion starter and give teachers the opportunity to have students write from the point of view of different characters. The development of Candeia and the fate of the statue are a good jumping off point for discussing the changing landscape of Brazil, especially as developers and the government pour money into high profile projects and events like the World Cup and the Olympics.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Socorro Acioli was born in Fortaleza, Ceará in 1975. She is a journalist, has a master’s degree in Brazilian literature and is currently studying for a PhD in Literary Studies at the Universidade Federal Fluminense, Rio de Janeiro. She started her writing career in 2001 and since then has published books of various genres, such as children’s short stories and YA novels. In 2006, she was selected to take part in a workshop called ‘How to tell a tale’, conducted by the Nobel Prize Winner Gabriel García Márquez at the San Antonio de Los Banõs International Film and Television School, Cuba. The author was selected by García Márquez himself based on the synopsis for The Head of the Saint. In 2007, she was a visiting researcher at the International Youth Library in Munich, Germany, and she has also lectured in several other countries such as Portugal, Bolivia and Cape Verde. Socorro is also a translator, essayist and literary theory teacher, and you can follow her at www.socorroacioli.wordpress.com or on Twitter: @AcioliSocorro
Cecilia Cackley is a performing artist and children’s bookseller based in Washington DC where she creates puppet theater for adults and teaches playwriting and creative drama to children. Her bilingual children’s plays have been produced by GALA Hispanic Theatre and her interests in bilingual education, literacy, and immigrant advocacy all tend to find their way into her theatrical work. You can find more of her work at www.witsendpuppets.com.