Bartolome: the Infanta's Pet by Rachel van Kooj and Siobhan Parkinson (translator)
|Bartolome: the Infanta's Pet by Rachel van Kooj and Siobhan Parkinson (translator)|
|Reviewer: Mary Esther Judy|
|Summary: In 17th century Spain, life is unkind to say the least for a dwarf like Bartolome. He is hidden away from the world, becomes the Infanta's 'human dog', neglected and abused by all but a very few. Despite all humilations and against all odds, Bartolome finds the courage and strength to follow his dream. Based on a true story and filled with hope.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 204||Date: September 2012|
|Publisher: Little Island|
|External links: Author's website|
In 17th century Spain, life is run by a strict code of conduct and appearances dictated by the Royal House. It is not a place of kindness or understanding, especially for a dwarf like Bartolome Carrasco. When his father, coachman to the Infanta Margarita, moves his family to Madrid for a better life; Bartolome is kept hidden from the world in a back room. But Bartolome is clever. He hears that a dwarf, just like him, has a position in the Royal household, he begins to educate himself in order to follow his dream and make his family proud. A sudden coach accident brings Bartolome to the attention of the young Infanta, and she demands that he be brought into the court as her pet. Forced to dress and behave as a dog, it seems life is destined to be one humiliation after another. Then, Bartolome meets the artist, Diego Velazquez, court painter who is working on Las Meninas, a portrait of the Royal family centring on the Infanta. A plan is hatched that may free Bartolome from his life of servitude and fear forever.
This novel was inspired by the painting Las Meninas, which hangs in La Prado, Spain’s national art gallery in Madrid. Van Kooj has lovingly, yet realistically, given a portrait of life at the court of Philip IV. The characters are expertly drawn and the relationships within the hierarchy of the court and outside it are easy to follow. With clear insight, we are also given a view of inner struggles, not just of Bartolome, but of the rest of his family as well, as they navigate through a world with little compassion for those who are different, or who remain on the lower rungs of life’s ladder. Those who see the wrong being done seem helpless to do anything, due to the power and position held by the Infanta. The cruelty displayed, even by Bartolome’s own father, is horrendous, making Bartolome’s position even more heartfelt. It is outrageous to get such a clear view of how the whims of a small, spoilt child has such a profound effect on the lives of all those around her. And yet, the courage and hope held within the story are prevalent, even when it seems there is nothing but despair. The descriptive quality of the story gives texture to the tale, as the sights, smells and sounds of 1650’s Madrid come to full life. Historical fiction may not be the most popular genre in children’s literature, but Bartolome: the Infanta’s Pet is certainly an argument that it is one of the most important and steadfast. This novel is wonderful, poignant, dramatic and thought-provoking. It takes us on an amazing adventure written with true warmth, while at the same time giving pause for thought as it reflects many issues which remain with us in the 21st century. I highly recommend it.
For fans of historical fiction, who want more stories of hope against all odds, I suggest All Fall Down by Sally Nicholls.
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You can read more book reviews or buy Bartolome: the Infanta's Pet by Rachel van Kooj and Siobhan Parkinson (translator) at Amazon.com.
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