Edna Iturralde is considered a pioneer in Ethno-Historical Literature for children in Latin America and one of the most important, and undoubtedly the most prolific, Children’s and Young Adult Literature authors in Ecuador. In recent years, this genre has experienced a surge in Ecuador, owing in great measure to Iturralde’s work, which not only lit the flame but kept it alive thanks to her extraordinary skills to connect with children. Iturralde’s imagination matches that of children in their infinite capacity for wonder and curiosity. Over thirty years she has produced fifty-nine books, a continuous flow of short stories and novels spanning all sorts of themes and styles. Her work has accompanied three generations of children and it hasn’t remained contained within the borders of Ecuador, for it is well known in Spain, Peru, Mexico, Cuba, Argentina, Chile, Colombia and the United States. Gradually, it keeps extending to even more countries.
Iturralde has written successfully for all ages, ranging from the youngest readers to teenagers. She has been enabled to do so thanks to her great ability to see the world through their eyes and reflect this vision in her books.
Iturralde is a diligent researcher who travels to the territories about which she writes; she documents her work with archival research, talks to the people and, enriched by all this information, weaves her stories. Iturralde is not a historian, yet through her works children are able to look into the past. She is not an anthropologist, yet her writings illuminate the ethnic and human component. She is not a magician; nevertheless, she creates magical worlds to dwell in with the help of imagination.
Because of the diversity in Iturralde’s work, it is necessary to divide it in six sections that will allow us to discuss it more thoroughly. They are as follow:
Section 1: For the youngest readers
Section 2: Ethno-history: Cultural roots
Section 3: Social issues
Section 4: Great historical figures
Section 5: Crossing borders
Section 6: Magic and Mythic Fantasy
SECTION ONE: EDNA AND THE YOUNGEST READERS
From 1979 to 1981 Iturralde published a weekly story for children in the magazine Panorama, part of the newspaper El Comercio. In 1982 Iturralde founded and ran a children’s magazine, La Cometa, belonging to the newspaper Diario Hoy. For eleven years she published serialized stories, in the Victorian style of Serialized Storytelling. Each week these stories reached about 210,000 children who began to shape themselves as readers thanks to their avid interest in Iturralde’s stories.
Her first book, Desde el jardín de las arañas doradas (From the Garden of the Golden Spiders), is a collection of twenty-seven stories, where Iturralde steers her creative skills towards the world of young children. She employs a direct and playful language, which is ideal for learning new vocabulary within context, while it allows her readers to explore different themes within the exciting blend of reality and fantasy. This collection plays upon the child’s view of the daily world, where the quotidian is splattered with magic.
In this collection we can appreciate a spectrum of human behaviors and attitudes depicted by animals, which follow the tradition of the fable. “Noche de gatos” (“Cat’s Night”), in which the traditional feline nightly racket turns into music and glee; or the wonderful “Trapito, el perrito vagabundo” (“Trapito de Vagabond Dog”), which depicts wit and amity in the story of an unexpected friendship between a lonely stray dog and an old circus lion. In this book there isn’t a story without magic, so kites talk, scarecrows feel lonely, and a robot, who has fallen in love with a toaster, needs someone to throw him a birthday party. A necessary revision of traditional gender roles has its place in the collection as well: “La bombera” (“The Firefighter”), for example, allows a little girl to dream of an “unladylike” occupation in her future, and “Cosas de hombres” (“Guy Stuff”) values the agility and courage of another little girl.
Edna Iturralde accepted UNICEF’s request to write three books on the theme of values. She created sixty witty and humorous stories, featuring a cast of reprehensible characters who encounter values such as sincerity, punctuality, respect, tolerance and courtesy as their opponents and, ultimately, victors. In “El hombre que se tragó la palabra gracias (un cuento muy gordo)” (The man who slowed the word thank you) impoliteness is treated with Iturralde’s usual sense of humor, while she explains that the words thank you make us bigger and that when we use them we become more liked and popular. However, the story explains, if we don’t say them, they stay within us and cause a serious case of thankitis. In “Cuando las horas se enfermaron” (“When the Hours Got Sick”) the hours, affected by unpunctuality, fall off the clocks; while in “Susana y la mentira de largas trenzas” (“Susana and the Lie with Long Braids”), a lie takes the shape of a pear and stays with Susana, no matter how much Susana wants to ignore her, while her braids grow at an unusual speed.
If it is true that literature must open the door to difficult and painful realities for a young reader, several of Iturralde’s works serve this purpose well. The theme of death is tactfully treated in the book Torbellino (Whirlwind) (Editorial Santillana). The rough edges of a child-parent relationship are carefully examined in the concise stories of El pirata Barbaloca y El gran secreto (Crazy Beard/The Great Secret) (Editorial Normal). In El misterio de las bolitas de colores (The Mystery of the Colored Balls) (Editorial Norma), Iturralde appeals to children’s scatological humor and curiosity: a bunny becomes a detective who eventually discovers that colorful little balls are actually excrement in an engaging and irreverent story. In the same collection appears ¿De dónde vienen los bebés de las hadas? (Where do Baby Fairies Come From?) (Editorial Norma), a lovely story, sweet and magical which takes us to fairy-land to meet their babies who are born of flowers, the ocean, the rainbow, dew drops and heaven’s ice cream parlors. This is the story of Eulali, the fireflies’ fairy godmother, and how she became a mother. It was awarded the Honor Award Dario Guevara Mayorga in Children and Young Adults Literature in 2008 and the Honor Award for Outstanding Books Girándula/IBBY Ecuador in 2008-2009.
In Martina las estrellas y un cachito de Luna (Martina, the Stars and a Sliver of the Moon) (Editorial Santillana) a little girl of African descent brings a star for her mother’s cooking fire, another for her father’s nightly fishing trips, and a little ray of moonlight to server her grandmother as a walking stick. The story’s message is that through our imagination we can experience wonderful adventures and travel far and wide without actually having to move at all.
In Conoce a Simón Bolívar (Get to Know Simon Bolivar) (Editorial Santillana USA) the narrator focalizes on Nevado and Palomo Blanco, Bolivar’s dog and horse and adventure comrades, to tell the story of one of Bolivar’s greatest feats: his journey through the Andes. This book won the first prize in the International Latino Book Awards, United States of America in 2013.
This collection also features Conoce a Miguel de Cervantes (Get to Know Miguel de Cervantes) (Editorial Santillana USA), an exquisite story about the life and misadventures of Miguel de Cervantes, as told by Don Quixote to Sancho Panza. This book introduces young readers to the fascinating world of metafiction, and concludes with Don Quixote thinking out loud: “Maybe we are Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra’s invention, or maybe he is our invention”. This book was chosen as Hispanic Heritage Month Book in New York for two consecutive years. It also won second prize in the International Latino Book Awards, United States of America in 2013.
Iturralde has yet a third book in the same collection: Conoce a Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (Get to Know Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz) (Editorial Santillana USA) depicting the life of the greatest Hispanic female writer of the 1600’s. This book has a beautiful aesthetic quality, which is in keeping with the historical time in which the story takes place.
El sueño de Manuela (Manuela’s Dream) (Editorial Mantra) tells the story of Manuela Sáenz, Bolivar’s companion and lover who achieved the rank of Colonel in his army. The story is told in a poetic style, and teaches about the life of Manuela while entertaining the reader with its charming language.
In Johnny Tallarín en: ¿Quién grita desde tan lejos? (Johnny Noodles in: Who Shouts From So Far?) (Editorial Norma) Iturralde stiches together the present and the past, in commemoration of August 10th 1809, when the first cry for independence rang in Quito. Johnny, this novel’s protagonist, discovers the meaning of this date thanks to a computer his aunt has given him which has the magical quality of allowing its owner to time-travel. In permanent dialogue through the keyboard and the screen, Johnny lives an unequaled adventure in the form of a computer game. The adventure Johnny experiences introduces him and the reader to the historical events surrounding the libertarian movement, which led, eventually, to the independence of the South American Colonies from Spain. The mastery of Iturralde’s writing allows Johnny to provide solutions and help the freedom fighters, while retaining his original modern-day persona who has been taken 200 years into the past.
Aventura en los Llanganates (Adventure in Llanganates) (Editorial Norma) takes the readers to a lost city amidst mysterious mountains where a treasure is hidden. The treasure and its story are a key reference to Ecuador’s native people’s past. In Junto al cielo (Up By the Sky) (Editorial Norma) a mosaic of stories presents quirky and memorable characters that allow the reader to delve into Quito’s past, as seen through the eyes of its elders. In his review of Junto al cielo, the Ecuadorean critic Alejandro Carrión has stated:
“[…] In her style, Edna Iturralde has conquered the most difficult task of writing, that of complete simplicity and supreme clarity. […] There is nothing more difficult to do than what it seems this writer has done without effort. To arrive at this degree of simplicity, of clarity and of life in a story, leaving far behind all pretension at false elegance or unnecessary complexity, is something incredibly difficult, and it can be achieved only by a writer with force, who masters her trade.”
SECTION TWO: ETHNO-HISTORY: CULTURAL ROOTS
This section, devoted to multicultural and ethnic exploration, develops Edna Iturralde’s most ambitious and zealous work. In a century in which local and regional tales and histories seem to evaporate and the lives of small ethnic groups concern very few people outside their group, a voice like Iturralde’s is transcendental. Because Iturralde weaves into her fiction historical facts, based on serious research, which highlight that which is real and documented, her work’s value in presenting the cultural and historical realities of the peoples of Ecuador and the world, is enormous.
Approached from clear concepts of miscegenation, transculturation and Ecuador´s historical past (at times interwoven with that of other Latin American countries), these fictional stories respect facts and verifiable data, yet they rescue lines of research that have been lost to myth or overshadowed by official versions of the facts.
Caminantes del Sol (Walkers of the Sun) (Editorial Santillana) is a great example. This story takes place in the time of the Inca Empire and is dedicated to the the Saraguro people. A girl named Kispi Sisa (Crystal Flower) is educated to become a Virgen del Sol (Sun’s Virgin), but when she is about to be sacrificed to the Sun-God as would be her fate, a mysterious event saves her life. After this she begins a journey with her grandfather, a little boy who is a lama shepherd, and a group of privileged “mitimaes”, sent to populate new territories. They must overcome numerous difficulties as they travel through the Kapak-Ñan (The Great Highway), but the Andean mountains would protect their steps. In the end, for these travelers “the sun will shine at midnight” when they discover their promised land and the puma’s spirit who walks with them turns into a sleeping lion.
In the words of Segundo Moreno Yánez one of Ecuador well known historian and critic: “Edna Iturralde –like the invisible sprit of the Andean apus (idols) and as new amawta (scribe) – has accompanied an ayllu (extended family group) from Cusco sent by the Inca Tupak Yupanki as mitimaes to populate a beautiful region in the north of the Tawantinsuyo (Inca Empire)”. About the same book, the famous Peruvian historian Waldemar Espinoza Soriano states: “This book, fraternizes our people, who share deep roots in their indigenous past”. This work was awarded the Honor Award Dario Guevara Mayorga in Children and Young Adults Literature in 2002.
Entre cóndor y león (Between Condor and Lion) (Editorial Santillana) tells a story of symbiosis, of fusion between two cultures, each incrusted in a different civilization. Eugenia is the protagonist of this story. She is proud, dignified and fierce, for she is the daughter of an Inca princess, Nicanuro Yupani (Atahualpa Yupanqui’s sister) and Diego Sandoval, a Spanish nobleman. Eugenia is the result of the miscegenation of two cultures which make themselves manifest in the evolutionary process of her identity. Eugenia is caught in a feud between the magical values of the ancestral indigenous culture and the knightly European ideals. A sensible child, Eugenia is also brave and daring, and she has been trusted with the secret of the place where Atahualpa’s treasure and mummy are buried. With part of this fortune, she travels to Europe, where she has many misadventures and eventually winds up prisoner in the dark Castillo de la Mota. Her combative spirit and the need to return to her homeland draw out her lion’s claws and condor’s wings, which will aid her in her fight for freedom. Iturralde’s great feat in this novel is to balance, in a literary intercultural way, the American and the European fonts without diminishing nor highlighting either, but rather showing them in equal value. This in turn allows both cultures to harmoniously co-inhabit the heart and soul of the story’s heroine. Pilar Cernuda, a renowned Spanish journalist and literary critic, has stated about this novel:
“If the Spanish children of Galicia, Madrid, Basque country, Andalucía, Aragón and Cataluña would have available books like those written by Edna, they would know much more of their history, much more of the history of the people of Spain. And probably, or rather with absolute certainty, those children would not let themselves be driven by falsehood inculcated on their small heads by certain politicians who want to use history and children at their convenience.”
Iturralde’s imagination is in perfect harmony with the cultural horizons chosen for her stories because her characters, solid and convincing, small heroes and heroines of great feats, move within the environment she has staged for them with social, historical and ethnic faithfulness. The author unveils unknown or forgotten identities and makes their concerns universal, yet she bases these stories in the Americas, showing a culture shared by all who recognize themselves as Hispanic, Indian, Afro-descendants, Mestizos, and citizens of the world.
Miteé y el cantar de las ballenas (Miteé and the Song of the Whales) (Editorial Santillana) tells the story of the fishermen by the sea as heirs of millenary cultures. This novel is unique in the Americas and a key piece of national and regional identity. Iturralde is the first Ecuadorean author who, advocating for social integration, shows her readers about the ethnic differences and cultural variety within Ecuador by dedicating a novel to the lineage of open-sea sailors who instilled a culture of maritime commerce. In the words of Jorge Marcos Pino, who is considered one of the best archeologist en Latin America, sasy: “[Iturrlade’s] capacity to combine diverse planes of space and time, to intertwine fantasy and history, to incrust both curious facts and scholarly data as decorative jewels through the story, always in a fitting and welcome way, show a talent an craft that the reader cannot but be grateful for”.
The book Verde fue mi selva (Green was my Forest) (Editorial Santillana) is inspired by the ethnic and cultural realities of the groups inhabiting the Ecuadorean Amazon rainforest. A look form the inside of the Achuar, Shuar, Huaorani, Secoya, Siona, Cofan and Quichua cultures gives rise to stories about living in harmony with nature, freedom, and a particular concept of happiness: that of being owners of a rainforest, as in the story “Felicidad” (“Happiness”). Unfortunately, another reality gets in the way of the children’s new-found happiness when they see their rivers, lakes and green landscapes contaminated by oil spills. In the end the story and the children’s happiness is sustained by something else: hope, a key element throughout Iturralde’s work. And so, the book doesn’t have one single positive purpose seeking to give the child-reader an optimist view of reality, but rather it incorporates a critical view of certain human behaviors.
In 2002 this book won the Skipping Stones International Book Prize, United States of America, an award, which is bestowed upon books with multicultural and ethnic themes. The jury valued it as “a book that builds bridges of communication and understanding, promoting a better relationship between humans and the importance of the environment.” And, again, Pilar Cernuda commented on this book during its presentation in Spain saying: “Edna Iturralde writes wonderful, imaginative stories with mastery. We get to know the rainforest, its animals and exuberant vegetation, but above all the vital experiences of those who inhabit it. We discover the history of different ethnicities, peoples and environments through which Iturralde constructs beautiful stories where the plot becomes a pretext to explain that which almost no one has time to explain to children: the origin of things, why we fear certain animals, the value shamans may actually have, that the Amazon Rainforest is a treasure to our planet…”
In 2005 Verde fue mi selva was selected by the SEP (Mexico Ministry of Public Education) to be included in the National Reading Program.
In 2009 Verde fue mi selva was selected as one of the ten “essential” books in the Latin-American List of Children and Young Adults Literature of the 20th Century by a panel of 27 experts from Latin American countries. The SM Foundation and the Directorate of Libraries, Archives and Museums of Chile summoned these experts. (Fundación SM y la Dirección de Bibliotecas, Archivos y Museos de Chile (DIBAM).
The book Cuentos de Yasuní (Tales of the Yasuní) (Editorial Santillana) follows the same theme-line, emphasizing the importance of protecting zones in the Amazon Rainforest. This work won the Honor Award for Outstanding Books Girándula/IBBY Ecuador, in 2011.
…Y su corazón escapó para convertirse en pájaro (…And His Heart Escaped to Become a Bird) (Editorial Santillana) follows the African presence in America. The stories in this book tell about the tragic historical reality of hunting humans to sell them into slavery. The book tells of the voyage, the trade and the transculturation process the African people suffered, while also speaking about their myths and stories. The book is full of beautiful characters that share both the pain of enslavement and the fight for survival. Afro-descendants have been present in transcendental facts such as the Independence of Latin America from Spain when, as Cimarrons (fugitive slaves), they took part in heroic acts as a popular and anonymous force.
Y su corazón escapó para convertirse en pájaro transcends the borders of Ecuador because enslavement was very similar throughout the Americas. With this book, Iturralde connects the past and present or Africa and Europe with the American soil, and although it tells the saddest of all the travesties of slavery and oppression, the author has managed to infuse it with hope thanks to the presence of the ancestors’ and animals’ Spirit: Nature, the mother and guide of all beings. Deeply rooted in popular tradition, the presence of protective forces which guide and sustain great personal challenges, is a constant in Iturralde’s work.
A great synthesis of the African endeavor is the story “El camino” (“The Road”), where a schoolteacher must travel to a small town in the province of Esmeraldas to teach. This story is an example of the balance between respect for tradition and indispensable modernity. In 2001 Y su corazón escapó para convertirse en pájaro won the National Book Prize Darío Guevara Mayorga for Children and Young Adults Literature in Ecuador. In 2003 was selected by the SEP (Mexico Ministry of Public Education) to be included in the National Reading Program (Bibliotecas de aula).
Iturralde’s fertile imagination allows her to surpass the limits of time and space and enter with depth and ease in the most varied topics. So, in the novel J.R. Machete (Editorial Santillana), she takes us along with a boy from the coast on an exciting journey, full of intrigue in a time of change, not only for Ecuador but for the whole region: the Liberal Revolution.
Ecuadorean Historian Jenny Estrada says: “This book rescues cultural identity elements and re-values transcendental historical facts; it leaves a profound message of hope and makes it possible to catch a glimpse of the best way to draw girls and boys closer to the knowledge of our history. J.R. Machete is called to be among the classics of its genre in Ecuador and in any Spanish speaking country.” It won the Honor Award Darío Guevara Mayorga in Children and Young Adults Literature in 2006 and Honor Award for Outstanding Books Girándula/IBBY Ecuador in 2005 (along with Lágrimas de Ángeles also by Iturralde).
No less relevant is the work Te acompañará el viento (May the Wind Go With You) (Editorial Norma) that also rescues cultural elements of the chagra, the central Ecuadorean Andes cowboy. This exceptional story is enriched with comical elements and intrigue on the roads that border volcanoes and mountains. In their fight against evil, two chagra children, along with a group of gypsies, a smart donkey, a brave sheep, a fast horse and a wise parrot, wander into the world of the most ancient legends where they live a story parallel to the adventures of Don Quixote.
About Iturralde, Laura Jarrín, journalist and critic says: “I can imagine Edna transfigured into a fairy with long black curly hair, knitting with her wand, stich by stich, an extraordinary and fantastic cloak, under which her characters find the perfect space for adventure, suspense, a connection with the past, enriched by the spices of magic, of what is possible and what is impossible alike.”
As an example, Jarrín mentions the novel Los hijos de la guacamaya (The Children of the Macaw) (Editorial Santillana): “Edna travels 10.000 years back in time to tell by mouth of the yachacks – the medicine women of the Cañari people – the exciting history of their people; but not all can be proven by research. Edna Iturralde weaves a tapestry with the threads of history and with the subtle magical and changing threads of fantasy. She models characters, creates situations, imagines love affairs, and invents myths, like the one about the dark cloud and the draught: if the water is locked in the cloud, holes must be bore into it to let it out by throwing a porcupine at the jail-cloud. Another notable point in this book refers to its humor and a demonstration of faith. Iturralde’s work is singular and unique in the commendable task of salvaging ancient cultural roots and putting them in a simple and beautiful language.”
Though Iturralde strives for gender balance in her work, the author reveals a preference for feminine characters, shaped with current values yet completely credible within their historical context, making this key to her extraordinary work. Kispi Sisa, raised to become a Virgin of the Sun; Eugenia de Sandoval y Yupanqui, first generation mestiza; Ninfa Carriel, the rebel grandmother during the Liberal Revolution; Juana Sebastiana, the brave Cimarrona; Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, and the Cañari yachaks, who are strong, proactive and goal driven. These female characters –girls, teenagers, adults and elders– (bonding females of all ages is vital for Iturralde) are notable for being resourceful, perseverant, and brave. They are measured equal to men in a time in which women were educated to serve the opposite sex.
Who we are, where we come from, where we are going are all questions Iturralde attempts to answer in her books through the voices of brave warriors, and inquisitive, wise travelers. They experience the most intrepid adventures within their own hearts: the hearts of women, of the Afro-descendants, of the Indigenous people, of the Amazonia ethnic groups, of Coastal laborers, and fishermen.
SECTION THREE: SOCIAL ISSUES
If literature is a powerful educational agent, Edna Iturralde takes advantage of its quality with the works she endeavors in her third section, literature with a social dimension. She puts into the hands of young readers the problems they usually see with a frozen gaze; those, which they often don’t realize, exist around them. It is fair to say that most of Iturralde’s work has a social dimension, however, there are four books that deserve to be recognized separately. Therefore, this section is dedicated to them.
In Un día más y otras historias (Give Me One More Day) (Editorial Santillana), talks about endangered species, such beautiful yet defenseless creatures such as the Chorongo monkey, the pink dolphin, the Andean toucan, the jaguar and many others. These animals are key to inspiring love and solidarity towards creatures that play such an extraordinary roll in the balance of life. This book also deserved the Skipping Stones International Book Prize, United States of America in 2006.
But Iturralde takes a step further: In “La canción de la montaña” (“The Mountain’s Song”) she connects a little girl with Down syndrome to an orphaned Andean bear cub. Making this child the protagonist of the story, she fleshes out the roll of exceptional beings and sensitizes readers so they may confidently and naturally approach children like her.
Lágrimas de ángeles (Angels’ Tears) (Editorial Santillana) is written with the honest and poetic language that is constant throughout her work. The book never loses sight of the power of entertainment, of self-identification, and of imagination; yet it deals with a serious contemporary issue in Latin America, street children. In this juvenile novel, moving stories are linked to a critical view of society. There are warm and well-rounded characters, police intrigue, dreams of improvement, and clear and natural dialogues. In the words of Cecilia Ansaldo Briones, a recognized Ecuadorean literary critic: “Faced with the presence of Edna and her literature, one can appreciate a phenomenon of editorial interest, receptivity and precision, written with impeccable style and rhythm. So keen to find the problematic vein of reality to provide her with material for her fiction, she sets her eyes on two problems very close to the Latin-American context: immigration in search of better opportunities and children wandering on the streets.” This book received the Honor Award for Outstanding Books Girándula/IBBY Ecuador in 2005 (along with her other work J.R. Machete).
El día de ayer (The Day of Yesterday) (Editorial Santillana) takes us to the world of teenage Daniela, who is infected with AIDS though she is not responsible for her misfortune. The book also shows us one of the terrible consequences of illegal immigration, which leaves so many children defenseless while the coyotes (men who take illegal immigrants across the border for money) prosper with the blood money. A necessary book, El día de ayer is written with bravery and subtlety at a time where the social and emotional sequels of the massive exodus must be evaluated. In 2013, The Day of Yesterday (WPR books) won the first prize in the International Latino Book Awards, United States of America.
In Las islas donde nace la Luna. Una Aventura en las Islas Galápagos (The Islands Where the Moon is Born) (Editorial Norma) Iturralde surprises her reader with the number of narrative resources she uses to create a story in which she interweaves realistic plots and themes (of marked social concern, as she does in other works) with the ecological struggle to save habitats and endangered species. In a very deferential manner, in keeping with the respect for diversity, in this fantastic adventure the main character is a Colombian immigrant girl with an intellectual disability that renders her unable to speak. This limitation does not deprive her from being an intelligent, trustworthy, and practical girl. It shows the young reader the worthiness of all people, whether or not they are disabled, immigrants or native citizens. Around her swirl a series of conflicts which she, her twin sister, and a group of animals are able to resolve. At the same time it presents fauna of the Galapagos Islands in a magical environment the author has crafted for this purpose.
SECTION FOUR: GREAT HISTORICAL FIGURES
One of Iturralde’s best concepts has been her book Simón era su nombre (Simon was His Name) (Editorial Santillana), the novelized biography of Simón Bolívar. Intended for children and young adults, it puts within their reach Bolívar’s life, with both his human and hero qualities. The novel is an exceptional work because of the liveliness and depth of its writing, a constant in Iturralde’s works. Dynamic and entertaining, the story is told by three voices: Hipólita, the afro-descendent nanny who was like a mother to Bolívar (recreated in full with her rituals and magical beliefs); Manuela Sáenz, Bolívar’s lover and ally; and that of Bolívar himself, who remembers his battles in the dawn of his life. Without making this story linear or dense, Iturralde follows Bolívar’s life from two angles: the intimate and the heroic. This book won the National Book Prize Dario Guevara Mayorga for Children and Young Adults Literature in 2010 and opened the Cuba Book Fair the same year. It was also awarded the Honor Award for Outstanding Books Girándula/IBBY Ecuador in 2011 (along with Iturralde’s Cuentos del Yasuní).
Llevo tres mil años pintando (I´ve Been Painting for Three Thousand Years) (Editorial Santillana) is the story of the Ecuadorean artist Oswaldo Guayasamín. Two aspects of this painter’s life are brought together in a magical circle: the artist that seeks peace and paints about war and injustice, and the man who rescues his indigenous roots with an overwhelming passion and immortalizes them in his work. In a captivating journey, Iturralde takes us to the painter’s life: his misfortunes as a child, his inquiries as a young adult, and his meaningful consecration as one of the best Latin-American artists, until he rediscovers his mestizo identity and omnipresent past.
In this section, the saga of the Independence must be mentioned: El perro el farolero y una historia de libertad (The Dog, the Lamplighter and a Story of Liberty), El caballo la rosa y una historia de rebelión (The Horse, the Rose and a Story of Rebellion), and El cóndor, el héroe y una historia de Independencia (The Condor, the Hero and a Story of Independence). All three belong to the Colección del Bicentenario (Editorial Santillana) and were published to commemorate 200 years of the beginning of the fight for Independence in Ecuador. Here Iturralde tells about the events leading up to the Ecuadorean Independence with a special aesthetic quality, magic and fantasy, which together tell history in a very different way. Iturralde’s technique allows readers to live, feel, dream, judge, and become empowered by those heroes who fought for freedom. This is a story that stays with the reader long after it is finished, because it is an invitation for self-discovery and growth in human values. The book El caballo la rosa y una historia de rebelión won the Honor Award for Outstanding Books Girándula/IBBY Ecuador in 2008-2009.
A fact worthy mentioning is that, in this saga, besides the famous names appear in equal light the people. For example, Vicente, the hero in El cóndor, el héroe y una historia de Independencia, is everyman, showing that heroic episodes are not always registered in History books. The books portray the valuable and brave support the freedom fighters received by the “black people in arms of La Tolita”; the fervor and enthusiasm of mothers and children who, after fabricating homemade weapons, were quick to defend Quito from the Panecillo hilltop; the hundreds of freedom fighters who made the ideals of the independence their cause, both in the Costal and Mountainous regions.
Conoce a Simón Bolívar, Conoce a Miguel de Cervantes and Conoce a Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (Editorial Santillana USA) as well as El sueño de Manuela (Editorial Mantra) are works included in Section One. However, they may well be included in Section Four.
¡Viva el fútbol! (Hurrah for Soccer!) (Editorial Santillana) is an exquisite book where every chapter is a “pass” telling the story of soccer in Ecuador, from its earliest day until current times. Carlos Augusto Rojas, a sport journalist and critic, describes it: “With short passes, juggling, and studying soccer tactics is how Edna Iturralde delved into the history of Ecuadorean soccer to give life to a book lovers of this sport will treasure. The renowned writer of stories, novels and sagas for children and young adults has done a thorough research to write this book with 28 passes (chapters) where she combines historical facts with fiction. ¡Viva el fútbol! is a series of stories which follow a chronological order, starting with the history of the first soccer team founded in the country, in the city of Guayaquil. In the scintillating tales, full of humor and witty dialogues, soccer fans will learn about details of the founding of teams, the origin of their names, and everything that happened when the first leather ball arrived in Quito to replace the balls made of rags. All this and more is told in the 276 pages of this entertaining proposal.” The Municipality of Quito awarded the Honor Award Dario Guevara Mayorga in Children and Young Adults Literature to this book in 2014.
SECTION FIVE: CROSSING BORDERS
Iturralde has also written about universal themes, seeking inspiration in other countries in addition to the Ecuadorean culture. Her book Los pájaros no tienen fronteras, leyendas y mitos de América Latina (Birds Have no Frontiers) (Editorial Santillana) won the Skipping Stones International Book Prize, United States of America in 2013, and the same year was awarded the Honor Award for Outstanding Books Girándula/IBBY Ecuador. In 2014 it won International Latino Book Award United States of America and in 2015 it was selected by the SEP (Mexico Ministry of Public Education) to be included in the National Reading Program.
This book was review by Maria Eugenia Lasso, professor and critic, as follows: “Ecuadorean writer Edna Iturralde has taken legends and myths from twenty Latin American countries in a masterful way and returns them to us in a new and polished form, full of wit, humor and wisdom. Though some of us may know some of the most popular folkloric stories, such as the one of the “Llorona”, from Mexico, the way in which they have been rewritten makes us feel as if we were listening to them for the first time. There are also other stories, not as well well known, but which are just as moving. These entertaining short stories offer a quick glance at the richness of the oral tradition of each country. They take us in a journey through historical times and help us feel connected with our past and that of our brothers throughout the Americas.”
Y surgió en el vuelo de las mariposas (And it Sprang in the Butterflies’ Flight) (Editorial SM) is a book of love-legends that come from diverse places and cultures worldwide. Here, oral traditions of specific societies, which have been transmitted from generation to generation for centuries, acquire an original life of their own in the pages of this book, with voices as varied as that of an Irish leprechaun or the wind from the Guajira peninsula. These voices guide us through a gallery of love affairs: love at first sight, supernatural love, fortunate, star-crossed, forbidden or punished love affairs, all which represent the different possible ways of living this peculiar sentiment. The reader goes from a simple spectator to seeing himself reflected as if in a mirror. He becomes a co-protagonist of the mysteries, drama, and humor that make love possible in a strong and fiery way, acquiring each time a different venue of being expressed. In the opinion of journalist and literary critic, Cecilia Ansaldo: “The cultural parade is ample and varied, the Arab World, China, India, Ireland, Mexico, Russia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Spain have given issue enough to form a love bubble which concentrates the reader’s gaze without distancing himself from the larger frame of action. Do not think that these stories neglect the themes of war, adventure, and mythical elements. It is worth reading, it is good literature.”
Cuando callaron las armas (When the Guns Fell Silent) (Editorial Santillana Ecuador/Editorial Norma International) is a book on the theme of war. A tough theme, at times piercing and heartbreaking, but which thanks to Iturralde’s talent, manages to show in each story a background of warmth, a beautiful human vibrancy, a touch of hope, and a deep lesson behind the flames of hell. These are twelve amazing and human tales that tell of the daily life of children who live in the midst of grave political conflict in diverse parts of the world. These stories take place in Israel and Palestine, Afghanistan, Colombia, Chechnya, Bosnia, Liberia, Sudan, Ruanda, Northern Ireland, Irak, Sri Lanka, and Spain. They make a moving and unprecedented book in Latin American Children’s and Young Adult Literature. In 2013 it won first prize in the International Latino Book Awards, United States of America. In 2006 it received the Honor Award for Outstanding Books Girándula/IBBY Ecuador.
Las muchachas de la lluvia (The Girls of the Rain) (Editorial Santillana) is a young adult mystery novel, an action and suspense packed thriller, which condemns femicide. It tells the story of two young women, Daisy and Salomé, who disappear without a trace in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. The story is structured in swift and entertaining way, which tones down the tragic tone and atmosphere. The author has conceived a plot which shows the social problems Mexico currently deals with by using four women as the main characters: two who have been abducted and two who fight to find them. Iturralde knows how to take the story from tattoo shops to neighborhoods where the Holy Death is worshiped. The spaces she describes are sometimes dark, others times chaotic, and other times sacred, however, a road of light, loyalty and love reaches the end.
SECTION SIX: MAGIC MyTHICAL FANTASY
Olivia y el unicornio azul (Olivia and the Blue Unicorn) (Editorial Santillana) is a book that pays homage to the Cuban singer and songwriter Silvio Rodríguez and his song “El unicornio azul” (The Blue Unicorn). In Iturralde’s book, Olivia thinks she hears on the radio a man announcing in a song that he has lost his blue unicorn. Again and again, the man repeats, in an original fashion, that he lost his only blue unicorn yesterday. This news captures Olivia’s attention. She is a dreamer, naughty, and dissatisfied little girl with certain things that happen in the world of adults. At that precise moment, she runs into the blue unicorn and the story is filled with wild adventures in the mysterious planet of Jubalún. One of the ulterior motives of this story is to condemn the abuse of commercial advertisements that fool innocent people and use children.
Sueños con sabor a chocolate. Un cuento de hadas y elfos (Dreams With a Touch of Chocolate Flavor) (Editorial Santillana) tells the story of Mercha, a librarian who rescues a tiny fairy trapped in a glass jar. According to an ancient tradition, Mercha becomes the fairy’s “godmother” and must comply with all her wishes and requirements. The result is an original and magical tale that unveils the powers of fairies in this part of the world. Elves and ogres accompany fairies such as the potato fairy, the corn fairy, the cacao fairy, or the banana fairy while behind the scenes a love story develops.
Los hermanos que cosechaban cuentos de hadas (The Brothers that Harvested Fairy Tales) (Editorial Santillana) honors the Grimm brothers 200 years after their birth. This novel offers a clever and strategic proposal to teach children about classic tales’ other face. Twin brothers Luis and José are blind and their stepmother taught them to love books by reading to them the Grimm brothers’ fairy tales every night. The twins enter the world of fantasy in order to try to change the ending of one of the stories, which they are not particularly fond of. They manage their deed in a very tactful manner. The modifications to the original stories are very creative and witty. Humor runs through the story and invites readers to develop the spark that will allow them to smile about small things in life. This book was awarded the Honorary Award Latin-American Prize for Children and Young Adults Literature in 2012 and the Honor Award for Outstanding Books Girándula/IBBY Ecuador in 2014-2015.
La casa que el bosque se tragó (The House that the Forest Swallowed) (Editorial Norma) is a novel where terror, humor, and a strong accusation against bullying come all together. In this book, the ghost of a little girl misses not having books to read, a vampire faints when he sees blood, a werewolf sings sweet love songs, and a witch literally loses her head and goes seeking for it under the furniture. These and other ghosts accompany a Derek, a boy on an incredible adventure where he must defend the world from the threat of zombies that are crumpling apart.
María Manglar (María Mangrove) (Editorial Norma) is a splendid novel in the genre of Magical Realism, and in which a mythical and fantastic creature dwells in a mangrove and hides a secret. A little boy befriends the mythical creature without knowing anything about her, while a whole town refuses to let the Shrimp Industry take their mangrove from them. Humor, mystery, and a pinch of romance are part of this adventure.
Of course, a novel with a cyber theme had to be included among Iturralde’s work. This happens in Micky Risotto y el perro Chihuahua (Mickey Risotto and the Chihuahua) (Editorial Santillana). Micky Risotto is the name Johnny Tallarín (from Section One) now uses as a pseudonym online. With Juancho, his Chihuahua, Mickey is transported into a videogame created by the same magical computer from the first book. The characters in this book are managed with such sharpness and humor that the reader glides along Doctor Norton as he destroys the virus that attacked the computer mid-game. The book is a parody in which the child’s imagination succeeds in escaping a digital and amusing problem.
Drakko Planet (Editorial Santillana/Penguin Random House) is a twelve part saga where Iturralde’s imagination has exploded into a wonderful spectacle of fireworks, where lights are never dimmed, but continue to shine protected by ideals ranging from ecological values and social inclusion principles to loyalty and love, all combined with intense extraterrestrial adventures. What else could one expect from a mythical fantasy saga written by this “magician of words”?
In another galaxy there is a planet with the same characteristics of Earth. This planet is inhabited by the drakkos, mutant dragons that have evolved until they reached certain human qualities. The story begins when the kingdom’s wizards choose a dozen youngsters (who attend a school for dragons with learning disabilities) to protect the Pearl of Wisdom, a mysterious talisman that protects the planet from coming to an end. The talisman operates under the principles of honor, loyalty, temperance, and nobility. The same night, Drakko Planet is attacked from outer space by iron-clad creatures that call themselves Zuberanos. Twelve books in six volumes comprise Drakko Planet:
Volume 1 Los doce de fuego/Jaune en Kru-urk (The Twelve of Fire/Jaune in Kru-Urk)
Volume 2: Rav y los elfos de las praderas/Kohaku y los nómadas del desierto de Kiir (Rav and the Elves of the Grasslands/Kohaku and the Nomads of the Desert of Kiir)
Volume 3: Yantar y los duendes/Gimber y los Atlantis (Yantar and the Goblins/Gimber and the Atlantis)
Volume 4: Gless y Glessum en el reino de los enanos/Karabe con los gigantes (Gless and Glessum in the Kingdom of the Dwarfs/Karabe with the Giants)
Volume 5: Anbar con las hadas/Ambru con el rey troll (Anbar and the Fairies/Ambru and the King of the Trolls)
Volume 6: Elektrum con los zuberanos/La batalla final (Elektrum with the Zuberans/The Last Battle)
In the battle of good against evil, exciting and mysterious episodes occur, as “The Twelve of Fire”, the superhero dragons, demonstrate their powers and abilities. The presence of dwarfs, elves, ogres, and trolls add a magical touch to this collection of epic adventures, where an unexpected ending surprises readers. This is the first epic fantasy saga written in Ecuador.
It is so, that themes referring to magic, multiculturalism, national references, identity, respect for nature, the importance of values and attitudes, as well as gender equality in the construction and treatment of characters and the relationships among them are all constant markers in Iturralde’s discourse. The data referring to the historical and cultural facts is not shaped by chance or distorted by fiction, but rather it is inserted clearly and precisely as the fruit of rigorous previous research, backed up by corresponding bibliographies.
It is important to identify the origin of Iturralde’s stories to take into account that the worlds created in her fiction do not stem exclusively from archival research or oral tradition, but that the author travels through the territories where her narratives take place, she interacts with people and lives among them to better capture all that later turns into stories.
Jorge Dávila, a writer and a critic states: “In Edna’s books the Horacian principle of the sweet and useful is better served than in most literature. They are beautiful and formative thanks to the clarity with which they tell a story, thanks to the values of loyalty, love, respect for tradition, and the ability to bravely defend a cause that their characters exemplify. Transcendental lessons get to the reader’s heart more powerfully than anything else. However, above all else, these books are fruit of creative exercise, of the search for beauty, of a testimony of life expressed artfully. These are works whose intended readers are children and young adults, but who don’t exclude any possible reader. One must only read them to confirm all which has been said and to enjoy singular worlds constructed by the author’s boundless fantasy.”
In sum, Edna Iturralde has accomplished a significant, diverse, and profound contribution to Children’s and Young Adult Spanish-American Literature because of her particular talent to perceive the world and reflect her vision in her books. In her works there is a human and literary contribution. Her novels and stories influence the development of readers, of humans with moral fiber and sensibility, of citizens committed to their environment. In a stage of life in which the reading choices are fundamental to maintain the interest for this crucial activity current, her narrations nurture girls and boys of all ages so their imagination grows as well as their tolerance, and they feel propelled to work for the abolition of borders. Thus, her work confirms that Children’s and Young Adult Literature is not Literature’s smaller sister but rather an autonomous expression, as creative and challenging as any other genre, the exercise of which Edna Iturralde carries out with incredible skill and expertise.