I Lived on But­ter­fly Hill

Mar­jorie Agosín; Lee White, illus.

  • Review
By – December 22, 2014

Celeste Mar­coni enjoys a very com­fort­able life in the But­ter­fly Hill neigh­bor­hood of Val­paraiso, Chile until Augus­to Pinochet’s gov­ern­ment comes to pow­er. Celeste’s par­ents fear for the family’s safe­ty and send her to live with an aunt in Maine while they go into hid­ing. Life in rur­al north­ern New Eng­land is total­ly unlike any­thing Celeste has ever known, and it’s hard for her to adjust. She grad­u­al­ly makes friends and gets used to her new home, school, lan­guage, and rou­tine. Nonethe­less, Celeste is thrilled when it is safe for her to return to Chile. But that also requires some adjust­ment, for she and Val­paraiso have both changed.

One of Celeste’s grand­moth­ers is Jew­ish, and that comes up on the occa­sions when the grand­moth­er draws par­al­lels between the fears in Chile and her dif­fi­cul­ties in Europe in the 1930s. Celeste writes about the weath­er, scenery, food and friends old and new in a very poet­ic style. Occa­sion­al gram­mat­i­cal errors and mis­spellings (for exam­ple, bougainvil­lea” is spelled three dif­fer­ent ways in the text) dis­tract the read­er from Celeste’s beau­ti­ful lan­guage and keen insights (pos­si­bly result­ing from the book hav­ing been imper­fect­ly trans­lat­ed), but this nov­el gives read­ers a peek into the dif­fi­cul­ties in Chile in the 1970s.

Rec­om­mend­ed for ages 11 – 15.

Mar­ci Lavine Bloch earned her MLS from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Mary­land, a BA from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia and an MA in Eng­lish Lit­er­a­ture from Ford­ham Uni­ver­si­ty. She has worked in syn­a­gogue and day school libraries and is cur­rent­ly fin­ish­ing her term on the Syd­ney Tay­lor Book Award Committee.

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