By Patti McIntosh, Illustrated by Tara Langlois (2005)
The Remarkable Maria is a story about a little girl who is sick. Maria has HIV. This could make her sad all the time, but, remarkably, it doesn’t. Instead, Maria is a very happy person who even stars in a television show called Babbel Box, where she teaches children to be kind to those who have HIV or Aids.
Maria lives in the country of Suriname. She has no father, because her father died of Aids. She does have a mother, who is very sick, and also a younger sister, Willie, who is not sick. The three of them live in the house of Maria’s uncle, an ill-tempered man who is mean to people who have HIV or Aids. For example, he tells Maria and her mother to stay away from him and does not want them to eat from the same plates as he does. Fortunately, the heartless uncle has a friendly neighbor, Mrs. MacKenzie, who is very nice to Maria and often takes care of her and her sister.
Maria’s life changes when her mother dies from Aids. Then the uncle wants to get rid of Maria and her sister and puts them in an orphanage. For a moment this seems to be a good thing, actually, because Maria is now finally able to go to school. But at the school many children are not allowed to play with Maria, because of her illness. Luckily, Mrs. MacKenzie comes with an invitation for Maria to appear on a children's television show, Babbel Box, and even organizes a dress for Maria to wear on the big day. Maria becomes the star of the show and afterward everyone tells her that she is ‘remarkable.’
The Remarkable Maria is a wonderful, heartwarming book. It deals with very serious things, yes, but the sad moments never last long and there is most always laughter and joy. Beautiful too, are the color drawings in the book, which often show interesting things about Maria's life that are not told in the text.
In Canada, where the book's author and illustrator live, The Remarkable Maria has won many prizes. To name only one: in 2006, The Remarkable Maria was the winner of the Children’s Book Awards in the district of Alberta.
You can read more about The Remarkable Maria on www.Remarkable-Maria.com
Anouska Kock is a freelance journalist and writer. Born in the Netherlands out of Dutch-Surinamese parents, she currently lives in Aruba. Anouska blogs about news and background stories on present day maroon communities in the Americas and is the moderator of the Caribbean Literary Salon website. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org