Amadito and the Hero Children
Amadito lives in New Mexico in 1918, where his whole family has to help with the harvest, because most men are in Europe fighting the war. Soon the great flu epidemic reaches even their isolated village. Amadito’s mother does all she can with local remedies to keep the children from getting sick. To encourage them, she tells the story of the heroic orphans, including Amadito’s great-grandmother, in another epidemic in the early 1800s. They were deliberately given cowpox and sent to other villages in order to infect people. Since anyone who got cowpox did not contract the deadlier smallpox, the heroic children saved lives.
Aimed at ages 9 and up, in parallel English and Spanish text, the book gives a good flavor of life in New Mexico’s early statehood. Readers learn about foodways and health practices, and the charming illustrations add to the atmosphere. The epilogue says the 20th century part is based on fact, but the 19th century section is fictional. The biggest drawback is the way the story rather peters out – there isn’t much plot tension involving Amadito. Better to have included the material from the afterword that revealed how Amadito grew up to be a pioneering doctor.