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The Composition

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  384 ratings  ·  77 reviews
Winner of the UNESCO Tolerance Awarda and the Jane Addams Children's Book Award, and an Americas Award Commended Title

Life is simple for Pedro -- he goes to school, does his homework and, most importantly, plays soccer. But when the soldiers come and take his friend Daniel's father away, things suddenly become much more complicated.

Why, for instance, do Pedro's parents sec
Paperback, 36 pages
Published March 5th 2003 by Groundwood Books (first published March 1st 1990)
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Average rating 4.05  · 
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What a brilliant little book! It explains dictatorship in such a great way. It really should be mandatory to read this book at school.
I just wish that more kids were as clever as Pedro. He uses a fantastic method to rule out the government's really mean technique of trying to find out whose parents are against the regime. The book shows that as powerless as one may seem there is always a possibility to do something against evil.
May 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
“’Children aren’t against anything,’ she said. ‘Children are just children. They have to go to school, study hard, play and be good to their parents.’” These are the words Pedro’s mother gives him to help him understand his role in a place where the military dictatorship is taking over their lives. In this story, young Pedro, who simply wants to play soccer, is instructed by the dictatorship to write a composition entitled, “What My Family Does at Night.” In this story, Antonio Skármeta shares t ...more
Q_Jill Burke
May 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
This book is about a boy who, while at school, was asked by the government to write a composition about what their family does at night. This is after he has seen the government take away a friends father for opposing the dictatorship and watching his parents listen anxiously to the radio about freeing the country. Even though he does not understand fully what is happening,he understands that people are being treated unfairly. When he is asked to write the compositions, he remembers what his par ...more
T. Denise
Jan 28, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: latin-american
This was a good book. The story line outlined how the goverment influences children,families, and lifestyles. Pedro is a young boy with soccer talent that is overshadowed by the looming dictatorship in his country.

His close friend has watched his father removed from the family store, and Pedro's evenings consist of watching his family listen to the radio updates about dictatorship.

The story ends with Pedro writing an "untruthful" composition in an effort to conceal his parents' antagonistic res
Casey Strauss
This is a well written children's book which can be used with upper level students. I read it aloud to my seventh grade language arts students. Though the setting isn't specified, I found that this detail encouraged discussion and converation regarding where it might take place. This enabled my students to think critically about the details mentioned in the story (the main character mentions Pele the soccer player, prompting my students to hypothesize where the story might take place). It also b ...more
May 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: school
7/50 read for my spanishclass
Mrs. Ruigrok
Mar 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was a really good eye opener, told from the viewpoint of a young 9 year old boy living in a country that was a dictatorship. It has really great illustrations but it's also about a child realizing what is happening around his world and in his family. This is truly a reality for a lot of children in the world and yet, this is a good way to make other children realize about the situation facing children all around the world.
Vamos a Leer
May 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
The Composition by Antonio Skármeta carefully tackles the issue of growing up under a military dictatorship through the eyes of a young boy.

We meet our protagonist, Pedro, on his birthday. He’s a young boy living in Chile during the Pinochet dictatorship. Soccer defines his life, as it does for many young boys in Latin America. One of the pivotal scenes comes as he is gifted a soccer ball to play with his neighborhood friends. During a game, Pedro makes a goal but, as he runs in celebration, he
Krista the Krazy Kataloguer
Young Pedro lives in a country run by a dictator. His parents secretly listen to radio broadcasts that speak against the dictator. When the police come to his classroom and ask the children to write an essay about what their parents do every night, Pedro must decide what to do. How can he write the essay and protect his parents? I think the book would have had a greater impact on me if it had been set in a specific country. However, the author is from Chile, which has been ruled by dictators, so ...more
Pedro is nine years old and lives in Chile with his parents. They all are living under a dictatorship.

Pedro likes to play soccer and wishes his parents would buy him a real soccer ball. His parents work during the day and spend their nights huddled around the radio listening to news broadcasts.. Pedro does not understand this. One day an army captain comes to his school and ask the students to write a composition about "What my family does at night". Pedro is torn. He knows that his parents list
Savannah Stephan
Jan 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This story captures the intense, serious topic of dictatorship and forms the circumstance from the perspective of a typical child. The Composition provides readers with the strategy of having the children of the family ‘turn-in’ their parents by asking the students to write an essay on what their families do in the evening time. It creates a nervous tension that the reader has to endure throughout and then after completing the text. Pedro is a boy who shows normal qualities throughout, loving so ...more
Erin Reilly-Sanders
Jun 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
While I think this is a great and powerful story with an age appropriate depiction of an awful time in Chile's history, I think that there is perhaps too much text and too much detail in the story that gives a sense of place but would have made this much more appropriate to publish as a reader like My Havana rather than a picturebook. That said, the pictures are well done, using a plain style that captures the bleakness of the time period, abstaining form outline to get a realistic style with a ...more
Leslie Morrison
Pedro is a nine-year-old boy living in a country that is run by a dictatorship. We never learn what country this is, but it is a Hispanic culture. In this story, Pedro is just like any child, in that he likes to play with his friends and he spends time with his family in the evening. But something is wrong: his friend’s father is arrested for voicing his opinion about the government. His parents seem worried about radio news reports. And now a general from the army is in his own classroom, deman ...more
This book was written years ago by Antonio Skármeta, a Chilean author. Pedro, nine, is very good at soccer, has an easy life, goes to school, does his homework, wishes he had a real soccer ball rather than the cheaper one he owns. One day while playing a game, soldiers come and take his friend Daniel's father. Life isn't so fun anymore. He notices that his parents huddle around the radio listening to something each evening. One day, the government sends a soldier to ask the students to write a ...more
This story is a 2000 Americas Award winner. It takes place in an undisclosed Spanish speaking country. It is a story about a young boy, Pedro, whose passion in life is playing soccer. While this is his main focus in life, he begins to notice some disturbing events occurring around him. He sees his parents listening intently to the radio each evening to a far away voices that are difficult for him to understand. He also witnesses his good friend's father being dragged away by the army, and learns ...more
Stephanie Smith
Jan 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: international
The Composition begins with the story of young Pedro feeling upset because he did not receive a soccer ball for his birthday. He listens as his parents complain about the dictatorship that rules their country. Later that week, Pedro is shaken when he sees his friend Daniel’s father get dragged away from his store. Daniel tells Pedro that his father is against the dictatorship, which is the reason why soldiers forced his father to leave.
The next day at school, Pedro and his classmates are visited
Margaret Boling
Mar 31, 2011 rated it really liked it
4/9/11 ** While at school in an apparently Central-American dictatorship, a boy is told to enter an essay contest on the topic of "What My Family Does at Night." The boy's response is shaped by the recent arrest of the father of one of his friends and his parents' actual activity of listening to a forbidden radio program. As the boy writes his essay, the reader is wondering if he is naive enough to write the truth and what the consequences will be. The book opens with a description of the boy's ...more
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Jun 27, 2014 rated it really liked it

People Pedro knows are being taken away by the government. It’s a scary time. Then a general comes to Pedro’s school and announces a contest for the best composition. The theme? What My Family Does at Night.

This little picture book shines. It could have easily been a diatribe against dictatorships

but the author makes his point without lecturing. And, in the process, he shares little moments in the lives of families during this scary time.

Here’s a little bit from the story, with Pedro talking to
Sunah Chung
Oct 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The country that the protagonist, Pedro, lives in is ruled by a dictator. News and information are censored by the government and soldiers, so his parents should listen to the radio quietly. In this story, Pedro is fortunate enough to talk with his parents regarding dictatorship, and witness arrestment of his friend’s father before the general comes to school and lures the children to write a composition regarding what their parents usually do at night. I’m not going to spill the beans whether P ...more
Nancy Kotkin
This picture book depicts life under a military dictatorship, where people are dragged away at gunpoint for disagreeing/resisting. Although the nine-year-old boy in the story doesn't understand everything that is going on around him, he figures out that it is wrong to imprison people for having a contrary opinion. When asked, bribed even, to report his own parents' activities, he must make a difficult moral decision. Unfortunately, this is real life for many children throughout the world.

This bo
Feb 02, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lationo-a
Dictatorship crushes individuality and safety of a nation of people. Many times the dictatorship constructs its rule through devious and malicious measures that range from tricking and brainwashing young children to giving a false sense of empowerment to older generations. Other measures dictatorships may take can be to fill the population with fear. These measures can range from spying, arresting without warrant and the disappearance of anyone who resists their rules.

This book tells the tale of
Published in 2003 by Groundwood Books
Interest Level: 4th-5th Grade

This book is about a boy living in under a dictatorship and his family who is against the dictatorship. Pedro is a boy that loves soccer and wants a real soccer ball and one day an army captain comes and asks his class to write about what his parents do at night. The only problem is that his parents listen to the radio and are against the dictatorship. The ending of this book is realistic and honest with its treatment of how chil
Connor Bates
The composition by Antonio Skármeta is an interesting mix between a picture book, and a slightly more dense book. When I began reading, I was confused as to what age this book would be best for, but as I continued to read I realized that even though it is a rather short story, the topics throughout the book, involving the complications of a young boy living inside a country lead by a dictator, were highly complex. Although this could be a book that can be read to younger students, I think this i ...more
Sep 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: international
Wow. This book is simply riveting. It tells such an incredible, compelling story. It is about a young boy named Pedro, whose main interest is in soccer, but is faced with such a heavy decision at school one day when he must ultimately rat out what his parents do at home at night. Is he for or against military dictatorship? Does he share with the military that his father is against it?

It is such a compelling story of not just another culture, but of another time in place that our students have no
3.5 stars. This is the story of Pedro, who lives in a South American country (it was originally published in Venezuela) under a dictatorship. Each night his parents secretly listen to the radio, as part of a resistance movement. One day at school, a captain from the army comes into class and tells the kids to write an essay about what they do at night. Pedro struggles with what to write. He knows he can't tell the truth, or his parents will be taken away, as has happened to other friends. Instea ...more
War has affected many families around the world. Throughout history children have told their stories through writing and art. “The Composition” is about a young boy who lives in a country were there is a dictatorship and those who disagree are taken away. This young boy sees his friend’s dad being pulled away by two soldiers and the father hands the keys to their little store to him. Sadly many children have to face war and they are unable to do much for their loved ones who are affected. Toward ...more
Vanesa Salazar
Dec 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is one of my favorite stories, filled with so much history and emotional heartbreak from being in times of war and an oppressive society. However, from the eyes of the main character, it could be very easy for children to relate to and try to place themselves in that situation. The pictures in this book implicitly say what isn't said in the text, having so many symbols and so many elements that bring upon deep discussion. Children enjoy this book because although it is a picture book, there ...more
Meghan Brigan
The Composition is a unique story centered around a South American city that is living under a dictatorship. A military man enters Pedro's classroom and asks the students to write about what their families do at night. Pedro knows his parents are against the dictatorship, which leads to the suspense of what he will write. This book is for children age eight and older. The book is realistic fiction. There could be a lot of great uses for this book in a classroom setting. Effectively teaching youn ...more
Meghan Raykovich
Jun 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Wow! This is a powerful book. I'm not sure my students would understand the impact of this book until we had a discussion after reading the story. I think the discussion could be a very powerful tool to help students understand just how much power a dictator can have over a country.
While reading I was wondering if the author had any specific country in mind while he was writing the book. I know many countries in South America are ruled by powerful leaders, but was not sure which ones have dicta
Kelly O'toole
Set in Latin America, young Pedro and his friends witness fathers being taken away by soldiers. Parents quietly talk and hover around radios. Mothers cry. What is all of this talk about the dictatorship? Pedro just wants to real soccer ball, not this silly one with blue dots on it.

A soldier comes to their school and the children must write an essay about what their family does at night. The government is trying to root out the resistance. Pedro knows his father supports the resistance, but Pedr
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Antonio Skármeta (born Esteban Antonio Skármeta Vranicic) is a Chilean writer, born November 7, 1940 in Antofagasta, Chile. He was born to Croatian immigrants from the Adriatic island of Brač, region of Dalmatia.

His 1985 novel and film[1] Ardiente paciencia ("Ardent Patience") inspired the 1994 Academy Award-winning movie, Il Postino (The Postman). Subsequent editions of the book bore the title El

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