Cecília Meireles and Children's Literature

Margarida de Souza Neves


1. Journeys [1]

“I ordered to prepare my ship.
We will return to the deep sea,
my ship!”
Cecília Meireles: “Prazo de Vida” (Life Span)
IN: Mar Absoluto (Absolute Sea)
Poesia Completa, p.270

On the 10th of December 1964, Tristão de Athaíde published an article in Jornal do Brasil that honoured two female figures representative of Brazilian culture who at that time had recently passed away: Anita Malfatti and Cecília Meireles [2].

Seven years later, this same article was to form the book entitled Companheiros de Viagem [3], which Alceu Amoroso Lima published under his own name, so escaping, as was the author’s intention, the ephemeral destiny of its publication in a daily newspaper.

In the article, Tristão/Alceu seemed to want to right accounts with a remote past and smooth out, in face of death, the abyss that had always remained between him and Cecília.

The disagreement had begun in August of 1930, when Alceu had participated, together with Antenor Nascentes, Coelho Neto and Nestor Vítor [4], as a member of the examining board of the competition for the professorship of Brazilian literature at the Federal District Normal School. This was a well-attended and tense competition held amid the conflicts between those of the ‘new–school’ and the Catholics for control of the trench of education in the thirties. Eight candidates competed with only two reaching the final stage that constituted a class examination. Three failed to get their thesis approved and three dropped out due to the clear superiority of the grades achieved in the thesis defence examination of two of the candidates: Cecília Meireles and Clóvis do Rego Monteiro [5]. Cecília was classified in second place in the competition.

The result of the contest seems to have marked as deeply Cecília as Alceu [6].

Bearing in mind that this still young teacher had, in 1910, at nine years of age, received from Olavo Bilac, then acting in the capacity of Federal District School Inspector, the gold medal of school merit for completing the primary course at Escola Estácio de Sá (Estácio de Sá School) with distinction and praise; who had, in 1917, graduated from the Escola Normal (Normal School); who had taught ever since then and, in 1925, had published a children’s book entitled Criança meu Amor (Children my Love) that has been in use as a school reading book by the public system since 1927 [7], it seems safe to assume that the result of the competition had been, primarily, in the political interests of the Catholic group. A few months after her premiere as journalist for Página de Educação (Education Page) of the Diário de Notícias [8], she wrote in the column Comentário:

“The Normal School, for which the good intentions of the present administration has been able to erect such a magnificent edifice, seems to be threatened to come to harbour at its solemn premises all the opponents of the New School, this one, in itself, instituted by this very reform that originated it. (...) The Literature competition held as of late, has left the Fernando de Azevedo Reform in a very bad situation (...). After the ill intentioned disorganization of the Literature competition (...) the Sociology competition, the internal mechanism of which is already beginning to appear, will be another opportunity to evaluate what the destiny of our magnificent Teaching Reform may finally be. Discussions have already begun on the board that has been organized, and to a just purpose. The representatives of the church, that form part of it, could never, due to the particular dignity of their duty, leave the cassock by the door as the saying goes. It is in their interest and it is their religious obligation to defend their creed. And in their opinion they surely do a lot of good. But those in education have another opinion. And that is what has to be respected because the Normal School is a Pedagogic Institute and not a seminary.”[9]

Alceu had at this time already converted to Catholicism and, having assumed the leadership of the Catholic laity through his direction of the Centro D. Vital and the magazine Ordem, didn’t spare any vehemence in his comments on the Manifesto dos Pioneiros (The Pioneers’ Manifest), as the Manifesto da Nova Educação ao Governo e ao Povo (Manifesto of New Education to the Government and to the People) became known, published on the 19th of March 1932 in the Página de Educação of Diário de Notícias:

“We already have our NEP! However, it is not Lenin’s New Economic Politics. It is the ‘new educational politics’, which is a general outline presented in the summary of the ‘Pioneers’ Manifesto of New Education’, signed by a select group of the gros bonnets (bigwigs) of the new official pedagogy.
It is anti-Christian because it denies the supremacy of its spiritual goal; it is anti-national because although referring to the ‘care of national unity’ it doesn’t take into account, in its arid rationalism, any particularity of Brazilian temperament and tradition; and it is also anti-liberal because it is based on the pedagogic absolutism of the Estate and in the negation of all freedom in teaching[10].

In a second opportunity, still amidst the din of the battles that characterised the thirties in the field of education, Alceu voted against Cassiano Ricardo’s counsel, which proposed that the Academia Brasileira de Letras (Brazilian Academy of Literature) award of 1938 be conferred only to the book of poetry Viagem by Cecília Meireles, in what was, according to Manuel Bandeira, “one of the most tumultuous sessions it (the Academia Brasileira de Letras) ever had” [11]. The judgement generated a controversy that extended beyond the confines of the Academy and was made public through the press. Cecília received the poetry award nevertheless, Cassiano’s proposal was defeated due to the Academy’s decision to grant awards also to the other literary modalities.

Cecília, chosen by the other award winners to speak on behalf of them all, saw her speech be modified by the Comissão de Censura da Academia (Academy Censorship Commission) and so preferred to remain silent [12].

However, the Alceu of the sixties was not the same orthodox and irascible Alceu of the thirties. In the elogio fúnebre (funereal eulogy) of his article of December ‘64, he acknowledges Cecília’s intellectual and literary stature:

“Departed at the same time, those two exceptional female figures who were the first ones to be brought by the first modernist wave to our aesthetic shores: Anita Malfatti and Cecília Meirelles. (...)
It was without doubt that couple, of such noble style, Anita Malfatti and Cecília Meireles, who marked the beginning of the new era on the plane of the arts and literature. The first was the originator, among us, of modern painting. Cecília, that of modern poetry” [13]

Many statements of the brief article of ‘64, as well as some of its silences, are eloquent. Firstly, the repeated appraisal of Cecília’s modern character, as much for her being acknowledged as “the originator, among us, of modern poetry” as for the established parallelism, in life as in death, with Anita.

“The violent colour of Anita’s canvases and the veiled sonority of Cecília’s verse opened a new era in Brazil’s cultural life.” [14]

Secondly, for the relativity of her pioneering character, and the affirmation of the specificity of her modernism, of clear symbolist affiliation and as incorporator of tradition.

“(...) Her poetry didn’t exactly come to break taboos. Others had already done this before her. She prolonged - with a totally individual originality and without any innovative or revolutionary concern – the symbolist lineage. She had participated in the spiritualist group to which Tasso da Silveira, Andrade Murici, Henrique Abílio, Barreto Filho and their colleagues from Festa magazine belonged, which had facilitated the transition of the past to the present, without violence, through the troubled rapids of the 1922 movement.” [15]

Thirdly, for relating Cecília’s and Anita’s achievements in the world of literature and the arts to “(...) one of the new signs of the times: the importance of the female contribution to Brazilian intellectual life” [16], affirming their specificity within the universe of scholarship as representative of a gender that until then had been the object of segregation “(...) of the ghetto, of reclusion, of gynoecium (...) wherein the castle-bound had been carefully kept,” [17] and signalling in this way, in the same movement, to women’s new and subtle segregation within the citadel of literature, their value being recognized in its own right, but magnified by the fact that they are women.
Lastly, Alceu summarizes, situates and defines the role that, in his eyes, Cecília had played in the intellectual universe of Brazilian art:

“That sylph of poetic imponderability grew in stature, poem by poem, until becoming the biggest female figure of continental poetry. Her universality is based on a triangulation in which three worlds meet, forming the typical tone of its universality: Portugal, Brazil, India. Asia, Europe and America represent three key points in this subtle and typically feminine poetics that, for thirty years has echoed in all hearts and delivered us of so many afflictions, in its transcendent spirituality and crystalline verbality.” [18]

Cecília is seen by Alceu, and indeed, right up until very recently, by the greater part of her critical fortune [19], and by the heritage memorial of the time as “that sylph of poetic imponderability”, of whose identity traits are repeatedly stated as “ subtly poetic”, virtuosity in the use of the word, a specific insertion into the modern movement, and such undefined features as eternal femininity, spirituality, transcendence and “universality”. The interviews given by Cecília to the press [20], her directly or indirectly autobiographical writings [21] and the iconography of her that reaches us, especially her photos that always seem to highlight her slender appearance with her clear eyes almost always resting upon some infinite place, are far from denying this image of the author.

Some observations and silences are revealing on the reverse of the funereal eulogy traced by Alceu. Firstly, the edited chronology he selected in ’64, the last “30 years”, omits from Cecília’s intellectual history the year of the conflicting competition of 1929; the controversy on Página de Educação of the Diário de Notícias, of which she was editor between 1930 and 1933; her first poetry books, Espectros, of 1919, Nunca Mais and Poema dos Poemas, published in 1923, and Baladas para El-Rei, of 1925; her participation in the magazines Árvore Nova, Terra do Sol and Festa, which, curiously, this same text maintains as being a defining element of her trajectory; her first children’s book, Criança meu Amor, of 1925 and, further still, the fact of her signature appearing in the Manifesto dos Pioneiros da Educação Brasileira (Pioneers of Brazilian Education Manifesto), of the 19th of March 1932.

Secondly, it points to the exclusive focus of her role as a major poet, to the detriment of many of her other activities as a public figure and as an intellectual.

Finally, it is clear the explicit omission of his conflict with Cecília Meireles, since he highlights as an element of contrast between Anita and Cecília the fact of the former, contrary to the latter, had confronted major controversies, emphasizing the fact that Anita had had “against her, from the beginning, a voice that represented an almost insuperable obstacle, that of Monteiro Lobato” [22]:

“Anita, in this sense, suffered much more than Cecília. Primarily because she was the first to break the taboos of academic art. The first ones are always, naturally, the first victims of the eternal Philistine. Furthermore, because the São Paulo environment is harder to convince than that of Rio de Janeiro.” [23]

Facing the finality of death, Alceu, Cecília’s old opponent, speaks of himself in speaking about that whom he pays homage to. He rewrites the biography of that he saw as an enemy unto death [24], emphasising Cecília’s transcendent spirituality and universalism and remaining silent about the conflict between them both, erasing a good part of her trajectory, and contributing to fix an image of her, for which her critical fortune has only very recently begun to relativize: Cecília Meireles, in death, will be immortalized by her own worth – as by most of those who at the time write analogous texts [25] - as a major poet, with a place all of her own in the construction of the modern in Brazilian culture, master of sensibility and of the magic of words and, definitively, the “sylph of poetic imponderability.”

Cecília also speaks of herself in paying posthumous homage to Mário de Andrade, an intellectual and poet whom she admired and respected, a friend with whom she had made acquaintance through a letter, simultaneously timid and daring, written in 1935 [26], and to whom she dedicated the “2º Motivo da Rosa”, a sonnet published in Mar Absoluto [27], which had been actually chosen by Mário himself [28].

When Mário de Andrade died, in 1945, Cecília dedicated to him, in a literary column, an elegy in which one of his traits is emphasised, exactly that trait which mirrors the reference to the universal that, if for her was always a point of departure and of arrival, in the case of Mário could only be found at the core of what was genuinely Brazilian. In Cecília’s portrait of Mário, the pain of loss is the contrast to a luminous piece of writing:

“Mischievous Macunaíma always recovering, and so abundant in sweetness, so crazy and so timid, of such discreet and adamant kindness - so much of himself, so much of others, so much of everyone, so much of the universe in whose lap he’d nestle like a child that smiles in its sleep.” [29]

In 1960, the Federal District mayorship commissioned Cecília Meireles to do the organization of an anthology of Mário de Andrade’s poems, to coincide with the fifteenth anniversary of his death. Cecília undertook a comprehensive study of Mário’s poetic work, carefully putting together a cartography of his poetic writing to produce what she intended to be an exhaustive inventory of the themes approached, the expressions used, the vocabulary, the salience of the rhymes and figures of style, of authors cited and of a thousand other details which in her eyes were significant in Mário’s poetry. The preliminary study was so detailed that the work was not delivered on time, and for this reason was then not published. In the “Introdução” that she prepared for the Anthology, Cecília wrote:

“In spite of the short time that has passed since his death, and the vividness of his presence that lives on, in spite of the clarity of his work and the vastness of his bibliography, it is not easy to delineate a synthesis of Mário de Andrade given the richness of his personality; his daring and wrath of a timid and good man; his aggressiveness and his repentance; his serious and playful constitution; his regionalism, his Brazilianism and his universalism; his contrasts of body and spirit; and, in the so lucid and sensitive words of Henriqueta Lisboa, ‘that form of intelligence that distinguished him, of the embodiment of mankind, of the friend, of the brother that he was to almost all the intellectuals of the time’. (...) It is in his verse that Mário de Andrade endeavors to reflect with prodigy, and in a simultaneous way, the innumerous aspects of his sensitivity and the multiplicity of motives of his interests. (...)
He is not, from a poetic point of view, a very uniform author, but to the contrary, he is the participant of a period of literary renewal to which he surrendered himself with all the curiosities of his temperament. All the elements that composed his versatility entered into that experience: the taste in music, the folkloric research, the historical and linguistic interests, his Brazilianism, his Paulistanismo (traits of those from the city of Sao Paulo), and furthermore, those qualities that characterized his very special personality: a sentimental, a compassionate, a discrete and almost a timid, playing of being audacious, of exploring adventures in socio-political invectives, of attempting to surrender himself in a curious sensualism into which sudden feelings of disgust, dream and regret seem to intervene – anything which displaces this rendition onto a plane of reflection that we don’t dare to call mystic, but whence spiritual consideration has its importance”. [30]

Whether in contrast or in sympathy, it is not difficult to identify signs of the reader’s identity in the reading of Mário’s profile made by Cecília Meireles. Likewise, it is not easy to “draw a synthesis” of Cecília. Perhaps even more than in Mário’s poetry, it is in Cecília-the-poet’s verses that the contemporaries and critics find the whole breadth and depth of her sensibility and her “multiples interests”. She also is seen, and saw herself, as a “participant of a period of literary renewal” because, in her own way, she is viewed as modern. Like Mário, although by different pathways and at different moments, Cecília “explored adventures in socio-political invectives”, and, much like the author of Macunaíma, she stood out due to “the taste in music, the folkloric research, and the historical and linguistic interests”. And, if the analyses of Cecília’s work seem to emphasize, more so than those of Mário, a mystic sensibility and “spiritual consideration” as features of her poetic identity, certainly Mário de Andrade is not recognised in the first term of the triad “regionalism, Brazilianism, universalism” that, according to Cecília, characterized him, and it is not evident what could be “Brazilianism” in Cecília’s case.

To Mário, in the accompliceship created after years of exchanging correspondence, Cecília advised in 1943

“Don't forget that I am a mariner. Like a Phœnician.” [31]

Cecília, in effect, seems to know the secrets of the sea, and, in an article written in the same year as the letter to Mario in which she declares to be ‘a mariner, like a Phœnician’, she acknowledges to be in her element when on a boat - small and anchored, it must be said -, perhaps because it is there where she finds echoes of her symbolic universe. In the article, curiously anchored between a series of twelve-weekly issues in which she only approached short stories from different parts of the world that were structured around fortune telling and another series dedicated to popular proclamations, Cecília opens a space for that which she herself calls her “seafaring heart”:

" (...) the atmosphere awoke a taste for healthy adventure, across difficult seas, assaulted by savage monsters, with salty wind through the hair, the turbulence of waves on the deck, and the music of the pulleys, rough and strong, that has a strange power over those who truly love to sail.
(...) because the sea people have such habits, their hunger follows other rituals; in the world of the seas one forgets the customs established at land; the table has a different plenitude, and is split in another way.
(...) The men of the sea have their luxuries: the binoculars, the open maps, the knowledge that constructs landscapes and conversations in the sweet tobacco of the pipe. (...)
We all proceed ennobled by dreams, united in the love for those whom, along with ourselves, had so much loved the losing and encountering oneself in this experiencing of the ocean, so similar to that of life.The men of the sea have their luxuries: great silences, varied routes, sudden apparitions...
And those who navigate have their tranquil hopes: conquered the seas, there is always a place for imaginary encounters, in a joyful port. (...)
In crossing sea after sea we arrive at our destiny.” [32]

Without falling in the obviousness of signaling the recurrence of the sea and of the voyages as themes of her work in verse and in prose, without insisting on the variety of the latitudes that she visited on her physical journeys, as pointed out by all her biographers [33], without succumbing to the temptation of identifying the symbolic routes she traversed, it is befitting to point out the pertinence of the journey as a metaphor of Cecília Meireles’s intellectual itinerary, already extensively recognized as a “special voyager” [34] always in search and always

“(...) between her anguish and her dismay, her conception of an ideal and the emptiness of the same (...)”

Because of this she moves, ‘she travels’, she dreams of boats, with clouds, with nomadic and ethereal moving and spectral things, transforming this excursion into pure poetry. [35]

This study, actually the intermixing of two distinct journeys, that of the great navigations undertaken by Cecília and this, infinitely more modest, of one of the possible readings of some of her minor itineraries, which are different to those of her more glorious routes through the Mar Absoluto (Absolute Sea) of poetry, intends to have as a ballast a warning uttered by Cecília herself:

“What we write becomes something else to each person that reads us” [36]

As with the journeys, it is in the difference between the point of departure and the different points of arrival that the itineraries gain meaning, it is in the tension between what is known and what is unknown that meanings are woven, and it is the eyes of the traveller the maps drawn.

2. Itineraries

“Many sails, many oars.
Anchor is something other...
The time we’ll cruise
cannot be measured.”

Cecília Meireles: “O Rei do Mar”
(The King of the Sea)
IN: Vaga Música.
Poesia Completa, p. 182

2.1. In the path of the future

Among the shorter itineraries traversed by Cecília Meireles, those carried out outside the vast-sea of greater tone poetry, is the one of her journeys through children’s literature. It is a very particular journey this one she realizes through the continent of childhood, and in it her ship seems equipped with such a luggage that synthesizes her childhood memories, her identity as a teacher and as a poet, her passion for books and her conviction of the role of reading, of education and of school and of its project for the future, which at times appears through her relentless militant side, endeavoring in the construction of a time that will come, and that appears at others, through her contemplative and serene side, of a time that flows and master of the rhythm of words.

In her childhood memory, so astonishingly exposed in book form, which, although narrated in the third person is a plunge into the contemplative introspection in which, by the miracle of the imagination, escapes the condemnation of a world presided over by the omnipresence of death arriving through all the senses [37], Cecília goes in search of the memory of a solitary girl enlivened by her first contact with books.

“And to separate herself definitively from everybody’s world, she built a wall of books and declared: ‘Now I live in there.’” [38]

And in living inside the fortification of books that she hadn’t yet read, like those who love books do [39], the girl, who “would turn the books’ pages whilst lying prone on the rug”, associates her sweet memories of her grandmother with a very special book

“Boquinha de Doce (Sweet Little Mouth) would sit down in her wicker chair and open her book, which was small but thick and with gilded edges, and there would remain among the clouds. And the girl would kneel down, get up to move close to her, nestle in her lap, remain between her face and the book. And the figures would pass: men of other times opened their arms speaking to crowds; the saint’s head dripped blood beneath thorns; the saint’s body crawled between the soldiers; the saint died on the cross and the kneeling women cried”. [40]

In this way, what she saw as beauty she associated with books, “as a character from a book, the bride, would seem only a drawing” [41], and with her dreams, “these, her dreams of music, she herself doesn’t understand. But she’d think, think about certain very fine sounds, spaced, extremely pleasant, as being something unforgettable heard from a distance with infinite pleasure. Do they come from the book’s pictures?” [42]

Also in interviews speaking about her childhood memories on books, is a constant:

“When I still didn’t know how to read, I played with books and imagined them full of voices speaking about the world.” [43]

Additional to her vast poetic work, her production specifically for children is due to her being convinced that

(...) “writing for children has to be a science and an art at the same time. (...)
(Science) because it is necessary to know the intimate conditions of these young lives, how they work, their characteristics, their possibilities. (...)
[Art because] The artist is a creature that stands out from others by his intuition and sensitivity, and by a power to create in accordance with the special vibration that each environment transmits. Because of this, they have within them something of a divinatory faculty, which allows them to foretell events and times. They are also able to write for children, in spite of ignoring the truths about those that science is fixating: guided only by the delicacy of their spiritual sense and by the greater desire for an intimate conviviality with a child’s soul.

In fact, in modern times one is ever more realizing an enormous psychological similarity between the child and the artist; either in the subjective existence, either in the objective achievements.
To write for children is at once both difficult and easy. It is, as I once heard: Columbus’s egg. The difficulty lies in us being Columbus. Being, for real. Not merely thinking that we are...”

As she writes in the Página de Educação of November the 11th 1930, preferring to comment on the science and art of writing for children on the very day that the newspapers report that, on that same week, a decree dissolving the National Congress would be signed, the same week that Getúlio Vargas would take office as president, and this, three days after the publication of news reporting of a serious conflict on the streets of Rio de Janeiro between pro-Hitler activists and the police: in the same edition of Diário de Notícias that records the events surrounding the consolidation of the 1930 coup, Cecília states that children’s books are created from the science and the art of those who are, or consider themselves to be, discoverers.

It is for this reason she writes for children, and what she writes for them about.

Therefore, in tracing Cecília’s profile in his Arquivos Implacáveis (Inexorable files), João Condé notes, making a hierarchy of preferences according to priority as much as to the triple repetition:

“ - Things she loves: children, old objects, flowers, harpsichord music, a deserted beach, books, books, books, a night with stars and clouds at the same time”. [44]

Cecília writes books for children, and promotes reading, “that are boat-books that prepare for discovery, because those are the books that enable the reading of not only that which is written within their pages, but also the reading of the world” [45]

“Ah! You, modest book, that in the shadows of a bookshelf a child one day freely discovered, and by which was enchanted and so, without illustrations, without extravagances, forgot the hours, the playmates, the afternoon snack... you, yes you, are a children’s book and your distinction will be truly immortal”. [46]

It is interesting to note that one of her first publications, amongst those made before she was 25 years old and before she initiated her presence in the public debate about the New School and prior to her best renowned poetic production, is a children’s book, Criança, meu Amor (Child, my Love) [47]. Published in the same year that Walter Benjamin published his first text on children’s books [48], in 1924, it was adopted by the Diretoria Geral de Instrução Pública do Distrito Federal (Federal District General Directorate of Public Instruction) and approved by the Conselho Superior de Ensino dos Estados de Minas Gerais e Pernambuco (Superior Council of Teaching for the States of Minas Gerais and Pernambuco), and used extensively as a school reading book since then. Coming full circle, her last book publication, which was in 1964, the year of her death, was also a children’s book only this time of poems; Ou Isto ou Aquilo [49] (Either This or that), used at schools to this day.

In the forty years that separate 1924 and 1964, Cecília’s production for children, about children and on literature for children, is significant though not constant or uniform.

Also for children, she wrote A Festa das Letras (The Letters’ Party) [50] in 1937; Rute e Alberto Resolveram Ser Turistas (Rute and Alberto Decided to Be Tourists) [51] in 1938; the Nau Catarineta (Santa Catarina’s Boat) [52] and O Menino Atrasado (The Boy who Was Late) [53] in 1946; and Rui, Pequena História de uma Grande Vida (Rui, a Short History of a Great Life) [54] in 1949.

Collections of texts by Cecília not originally meant for the young public were published, after her death, as is the case of Escolha seu Sonho (Choose your Dream) [55], a collection of articles taken from radio programs in which she participated along with other writers of the time at the Rádio Ministério da Educação e Cultura (Ministry of Education and Culture Radio), entitled “Quadrante” (Quadrant), and also at the Rádio Roquete Pinto, entitled “Vozes da Cidade” (Voices of the City); A Janela Mágica (The Magic Window) [56], articles taken from previously published collections along with texts prepared for the same radio programs that had served as the basis for Escolha seu Sonho; Ilusões do Mundo (Illusions of the World) [57], also composed of articles originally written for radio programs produced between 1961 and 1963; O que se Diz e o que se Entende (What is said and what is understood) [58], also a collection of articles sometimes used in schools; and Giroflê, Giroflá [59], which includes some of the articles from the book of the same name that was published in 1956 in a limited edition, and which mainly gathers together accounts of trips to India and Italy, preceded by the traditional nursery rhyme from which the book takes its name. Surprisingly, also indicated for children’s reading is the book Olhinhos de Gato (Cat’s Little Eyes) [60], her book of memoirs of childhood that opens with the dense and complex narration of her memories of a kiss given to the cold face of her dead mother when she was only three years of age. [61]

Everything that the author wrote and published for children [62] is, in some way, linked to school and to school activities, because, for her

“School is the centre of life” [63].

And all of them are reading books, those written in verse as much as those written in prose, as also those intended to follow the program of a certain school discipline, as does Rute e Alberto Resolveram Ser Turistas which, as its subtitle makes clear, relates to the “social sciences program for the third year of elementary school”.

To encourage reading among children, she idealized and created, during the period in which Anísio Teixeira was head of the Departamento de Educação do Distrito Federal (Federal District Department of Education), the first library specialized in children’s literature in Brazil, which was located in the Pavilhão Mourisco in Botafogo, the short-lived existence of which she always presided over:

“In 1934, she is assigned, by the Federal District Mayorship Secretary for Education, to manage a Center for Children that is to be installed at the Pavilhão do Mourisco. There, she creates the city’s first children’s library, taking full advantage of the Pavilion’s architectural possibilities in order to offer the children multiple educational and recreational activities. In this magical environment, so essential to the minds of children, the towers house, between refuge and discovery, collections of stamps and of prints, and a music archive. The basement, decorated by Fernando Correia Dias, is a kind of enchanted city where the children can freely exercise their imagination. On special occasions, educational pamphlets are printed, with pictures, poems, short texts and photos, to be distributed amongst the Center’s young members. However, this children’s paradise was short-lived. Once again, political intrigue emerged and the place was closed down as a result of the allegation that the library contained books that were dangerous to children’s formation. The presence of Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was used as evidence. More evident, however, were the negative repercussions of the episode, as much in the United States of America as in Brazil.” [64]

Ten years later, in an account of an interview given in Washington to a young, avid journalist enthusiastic about her pioneership, Cecília, recognizing that the library “was the first to exist within that model in Brazil”, opens a parenthesis for an ironic comment about the episode:

“(The story would be a long one to tell, although it would serve to teach many, astonish several and amuse all)” [65]

Many of Cecília’s writings are about children, and about childhood as an age of life and as potentiality for the future to the country and to humanity. This is observed as much in those texts dispersed among her vast production of articles published in newspapers, as in her text in prose, synthesis about the new education, literature and its function in the education of a people. Her thesis presented for the competition for the professorial chair of Brazilian literature at the Escola Normal in 1929, entitled O Espírito vitorioso (The Victorious Spirit) [66], is certainly a youthful piece of writing, assertive and controversial, generous and rhetorical, yet it remains faithful to the ideas and convictions she maintained throughout her life.

Besides several Comentários (Commentaries) and articles in the “Página de Educação” [67], Cecília wrote a fundamental text on children’s literature, entitled Problemas da Literatura Infantil (Problems of Children’s Literature) and published in 1951 [68], that was actually the result of three conferences held during a holiday course given to teachers of Belo Horizonte’s public education system in January 1949 at the invitation of the city’s then Secretary of Education, Abgard Renault.

In this publication, the theme is developed in such a way, with the patience and detail of the armourers of the great expeditions, as to allow one to encounter a Cecília Meireles who theorizes about children’s literature; who deepens the significance of the education of those that she saw as being the Brazil of the future, that defines the relationship between children’s literature and school, who insists on the importance of libraries, who proposes, in a chapter entitled “Como fazer um bom livro infantil” (How to make a good children’s book) [69], a canon for this type of literature, and, also in developing this theme of literature for children, reaffirms her humanist, universalist and aesthetic convictions.

The central argument is her explanation of what literature is:

“Literature is not, as many suppose, a pastime. It is nutrition”. [70]

With this piece of writing, the author of verses about the importance of greens, of spinach and fresh fruit for the health of children’s bodies, creates her second festa das letras, only now in prose and referring to the health of children's hearts and minds. Books are the basic food of the spirit, therefore what is written for children, especially, should aspire to Literature, that is, a capital letters writing, indebted to the works of great writers, because it will be the whetting stone of the intellect, of moral formation, and the teaching of aesthetic taste. And because it is sustenance for life it must be sustained by that which is most perennial - the great tradition - most solid - humanism - and most ample - the universal.

With this reference as a basis, which constants and which elements of differentiation can be found in the children’s literature of Cecília Meireles? And, if in order to write for children it is necessary to be - or to think to be, as she explains - a discoverer, what discoveries would this reading allow its young readers?

For the answer not to be simplistic, it is important to look for some contrasting elements.

Among scholars who study the book and the act of reading, are Anne-Marie Chartier and Jean Hébrard. In a book they have recently published, these two authors analyse reading manuals of France from between 1880 and 1960. Without intending a mechanical appropriation of the analysis therein, certainly inadequate for the Brazilian case in general and for the children’s literature of Cecília Meireles in particular, it is always useful to incorporate the observation made by these authors in the sense of emphasising the relevance of studying the books that are for children’s reading:

“Reading manuals are the true highway to enter into the world of writing. (...) Among all books, school books are the ones that a person will have spent most time with during his or her life” [71]

It is equally important to reflect about the changes that put into context the modern in establishing itself in the materiality, in the didacticism and textuality of reading books in France, as of 1925 and up to 1960: the passage of

“a unique model, firmly established, whereby reading is the access rout to all routes of knowledge, and a more complex situation in which three tendencies coexist: the universal encyclopedic model, the model by which the reading manual is transformed into a collation of moral narratives, and, finally, the model which attempts to introduce literature into primary school reading”. [72]

Chartier and Hébrard point out, in this period, a movement in three directions. The first tendency is that one which consolidates the “encyclopedic model of instructive readings” [73], intending, according to the authors, to combine reading and instruction organically. This type of book is intended to address and to compend the more distinct domains of knowledge, synthesizing into a narrative text the detailed and scrupulous inventory that is the knowledge of hygiene, geography, domestic economy, history, and whatever more possible. The most frequent type of narrative is that of a journey of two children, who, at the whim of adventure, go discovering their homeland, their riches, and moral values upon which it is built, developing themselves in the pleasure of reading, at the same time as they are initiated, as catechumens, in the secular religion of nationalism and of patriotism. The paradigm of this type of reading book is Le Tour de la France par Deux Enfants (The Tour of France by Two Children), the author of which hides herself under the pseudonym G. Bruno. This book has already been the object of several analyses, including an important text by Mona and Joseph Ouzouf [74]. It is a lesson in such things, therefore.

In its turn, “the educational model of the moralizing narrative” [75] which is largely the result of the introduction of specialized textbooks for disciplines, takes away the monopoly of instructive reading in schools, which in a certain way was held by the “livres de lecture courante” (“comprehensive lecture book”). The books belonging to this category concentrate on moral content, and on content related to the future citizens’ everyday life. They are, above all, lessons in life. Their objective is to form the heart and the will, and, if most of the time they follow the normal itinerary of a child’s life, a surprising event will occur that transforms the child’s routine who is then transformed and so assumes his or her destiny. Some of them are narratives in verse form, and all proceed to choose from certain themes, with moralizing objectives, and become obligatory books for school libraries, all having exciting adventure as a common denominator.

Finally, the third type of book in Chartier and Hébrard’s taxonomy is the one which the authors call the “cultural model of literary readings” [76]. These are anthologies of the work by great literary authors which are laid out within the grasp of youngsters. In this instance, they are an eminently aesthetic lesson. The objective is to form the children’s taste rather than to transmit knowledge, either about the authors, or about some discipline or about morality. The intention is to show by example a command of the written word and of refined rules in the art of writing well, a command of vernacular language and of its inheritance constituted by literature.

It would be simplistic to classify Cecília Meireles’s works for children within those three domains. Some nuances and differentiations might suggest avenues that are perhaps richer, being less mechanical and more attentive to history, the eternal relativizer of models.

In fact, the first difference to be pointed out is that Cecília’s books for children do not fit, at least in their totality, within the category “livres de lecture courante”, so specific to French school practices. With the exception of Criança meu Amor, which was adopted as the first reading book in not few schools, they are books for reading. On particular occasions they are for dramatizing on stage, as is the Christmas play O Menino Atrasado; in some cases, they are thematic or disciplinary, like A Festa das Letras and the book that contains the Social Sciences program for the third year of elementary school, Rute e Alberto Resolveram Ser Turistas; some belong to the category of readings recommended by the schools, as is the case of Ou Isto ou Aquilo, Rui, Pequena História de uma Grande Vida; and others, that although not having been written for children, were and are used in schools, such as the anthologies of articles and even Olhinhos de Gato. Although these last can be used as such, they are not reading manuals created according to that intention and so considered appropriate to what Chartier and Hébrad call the “ineluctable law of the genre”:

“To read at school, to learn to read at school, means to recite a text in the close association of a group, with the slow pace of exchanges, with the meticulousness of verifications, with the patience dictated by the necessity of the application of time” [77]

Even if they were in fact used in this way at schools and would eventually continue to be so, they don’t seem to have been written for reading aloud, an activity which points to the construction of a collectiveness and reinforces the community bonds, and which presupposes a certain societal ethics and that refers to the public sphere. They seem to have been written for silent reading in the intimacy of the home or in the solitude of the library, that reading that allows the readers to subtract themselves from the world and enter into the mystery of the interior universe, to give the imagination unfettered wings and construct individuality, to operate with a differentiation proposed by Roger Chartier[78].
Not without reason, Cecília always uses the singular when calling upon the young reader to engage in dialogue, referring to a sole reader with whom she dialogues exclusively and with great intimacy, as in the opening text that serves as the brief, programmatic prologue in Criança meu Amor:

“What’s your name? How old are you? Where are you? I don’t know who you are, but I love you. Without knowing you, I composed this book that I offer to you, wanting to make you happy”. [79]

Or, on the back cover of the book Rui. Pequena História de uma Grande Vida:

“If you see a poor house and there, inside, is a boy studying alone, enchanted with his studies, not wanting to know of anything else - ask for the hero, who surely has passed by there.” [80]

The books that Cecília writes for children are books to be kept not just in every child’s and every school’s library, like the French books that serve as the basis for Anne-Marie Chartier and Jean Hébrard’s analysis, but also in their hearts, and to be held on to, indelibly, throughout life. She explains this with great clarity:

“To give only a little attention to reading is not enough to reveal a preference or an approbation. It is necessary that the child lives under its influence, that this landscape, this music, this discovery, this communication, always remain charged throughout life”. [81]

Texts should be read and remembered so that they fulfil the initial and soteriological function that Menguel speaks of about his personal experience as a reader:

“A text read and remembered becomes, in this redeeming re-reading, as the frozen lake in a poem that in time I had learnt by heart, as solid as the ground and capable of sustaining the reader crossing it, however, at the same time, its only existence is in the mind, as precarious and fleeting as if its letters were written in water.” [82]

Unlike the books of the French republic, which initiate a clear process of differentiation between books of literary narratives and instruction books, Cecília Meireles’s books for children never abstain from uniting the concern about form to instructional content. This occurs even in the extreme case of the alphabet’s rigid guidelines that constrains the short verses of Festa das Letras to transmit to very small children – those just learning their ABC’s – difficult lessons about health and hygiene, which go very much against the deeply ingrained alimentary habits of the Brazilian people. Although for most of the text the verses are far from revealing Cecília’s best poetry, on some occasions they do give us a glimpse of her mastery as an equilibrist of words in the game of alliterations and onomatopoeias. In the first case there are, for example, the absurd and hardly defensible, whichever aesthetic canon is used, tiny verses of the letter E:

“Mas que E, Engraçado!
E – de Estômago bom – menino Excelente.
E – de Estômago mau – menino Enjoado!

E – de prato de Espinafre!
Eta! – maravilha!” [83]

which contrast with the final verses about the letter F:

“Ó menina da menina da Face vermelha
onde viu
Maior Formosura
Que na pela da Fruta madura?

Ó menina da Face vermelha
Veja como a abelha
Se agita
Por não Ter certeza
Se essa cor tão bonita
É da sua Face
Ou da Framboesa!” [84]

It is also the case, not so much regarding the form as the content, of the praise of poetry embedded in the Social Sciences lessons in Rute e Alberto Resolveram Ser Turistas, [85] curiously omitted from the American edition of the book [86], and discreetly present in the book Criança meu Amor [87].
The third and most significant difference between Cecília Meireles’s books for children and the manuals of the French republic is that, far from intending the formation of national spirit and republican citizenship in their readers, what appears to be emphasised in them all is a desire to construct men and women who, whilst remaining Brazilian, are recognized as being universal and who find their true homeland in humanity. This seems to be the lay religion to which Cecília devotes herself and yields homage: that of universalism and of humanism, and not that of nationalism and of patriotism defined by territorial borders.

In her books for children, Brazil is more an element of identity than a project, always referred to by its greatness and potentiality [88]. In her more combative writings, Brazil is the future that is to be conquered through education:

“What Brazil has to be, depends on the way it resolves the problem of education”. [89]

As much in her writings on education as in relation to the education to which she wants her children’s books to contribute, Brazil is our soil of universality. It is to open horizons the size of the world that education is destined:

“One cannot understand the well-educated individual save when their feelings have extended beyond the domestic orbit, beyond the national orbit, to the most diverse points of the world in which men, their brothers, live. The spirit of fraternity crosses over borders, crosses the mystery of languages, forgets the differences of race. The spirit of fraternity is the end of education, because it is only worthwhile to live for a total cohesion of effort between people pacified by love”. [90]

This “Consecration”, is what Cecília proclaims to her young readers to be the glory of Rui Barbosa, he who united the defence of the homeland to the sentiments of the world:

“One day - how long ago? - Argentina received him as a political fugitive. Then later saw him leave, for far away, a melancholic exile. He would now be received as a Hero, full of glory, who to the old sufferings in defence of the Homeland had added new sufferings in defence of the world.” [91]

Although in a confused and generalised form, perhaps this was the thesis, that she defended at the age of twenty eight in the frustrated entry for the professorship at the Escola Normal do Distrito Federal, proposing a three-dimensional system for the perception of each thing in the world as a method of emphasizing the value of the word and of literature:

“Each objective phenomenon and each thing can have three lives: that which is limited to its external form; that which we lend to them, subjectively, and that is related with our own passions; and yet a third, which is the generalization of these two, generalization in image, universalised image - the idea deposited in a symbol” [92]

For Cecília, the “Espirito Vitorioso” should be universal.

“Victorious Spirit: to look at the Universe face to face!” [93]
And the poet should be at its service.

“The poet will be the uniter of destinies, the builder of universal solidarity.” [94]

For some, this is the vulnerable point that her militancy led her to fight for a modern education, and that ultimately, becomes idealistic because she defended the idea that an education for all, secular and free, is the duty and responsibility of the State. For others, this is her individual mark of greatness of spirit. For herself, this is her confession of faith:

“I believe that if humanity knew itself better it would love itself. It would find in all races, at the foundations of all countries, the same physiognomy of life and dreams (...) I also believe that this revelation of human identity could be achieved by means of poetic work. The poets are only truly poets when they possess this Gift of the universal that frees them from the fatality of time and space, immortalizing them in the heart of all centuries and all men.
I believe, finally, that education’s chore will have to be a work of high poetry, and that a moment will come when pedagogic vocations will have to take on the form of civilizing missions of the spirit, of activities almost especially artistic; the activity that is more directly linked to life, which it seeks to define, which it suggests, which it interprets, which gives to the creatures this notion of their own presence in the universal setting.” [95]

2.2. The small obstinate ships

In 1945, Cecília Meireles published Mar Absoluto in which she speaks of “great obstinate ships” in a long poem entitled “Compromisso” (“Commitment”). Perhaps we could think of her seven works published for children as an armada of “small obstinate ships.”

She, who declared that

“education is the one thing in this world which I believe in adamantly” [96],

who believed in the educational potentiality of reading, possibly thought, when writing for her children-public, something similar to what she had said about writing in newspapers:

“Because it is an obstinate hope, which I hold onto, that the public will read and understand.” [97]

Uniting faith and hope -both obstinate- Cecília wrote also so that children may read, and through reading, may understand the world.

These books are frequently mentioned in analyses that are available on children’s literature [98]. The book Problemas da Literatura Infantil, about her thoughts on theoretical ideas on children’s literature, is an obligatory reference. There are, however, only a few analyses of Cecília’s production for children. [99] We intend, here, to make an exploratory incursion across these until now seldom navigated seas, taking as a sea-chart some of Anne-Marie Chartier’s and Jean Hébrard’s reflections about reading.

If it is true, as has already been mentioned, that identifying the differences between, on one hand, Cecília Meireles’s books for children and her proposals for education and, on the other, the proposals presented in the reading books of republican France, is an indispensable exercise in the historical study of the former, then it is also important to point out that another exercise, symmetrical and complementary; the one of exploring the hypothesis that if Cecília’s production for children cannot be satisfactorily classified within any of the three models proposed by Anne-Marie Chartier and Jean Hébrard, or even distributed across all three types of reading books proposed by those authors, maybe it would be possible to identify, in each of the books that Cecília wrote for children, not as models, but as dimensions present in all of them, the encyclopedic and instructive character, the educational and moral connotation and the aesthetic-literary concern.

In a first estimation, what is possibly most apparent in reading the books Cecília wrote for children is her strong moralizing character. Maybe this is because it surprises the adult reader to find in these little frequented works by such an author whom had always distinguished herself by her personal autonomy in relation to the literary schools; who had been so active as a participant of the democratic cause, with the contradictions representative of the time; who had represented the new-school movement; and in whose poetry and journalistic activity, the word “freedom” is one of the constant features; it is a surprise to find a remarkably moralist tone that, today, contains an accentuated reactionary content.

It is in Criança meu Amor and Rui, Pequena História de uma Grande Vida that this characteristic is more evident. It should not be forgotten that there is a 25-year gap between the publications of these two books.

In the first of these, morality is a constant, particularly visible in the texts “O Bom Menino” (The Good Boy) and “O Mau Menino” (The Bad Boy), which construct an opposition of extreme Manichaeism. The good boy is described, somewhat overusing the diminutive suffixes, as an angelical being, and the end of the description does not lack a certain kind of examination of conscience:

“I know of a boy who comes to school every day with his (tiny) clothes clean and his homework well understood.
(...) He doesn’t come jumping around and shouting as other school children do. He comes as a well-behaved child, a good (tiny) boy, a very good (tiny) boy...
(...) Nobody ever complained about this boy. It is he who advises the most troublesome boys not to fight; it is he who explains to the less clever boys the lessons they didn’t understand well...
I know of a model boy, whose name I won’t say because he wouldn’t like it if I did...
Which of you knows this boy?
Which of you is he?” [100]

At the opposite pole, the children encounter, pages and weeks of reading later, ‘the bad boy’, who, unlike ‘the good boy’, has a name and whose main badness is that he doesn’t like his teacher. ‘The bad boy’ is not described, but is the object of accusation and reprehension not without a certain tone of blackmail, from the voice of a narrator, who, in the likeness of the watchful eye of God which has terrorized so many children’s lives, sees and knows everything and who knows of the boy’s actions and his most intimate feelings and also those of his devoted teacher:

“Oh! You don’t like the teacher, Julinho! You don’t like her...
When she explains the multiplication table, you doodle on your paper. When it’s reading time, you never know from what place you should read. She asks for silence and you talk, and make a noise with your feet...
Oh! You don’t like your teacher!
However, she likes you a lot...
She comes to school for you, on rainy days, on days when she’s not well...
She thinks of you... she thinks about what you will be when you grow to be a man...
Can’t you see how you make her sad, by being bad? It seems that she asks you, sometimes, with a look:
Why are you so ungrateful like this, Julinho?
Oh! You don’t yet know the hurt ingratitude causes, my son...
Don’t be ungrateful!” [101]

The book is composed of thirty short texts, and, as if marking out the compass of the reading as a whole, five times the children will read pages under the same title, “Mandamento” (Commandment). These are the only pages that contain subtitles, which, inverting the logic of fables, condense the moral of the story even before it has been read. The commandments that Cecília inscribes on the stones of the laws of school reading are as follows: “I - I should love school as if it was my home, “II - I should love and respect the teacher as if she was my mother”, “III - I should treat my school friends as my brothers and sisters”, “IV - I should be truthful”, and “V - I should be well-behaved”. [102]

The book about Rui Barbosa follows a distinct logic and is reading material for children a little older, although the readers’ age for which it was written is not defined. Actually, it is a biography of praise in the mould of the hagiography found on the library shelves of religious schools, having the same intention of forming souls by way of ethical example. The secret of his exemplary life is in the study and love that overflow from the books to the family, from the family to the country, and from the country to the world.

As in the lives of saints, Rui suffers a lot throughout his life, to then is crowned in glory at the altars of his country and, at the end of the book, canonized as a hero. He seems predestined from tender childhood to be the eagle of Haia in a smaller scale: the first chapter about him, actually the third chapter of the book, is entitled “A Boy Prodigy”.

In the book’s architecture, it is possible to verify two interesting displacements: firstly, Bahia - the subject of the first two chapters - appears as a projection of Brazil, not just because

“seen on the map it is like a mini-Brazil: a miniature of Brazil” [103], but also because it is presented as its origin:

“(...) it was the oldest region of Brazil! The first to be sighted by the discoverers...” [104]

Secondly, Rui appears as a projection - in the superlative degree - of the ideal Brazilian, who, implicitly present throughout the book, is revealed with meridian clarity. To find such a hero today we should follow in the footsteps “of the boy that studies alone”, “of the teenager who meditates on man’s perfection, on the salvation of the world, on compassion and love”, “of the serious and judicious youth who believes in Justice, Freedom and Law”, “of the man who is disposed to work night and day to help build a dignified and magnificent country, where one is protected by one’s rights and where the words Ignorance and Oppression are unknown”. [105]

The moralizing connotation is also present in the other books. It is easily found in the constant opposition between good and bad, in the normative tone, and in the praise of moderation in Festa das Letras.

“Ninguém com de menos
Nem trabalhe de mais
Tenha Nervos serenos
Seja simples como o N
Das coisas Naturais!” [106]

(“Nobody with too little
Nor too much work
Has Nerves as serene
As to be as simple as the N
Of things Natural!”)

It is possible to find in the conclusion of the Christmas puppet-play, a happy ending in which the boy Jesus himself, bypassing the authority of the doorkeeper, goes to meet the Menino Atrasado (The Boy Who Was Late), who had been barred at the Nativity party because he hadn’t brought a present and had arrived at the wrong time; he is allowed in because the kindness in the poor boy’s pure heart was recognized, and in the boy’s voice, he hears the call of the friend and of the brother who seeks a companion to play with, and thus goes towards him:

“Quem foi que chamou por mim?
Ouvi, levantei-me e vim.
Quem disse que me quer bem?
Eu lhe quererei também
Quem quer ser o meu irmão?
Estenda-me a sua mão.” [107]

(“Who was it that called for me?
I heard, got up and came.
Who said that they wish me well ?
I will wish them well too
Who wants to be my brother?
Stretch out your hand to me.”)

A moralizing tone is also present in the extended and typical family of Rute e Alberto: hard-working father, understanding mother, well-behaved children keen to learn, uncle who knows to teach values and knowledge while, in the summer holidays, walks around the city of Rio de Janeiro with the boys, helpful maids who learn with the family and tell stories from which the boys also learn. Even in the last of Cecília’s books for children, those in which her mastery of the art of the word is more evident and in which fantasy directs the game of phonemes, she is not averse to administering a “good smack” to the naughty girl who seems not to have learned the lesson of Festa das Letras:

“É a menina manhosa
que não gosta da rosa,
que não quer a borboleta
porque é amarela e preta,
que não quer maçã nem pêra
porque tem gosto de cera,
que não toma leite,
porque lhe parece azeite,
que mingau não toma,
porque é mesmo goma,
que não almoça nem janta
porque cansa a garganta,
que tem medo do gato,
e também do rato,
e também do cão
e também do ladrão,
que não calça meia
porque dentro tem areia,
que não toma banho frio
porque sente arrepio,
que não toma banho quente
porque calor sente,
que a unha não corta,
porque sempre fica torta,
que não escova os dentes,
porque ficam dormentes,
que não quer dormir cedo,
porque sente imenso medo;
que também tarde não dorme,
porque sente um medo enorme,
que não quer festa nem beijo
nem doce nem queijo...
Ó menina levada,
Quer uma palmada?
Uma palmada bem dada
Para quem não quer nada!” [108]

(“It is the whimsical girl
who doesn’t like roses,
who doesn’t want a butterfly
because it’s yellow and black,
who wants not an apple nor a pear
because they taste of wax,
who doesn’t drink milk,
because it seems like olive oil,
who doesn’t eat porridge,
because it’s really gum,
who doesn’t eat lunch or dinner
because it tires the throat,
who is afraid of cats,
and also of rats,
and also of dogs
and also of robbers,
who doesn’t wear socks
because they have sand in them,
who doesn’t take a cold shower
because it makes her shiver,
who doesn’t take a hot shower
because she feels the heat,
who doesn’t cut her nails,
because it always ends up uneven,
who doesn’t brush her teeth,
because they go to sleep,
who doesn’t want to sleep early,
because she feels great fear;
who also won’t sleep late,
because she’s very afraid,
who wants neither a party nor a kiss
neither sweets nor cheese...
Oh naughty girl,
Do you want a smack?
A smack well given
To that who nothing wants!”)

In short: it is a Manichaeistic, disciplinary and normative moralism that appears in Cecília’s books for children. In these books, “the good boys” will find the basic hierarchies present in society reinforced through their reaffirmation in the family circle and at school. And if it is true that Cecília affirms the position of the poor and the value of respect for poverty, it is also certain that, in her books, the poor and the excluded do not move from their subordinated position. It is like the youngsters’ dreams for the future in Criança meu Amor, wherein Oswaldo intends to be a doctor like his father, while Adosinda,

“who is a poor girl, would be happy if, when she is grown up, she could sew well”, and “Antonio, a very funny little black boy, would like to be a coachman”. [109]

The same happens with the multitude of the poor, the slaves and the destitute who Rui Barbosa protects and cares for throughout his life, and with Georgina and Maria da Glória, Rute and Alberto’s housemaids, apparently included in the family and treated with love, but who must calmly put up with the boy’s jokes about the fact of them being black [110]. Georgina provides full proof of her subordination when Alberto, enchanted with the built-in wardrobes found in all the rooms of the apartment rented in Copacabana for the holidays, enters the kitchen and asks her if she too has a wardrobe, to which she answers:

“I do have, yes, see there under the sink.”

It is like this, lastly, with the “roceiros” (peasants) and the “pretinhas” (“little black girls”) of the play Menino Atrasado; fearful that, by being poor, their presents would not be accepted, and would even be objects of derision to the boy-God. This is also the case with the anonymous character of the beautiful “Cantiga da Babá” (“Nanny’s song”) from Ou Isto ou Aquilo, poetry that Cecília probably wrote whilst thinking of Pedrina, the dear nanny of her childhood as an orphan to whom she dedicates many pages of Olhinhos de Gato. In this poetry, all the nanny desires, her desire condensed into “I would like” opening each stanza, is “to comb”, “to clothe” and “to give little wings of wire and cotton” to the boy-angel to whom she is devoted, yet who mocks her.

On reading Cecília Meireles’s books for children one may ask how “they prepare the creatures that will be the adults of the future” [111], to use her words from the lucid Página de Educação, trench of her own exercise in citizenship in which she made of her defence for the New School the bastion of her dream of an equalitarian and democratic society. The answer found in its pages seems to indicate that it is by a strictly individual morality, formed of personal virtues, and there is no indication of a societal morality that points to the construction of citizenship using more consistent and democratic models.

The moral and moralizing dimension is a constant that leaps to the attention in all of Cecília’s books. A closer reading allows one to verify that, further to educating from a certain moral perspective, all the books also inform their readers who then respond, each in his or her own way, to the encyclopedic and instructive ideal.

In the first of her books, Criança meu Amor, the learning is, primarily, that of reading. In this book the child finds, even without knowing it, elementary lessons about forms, figures and literary genres: prose and verse; the letter, the dialogue, the fable and the shortstory; the metaphor, the metonymy, the alliteration and the onomatopœia. He or she will also learn to appreciate books and reading through the practice that the books make possible and through the reiterated exhortation, as much in the first as in the last text read.

In the opening text, entitled “Criança” (“Child”), the author directly addresses the child who is reading, saying that even without knowing him or her, she loves and composed the book for them. In the manner of her programmatic forewords, the author asks:

“Give me a little of your treasure, oh child!
- How? You may well ask.
By loving this book of yours, by trying to understand it and trying to keep it in the memory of your heart, which, if I could, I would kneel down to kiss! ...” [112]

In the “letter” that closes the book, and that sometimes serves as a postscript, a godmother writes to her goddaughter, who the children perhaps recognize as being a female version of “the good boy”:

As I know that you have studied a lot, and that more and more you fill your parents’ house with happiness, I send you with my letter a small children’s library, where your curiosity will find lots of useful and interesting things.
I won’t ask that you take good care of these books that are my present to you, sent with affection, because I know that you are a model girl who will pay them great attention.
Wishing that you become each time better than you have been, feel hugged in your heart,
Your godmother”. [113]

The real book unfolds itself as an imaginary “little library”, as a prize, a treasure, and as proof of affection, so teaching young readers something else about reading.

But this small first reading book contains other lessons besides that of reading: rudimentary knowledge about time (past, present and future; the time of day and the seasons of the year; the ages of life; time of work and time of leisure; time of festivities - Carnival and Christmas - and time of routine), about space (the house and the street; the school; the garden and the orchard; the earth and the sea), about health and hygiene (cleanliness, good diet, appearance) and about life in society (the family, professions, wealth and poverty).

It also contains a teaching about the employment of time, synthesis of a moral lesson, learning about time, the acquisition of notions of health and feeding habits, and classes on the basic hierarchy of society being divided between the poor and the rich. In the text entitled “A brincadeira do relógio” (“the clock’s game”), the children’s day resembles life in the barracks.

“Midnight. One o’clock. Two... Three...
And all the children are sleeping.
Five... Six... Seven...
Zequinha pokes his head out from under the sheet...
And Manuel and Antonio, and that little blond girl, and Célia, and the others whose names
I don’t know...
Eight o’clock. And all the children are drinking their milky coffee, or
their black coffee if they are poor...
Nine o’clock... Ten... And all the children have done their homework:
Elisa, Eduardo, Marina...
Eleven o’clock. And all the children are having lunch.
Midday, All the children go to school.
One, two, three o’clock...
And all the children are working in their classes...
Five... All the children leave...
Six o’clock... Seven...
And the children are having dinner: Luís, Vera, Plínio...
Eight o’clock, nine... The children play...
Ten o’clock... And all the children fall asleep...
Eleven o’clock... Midnight. One o’clock.
And the children are soon to wake up again...” [114]

In A Festa das Letras the lesson is different. A kind of primer in short and free verses, whose entries are organized alphabetically following the formal model of encyclopaedias and dictionaries, teaches habits regarding nutrition and hygiene [115], lists all types of food - including some unusual fruits such as ‘cambucá’, ‘grumixama’ and ‘guabiraba’ -, instructs on healthy practices and explains how the digestive system works. Amply illustrated by João Fahrion, the book was written to form a series of textbooks, and as part of a national campaign captained by Josué de Castro, a doctor and great authority on subjects related to nutrition, and co-author of the book.

The book Rute e Alberto Resolveram Ser Turistas is a textbook on a specific discipline: the social sciences. Children can read it as a “story-book” and not notice, whilst following the adventures of the brother and sister, what jumps to the adult reader’s attention: the clearly identifiable programmatic content: notions of time and of space more systematized and complex than those that are found in books written for younger children (a week, month, year, leap year, the seasons; the cardinal points, orientation in the city and in the countryside, means of transportation, representations of space), the planet Earth (sphericality, movements of rotation and of translation, the line of the equator, the north pole and the south pole, the hemispheres), geographical accidents, Brazil (the extent of its size and wealth, regional diversity, economic activities) and the History of Brazil (the discovery of Brazil, the foundation of the city of Rio de Janeiro, the colonial period, the arrival of the Portuguese court, the monarchy and the republic).

However, the book also teaches some surprising things.

Firstly, all the learning takes place outside of school and during school holidays, and that the great educator is not a teacher, but is uncle Alberto. Further still: the method of learning always supposes the active participation of children: it responds to their curiosity, it presupposes action (the children make models, explore monuments as documents, locate the colonial city within the city, discovering from their newly acquired knowledge a new sense about places they had often visited).

Secondly, even if uncle Alberto gave all the information the youngsters requested, with astonishing detail and precision, it would not be by his erudition alone that they would learn interesting things. Georgina, the cook, is also wise, and from her the youngsters learn about festivities, songs, fantastic stories, legends, proverbs and beliefs of popular tradition. Thus is formed a double education: one of learned knowledge and one of popular wisdom.

Thirdly, a truly unexpected lesson, especially if we take into account the fact that the book was published in Rio Grande do Sul: the “tourism” that they decided to undertake, which leads them to discover Brazil, to discover themselves as Brazilians, is done in the city of Rio de Janeiro, and not throughout Brazil.

Unlike André and Julien, the two boys in Le Tour de la France par eux Enfants who, having lost their father, secretly cross the German border and embark on a rambling adventure travelling all over France in search of their mother and their uncle, Rute and Alberto, without any alarm or misfortune, learn about Brazil whilst travelling all around parts of the south zone of the capital city.

The French boys, according to Jacques and Mona Ouzouf, proceed to “an appropriation of the French territory” [116], which refers to the construction of the national unity of France within themselves and through two processes: the journey through the physical space and the learning experience that the act of travelling makes possible, since “to travel (...) is really to make connections” [117]. At the same time the Brazilian siblings set out on a discovery of Brazil, physically travelling around only those parts of the city that are a metonym of the country, and mentally travelling across time through the History of Brazil which is a continuum from the discovery until today, and that is the work of individual heroes, always linked to the State, and which has become known through documents (the letter of Caminha) and monuments (the aqueduct at Lapa, the commemorative monument to the fourth centennial of the discovery of Brazil in Glória Gardens, the Botanical Garden, the tomb of Estácio de Sá).

The route taken by Rute and Alberto is very different from that taken by André and Julien, but this doesn’t prevent the existance of a union: that of nationality considered as something received from the hands of the country’s heroes and of the governors of the State. How they learn is also different. Although they move physically, not across the country but within the city of Rio de Janeiro, which represents and synthesizes the former, what the two Brazilian children learn about Brazil is primarily intellectual, and it is via the intellect that their hearts are touched whilst their bodies move through the city. In the case of the French boys, the learning experience is one whereby intellectual learning operates through constant physical displacement, and it is the personal drama of this experience that opens a space in their hearts for a new feeling: that of France being a nation built for all, which lives in the heart of each person to such an extent that “the mother’s name, last wish and final word uttered by the dying father, is France”. [118]

Some of the lessons of Rute e Alberto are further developed in the Christmas play O Menino Atrasado: those that the cook Georgina, the illiterate teacher of people’s immemorial traditions that echo within her, would convey without method, without programmatic content and without being conscious of having taught something. For Cecília Meireles, it is in the forms, in the themes and in the rhythms of folklore that this wisdom is condensed. O Menino Atrasado and, supposedly, A Nau Catarineta [119] delight children who read them or see them staged as puppet-plays in schools, and in this way they learn from them.

In both, the form of the text - a play-, the specific themes, and the fact of them being made for marionettes and puppets in the theatre already constitute forms of learning.

The “note” that precedes the text in the second edition of the Christmas play alludes to it frequently being staged “in several teaching establishments”, with the explanation that

“The author classified the play as ‘a piece for marionettes and puppets, about traditional Brazilian subjects”. [120]

Set to music by Luis Cosme, the extracts of songs of praise sung throughout the country’s interior, the folk-dances, the fragments of Folias de Reis (the Twelfth Night Celebration), bumba meu boi (“hit my ox”, a popular comic dance organized as a parade which revolves around the death and resurrection of the ox) and reisados (celebration of Epiphany), all put the children in contact with this fun and these lively rhythms. The characters are the ones that feature frequently in the Brazilian folklore: the violeiro (guitar player), the pastorinhas (little girl shepherds), the ciganas (gypsy ladies), the baiana (lady born in the state of Baia), the roceiro (peasant) and the boi barroso (muddy ox). And the play mentions objects (jacá [wicker basket], cancela [wooden gate]), musical instruments (viola [guitar], pandero [a type of tambourine], gaita [harmonica]), foods (melado [molasses], cocada [a coconut desert], cuscuz [tapioca and coconut], bolo de milho [corn cake], quindim [coconut desert], bombocado [almond and coconut sweet], pé de moleque [peanuts sweet] and even aguardente [sugar cane spirit]) and games (papagaio [kite-flying], pião [spinning top], gude [marbles] and amarelinha [hopscotch]), all very traditional and very typically Brazilian.

It is interesting to note that João Cabral de Melo Netto’s text Morte e Vida Severina (Severina, Life and Death) has some extracts of popular songs that coincide with those selected by Cecília, as is the case of the refrain

“Todo o céu e a terra
Vos cantam louvor” [121]
(“All the heavens and earth
Sing you praise”)

It is the same with some elements of popular Christmas plays collected by the two authors, as in the opening in which the impoverished men and women give their poor presents to the boy God, and the gypsies’ voice of prophecy. It is impossible not to recognize that the two authors drank of the same source of popular tradition when we read in Cecília’s play such passages as follows:

“Trago um queijo
no jacá.
o menino comerá?

Eu trago melado,
porém essa gente
não ficará rindo
desse meu presente?”[122]

(“I bring cheese
in the basket.
Will the boy eat it?

I bring molasses,
but these people
won’t be laughing
at my present?”)


“Nós somos ciganas,
E lemos a sorte
Nasceu um menino
Que manda na morte

Longe num presépio
Nasceu um menino,
Nós três já sabemos
Qual é seu destino!”[123]

(“We are gypsies ladies,
And we read the luck
A boy was born
Who is above death

Distant in a stable
A boy was born,
We three already know
What is his destiny!”)

O Menino Atrasado teaches basically two things: the first is the richness and the beauty of folklore and of what Cecília called “traditional Brazilian subjects”. The second is her perfect syntony and harmony with the universal tradition, in the case represented by the Nativity scene and the biblical account of Christ’s birth.

In Rui, Pequena História de uma Grande Vida it is possible to find new developments of the lessons found in Rute e Alberto, which in this book complement and are made apparent within a different perspective. In its pages, following in the hero’s steps, one may learn about Brazil as well as about other South American countries and European countries, thus expanding knowledge of geographical space. One may also learn about the History of Brazil, seeing how it crosses Rui Barbosa’s personal life, he himself an architect of this same History since he assumes an individual protagonism based on two unshakable foundations: personal virtue and constant study.

In the book, the children furthermore learn the lesson that if on one hand great men are constituted by their sacrificing everything for their country’s crown and glory, on the other, they are even greater the more their hearts, their interests and their actions embrace the universal, and their horizon is the whole world.

Finally, in Ou Isto ou Aquilo, written at a time quite removed and different from her first four books for children, Cecília writes, playing and teaching to play with words, so that each poem enables the full understanding of a certain phoneme, as in “Bolhas” (“Bubbles”):

“Olha a bolha d’água
no galho!
Olha o orvalho!

Olha a bolha de vinho
Na rolha!
Olha a bolha!

Olha a bolha na mão
que trabalha!

Olha a bolha de sabão
na ponta da palha:
brilha, espelha
e se espalha.
Olha a bolha!

Olha a bolha
Que molha
A mão do menino.

A bolha da chuva da calha!” [124]

(“Look at the bubble of water
in the branch!
Look at the dew!

Look at the bubble of wine
On the cork!
Look at the bubble!

Look at the bubble in the hands
that work!

Look at the bubble of soap
on the tip of the straw:
it shines, it mirrors
and is scattered.
Look at the bubble!

Look at the bubble
How it wets
The boy’s hand.

The bubble of rain in the gutter!”)

Some of the older lessons contained in the other books are again covered; the method of elaboration in A Festa das Letras seems to reappear in the verses of “O Passarinho no Sapé” [125] (“The Little Bird in the Bracken”). However what its young readers will in fact really learn is poetry.

If it is possible to find educational dimensions in their moralizing character and their instructive dimension, all of Cecília’s books are also educative for having been written according to the model of literary writing, that is, written to introduce young readers to the call of good literature and to educate their aesthetic taste.

It was, in first place, Cecília’s signature that gave a literary guarantee to this production. When she published her first children’s book in 1925, she had already published three poetry books that had received critical praise and, moreover, had already participated in excited literary debates concerning the modern in Brazil in the magazine Festa. All the others were works from a poet who had won awards from the Brazilian Academy of Literature and a writer critically acclaimed.

To write and publish for children, to write books for schools, to have her books adopted by the public network of teaching, and to participate in the national campaign for nutrition led by Josué de Castro, writing for the country’s youngest readers, were ways of realising some of her more persistent dreams. [126].

She herself affirms:

“A book of literature for children is, before anything else, a literary work.” [127]

And it should be written by

“someone who knows how to use words with expertise, from vast experience of a long literary career”. [128]

It is not strange that evidence of a masterly handling of the word is less apparent in the prose of her children’s books than in her poetry written for children, from “Ciranda” (a dancing game), “Cantilena”, a “Cantiga” (“Song”) and “Canção dos Tamanquinhos” (“The Little Clogs Lullaby”) published in 1925, to the musicality of linguistic virtuosity of the last book she ever published, Ou Isto ou Aquilo. Her language is poetry.

3. With the ballast of tradition

“Seaman returning

with his ship anchored,
sometimes I almost forget
that this world was real.
(or perhaps it was a lie...)”
Cecília Meireles: “Desejo de Regresso (“Desire to Return)
IN: Mar Absoluto.
Poesia Completa, p. 282.

The search for the identity of Brazil and of the Brazilian, so present in the quest and in the production of those belonging to different intellectual lineages and groups, who from the 1920s onwards affirmed their desire to be modern, also guided Cecília Meireles’s concerns.

From very early on, it is possible to identify her concern in, and dedication to, registering, writing down, drawing, commenting on and incorporating aspects and forms of popular cultural tradition into her poetry and into all other genres, in the certainty that here was to be found the “soul” [129] of the people. This, on one hand, would allow one to find Brazil, and on the other, unite this identity with the universal, inasmuch as the themes, forms, rhythms, and finally everything else that was of the people’s creation would enable what she considered to be the human core, in its essence, constant in time and in space.

Also, for Cecília, Brazil was to be discovered, and, due to its gigantism, the complexity of its formation and the cultural entangledness that she considered its main characteristic, this discovery was far from being a trivial task.

“we know well how big Brazil is and how intricate still are its paths.”[130]

It was in folklore, as it was understood and valued in her time, that Cecília intended to find the thread of Ariadne, which would lead her way through the gigantic labyrinth of the intricate paths of Brazil, so to make a double discovery: that of Brazil, and that of the manifestation, in the particular features of this country and its culture, of what is called universal.

Between 1926 and 1934, her interest in studying folklore took her towards a type of production quite different from that which has the word as its main raw material: during this period she made drawings, which attempted to capture gestures and rhythms of African origin in Rio de Janeiro. This is a series of more than 100 drawings in watercolour and in Indian ink, of themes including the baianas, entities of candomblé (a popular non Christian religion), cordões carnavalescos (carnival parades), sambistas (samba dancers) and musical instruments. She took these drawings with her to Lisbon in 1934 when, invited by the Portuguese Government, she visited the country to attend conferences in Lisbon and Coimbra. [131]

In the series of articles she wrote for A Manhã, the folklore theme is a constant, especially in the long series entitled “Infância e Folclore” (“Childhood and Folklore”) that begun on the 2nd of February 1942 and which represents a good part of her texts of that year for the newspaper, and that would continue, with less frequency, it’s true, to be published in 1943 and 1944. Many of these articles are constituted as a careful and meticulous inventory of divinations, proverbs, nursery rhymes and aspects of Brazilian folklore and folklore of other countries, emphasising the relationship between traditions that at times originate from very different places and cultures. It is their recurrence that, with a collector’s patience, Cecília seems to want to highlight; inasmuch the coincidence and variation around the same themes sustains, from her perspective, the argument that local, regional and national traditions are subservient to the great Tradition that she saw as the manifestation of the human universal.

In the post-war period, Brazil responded to UNESCO’s guidelines regarding incentive to studies and activities related to the appreciation of folklore through the creation of the National Commission of Folklore in 1947, as one of the thematic commissions of the Brazilian Institute of Education and Culture, which was subordinate to the Ministry of External Relations. The N.C.F. would have a double function. Internally, its objective was to coordinate what was called the Folkloric Movement, favouring and providing incentive for events, publications and initiatives that would multiply throughout the whole country, mobilizing public opinion and seeking to establish folklore as an intellectual field in Brazil. Externally, the N.C.F. represented Brazil within the auspices of UNESCO for subjects related to folklore.[132]

It is not strange that still in 1947 Cecília was invited to be part of the recently established National Commission of Folklore [133], and participated actively within the Folkloric Movement, even being the secretary in the I Brazilian Congress of Folklore of which Renato Almeida was president. [134]

As from 1947, the theme of popular culture, always associated with national identity, gained relevance in intellectual circles and, above all, among scholars of folklore. According to Luís Rodolfo Vilhena,

“(...) the analysis of the development of this area of studies during the period in which it attained greater prestige and greater publicity, brings us also to attend to the engagement of a substantial contingent of intellectuals in the appreciation of popular culture, conceived by them not only as an object of research, but mainly as the ballast for the definition of our national identity” [135].

Already broadly recognized for her studies and activities in relation to folklore, Cecília is invited by Rodrigo Melo Franco de Andrade to participate in the group that, under his coordination, would write a History of Fine Arts in Brazil, in several volumes. In 1952, as a result of this initiative, the book As Artes Plásticas no Brasil. Artes Populares [136] (The Fine Arts in Brazil. Popular Arts) is published, which would end up being the only book of the collection to be published. An extension and synthesis of some of their studies on Brazilian folklore, the book analyses the most varied manifestations of popular culture; from votive offerings to quilts and embroideries, from Carnival as a festivity that synthesises popular culture to the sculpted toys, “sitoplástica[137] - edible sculptures-, to the “postais amatórios” (amorous postcards) [138]. The book synthesizes her thoughts on popular art as being a “coded language”, a condensation of a people’s living tradition and memory and an essential element of their national identity:

“The popular arts manifest the general sensibility of those that practice it, due to a selection of motives that are a type of coded language. From behind these seemingly simple elements - seemingly disconnected, most of the time, to the unadvised observer - are infinite and totally varied experiences, realized by many generations.” [139]

further still:

“The popular arts, in modest terms, using the most moderate of resources, summarize the great works of humanity - it is History in small stitches, it is life in reminiscence”. [140]

It is therefore the resource to this “coded language”, the reference to “life in reminiscence”, the appreciation of which is seen as a capacity of the translation of the “general sensibility”, and meaning of this gift of communicating from “seemingly simple elements” not only to the national experiences but to the “totally varied experiences”, all of which summarize “the great works of humanity”, which together justify the inclusion of, and the importance given by Cecília to the themes, forms and agents of popular culture in her books for children, so as not to miss the opportunity of learning the lessons of this “history in small stitches” and uniting one’s life, still only as potentiality, to the “life in reminiscence” of “many generations.”

For Cecília, the pledge to preserve and to transmit this heritage is fundamental, since one of the problems that she identifies in the world and in modern man is, precisely, that of uprooting, since this man

“Surrenders himself to the utilitarian routine, facilitated by a world in crisis, which offers him pleasant and vulgar things, alien to his true emotions, to his natural human growth. He participates in experiences that are not his, that are nobody’s, that belong to the machine, to the industry. He lives in the surface. He thinks his horizons are vaster. He believes in these motivations of false pleasure. And he dies of boredom, without roots, without coherence, without resonance”. [141]

In wanting to search for resonance, coherence and roots – against the trend of enchantment with the impersonal machine and uniformizing industry – she fetches from her memories as a young girl what she had learned from the cries of street vendors; the Azorean stories recounted by her grandmother; the cook Maria Maruca’s prayers; the sound of the “drums that beat an accurate rhythm. And tireless” [142]; and the “strange things” that, on certain mornings, would appear in the corner; her nanny Pedrina’s songs; the children playing in the street; things that she, in her turn, recounts to other children in her books.

Sometimes they are just allusions lost in the middle of the text, as that one to the king of Prussia and to the procession that passes by [143] or to Luluru the giant [144]. Others are taken from folklore; themes, music, characters and citations with which she weaves her text with the explicit desire to get to know “traditional Brazilian subjects” and universal artistic forms, as in the puppet and marionette theater plays [145]. At other times she aims to include in the narrative, the popular wisdom as both a complement and counterpoint to scholarly knowledge, as in Rute e Alberto and the biography of Rui. At others still, she reinforces the figures that populate the children’s imagination from all latitudes, as with the multitude of clowns, magicians and acrobats that, in her verses as in the drawings of Fahrion, populate the pages of Festa das Letras.

For Cecília, folklore is the first of the living sources of tradition. She considers great literature to be the second.

Her dream for children’s literature is not only that acclaimed writers dedicate themselves to writing for children, as has already been said, but that the great works of world literature have versions for children, that anthologies with texts of literary quality are produced to be within a child’ grasp; that what she calls a classic library for children is consolidated, with works chosen by children themselves over the times, works that have enchanted readers for generations; that great writers’ reading preferences are sought in their memoirs; that the child learns to love reading at school; that public libraries for children multiply [146], a dream to which she had invested talent and effort through the pioneering experience of the Children’s Library at Mourisco, and which was suffocated by intolerance and prejudice.

For Cecília, children’s libraries are fundamental, since the link that would unite the child’s universe to the great tradition transmitted orally by narrators of generation after generation tends to disappear,

“The formation of Children’s Libraries corresponds to a need of our time, since there aren’t any longer nannies or grandmothers who are interested in the sweet profession of telling stories”. [147] But what would she regard as good literature, that literature which defines a great literary tradition, being it or not destined for a child-public?

In contrast, she defines what consideres not to be good literature for children harshly criticizing her contemporary who would write for children of flesh and bone and not for idealized beings, adults in miniature: Monteiro Lobato.

On at least two occasions she criticizes the books of the creator of Sítio do Pica-Pau Amarelo (The Yellow Woodpecker’s Ranch), a book that, sustaining Cecília’s own argument according to which a classic children’s book is one that children would choose, became the great classic of generations of readers who, through Emília’s mischieves, discovered the pleasure of reading.

On the first occasion the criticism was published, in Página de Educação, featuring a reader’s letter complaining of an error by Lobato regarding the location of the river in “O Garimpeiro do Rio das Garças” (The Prospector of Rio das Garças). The Página comments:

“Monteiro Lobato, who has produced the most beautiful books for children, from a graphic point of view, but which are lamentably in disagreement with the modern spirit of education, has, despite his wonderful talent and his brilliant intelligence, also made one of those unpleasant errors, as shown in the letter below - which, if not to tarnish his literary reputation, serves at least as a careful warning to those who venture ‘into the difficult areas’ of good children’s literature”. [148]

The second observation regarding Monteiro Lobato is more bruising and much more revealing, since Cecília defines herself as the antithesis of Lobato and positions what is worth doing – including, therefore to publish for children – as based on the triple criterion of literary quality, spirituality and refinement. The criticism is made in a private letter to Fernando de Azevedo:

“I received Lobato’s books. I need to know his address to thank him directly. He is very funny, writing. But his characters are everything that is rude and detestable within the territory of childhood. Therefore, I think that his books might entertain (I have observed that they entertain adults more than children) but I really think that they very much anti-educate. It’s a pity. And what beautiful editions! I must confess to you that one of the things I find embarrassing in the book’s making is its own craft, in relation to others, its literary craft, spiritual, refined. I believe it is only worthwhile to do things like this. Not for any fortune in the world would I sign a book like those of Lobato, despite the fact that I find them interesting”. [149]

The canon of what, for Cecília, would be good literature is more difficult to define. On one hand, there is the possibility to consider her observation about good children’s literature as an indication that, for her, good literature is written by whoever writes well, which would be tautological. On the other hand, there is the designation that good literature is made up of books that the praise of time and the sieve of criticism consider as classics. Above all, there is the observation about the spiritual and the refined exponentially affecting the literary.

What is certain is that good children’s literature has, in Cecília’s understanding, a redeeming function similar to that of school, a cause to which she so devoted herself: of securing the future by protecting the children in a moment of profound crisis, as she had recognized:

“(...) only good, great, eternal readings can lessen or remedy the danger to which the child is exposed in the disorder of a very much disturbed world, in which men hesitate even in the notions regarding themselves”. [150]
And, if her militancy regarding the New School might seem incoherent with her insistence on the value of tradition, she takes it upon herself to explain the particular logic of this paradox, because for her

“There are only two ways to learn things:
either through tradition or at school”. [151]

In terms of learning through tradition, beyond making use of folklore and of what she considers the literary heritage of the country and of humanity, Cecília seems also to believe in the aesthetic and pedagogic value of traditional literary forms, which she frequently uses as much in her renowned poetry as in the plays she wrote for the child-public. And she recreates cantigas de ninar (lullabies) [152] and cirandas (nursery rhymes sung in a circle) [153] for the children, because

“(...) Songs sung in a circle make us all hold hands. And, to the rhythm of common tradition, we all feel mutually understood and mutually loved”. [154]

A sensitive translator of Ibsen, Dickens, Bernard Shaw, Tagore, Garcia Lorca, Rilke, Virginia Wolf [155], and of Chinese poets of the eighth century like Li Po and Tu Fu [156], Cecília also seeks to translate for children the “coded language” of tradition, which she finds in traditional literary forms -in what she understands to be the great tradition of universal literature-, and in popular traditions. This translation will allow the future to hold hands with the past, and Brazil to sing along the nursery rhymes of the Universal.

4. Discoveries

“And even without a ship navigates
whom for the sea was destined.”
Cecília Meireles: “Beira-mar (Sea-shore)
IN: Mar Absoluto.
Poesia Completa, p. 294

Does the reading and analysis of the books written and published by Cecília Meireles for children permit her to be amongst the lineage of the modern discoverers of Brazil? Might she have written to form, throughout reading, a generation of discoverers, capable of inventing the new in the country?

Only with difficultly would it be possible to answer affirmatively to these two questions without having to know the trees by their forest, in performing the exercise of counting and commenting on the number of times the word “discovery”, and its synonyms or derivatives, are used in the children’s literature that she wrote, or furthermore, in the wider spectrum of her production, find a project for Brazil. Cecília Meireles is not among the writers who outlined “a Brazil for children” [157] in the literature that they’ve created for them.

Cecília participated actively on the project of, and in the battles over, the New School, on the project of implementing folklore as an intellectual field, and, in her own way, on the project of modern poetry. However her personal discovery is another one, and in writing about her childhood, she projects it in her tender years, when, still very small,

“In the tiny wicker chair the girl continued to look at the street and to see the world. (...)
So it was, in this chair and leant towards the world, that she made her immense discovery:
(...) Without leaving that place she wandered through strange places and entered into all lives”. [158]

“Everybody is double: visible and invisible.
The visible is by and large of much less interest.” [159]

Inwardness, all the lives and the world –the universal- are the absolute seas of her personal discovery, and through the poetic word, she seeks to associate them to the modern aesthetic searches.

What the reading of the books Cecília Meireles wrote for children allows us is another discovery: one of particularities, differences and contradictions of the modern in Brazil that she expresses and embodies in her moment. And, in discovering them, to also discover our own contradictions.


[1] This text is a product of the Integrated Research Project, financed by CNPq, and entitled “Monteiro Lobato, Cecília Meireles and other ‘discoveries of Brazil’”. I am much obliged to the whole research team for all they have done. Firstly, to my long-time and always renewed partnership with Ilmar Rohloff de Mattos, who coordinated the research team with me, and to Selma Rinaldi de Mattos for her participation. I would like to thank Alexandre Affonso de Miranda Pereira, fellowship holder for Development; Luciana Borgerth Vial Corrêa, fellowship holder for Technical Support; I thank Renata Corrêa Tavares Barbosa, Rafael Aragón Guerra, Joana Cavalcanti de Abreu, Mirella De Santo Faria and Luiza Laranjeira da Silva Mello, fellowship holders for Science Iniciation, for their serious work and enthusiasm in the research, which gives me faith in the future.
I relied on the friendship and intellectual generosity of many colleagues during this research: Anna Chrystina Venâncio Mignot, of the Education Department at UERJ, allowed me to use her own research material on the “Página de Educação” of what Cecília Meireles wrote in Diário de Notícias; Silvia Petersen, of the History Department at UFRGS, didn’t spare any effort in locating the school book Cecília Meireles published in Porto Alegre, Rute e Alberto Resolvem ser Turistas, and Regina Zilbermann, of the Literature Department at PUC-RS, sent me a copy of this text and of Rui. Pequena História de uma Grande Vida, as well as her own texts about children’s literature in Brazil. Bert Barickman, of the History Department at the University of Arizona, sent me a copy of the North American edition of Rute e Alberto. Marta Abreu Esteves, of the History Department at UFF, provided me with material on Brazilian folklorists and so helped me to understand the meaning of Cecília Meireles’s work on folklore. Marcelo Timótheo da Costa, currently completing his PhD with the Social History of Culture Program at PUC-Rio, located precious texts relating to Cecília Meireles by Alceu Amoroso Lima. Maria Laura Viveiros de Castro Cavalcanti, of the Social Sciences Department at UFRJ, held, with the entire research team, a seminar on folklore as an intellectual field in Brazil and the work of folklorists who were Cecília’s contemporaries, and discussed with the team Luiz Rodolpho Vilhena’s magnificent text entitled “Projeto e Missão. I thank everybody not only for their precious support, but, above all, for their corroboration that the collaboration between researchers, academic fields and research institutions is a grateful and stronger reality than that of the difficulties that day in day out the country’s Universities and researchers seem continually to face.
[2] Anita Malfati died on the 6th of November 1964, at the age of 68, and Cecília Meireles on the 9th of November of that same year, two days after her 63rd birthday.
[3] Please refer to: Alceu Amoroso LIMA: “Cecília e Anita”. IN: Companheiros de Viagem. Rio de Janeiro, Livraria José Olympio Editora, 1971, pp.230 to 232. I am obliged to Marcelo Thimótheo da Costa for this complete article.
[4] Antonio Carlos VILLAÇA: O Pensamento Católico no Brasil. Rio de Janeiro, Zahar Editores, 1971, p. 73.
[5] Alceu Amoroso LIMA: Memórias Improvisadas. Petrópolis, Vozes, 1973, p. 223 and Yolanda Lima LOBO: “Memória e Educação: O Espírito Victorioso de Cecília Meireles.” IN: Revista Brasileira de Estudos Pedagógicos. Brasília, September – December 1996, vol. 77, nº 187, pp. 532 and 533.
[6] Regarding the permanent indisposition between both, the comment by Alceu in Memórias Improvisadas: “The result of the competition, with Clóvis Monteiro’s victory, with a minimum of difference in points over five or six competitors, including Cecília Meireles, awarded me as an enemy until her death.” Op. cit. p. 223.
[7] Norma Seltzer GOLDSTEIN and Rita de Cássia BARBOSA: Cecília Meireles. Seleção de Textos, Notas, Estudos Biográfico, Histórico e Crítico e Exercícios. São Paulo, Abril Educação, 1982.
[8] Between 1930 and 1933, Cecília directed a daily page in Diário de Notícias dedicated to subjects related to education, personally being the writer of the column “Comentário” (“Comment”) on the “Página de Educação” (“Education Page”). About this journalistic activity of Cecília, refer to Valéria LAMEGO: A Farpa na Lira. Cecília Meireles na Revolução de 30. Rio de Janeiro/São Paulo, Editora Record, 1996.
[9] Cecília MEIRELES: “Comentário”. IN: “Página de Educação”. Diário de Notícias. Rio de Janeiro, 21st of September 1930, p. 5.
[10] Alceu Amoroso LIMA: “Absolutismo Pedagógico”. IN: O Jornal. Rio de Janeiro, 23rd of March 1932, apud Valéria LAMEGO: Op. cit. p. 104.
[11] Manuel BANDEIRA: “Cecília Meireles”. IN: Diário de Notícias. Rio de Janeiro, 15th of November 1964, apud: Cecília MEIRELES: Poesia Completa. Rio de Janeiro, Aguilar, 1994, p. 71.
[12] Yolanda Lima LOBO: “Memória e Educação: O Espírito Victorioso de Cecília Meireles.” IN: Revista Brasileira de Estudos Pedagógicos. Brasília, September – December 1996, vol. 77, nº 187, pp. 532 and 533.
[13] Alceu Amoroso LIMA, op. cit. 1971 p. 230.
[14] Idem/Ibidem: p. 232.
[15] Idem/Ibidem: p. 231.
[16] Idem/Ibidem: p. 231.
[17] Idem/Ibidem: p. 231.
[18] Idem/Ibidem: p. 232.
[19] The practically exclusive image of “the sylph of poetic imponderability” was recently relativized, primarily, by Valéria Lamego in her master degree dissertation published in book format in 1996 and by the series of thesis in the area of education addressing the group of pioneers of Brazilian education, among whom Marta Chagas de Carvalho, Zaia Brandão, Clarice Nunes, Anna Waleska Polo de Mendonça, Carlos Monarca, Marcos Vinicius da Cunha and Anna Chystina Venâncio Mignot, stand out. Cecília’s work in prose, organized by Leodegário A. de Azevedo Filho, of which Nova Fronteira published two of the twenty-three volumes in 1998, will certainly allow deeper studies of Cecília’s multifaceted intellectual personality.
[20] See especially two interviews given to the magazine Manchete (5th of October 1953 and 16th of October 1964), the interview given to the magazine Ler (Lisbon, June 1952, nº. 3), the interview granted to Haroldo Maranhão and published in Folha do Norte (Belém do Pará, 10th of April 1949) and Cecília’s profile published by João Condé in the session that he was responsible for in the magazine O Cruzeiro with the title of “Arquivos Implacáveis” (31st of December 1955).
[21] Among the first, see especially the text Olhinhos de Gato, originally published in separate chapters in the magazine Ocidente (Lisbon, 1939 - 1940), published in book format by Editora Moderna (São Paulo, 1980) and currently in its 12th edition, surprisingly classified and used as literature for the youth. Among the second, see above all the series of articles published in the newspaper A Manhã between 1936 and 1938 and between 1942 and 1945.
[22] Alceu Amoroso LIMA, op. cit. 1971, p. 231.
[23] Idem/Ibidem: p. 231.
[24] See Alceu’s statement in Memórias Improvisadas, in note 6 of this work.
[25] See above all, Carlos DRUMOND DE ANDRADE: “Cecília”. IN Correio da Manhã. Rio de Janeiro, 11th of November 1964; Walmir AYALA: “Cecília Meireles: Perfil da Morte, Severo e Obstinado”. IN: Correio da Manhã, Rio de Janeiro, 14th of November 1964; Manuel BANDEIRA: “Cecília Meireles”. IN Diário de Notícias. Rio de Janeiro, 15th of November 1964; Geir CAMPOS: “Meu Encontro com Cecília”. IN Diário de Notícias. Rio de Janeiro, 15th of November 1964; Jorge de SENA: “Cecília Meireles e os Puros Espíritos”. IN: Diário de Notícias. Rio de Janeiro, 26th of November 1964; Gustavo CORÇÃO: “Homenagem a Cecília Meireles”. IN: O Estado de São Paulo. São Paulo, 14th of November 1964; Herman LIMA: “As Gaivotas, o Mar...”. IN: Jornal do Comércio. Rio de Janeiro, 15th of November 1964; MIRANDA NETO: “Cecília Meirelles”. IN: Jornal do Comércio. Rio de Janeiro, 15th of November 1964; Augusto Frederico SCHIMIDT: “A grande Cecília”. IN: O Globo. Rio de Janeiro, 12th of November 1964.
[26] Letter from Cecília Meireles to Mário de Andrade, dated 30th of September 1935. IN: Cecília MEIRELES: Cecília e Mário. Rio de Janeiro, Nova Fronteira, 1996, p. 289.
[27] Cecília MEIRELES: “Mar Absoluto”. IN: Poesia Completa. Rio de Janeiro, Editora Nova Aguilar, 1994, p. 291.
[28] Letter from Mário de Andrade to Cecília Meireles, dated 18th of March 1943. IN: Cecília MEIRELES: Op. Cit., 1996, p. 308.
[29] Cecília MEIRELES: “Elegia a Mario de Andrade” IN: A Manhã. Rio de Janeiro, 28th of February 1945.
[30] Cecília MEIRELES: “Introdução” [to the anthology of Mário de Andrade’s poetry, a work prepared by Cecília in 1960 and published only in 1994]. IN: Cecília MEIRELES: Op. cit. 1994, pp. 21 and 22.
[31] A letter from Cecília Meireles to Mário de Andrade, dated 15th of March 1943. IN: Cecília MEIRELES: Op. cit.,1996, p. 307.
[32] Cecília MEIRELES: “O Bariloche”. IN: A Manhã. Rio de Janeiro, 22nd of December 1943. The article is reproduced in the first volume of Crônicas de Viagem da Obra em Prosa de Cecília recently being published by Nova Fronteira (Rio de Janeiro, Nova Fronteira, 1998, pp. 63 to 68).
[33] Effectively, it is almost surprising to verify that Cecília travelled regularly, particularly from the 1940s onwards, not only to Latin-American countries, of which she especially visited Argentina, Uruguay and Chile; to the United States and to Mexico; to Portugal, a country to which she was profoundly connected through both personal and intellectual ties, and to other European countries, especially Holland and France, but she also ventured to more distant places, especially Israel and India, with whose culture and spirituality she identified deeply.
[34] The expression is Walmir AYALA’s from the “Introdução à 4ª Edição, Revista e Ampliada da Poesia Completa de Cecília Meireles” (Cecília MEIRELES: Op. cit., 1994, p. 16).
[35] MENOTI DEL PICCHIA: “Vaga Música”. IN: A Manhã. Rio de Janeiro, 1st of August 1942, apud “Fortuna Crítica”. IN: Cecília MEIRELES: Op. cit. 1994, p. 60.
[36] Letter from Cecília Meireles to Mário de Andrade, dated 21st of March 1943. IN: Cecília MEIRELES: Op. cit.,1996, p. 294.
[37] Cecília Meireles’s principal memoires are brought together in Olhinhos de Gato, first published, in chapters, in the Portuguese magazine Ocidente between 1939 and 1940 and collated in book form by Editora Moderna after the author’s death. Cecília MEIRELES: Olhinhos de Gato. São Paulo, Editora Moderna, no date (12th edition).
[38] Cecília MEIRELES: Op. cit., no date, p. 87.
[39] In regards to the representation of the book as refuge and citadel, see, for example, the beautiful book by the Argentine, naturalized Canadian, Aberto MANGUEL: Uma História da Leitura. São Paulo, Companhia das letras, 1997, in which it is possible to find, in a very different narrative plan than that used by Cecília in the passage mentioned, similar observations to those of the Brazilian author: “I wanted to live among books. (...) Each book is a world in itself and I took refuge within them.” Pp. 28 and 24.
[40] Cecília MEIRELES: Idem/Ibidem, p. 106.
[41] Idem/Ibidem: p. 112.
[42] Idem/Ibidem: p. 123.
[43] Fagundes de MENEZES: “Silêncio e Solidão. Dois Fatores Positivos na Vida da Poetisa. ” Manchete magazine. Rio de Janeiro, 3rd of October 1953, p. 49.
[44] João CONDÈ: “Arquivos Implacáveis”. IN: O Cruzeiro. Rio de Janeiro, 31st of December 1955.
[45] Ilmar Rohloff de MATTOS and Margarida de Souza NEVES: Cecília Meireles, Monteiro Lobato e Outros Descobrimentos do Brasil. Rio de Janeiro, PUC-Rio / CNPq, 1996, p. 6. (Mimeo Integrated Research Project).
[46] Cecília MEIRELES: Problemas da Literatura Infantil. São Paulo/Brasília, Summuus/INL, 1979, p. 28. (3rd edition).
[47] Cecília MEIRELLES: Criança meu Amor. Rio de Janeiro, Anuário do Brasil, 1924.
[48] Walter BENJAMIN: “Velhos Livros Infantis” IN: Reflexões: A Criança. O Brinquedo. A Educação. São Paulo, Summus Editorial, 1984, pp. 47 to 53. (2nd edition).
[49] Cecília MEIRELLES: Ou Isto ou Aquilo. Rio de Janeiro, Giroflá, 1964.
[50] Cecília MEIRELES and Josué de CASTRO: A Festa das Letras. Porto Alegre, Edições Globo, 1937.
[51] Cecília MEIRELES: Rute e Alberto Resolveram ser Turistas. Porto Alegre, Livraria do Globo, 1938.
[52] According to information present in Poesia Completa from Editora Aguilar (Op. cit. p. 95), this is a folkloric piece for puppet-theatre, which was not located within the collections researched. I suppose that it will be found in the author’s personal collection, not yet available to the public.
[53] Cecília MEIRELES: O Menino Atrasado. Auto de Natal. Rio de Janeiro, Livros de Portugal, 1966.
[54] Cecília MEIRELES: Rui. Pequena História de uma Grande Vida. Rio de Janeiro, Livros de Portugal, 1949.
[55] Cecília MEIRELES: Escolha o seu Sonho. Rio de Janeiro/São Paulo, Record, 1969 (3rd edition).
[56] Cecília MEIRELES: A Janela Mágica. São Paulo, Editora Moderna, 1983. (16th edition).
[57] Cecília MEIRELES: Ilusões do Mundo. Rio de Janeiro, Nova Fronteira, 1982 (6th edition).
[58] Cecília MEIRELES: O que se Diz e o que se Entende. Rio de Janeiro, Nova Fronteira, 1980 (2nd edition).
[59] Cecília MEIRELES: Giroflê. Giroflá. São Paulo, Editora Moderna, 1981 (7th edition).
[60] Cecília MEIRELES, op. cit. (1983). There is a Spanish translation of this book, made by Roberto Romero Escalada, and published with the title Ojitos de Gato. Buenos Aires, Centro de Estudos Brasileiros, 1981.
[61] The inventory of children books and those directed to the youth written by Cecília Meireles, or those used as literature for children may be a little lengthy, but this is justified, since in none of the bibliographies of Cecília Meireles’s work that were consulted, this group of writings was to be found in its totality.
[62] Only the books published by Cecília for children are objects of analysis in this work, but not those books used in schools today which were not written by the author specifically to this end.
[63] Cecília MEIRELES: “La Maternelle”. IN: A Manhã. Rio de Janeiro, 1st of September 1943.
[64] Eliane ZAGURY: Cecília Meireles: Notícia Biográfica, Estudo Crítico, Antologia, Bibliografia, Discografia, Partituras. Petrópolis, Vozes, 1973, pp. 15 and 16.
[65] Cecília MEIRELLES: “Precursoras Brasileiras”. IN: Folha Carioca. Rio de Janeiro, 19th of June 1945, apud idem: Crônicas de Viagem. Rio de Janeiro, Nova Fronteira 1998 p. 227.
[66] Cecília MEIRELES: O Espírito Vitorioso. Rio de Janeiro, Tipografia do Anuário do Brasil, no date.
[67] Among the “Comentários” of the “Página de Educação” of Diário de Notícias, above all, see those of 28/6/1930, entitled “Literatura Infantil”; and of 14/9/1930, entitled “Educação Moral e Cívica”, in which she defined what it is to write for children. Furthermore, in Diário de Notícias 13/7/1930, there is a note in the column “Outros” criticizing Monteiro Lobato. Among the articles published in A Manhã, are two of particular importance on the theme of children’s literature: one of 15/1/1942, entitled “Literatura Infantil”, and one of 18/1/1945, entitled “À margem da Literatura Infantil”.
[68] Cecília MEIRELES: Problemas da Literatura Infantil. São Paulo/Brasília, Summuus/INL, 1979 (3rd edition).
[69] Cecília MEIRELES: Problemas da Literatura Infantil, op. cit . pp 93 to 96.
[70] Idem/Ibidem: p. 28. Grifo de Cecília Meireles.
[71] Anne-Marie CHARTIER and Jean HÉBRARD: Discursos sobre a Leitura – 1880 – 1980. São Paulo, Editora Ática, 1995, p. 390.
[72] Idem/Ibidem: pp. 393 and 394.
[73] Cfr. Idem/Ibidem: pp. 398 to 402.
[74] Jacques OUSOUF and Mona OUSOUF: “Le Tour de la France par Deux Enfants. Le Petit Livre Rouge de la République”. IN: Pierre NORA, Les Lieux de Mémoire, vol. I - La République. Paris, Gallimard, 1984, pp. 291 to 321.
[75] Cfr. Anne-Marie CHARTIER and Jean HÉBRARD: Op. cit. pp. 398 to 402.
[76] Cfr. Idem/Ibidem: pp. 402 to 408.
[77] Idem/Ibidem: p. 402.
[78] Cfr. Roger CHARTIER: “As Práticas da Escrita”. IN: Georges DUBY and Philippe ARIÉS (orgs): História da Vida Privada, vol. 3 - Da Renascença ao Século das Luzes. São Paulo, Companhia das Letras, 1991.
[79] Cecília MEIRELLES: Op. cit, 1924, p. 9.
[80] Idem: op. cit., 1949, p. 93.
[81] Cecília MEIRELES: Problemas da Literatura Infantil, op. cit. p. 28.
[82] Alberto MANGUEL: Op. cit. p. 83.
[83] Cecília Meireles: A Festa das Letras, op. cit. no page.
[84] Idem/Ibidem: no page.
[85] Idem: Rute e Alberto Resolveram Ser Turistas, op. cit., above all p. 203.
[86] Idem: Rute e Alberto. Boston, D.C. Heath and Company, 1945. This is an abbreviated edition, with notes, vocabulary and exercises, edited by the teachers Virgina JOINER of Trinity University and Eunice JOINER GATES of Texas Technological College, and aimed at the teaching of Portuguese to Americans. Perhaps because it is aimed mainly at an adult public, the selection made excludes most of the first two parts of the book in Portuguese, that are dedicated to notions of time and space, hygiene and alimentary habits, and good and moral conduct. From the chapters selected, those that characterize the family -possibly viewed as being a typical Brazilian family-, the country and its history and the city of Rio de Janeiro, some parts are missing. Also, some situations, words and characters have been meticulously taken out. In the first case, there is the very careful erasure of all references to the fact of the brother and sister sleeping in the same room. In the second, there is the curious and systematic substitution of the word “criança” (child) for others, excepting in only three occasions (p. 30, p. 37, p. 60), although the epithet “malandrinho” (little rascal), as Alberto is continuously called in the book, is maintained, as are the words “criada” (a colloquial variation for maid) and “patroa” (literally means “female boss”, but it is also used to refer to the housewife who employs the maid). In the third case there is the (not so) strange disappearance of Maria da Glória, the family’s second maid. The American edition is abundantly illustrated with photos of Rio de Janeiro, whilst the Brazilian edition has drawings alluding to the two siblings’ adventures or that reproduce monuments, celebrated squares and tourist locations in Rio.
[87] Cecília MEIRELES: Criança meu Amor, op. cit. p. 41.
[88] IN Rute e Alberto.
[89] Cecília MEIRELES: “A Formação do Professor”. IN: Diário de Noticias. Rio de Janeiro, 19th of June 1932.
[90] Cecília MEIRELES: “Educação e Fraternidade Universal”. IN: Diário de Notícias. Rio de Janeiro, 27th of June 1930.
[91] Cecília MEIRELES: Rui. Pequena História de uma Grande Vida, op. cit. p. 84.
[92] Cecília MEIRELLES: O Espírito Vitorioso, op. cit. p. 88.
[93] Idem/Ibidem: p. 107.
[94] Idem/Ibidem: p. 122.
[95] Cecília MEIRELES: “Ternura Chinesa”. IN: Diário de Notícias. Rio de Janeiro, 16th of August 1932.
[96] Idem: “Conversa Talvez Fiada”. IN: A Manhã. Rio de Janeiro, 6th of September 1943.
[97] Cecília MEIRELES: “Carta a Fernando de Azevedo”. Rio de Janeiro, 8th of April 1931, apud Valéria LAMEGO: Op. cit. pp. 58 and 211.
[98] See, for example, ARROYO, Leonardo: Literatura Infantil Brasileira. São Paulo, Edições Melhoramentos, 1968; Nelly Novaes COELHO: A Literatura Infantil. História, Teoria, Anáside. São Paulo/Brasília, Quiron/INL, 1981; Laura SANDRONI: Retrospectiva da Literatura Infantil Brasileira. Rio de Janeiro, PUC-Rio, 1980. (Publication of PUC-Rio nº 33); Eliana YUNES: “Os Caminhos da Literatura Infanto-juvenil Brasileira”
.IN: Anais do 1º Encontro de Professores de Literatura Infantil e Juvenil. Rio de Janeiro, FNLIJ, 1980; Regina ZILBERMAN: A Literatura Infantil na Escola. São Paulo, Global, 1981; Regina ZILBERMAN and Marisa LAJOLO: Um Brasil para Crianças. Para Conhecer a Literatura Infantil Brasileira: Histórias, Autores e Textos. Porto Alegre, Global Universitária, 1993 (4th edition); Literatura Infantil Brasileira. História e Histórias. São Paulo, Ática, 1991 (5th edition) ; A Formação da Leitura no Brasil. São Paulo, Ática, 1996.
[99] Among the exceptions is this text by Moema RUSSOMANO: “Cecílias Meireles e o Mundo Poético Infantil”. IN: Letras de Hoje. Porto Alegre, PUC-RS, 1979, nº 12, vol. 36.
[100] Cecília MEIRELES: “O Bom Menino”. IN: Criança meu Amor, op. cit. p. 11.
[101] Idem: “O Mau Menino” IN: Ibidem, p.55.
[102] Idem/Ibidem: pp. 19, 35, 49, 67 and 83.
[103] Cecília Meireles: Rui, Pequena História de uma Grande Vida, op. cit. p.9.
[104] Idem/Ibidem: p. 12.
[105] Cecília Meireles: Idem/Ibidem, pp. 93 and 94.
[106] Cecília MEIRELES: A Festa das Letras, op. cit. no page.
[107] Cecília MEIRELES: O Menino Atrasado, op. cit. p. 29.
[108] Cecília MEIRELES: “Uma Palmada bem Dada”. IN: Ou Isto ou Aquilo, op. Cit. pp. 42 and 43.
[109] Cecília MEIRELES: “Para o Futuro” IN: Criança meu Amor op. cit. p. 41.
[110] Cecília MEIRELES: Rute e Alberto Resolveram ser Turistas, op. cit p. 9.
[111] Idem: “As Qualidades do Educador”. IN: Diário de Notícias. Rio de Janeiro, 30th of October 1930.
[112] Cecília MEIRELES: Criança meu Amor, op. cit. p. 9.
[113] Cecília MEIRELES: Criança meu Amor, op. cit. p. 9.
[114] Idem/Ibidem: pp. 23 and 24.
[115] The themes of nutrition, alimentary habits and hygiene are recurrent in the “Página da Educação” of Diário de Notícias.
[116] Jacques OUZOUF and Mona OUZOUF: Op. cit. p. 294.
[117] Idem. Ibidem: p. 297.
[118] Idem. Ibidem: p. 292.
[119] As has already been said, this play, apparently never published, has not been located.
[120] “Nota da Segunda edição” IN: Idem: O Menino Atrasado. Op. Cit., page not numbered.
[121] Idem/Ibidem: p. 9.
[122] Idem/Ibidem: p. 14.
[123] Idem/Ibidem: p. 12.
[124] Idem: Ou Isto ou Aquilo, op. cit. p. 15.
[125] Cecília MEIRELES: Ou Isto ou Aquilo, op. cit. p. 58.
[126] The word dream, as much in Cecília’s journalistic production, as in the letters that were researched and in her literary work, including her books for children, has a clear correspondence with the idea of project; an ideal and a goal to be reached being the equivalent, in a poetic key, to her convictions and her militancy.
[127] Cecília MEIRELES: Problemas da Literatura Infantil, op. cit. p. 96.
[128] Idem/Ibidem: p. 95.
[129] Cecília MEIRELES: “Introdução”. IN: As Artes Plásticas no Brasil – Artes Populares. Rio de Janeiro, Edições Ouro, 1968, p. 17.
[130] Cecília MEIRELES: “Discurso da Sra. Cecília Meireles”. IN: Folclore. Vitória, September/December 1954, year VI, nº 32 and –33, p. 17.
[131] These drawings, published for the first time in Lisbon in 1934, are available nowadays in the book Batuque, Samba e Macumba - Estudos de Gesto e de Ritmo 1926 - 1934 (Rio de Janeiro, FUNARTE/Instituto Nacional do Folclore, 1983), of which there is an English edition.
[132] For a careful analysis of the Movement, and of folklorists in Brazil, refer to Luiz Rodolpho VILHENA’s fundamental text: Projeto e Missão: O Movimento Folclórico Brasileiro - 1947-1964. Rio de Janeiro, Funarte/Fundação Getulio Vargas, 1997.
[133] Renato ALMEIDA: “Cecília Meireles, uma Companheira” . IN: Folclore. Vitória, December 1964 and January 1965, year XV, nº 79 and 80, p. 7.
[134] Apud Diário de Notícias. Rio de Janeiro, 22nd of August 1951.
[135]Luis Rodolfo VILHENA: Op. cit., p. 21.
[136] Cecília MEIRELES: As Artes Plásticas no Brasil – Artes Populares. Rio de Janeiro, Edições Ouro, 1968.
[137] Idem/Ibidem: pp. 65 to 71.
[138] Idem/Ibidem: pp. 147 to 153.
[139] Idem/Ibidem: p. 18.
[140] MEIRELES, Cecília. As Artes Plásticas no Brasil – Artes Populares. Rio de Janeiro, Edições Ouro, 1968, p.18.
[141] Idem/Ibidem: p. 20.
[142] Cecília MEIRELES: Olhinhos de Gato, op. cit. p. 74. All the other references were extracted from the same work.
[143] Idem: Ou Isto ou Aquilo, p. 49.
[144] Idem: Criança meu Amor, p. 87.
[145] This certainly is the case with O Menino Atrasado, and it may be supposed that the same is true of A Nau Catarineta, not located.
[146] All these topics are developed in Problemas da Literatura Infantil.
[147] Cecília MEIRELES: Problemas da Literatura Infantil, op. cit. p. 111.
[148] “Um Descuido de Monteiro Lobato”. IN: Diário de Notícias. Rio de Janeiro, 13th of July 1930.
[149] Letter from Cecília Meireles to Fernando de Azevedo, dated 9th of November 1932 apud Valéria LAMEGO, op. cit. p. 229.
[150] Cecília MEIRELES: Problemas da Literatura Infantil, op. cit. p. 28.
[151] Idem: “Educação Doméstica”. IN: A Manhã. Rio de Janeiro, 9th of January 1942.
[152] Idem: “ Cantiga para Adormecer Lulu”. IN: Ou Isto ou Aquilo, pp. 60 and 61.
[153] Idem/Ibidem: p. 29.
[154] Cecília MEIRELES: “Encontros”. IN: A Manhã. Rio de Janeiro, 2nd of June 1943.
[155] The reference to these translations can be found in Obra Poética, op. cit. pp. 95 and 96.
[156] Li PO and Tu FU: Poemas Chineses. Rio de Janeiro, Nova Fronteira, 1996. Translation by Cecília Meireles.
[157] This is the title of one of the books by Regina ZILBERMAN and Marisa LAJOLO on children’s literature: Um Brasil para Crianças. Para Conhecer a Literatura Infantil Brasileira: Histórias, Autores e Textos. Porto Alegre, Global Universitária, 1993 (4th edition).
[158] Cecília MEIRELES: Olhinhos de Gato, op. cit. p. 133.
[159] Idem/Ibidem: p.77.

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