ACROSS SEAS SELDOM
Cecília Meireles and Children's Literature
Margarida de Souza Neves
“I ordered to prepare my ship.
We will return to the deep sea,
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 .
Seven years later, this same article was to form the book entitled
Companheiros de Viagem , 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
, 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
. Cecília was classified in second place in the competition.
The result of the contest seems to have marked as deeply Cecília as Alceu .
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 , 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
, 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
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
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”.
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” . 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
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
“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” 
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,
“The violent colour of Anita’s canvases and the veiled sonority of Cecília’s
verse opened a new era in Brazil’s cultural life.” 
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.” 
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” , 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,”
 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.”
Cecília is seen by Alceu, and indeed, right up until very recently, by the
greater part of her critical fortune ,
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 , her directly or
indirectly autobiographical writings 
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
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
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” :
“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
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
, 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
 - 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 , and to whom she dedicated the “2º Motivo
da Rosa”, a sonnet published in Mar Absoluto
, which had been actually chosen by Mário himself
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.”
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”. 
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.” 
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
" (...) 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
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.”
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
, 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”
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. 
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” 
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.
“Many sails, many oars.
Anchor is something other...
The time we’ll cruise
cannot be measured.”
Cecília Meireles: “O Rei do
(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 , Cecília goes
in search of the memory of a solitary girl enlivened by her first contact
“And to separate herself definitively from everybody’s world, she built a
wall of books and declared: ‘Now I live in there.’”
And in living inside the fortification of books that she hadn’t yet read,
like those who love books do , 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”. 
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”
, 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?”
Also in interviews speaking about her childhood memories on books, is a
“When I still didn’t know how to read, I played with books and imagined them
full of voices speaking about the world.” 
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,
It is for this reason she writes for children, and what she writes for them
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”. 
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” 
“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”. 
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) . Published in the same year
that Walter Benjamin published his first text on children’s books , 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
(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)  in 1937; Rute e Alberto Resolveram
(Rute and Alberto Decided to Be Tourists)
 in 1938; the Nau Catarineta (Santa Catarina’s Boat)  and O Menino Atrasado (The Boy who Was Late)  in 1946; and Rui, Pequena História de
uma Grande Vida (Rui, a Short History of a Great Life)
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) , 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) ,
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)
, 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) , also a collection of articles sometimes used in
schools; and Giroflê, Giroflá ,
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)
, 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.
Everything that the author wrote and published for children
is, in some way, linked to school and to school activities, because, for her
“School is the centre of life” .
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.”
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)” 
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)
, 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” , Cecília
wrote a fundamental text on children’s literature, entitled Problemas da
Literatura Infantil (Problems of Children’s Literature) and
published in 1951 , 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) , a canon
for this type of literature, and, also in developing this theme of
literature for children, reaffirms her humanist, universalist and aesthetic
The central argument is her explanation of what literature is:
“Literature is not, as many suppose, a pastime. It is nutrition”. 
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 -
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
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 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”
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
“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”. 
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”
, 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 . It is a lesson in such things,
In its turn, “the educational model of the moralizing narrative”  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” . 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” 
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.
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”. 
Or, on the back cover of the book Rui. Pequena História de uma Grande
“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.” 
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”.
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.” 
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!” 
which contrast with the final verses about the letter F:
“Ó menina da menina da Face
Que na pela da Fruta madura?
Ó menina da Face vermelha
Veja como a abelha
Por não Ter certeza
Se essa cor tão bonita
É da sua Face
Ou da Framboesa!” 
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, 
curiously omitted from the American edition of the book
, and discreetly present in the book Criança meu Amor
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
. 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
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
“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”. 
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.”
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” 
For Cecília, the “Espirito Vitorioso” should be universal.
“Victorious Spirit: to look at the Universe face to face!” 
And the poet should be at its service.
“The poet will be the uniter of destinies, the builder of universal
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
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” ,
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.” 
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 . 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.
 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
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
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
“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)
(...) 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
Which of you knows this boy?
Which of you is he?” 
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
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!” 
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”. 
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
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” , but also because it is presented as
“(...) it was the oldest region of Brazil! The first to be sighted by the
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”.
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!” 
(“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.” 
(“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!” 
(“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
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
. 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”
, 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! ...” 
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
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 godmother”. 
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
“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...”
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 , 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
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” ,
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”
. 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
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  delight children who read them or see
them staged as puppet-plays in schools, and in this way they learn from
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”. 
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],
[harmonica]), foods (melado [molasses], cocada [a coconut
[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
[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” 
(“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
“Trago um queijo
o menino comerá?
Eu trago melado,
porém essa gente
não ficará rindo
desse meu presente?”
(“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!”
(“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
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”
“Olha a bolha d’água
Olha o orvalho!
Olha a bolha de vinho
Olha a bolha!
Olha a bolha na mão
Olha a bolha de sabão
na ponta da palha:
e se espalha.
Olha a bolha!
Olha a bolha
A mão do menino.
A bolha da chuva da calha!” 
(“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
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” 
(“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. .
She herself affirms:
“A book of literature for children is, before anything else, a literary
And it should be written by
“someone who knows how to use words with expertise, from vast experience of
a long literary career”. 
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
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”  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
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
“we know well how big Brazil is and how intricate still are its paths.”
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
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),
(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.
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
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
It is not strange that still in 1947 Cecília was invited to be part of the
recently established National Commission of Folklore
, and participated actively within the Folkloric Movement, even
being the secretary in the I Brazilian Congress of Folklore of which Renato
Almeida was president. 
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” .
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
 (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”  - edible sculptures-, to the “postais
amatórios” (amorous postcards) .
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.” 
“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”. 
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
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”. 
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” ; 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
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
or to Luluru the giant . 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 . 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
, 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”.
 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:
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
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”. 
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
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”.
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”. 
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)  and cirandas (nursery rhymes sung in a
circle)  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”. 
A sensitive translator of Ibsen, Dickens, Bernard Shaw, Tagore, Garcia
Lorca, Rilke, Virginia Wolf , and of
Chinese poets of the eighth century like Li Po and Tu Fu
, 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.
“And even without a ship
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”  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
(...) Without leaving that place she wandered through strange places and
entered into all lives”. 
“Everybody is double: visible and invisible.
The visible is by and large of much less interest.”
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.
 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.
 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.
 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.
 Antonio Carlos VILLAÇA: O Pensamento
Católico no Brasil. Rio de Janeiro, Zahar Editores, 1971, p. 73.
 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.
 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.
 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,
 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.
 Cecília MEIRELES: “Comentário”. IN:
“Página de Educação”. Diário de Notícias. Rio de Janeiro, 21st
of September 1930, p. 5.
 Alceu Amoroso LIMA: “Absolutismo
Pedagógico”. IN: O Jornal. Rio de Janeiro, 23rd of
March 1932, apud Valéria LAMEGO: Op. cit. p. 104.
 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.
 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.
 Alceu Amoroso LIMA, op. cit. 1971 p.
 Idem/Ibidem: p. 232.
 Idem/Ibidem: p. 231.
 Idem/Ibidem: p. 231.
 Idem/Ibidem: p. 231.
 Idem/Ibidem: p. 232.
 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
 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).
 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.
 Alceu Amoroso LIMA, op. cit. 1971, p.
 Idem/Ibidem: p. 231.
 See Alceu’s statement in Memórias
Improvisadas, in note 6 of this work.
 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
 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.
 Cecília MEIRELES: “Mar Absoluto”. IN:
Poesia Completa. Rio de Janeiro, Editora Nova Aguilar, 1994, p. 291.
 Letter from Mário de Andrade to
Cecília Meireles, dated 18th of March 1943. IN: Cecília MEIRELES: Op. Cit.,
1996, p. 308.
 Cecília MEIRELES: “Elegia a Mario de
Andrade” IN: A Manhã. Rio de Janeiro, 28th of February
 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.
 A letter from Cecília Meireles to
Mário de Andrade, dated 15th of March 1943. IN: Cecília MEIRELES:
Op. cit.,1996, p. 307.
 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).
 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.
 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).
 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.
 Letter from Cecília Meireles to Mário
de Andrade, dated 21st of March 1943. IN: Cecília MEIRELES: Op.
cit.,1996, p. 294.
 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).
 Cecília MEIRELES: Op. cit., no date,
 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.
 Cecília MEIRELES: Idem/Ibidem, p. 106.
 Idem/Ibidem: p. 112.
 Idem/Ibidem: p. 123.
 Fagundes de MENEZES: “Silêncio e
Solidão. Dois Fatores Positivos na Vida da Poetisa. ” Manchete
magazine. Rio de Janeiro, 3rd of October 1953, p. 49.
 João CONDÈ: “Arquivos Implacáveis”.
O Cruzeiro. Rio de Janeiro, 31st of December 1955.
 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
 Cecília MEIRELES: Problemas da
Literatura Infantil. São Paulo/Brasília, Summuus/INL, 1979, p. 28. (3rd
 Cecília MEIRELLES: Criança meu Amor.
Rio de Janeiro, Anuário do Brasil, 1924.
 Walter BENJAMIN: “Velhos Livros
Infantis” IN: Reflexões: A Criança. O Brinquedo. A Educação.
São Paulo, Summus Editorial, 1984, pp. 47 to 53. (2nd edition).
 Cecília MEIRELLES: Ou Isto ou
Aquilo. Rio de Janeiro, Giroflá, 1964.
 Cecília MEIRELES and Josué de CASTRO:
A Festa das Letras. Porto Alegre, Edições Globo, 1937.
 Cecília MEIRELES: Rute e Alberto
Resolveram ser Turistas. Porto Alegre, Livraria do Globo, 1938.
 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.
 Cecília MEIRELES: O Menino
Atrasado. Auto de Natal. Rio de Janeiro, Livros de Portugal, 1966.
 Cecília MEIRELES: Rui. Pequena
História de uma Grande Vida. Rio de Janeiro, Livros de Portugal, 1949.
 Cecília MEIRELES: Escolha o seu
Sonho. Rio de Janeiro/São Paulo, Record, 1969 (3rd edition).
 Cecília MEIRELES: A Janela Mágica.
São Paulo, Editora Moderna, 1983. (16th edition).
 Cecília MEIRELES: Ilusões do Mundo.
Rio de Janeiro, Nova Fronteira, 1982 (6th edition).
 Cecília MEIRELES: O que se Diz e o
que se Entende. Rio de Janeiro, Nova Fronteira, 1980 (2nd
 Cecília MEIRELES: Giroflê. Giroflá.
São Paulo, Editora Moderna, 1981 (7th edition).
 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.
 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.
 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
 Cecília MEIRELES: “La Maternelle”. IN:
A Manhã. Rio de Janeiro, 1st of September 1943.
 Eliane ZAGURY: Cecília Meireles:
Notícia Biográfica, Estudo Crítico, Antologia, Bibliografia, Discografia,
Petrópolis, Vozes, 1973, pp. 15 and 16.
 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.
 Cecília MEIRELES: O Espírito
Vitorioso. Rio de Janeiro, Tipografia do Anuário do Brasil, no date.
 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”.
 Cecília MEIRELES: Problemas da
Literatura Infantil. São Paulo/Brasília, Summuus/INL, 1979 (3rd
 Cecília MEIRELES: Problemas da
Literatura Infantil, op. cit . pp 93 to 96.
 Idem/Ibidem: p. 28. Grifo de Cecília
 Anne-Marie CHARTIER and Jean HÉBRARD:
Discursos sobre a Leitura – 1880 – 1980. São Paulo, Editora Ática, 1995,
 Idem/Ibidem: pp. 393 and 394.
 Cfr. Idem/Ibidem: pp. 398 to 402.
 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.
 Cfr. Anne-Marie CHARTIER and Jean
HÉBRARD: Op. cit. pp. 398 to 402.
 Cfr. Idem/Ibidem: pp. 402
 Idem/Ibidem: p. 402.
 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.
 Cecília MEIRELLES: Op. cit, 1924, p.
 Idem: op. cit., 1949, p. 93.
 Cecília MEIRELES: Problemas da
Literatura Infantil, op. cit. p. 28.
 Alberto MANGUEL: Op. cit. p. 83.
 Cecília Meireles: A Festa das
Letras, op. cit. no page.
 Idem/Ibidem: no page.
 Idem: Rute e Alberto Resolveram Ser
Turistas, op. cit., above all p. 203.
 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.
 Cecília MEIRELES: Criança meu Amor,
op. cit. p. 41.
 IN Rute e Alberto.
 Cecília MEIRELES: “A Formação do
Professor”. IN: Diário de Noticias. Rio de Janeiro, 19th
of June 1932.
 Cecília MEIRELES: “Educação e
Fraternidade Universal”. IN: Diário de Notícias. Rio de Janeiro, 27th
of June 1930.
 Cecília MEIRELES: Rui. Pequena
História de uma Grande Vida, op. cit. p. 84.
 Cecília MEIRELLES: O Espírito
Vitorioso, op. cit. p. 88.
 Idem/Ibidem: p. 107.
 Idem/Ibidem: p. 122.
 Cecília MEIRELES: “Ternura Chinesa”.
IN: Diário de Notícias. Rio de Janeiro, 16th of August
 Idem: “Conversa Talvez Fiada”. IN:
A Manhã. Rio de Janeiro, 6th of September 1943.
 Cecília MEIRELES: “Carta a Fernando de
Azevedo”. Rio de Janeiro, 8th of April 1931, apud Valéria LAMEGO:
Op. cit. pp. 58 and 211.
 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.
 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.
 Cecília MEIRELES: “O Bom Menino”.
IN: Criança meu Amor, op. cit. p. 11.
 Idem: “O Mau Menino” IN: Ibidem,
 Idem/Ibidem: pp. 19, 35, 49, 67 and
 Cecília Meireles: Rui, Pequena
História de uma Grande Vida, op. cit. p.9.
 Idem/Ibidem: p. 12.
 Cecília Meireles: Idem/Ibidem, pp.
93 and 94.
 Cecília MEIRELES: A Festa das
Letras, op. cit. no page.
 Cecília MEIRELES: O Menino
Atrasado, op. cit. p. 29.
 Cecília MEIRELES: “Uma Palmada bem
Dada”. IN: Ou Isto ou Aquilo, op. Cit. pp. 42 and 43.
 Cecília MEIRELES: “Para o Futuro”
IN: Criança meu Amor op. cit. p. 41.
 Cecília MEIRELES: Rute e Alberto
Resolveram ser Turistas, op. cit p. 9.
 Idem: “As Qualidades do Educador”.
IN: Diário de Notícias. Rio de Janeiro, 30th of October
 Cecília MEIRELES: Criança meu
Amor, op. cit. p. 9.
 Cecília MEIRELES: Criança meu
Amor, op. cit. p. 9.
 Idem/Ibidem: pp. 23 and 24.
 The themes of nutrition, alimentary
habits and hygiene are recurrent in the “Página da Educação” of Diário de
 Jacques OUZOUF and Mona OUZOUF: Op.
cit. p. 294.
 Idem. Ibidem: p. 297.
 Idem. Ibidem: p. 292.
 As has already been said, this
play, apparently never published, has not been located.
 “Nota da Segunda edição” IN: Idem:
O Menino Atrasado. Op. Cit., page not numbered.
 Idem/Ibidem: p. 9.
 Idem/Ibidem: p. 14.
 Idem/Ibidem: p. 12.
 Idem: Ou Isto ou Aquilo, op.
cit. p. 15.
 Cecília MEIRELES: Ou Isto ou
Aquilo, op. cit. p. 58.
 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.
 Cecília MEIRELES: Problemas da
Literatura Infantil, op. cit. p. 96.
 Idem/Ibidem: p. 95.
 Cecília MEIRELES: “Introdução”. IN:
As Artes Plásticas no Brasil – Artes Populares. Rio de Janeiro, Edições
Ouro, 1968, p. 17.
 Cecília MEIRELES: “Discurso da Sra.
Cecília Meireles”. IN: Folclore. Vitória, September/December 1954,
year VI, nº 32 and –33, p. 17.
 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
 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.
 Renato ALMEIDA: “Cecília Meireles,
uma Companheira” . IN: Folclore. Vitória, December 1964 and January
1965, year XV, nº 79 and 80, p. 7.
 Apud Diário de Notícias. Rio
de Janeiro, 22nd of August 1951.
Luis Rodolfo VILHENA: Op. cit., p.
 Cecília MEIRELES: As Artes
Plásticas no Brasil – Artes Populares. Rio de Janeiro, Edições Ouro,
 Idem/Ibidem: pp. 65 to 71.
 Idem/Ibidem: pp. 147 to 153.
 Idem/Ibidem: p. 18.
 MEIRELES, Cecília. As Artes
Plásticas no Brasil – Artes Populares. Rio de Janeiro, Edições Ouro,
 Idem/Ibidem: p. 20.
 Cecília MEIRELES: Olhinhos de
Gato, op. cit. p. 74. All the other references were extracted from the
 Idem: Ou Isto ou Aquilo,
 Idem: Criança meu Amor, p.
 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.
 All these topics are developed in
Problemas da Literatura Infantil.
 Cecília MEIRELES: Problemas da
Literatura Infantil, op. cit. p. 111.
 “Um Descuido de Monteiro Lobato”.
IN: Diário de Notícias. Rio de Janeiro, 13th of July 1930.
 Letter from Cecília Meireles to
Fernando de Azevedo, dated 9th of November 1932 apud Valéria
LAMEGO, op. cit. p. 229.
 Cecília MEIRELES: Problemas da
Literatura Infantil, op. cit. p. 28.
 Idem: “Educação Doméstica”. IN:
A Manhã. Rio de Janeiro, 9th of January 1942.
 Idem: “ Cantiga para Adormecer
Lulu”. IN: Ou Isto ou Aquilo, pp. 60 and 61.
 Idem/Ibidem: p. 29.
 Cecília MEIRELES: “Encontros”. IN:
A Manhã. Rio de Janeiro, 2nd of June 1943.
 The reference to these translations
can be found in Obra Poética, op. cit. pp. 95 and 96.
 Li PO and Tu FU: Poemas
Chineses. Rio de Janeiro, Nova Fronteira, 1996. Translation by Cecília
 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
 Cecília MEIRELES: Olhinhos de
Gato, op. cit. p. 133.
 Idem/Ibidem: p.77.