While Ode to an Onion: Pablo Neruda and His Muse might not be my favorite book of all time, it is one of the first book in a while that I have truly loved. A book that I felt in my gut. I got engrossed in this book in a way I have not in some time. And it is “only” a picture book and not some “thoughtful novel.” It is a thoughtful picture book.
The prose of Alexandria Giardino is a poem as it shows the beauty in all things. I love how Pablo saw things through the eyes of a poet, yet he was sadly describing them and all the while his friend saw the same world also through the eyes of a poet (though one who you learned used music) and saw only the beauty.
The lovely illustrations by Felicita Sala capture the feel of the story, time and place. They are also not traditional. Or at least not what you might expect. There is color and they are detailed and real, but they are not overly bold or messy in detail. They also are fanciful. Perhaps one could say poetic and even a smidgen surreal. They are not comfortable, you could not relax in them, but you also will not be overwhelmed. They are active to the eye.
The ode to an onion is included in English and Spanish. Also included is an afterwards about the people and inspirations of them. All ages could find something to enjoy (the very least they could get a kick out of writing a poem about an onion) but is more aimed at the older child. I would even give to an adult who enjoys Neruda’s work or poetry. One should read this first before gifting to make sure it fits the receiver perfectly.