South America is the fourth largest continent in area. It has fewer people than Asia, Europe, Africa and North America. The land features many spectacular natural attractions. It is home to the Amazon, the world’s second longest river, and also to a large expanse of tropical rainforest in the Amazon basin. An estimated 50% of all the world’s plant and animals live in the Amazon Rainforest, two thirds of which is found in Brazil, South America’s largest and most populous country. Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia and Venezuela are among the eight other countries where the Amazon rainforest is found.
The towering Andes mountains are the world’s longest mountain range, stretching across the continent. Rolling grasslands and arid desert can be found in the interior, and sandy beaches can be found along the coast.
The original inhabitants of South America were indigenous groups. Descendants of these traditional societies are found throughout South America, but their numbers are greatest in Bolivia, Ecuador, Guatemala and Peru.
The first settlers to arrive in South America were from Spain and Portugal. Portuguese is the first language of Brazil, with Spanish being the dominant language throughout South America. Residents in Brazil and the Southern countries (Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay) are primarily of European descent. Brazilian culture is also heavily influenced by African heritage. During the period of the 1500’s-1800’s, Europeans brought millions of Africans to South America and forced them to work on plantations. Today, their ancestors celebrate their African traditions.
Significant about South America is also the poverty of many of its people. The cities are progressive, and all countries have wealthy landowners, politicians, and factory owners. Yet many people struggle, living in large city slums or poor rural villages.
South American literature for young people is limited in the North American market, though translation efforts seem to be on the rise. The selections included in the Micro-Library give students a taste of Indigenous and multicultural groups, daily life in a Brazilian family, and how the geography of Peru has shaped its people.
In Victoria Goes to Brazil, readers join a young girl as she visits her mother’s welcoming family. Soccer Star brings readers to a struggling Brazilian family whose enthusiasm for soccer cannot be dampened by difficult circumstances. A trip to the Amazon rainforest awaits in Tuki and Moka, guided by a boy who gathers Brazil nuts just as his Indigenous ancestors did. Finally, Indigenous traditions and values from the spectacular Andes mountains are artfully told in Kusikiy, A Child from Taquile, Peru.
The additional reading selections offer further opportunity to explore South America’s diverse people and landscape.