pancho rabbit and the coyote

Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale by Duncan Tonatiuh

Released May 7, 2013.

Papa Rabbit had traveled north to find work when the rains didn’t come one year.  Finally, after two years, he was returning home to his family.  A party was planned with food and music, but Papa Rabbit didn’t come back.  When the other rabbits went to sleep, Pancho Rabbit set out to find his father.  He took with him his father’s favorite meal of mole, rice and beans, tortillas, and a jug of aguamiel.  As he traveled, Pancho met a coyote, who offered to help him reach his father.  The coyote demanded payment of the mole up front, then taking Pancho to the train tracks where they jumped a train.  As the journey continued, the coyote demanded food after each part of the journey until Pancho was out of food.  Then Pancho himself was the only food for the coyote to demand.  This allegorical tale of migrant workers coming to the United States is a powerful look at the dangers they face and the love that drives them.

Tonatiuh writes with a strength here, each word seemingly chosen for its impact and power.  The importance of this sort of story for young children cannot be ignored.  This book carefully dresses the horrors of the story in folktales, but the purpose is still clear.  Those folktale devices are particularly effective in a story such as this, allowing the reader to see the dangers but not be overwhelmed by them.  The use of the different pieces of food as payment is particularly clever as is the character of the coyote being that animal.

The illustrations convey the folktale structure as well.  Done in a flattened style, they have strong lines and shapes.  Tonatiuh makes clever use of textures like jean material, tires, fur and textured paper.  This added touch ensures that readers recognize the modern nature of the tale.

This book belongs in every library since it deals with a current issue that affects many in our communities directly.  Teachers will find this book especially useful when discussion immigration as well.  Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from copy received from Abrams.