Tag Archive: immigration


migrant

Migrant: The Journey of a Mexican Worker by Jose Manuel Mateo, illustrated by Javier Martinez Pedro

In this bilingual book, a boy from Mexico talks about the changes in his family and his village as people leave Mexico to find work in the United States.  The story begins with the boy speaking about his village and how it used to be as a farming community with small farms where he would play.  But then things changed and soon the village was just women and children with all of the men gone to find work elsewhere.  When his mother was unable to find work in the village and his father’s money stopped arriving, the had no choice but to leave too.  The story changes to one of escape, hiding and running, one that mirrors that boy’s games as a small child, but they are no longer fun here.  The family makes it safely to Los Angeles, but there are new barriers in the way with the new country.

migrant inside

Told in a unique vertical format that echoes the ancient codex, this book uses its format to great effect.  First, it mirrors the sense of a journey across distances, across cultures.  Just opening this book feel different and special and then the length of the single page captures that sense of travel and quest.  The voice of the book is also exquisitely done.  The boy looking back on his childhood, seeing the changes and then the contrast of his childhood with the frightening present is filled with a taut tension that never goes away.

migrant pages

Even as I gush about the writing, I can’t say enough about the art.  Done in a single pane that continues through the entire vertical book, it shows the village, the train that allows their escape, and finally LA.  The art has an ancient feel to it, filled with tiny details, many people, plants, houses, and more.  It’s a tribute to the history of Mexico, the thousands of people who cross the border, and the beauty of their courage.

Unique and incredibly lovely, this book is one that won’t work in public libraries due to the format.  But it’s one that is worth celebrating despite that limitation.  Get this in special collections!  Appropriate for ages 7-10.

Reviewed from copy received from Abrams Books.

here i am

Here I Am by Patti Kim

This wordless picture book is the story of a boy and his family coming to an American city.  The signs don’t make any sense, the crowds are huge.  It’s noisy and big and confusing.  In the boy’s pocket is a red object from home.  It reminds him of what he left behind whenever he holds it in his hand.  He spends a lot of time at home, not interacting with anyone until one day, he drops his keepsake out of the window where a girl picks it up.  The girl heads off and the boy follows her and along the way discovers the greener parts of the city, food he recognizes, and people who are friendly.  In the end, he’s planted himself firmly into this new place.

Told entirely in pictures, this wordless book is written by a person who lived through this experience when they came to America from Korea forty years ago.  The book has an honesty that runs through it and nicely shows the time that it takes for someone to even see the positive in a new place.  It addresses the overwhelming feeling of homesickness and the jarring loss of language that isolates.  Beautifully illustrated, this book is one that has intricate images that come together to form a cohesive and powerful whole.

A remarkable capturing of the immigrant story, this book will speak to those who are immigrants and will also help others understand what children from other countries are going through.  The choice to make it wordless makes it all the more useful with immigrant populations in our communities.  Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from digital galley received from NetGalley and Capstone Young Readers.

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.

unforgotten coat

The Unforgotten Coat by Frank Cottrell Boyce

Frank Cottrell Boyce has done it again, creating a book that surprises, amazes, and twists.  This is the story of what happens when two Mongolian boys join a class in England.  They appear out of nowhere, suddenly there in school.  The two brothers refuse to be separated, so the younger boy, Nergui, stays in his older brother’s class.  The two wear large coats and fur hats.  They immediately capture the imagination of Julie, one of their classmates, who is thrilled to be selected as their “Good Guide.”  She wonders where they live, trying for days to follow them home, but they elude her.  Chingis, the older boy, has photographs of Mongolia that he shares with everyone.  The entire class learns more about Mongolia than they had ever known.  But everything is not as it seems, and Julie discovers the truth too late to be of any help in the end.

The book is short, under 100 pages, with most of it being told in a flashback by an adult Julie.  The design of the book adds much to the story, with lined pages that resemble a notebook and Polaroid photographs that capture Mongolia and England, perhaps a mix of both.  The photographs in particular are cleverly done, hiding the truth and then revealing with equal success.

This is a powerful story that seems easy.  It reads as a simple story about two unusual children joining a classroom, and then twists and turns.  It speaks to community and acceptance throughout, showing a class that is eager and willing to embrace the new children, much to my delight.  Then the story takes on a more serious subject, about immigration, fear and deportation.  There is no didactic message here that is too heavy handed, instead it is kept serious but not message driven. 

The book also dances along an edge of imagination and reality where children who pay close attention will realize that even in the end there are questions about what has happened and what truly was.  This dance strengthens the novel even more, making it a powerful choice for discussion.

Highly recommended, this book may just be his best, and that is definitely saying something.  The short length, powerful subject and complex storyline all combine to make a package that is approachable for young readers, discussable by classes, and pure delight to experience.  Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from library copy.

Also reviewed by:

Life, After

Life, After by Sarah Darer Littman

Released July 2010.

Dani’s life is changed forever when a terrorist attack in her country of Argentina kills her aunt and the baby she is carrying.  Adding to the misery, the country of Argentina is in the middle of economic collapse.  Her father has lost his job and his sister and is now unable to cope.  Dani and her mother keep the family going with Dani fixing meals and caring for her younger sister.  Many people are fleeing Argentina, heading to Israel and the United States.  When Dani’s uncle makes an offer to get them visas, there is little choice but to move to the United States.  Dani must now cope with going to a large American high school, speaking and learning in English, and her father’s continued anger and depression.  In a world changed by the effects of terrorism, Dani finds understanding in the most unlikely of people and realizes that there is life afterwards.

This novel is one of many branches that twine throughout.  There are many things happening here, many things for the main character to deal with.  It is down to the skill of Littman that the book remains so cohesive and powerful.  These many branches are what make this book special and interesting.  They help tell the tale of immigration but also terrorism and economic collapse.  It is a timely story for American teens to read, one that will resound in their lives.

Dani is a great protagonist to see this experience through.  She is bright, helpful, giving, and yet can be angry, sad and confused as well.  The novel spends time in Argentina in the beginning, setting the stage to show just how much the family gave up in their move to America.  Often immigration stories start with the family already in the United States.  This time spent in Argentina really makes Dani and her family understandable and relatable.

Highly recommended, this book will reach its braches towards you and hold you tight.  Appropriate for ages 13-17.

Reviewed from Advanced Reader Copy received from Scholastic.

Also reviewed by The Reading Zone and nomadreader.

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